I beg to move, in page 6, line 44, to leave out "one year" and to insert "six months."
The Clause lays down that every education authority shall, as soon as may be, prepare estimates and draw up plans for operating the Act and that this report must be submitted to the Minister within 12 months after the passing of the Bill. In our submission that period is unduly long. The Bill has met with an extremely favourable reception in the country. The suspicions and misapprehensions that exist are to do with the apparent looseness with which some of the Clauses are framed and the possibilities of delay if they are passed with their present wording. Some of us feel that six months would be a much more appropriate time. After all, this part of the Bill will come into operation in April, 1945, and there are 12 months after that, so it really means that education authorities are to be allowed at least 18 months to prepare and submit their schemes. I think it may be reasonably supposed that they are already exercising their minds as to the schemes they will submit. Two years is an undue period and lends some countenance to the suspicion that there is too leisurely an air in many of the provisions of the Bill.
I am not unaware of the immense difficulties which war and other conditions impose on education authorities but, taking all that into account, I would ask the Minister seriously to consider, unless there is some insuperable difficulty which is not apparent to some of us, whether the period could not be reduced. If he sees his way to do that, I am sure education authorities, like local authorities in most of their activities, can rise to the occasion and I believe they will find it possible to get their schemes submitted within six months prior to April, 1945, as reasonably as they could be supposed to do if it was extended to 12 months.
The second Amendment would delete the words "such extended time as the Minister may allow," which further aggravate the point of view that I have been advancing. If 12 months is considered not too long, later in the Clause the Minister asks power even to extend that date to such period as he may desire. That is even more dangerous than the part of the Clause which my Amendment seeks to deal with. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept both Amendments and fix the target within which local authorities must draw up their plans at six months rather than 12, or such period as a more dilatory Minister than he might seek to impose.
I support the Amendment on the same line of reasoning as my hon. Friend. It is felt that two years from April, 1945, is too long. Inserting six months in place of 12 may cause the Board of Education to get the thing going more quickly. Local authorities may take more time than is necessary if they have 12 months. We do not like the Minister having it in his hands to allow still more time to deal with it. Probably the Minister cannot accept these Amendments, but they show our keenness to get the Bill working quickly, and that is what is behind them.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment was for many years a distinguished member of the London County Council, one of the more progressive authorities in the country, and I ask him to contemplate the task that we are placing upon the London County Council. A complete survey has to be made of the whole of the area, a complete survey with details has to be made of every auxiliary school, and an estimate has to be prepared of the cost of bringing it up to date, and the managers have to be served with notice. Local education authorities are working under very great pressure at the moment, with reduced staffs and with a great amount of extra work to do arising out of the war, which will not end, even if the war against Germany ends, before 1st April, 1945. We are anxious to get on with the job as quickly as possible but, clearly, we cannot put on local education authorities a burden which we know they will be incapable of carrying. In view of the very large measure of work which we put on them, I think 12 months is the minimum time. With regard to the other point, we do not desire to have to extend this provision, but there may be cases where the work to be done is so heavy that it will be quite impossible for local education authorities to complete it in the time. It is not, as my hon. Friend says, such period as the Minister may desire, but such period as the Minister may allow, which is a rather different thing. We should not desire that there should be any extension at all but, should we be faced with a case of breakdown which is quite unavoidable, the Minister must be in a position to allow schemes to be prepared and submitted to him.
I find it difficult to follow my hon. Friend's argument. He says the burden placed on local authorities is so heavy that, though they may be able to do it in 12 months, they could not do it in six. That has no relevance whatever either to the Clause or to the Amendment. It is within six months or 12 months after the date on which this part of the Act comes into law, and that date is not until 1st April, 1945. Therefore the difference is not between six months and 12 but between 18 months and two years, roughly speaking. Surely, whatever the burden may be, 18 months is quite enough for them to prepare their schemes. Is it contemplated that once the Bill is on the Statute Book no local authority is going to begin even the survey or the consideration of a scheme until 1st April, 1945? Is that the spirit in which the Bill is to be operated? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman contemplates as to the speed and the urgency with which this great task of reconstruction is going to be pursued? I really cannot understand how my hon. Friend brings himself to approach this question, apparently taking it for granted that no one is going to begin to inquire or survey or make plans about anything until the last minute contemplated by the Bill, and Heaven knows those minutes are late enough. My hon. Friend has approached the whole consideration of the Amendment apparently giving his blessing to the idea that they must not begin doing anything now but must wait until April, 1945, and that then it would be wholly unreasonable to ask them in six months to survey their area. What has the London County Council been doing for the last 25 years?
If the local authorities who will be charged with these duties have not some idea now of what will be required, then they have just been neglecting their duties. Let us assume that nearly all the authorities in the country have been neglecting their duties. They do not know what is in their areas, they do not know what will be required, and they have no schemes in contemplation. Even then from this moment until six months after the 1st April, 1945, is 17 months, and why in the world should not that be enough; and if it is not enough will another six months make any difference? We really think that the hon. Gentleman ought to look at this matter again and that there ought to be some appearance of seriousness. Let it at any rate appear that he means business and that the local authorities are really expected to begin now to do something about it. He ought not to lend sanction to the view that local authorities can postpone undertaking the obligations laid upon them in this Bill until 1945, which is the whole basis on which his argument rests.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) appears to show a complete lack of understanding of the position of the local authorities in this country to-day. They have had placed on them, owing to the war, an immense burden of work, most of it carried on voluntarily, and to say that in these circumstances six months is nothing is an argument which is totally unfair.
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to be unfair. I suggest to him that he has not understood my argument. I said it was wrong to look at the Clause and the Amendment as the difference between six months and 12 months. It is nothing of the kind. It is the difference between 17 months and 23 months. That is my argument.
I fully understood the hon. Member's argument, which was that an extra six months was no use. That is fantastic nonsense. To suppose that because you cannot do a job in 17 months therefore you cannot do it in 23 months is perfect nonsense. The amount of time required for any particular job varies very much with the complexity of the job. Some education authorities will do it easily in the time laid down in the Bill; other authorities, known to Members of this House, will have great difficulty in doing it; and it is only right that there should be this proviso, which the hon. Member has misinterpreted. The Parliamentary Secretary made it clear that it was a case of having discretion in certain difficult cases to allow an extra few months in order that an adequate scheme may be prepared. No one could be keener on getting this Bill through quickly than I am, but to get it through in a shabby way will ruin the whole purpose of it. We want the schemes under this Clause to be thoroughly sound and to be thoroughly considered, so that when they are put into operation there may be as little amendment of them necessary as may be, because this Measure is not something which is going to be used for a period of a year or two—it is for generations ahead. To say that in remaking the foundation of education in this country you must do it in 12 months or you must do it in 17 months and not 23, is, in my opinion, to under-estimate the value and profound effect of the scheme which we are trying to enforce in this Bill.
I beg to move, in page 6, line 45, after "Minister," to insert "in special circumstances."
I shall be very short, but I want to give the reason why I have suggested that those three words "in special circumstances" should be added to this Clause. It is because of what happened after the previous Education Bill. In spite of the many directions in that Bill the reorganisation which was proposed did not take place and year after year passed without anyone even attempting to justify the delay. I suggest that the words "in special circumstances" should be put in to prevent the Minister giving his consent to or acquiescing in the same scandalous procedure as happened before. "In special circumstances" are the strongest words I can think of. They would permit poverty to be a sufficient excuse for postponement but they would not allow laziness or unwillingness on the part of the director of education to be sufficient reasons for postponement as too often they were in the past. In other words, special circumstances cannot possibly cover personal omissions and personal unwillingness on the part of the officials.
This point has really been covered in the previous discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Perhaps I should put it better by saying it was covered in the reply which I made on the previous discussion. We are not at all anxious that there should be any extension of the time, but we do ask the Committee to allow us to be able to make an extension when, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, it is necessary so to do in order to get the scheme adequately prepared.
It does not seem to me much good putting into the Bill that authorities are to have a year to submit their schemes, when, after that, the Minister can give an indefinite extension without any reasons whatever, and the reason which may guide the Minister may not appeal to the House. The Minister referred to the London County Council, and I want to assure him that whatever is in the Bill will be duly carried out. If he says six months, then the scheme will be prepared in six months. Of course, the London County Council has large resources and can do it, but I feel that the extension of time should not be given except as a special measure. It should not be regarded as a normal thing that any local authority which has not been able to produce its scheme in the time should ask for an extension which may be for more than a year. There is nothing in this Bill which limits the amount of time that the Minister may give for extension, and, therefore, I believe it is quite reasonable to say that any extension should only be given in exceptional circumstances.
I cannot understand why this Amendment cannot be accepted. It is said that exemption will not be granted except in special circumstances. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are not going to be there for ever. There will be a change of Minister and the new authority will not want to be bound by this. They will say, "We want a free hand to extend the time as much as we like." We ought to put in now that we will not grant an extension except in special circumstances.
I am not clear as to the wording of this Amendment. I am just as anxious as the mover of the Amendment to see this Bill carried through as quickly as possible, but I understood from the Minister that he was going to allow extra time in special circumstances, whatever those special circumstances might be. What I think my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) has in mind, is that, before any special circumstances are agreed to, they should be laid on the Table of this House so that we may have a chance of examining them.
I rose to ask what are the special circumstances which the hon. Member has in mind. I do not really understand how those particular circumstances would make it any clearer than giving the Minister permission to extend the time after considering the facts he has before him.
I cannot understand why the Minister does not accept this Amendment. I presume that if he were going to grant a delay, the delay would only be based on special circumstances. It that is so, why not put it in the Statute? I would say quite frankly to my right hon. Friend that not being prepared to place a phrase like this in the Bill does throw some doubt on the sincerity of the intention to operate this speedily. By doing this, he would remove a number of doubts that were expressed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) who seemed to suggest that there was not too much drive and purpose behind the Bill. I say that the rejection of this phrase confirms the attitude taken up by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and, if only on that ground, it would be well to give us the feeling and, indeed, give the local authorities the feeling that extra time can be given only in special circumstances. That would give added impetus to the whole business, and it would convince local authorities that we mean business. Since it appears from the Parliamentary Secretary's reply that the Government mean to put this into operation, I cannot for the life of me understand why they do not accept the burden and give themselves the statutory power to do what they want to do.
My right hon. Friend and I have listened to the views that have been expressed, but there is this difficulty, that if we put in these particular words, it may encourage people to find special circumstances and then to come to us with the argument: "You said that if there were special circumstances you would grant us an extension." May I say that we are anxious to meet the views expressed and to make it abundantly clear to education authorities that they are expected to get on with the job and complete it within the time laid down. If the Committee will allow us, we will examine this part of the Clause again to see if we can put in any words that would help to make the desire of the Committee quite plain. I hope, with that assurance, my hon. Friend will feel that we can now go on to another part of the Clause.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 14, to leave out from "such," to the end of line 15.
The object of the Amendment is that explained by me in the Debate on infant and nursery schools, to ask local authorities in their development plan to give a delineation of the general education provided for junior pupils. By taking out these words, "county secondary school or auxiliary secondary school," we are enlarging the scope of the development plan and introducing a desirable Amendment.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
I beg to move, in page 7, line 27, at the end, to insert:
including a sufficiency of county schools to meet the needs of those children whose parents desire such schools at which their children may attend.
The Amendment desires that the education authority, in specifying what additional county or auxiliary schools are required, shall have regard to the needs of parents who desire county schools. There has been ample discussion, and I have no doubt there will be plenty more before we get to the end of the Bill, on the needs of those who require their awn denominational schools. We want by this Amendment to protect the rights and the demands of parents who require county schools, that is, schools established, maintained, run and controlled by the local education authority and the State. It may seem strange to many Members who are over-enthusiastic for their denominations that there exist masses of people who want their children to be educated in State maintained schools. There should be in the demands laid down by this Clause on local authorities a provision that they must be charged with the duty of satisfying the needs of those who want State schools, or county schools as they are called in the Bill.
Two problems arise. There is, first, the urban aspect of the matter. There are in different towns denominational schools which have more places than can be filled by their own denominations, and local authorities send to them children who do not belong to the denominations; indeed, they have to go because they are the only secondary schools available. There are denominational secondary schools to which local authorities send between 35 and 50 per cent. of the school population. The first thing that an education authority, charged with the duty of seeing what additional schools are necessary, should direct its attention to is seeing that county schools, not denominational schools, are provided for the children. Then there is the country aspect of the matter. The Committee will observe that the Amendment states that there shall be a sufficiency of county schools to meet the needs of those children whose parents desire such schools at which their children may attend.
Earlier to-day the Committee accepted an Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman which agreed that the needs of parents should be taken into account. What is to happen on the basis of that Amendment in single-school areas? There are 4,000 of them in England and Wales, over 200 in Wales, and over go in the County of Carmarthen—single-school areas with Anglican schools only. What about the wishes of the parents there? When it was asked whether that Amendment would over-ride the power of the Church, if it finds 50 per cent. of the capital cost, to insist on having a church school, with the whole power of the law compelling people of any other denomination to go to it, the answer was that that was a matter for consideration and something to be taken into account. If that Amendment gives the parents an over-riding power so that in a predominantly Nonconformist area there shall be a county school, I am prepared to accept it. If it does not I ask for these words to be inserted so that, whatever the cost, the local education authority, taking account of the wishes of the parents, shall be charged with the duty, if somehow or other 50 per cent. of the capital cost is found by the denomination, of putting up a county school to which the majority of parents desire to send their children and to which, under this Amendment, they will have the right to send them.
I want to follow my hon. and learned Friend's argument. As I understand it, it is a serious argument to come from this side of the Committee. Am I right in assuming that my hon. and learned Friend wants 100 per cent. of public money for schools which will be directly related to the religious opinions of the parents?
My hon. Friend says he wants to follow me. I only wish that I could follow the point of his question. I have never suggested putting up any denominational schools. What I want are county schools, which are undenominational schools and belong to the State. I am suggesting that where the people want a State school they should have it.
This Amendment raises a big issue. My hon. and learned Friend, who, I take it, represents Nonconformity in this Debate, seems to have taken up the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who represents the Catholic interest. I cannot see what difference there is between them. My hon. and learned Friend relates the provision of county schools which will be fully provided by public money—
That may be my hon. Friend's view, but these county schools provided by public money will, as I understand it under his Amendment, be related to the wishes of the parents. The parents may be Nonconformist. They may be Jews. Indeed, they may be agnostics, or atheists, Liberals or Tories. If we are to have public money spent on the principle enunciated by my hon. Friend it seems to me it will Balkanise the entire educational system. The hon. and learned Member, without knowing it, has raised a very deep issue. I can understand his intense feeling against the existence of Church schools in single-school areas throughout rural England, but, on the other hand, I want, what he really wants, complete public schools in those areas determined by the public necessity and not by the principle that parents in groups shall decide what schools shall be put up. I want to warn my hon. and learned Friend that he is enunciating a principle which hitherto, as I have seen it, has come from opinions and bodies to which he is apparently bitterly opposed. He has swallowed it without knowing it, and I hope that he will not press the Amendment.
I would not like to interfere in the internecine strife on the other side, which resembles the situation which so frequently arises in the Balkans. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment is inspired by the deep necessity of having some sort of palliative to the difficulties of the single-school area. I fully understand what he has in mind. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has shown some of the difficulties of his proposal. I would not choose this Clause or this portion of the Bill in which to insert a provision of this sort. It is essential to leave the whole review of their area to the education authority. We have already inserted an Amendment, which I moved, on the subject of paying attention to the wishes of the parents. As I said in moving it, the general Clause in which it appears pervaded the whole Bill, and I do not think it is necessary to repeat my speech on the present Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman may take it, therefore, that in general those ideas are now instinct in the general drafting of the Bill.
With regard to the difficulty of the single-school area, the hon. and learned Gentleman perhaps under-estimates the provisions which we shall be considering later. The controlled school, for example, is a form of organisation which will go far to meet the interests of those who live in single-school areas. I do not think it unlikely that in the rural areas the controlled school will be a permanent feature. He also under-estimates the provisions of Clause 53 on the subject of transport. It may well be that there is a county school within reach of children to which they can be carried. When we are considering that Clause I shall be glad to give sympathetic consideration to anything which the hon. and learned Gentleman puts forward. I am anxious to help his friends in single-school areas, and I hope that the indications I have given will show that I am not unsympathetic.
For the purpose of this Amendment I would give an instruction to the local authorities. As it stands, the local authorities are to specify what kind of schools will be required. Left in that way, they might say: "There is already a school here. It is a denominational school, and there is no need to have any additional schools in the area." The whole point of this Amendment is to ask them to consider the circumstances and desires of the parents and, bearing those things in mind, to say whether there ought not to be more county or county non-denominational schools. There may be a large number of Nonconformists whose children have been compelled in the past to attend a denominational school and who may be compelled to do so again in the future, merely because the local authority have not taken into account the wishes of the parents. I do not know whether the mover of the Amendment is satisfied with the assurances which have been given by the President, but it is helpful to know that we can raise the matter again at a later stage.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
Before I mention the assurances given by my right hon. Friend I wish deliberately to dissociate myself from the interpretation put upon my remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). I would go further. He talked to the Committee about the needs of the rural areas in England but I would remind him that I am alive not only to the needs of the rural areas of England but to the rural areas of Wales as well. In view of the assurances given by my right hon. Friend, I will join with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in expressing satisfaction. I would enter a small caveat as to how far transfer may resolve the difficulty. Subject to that, I accept the assurances given and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 44, at the beginning, to insert:
give particulars of the arrangements made and proposed to be made by the authority for the provision of boarding schools and.
We feel that it is necessary to bring home to local authorities their obligations with regard to providing an adequate number of boarding schools and incorporating them in their plans. By including words such as are proposed we shall keep prominently in front of local authorities the need for thinking of boarding schools, as well as other schools, in their plans.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 45, after "authority," to insert "including the size of classes."
In view of the fact that this subject was discussed very fully yesterday, I do not propose to take more than two or three minutes to move this Amendment. I would draw the attention of hon. Members to what the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday to indicate that this problem of the size of classes goes to the root of the Bill. After the emphasis that was placed on the matter, I am sure that everyone will agree. I rather understood my hon. Friend to indicate that this was the appropriate point in the Bill to introduce some Amendment. Without enlarging on the merits of the proposal, which I am sure are appreciated by every Member of the Committee, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to accept the Amendment.
The Government have given the greatest consideration to the Debate which took place yesterday and we have considered the possibility of an insertion into Clause 10 which would help to meet the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment. If we examine Clause 10, we see that it is in that Clause that we lay upon the local authorities the duty of framing their development plans and sending those plans in to us. We do not think it will be as satisfactory to wait for the authorities to send us their proposals in regard to classes as it will be if we ourselves give an indication of what we consider the size of classes should be. This would be the wrong place in which to include a reference to the size of classes.
We are, therefore, put back to our original suggestion that the size of classes must be set out in the Draft Regulations of the Board so that the conditions of grant include a condition which lays down the size of classes. We think this is a very much more effective way of securing a given size of class than simply to ask local authorities to send their development plan to us before we make the condition. I think that my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that the method we are proposing is better than that which he proposes. The Regulations must, under Clause 101, be laid before Parliament and Parliament will have an opportunity of considering and debating them. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that this will be an effective method for securing a reduction in the size of classes.
In view of the assurances which my right hon. Friend has given and the fact that the Regulations will lay down the size of classes to be envisaged in the plan, I am sure that my hon. Friends will feel that the position is satisfactory, I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
I beg to move, in page 8, line 6, at the end, to insert:
(3) A local education authority in Wales shall, before submitting their development plan to the Minister, consult the Central Advisory Council for Education for Wales referred to in Section four of this Act.
The Amendment relates to development plans in Wales. I want to make it clear from the outset that this is not an endeavour in any way to make the Central Advisory Council for Wales an overriding authority upon the local education committees, or to insert any procedure which would cause delay in the formulation of development plans. We realise that, in Wales at any rate, whatever the position may be in England, there is an overwhelming necessity that the plans of the different local education authorities should fit in one with another. Therefore we suggest that when the local education authorities, which in Wales more particularly will be the county councils, are in course of formulating development plans, they should have a word with the Central Advisory Council for Wales, so that when two or three adjoining counties are submitting their proposals, there should be some body to give them a word of advice as to how those development plans can fit together.
I can give my right hon. Friend a concrete instance. Take the dividing between the counties of Cardigan, Pembroke and Carmarthen. He will find that the educational centres in West Wales are Cardigan, which is on the borders of Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire, Llandyssul, on the borders of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, Lampeter, which is within Cardiganshire but is very near to the county of Carmarthenshire, and Machynlleth, which is in Montgomeryshire, but which also serves the counties of Merioneth and Cardiganshire. I cannot see how the development plan of the five counties can make a complete whole unless the matter is discussed with the Advisory Council, which can impartially suggest and advise the local education authorities as to how their development plans can fit together. Our sole desire in this Amendment is to make the development plans fit together as a whole, to make a perfect mosaic for Wales, at any rate. I therefore ask, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the Amendment in terms, he can accept it in purpose, and see that the purpose is carried out.
We discussed this important subject before, on Clause 4. We do not desire that these advisory councils should interfere with the actual administration of education. I have been in touch with important local authorities in Wales and with the Federation, and I cannot help thinking that they would be a little distressed at the suggestion that their own responsibility to their own areas should in any way be upset by association with an outside body. The hon. and learned Member raises the problem of the counties and the need for making a network of educational progress in Wales. I suggest that it would be better if those who are responsible for the administration of education in the counties got together with the Federation, which I believe has an important future in Wales, and that the Federation should build itself up and should leave to the Advisory Committee the duty of direct advice. I cannot accept the Amendment as it is designed, because it would take away from the power of the educational bodies the development of their responsibility and it might take away from the power of the educational authority itself.
I rise to support the Minister and I hope that he will give a quid pro quo. I do not see why, in the name of a Parliament elected on the basis of popular election, people should be compelled to suffer dictation from a body which is selected by the Minister himself. As the Minister says there is in Wales a Federation of authorities, and if co-ordination and advice are necessary that body already exists, as the Minister has pointed out. I therefore heartily support the Minister in resisting this Amendment and I hope that when I come to further Amendments later he will reciprocate.
I want to draw attention to the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) has a very good idea which he has expressed in connection with this Amendment, a very desirable idea, that education in Wales should not be developed in a haphazard manner in one district as against another. Arising out of the Amendment he has put forward and the remarks he has made I would like to give a word or two of advice or offer a word or two of wisdom.
I was about to say that Members from across the Border who have had very wide experience on this question of education will be very ready and willing to assist our Welsh colleagues in developing their education in an organised manner and in insisting in getting a Department of State in Wales similar to Scotland.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
I am somewhat encouraged by the remarks of my hon. Friend. I hope I may interpret them as meaning that in one way or another he will do what lies in his power and in the power of his Department to see that Wales has a correlated plan. I am somewhat disturbed by the assistance he has received from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) but that does not deter me from asking leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 6, at the end, to insert:
() The local education authority for a county at all stages in the preparation of a development plan shall consult the council of the county districts within the county and shall furnish full particulars of the plan to such councils and the Minister shall consider any representations that such councils may make.
The purpose of this Amendment is to secure that the councils of the county districts shall be consulted by the local education authority at all stages in the preparation of a development plan, and to secure that the local education authority shall supply the councils of the county districts with full particulars of their proposals, and that the councils of the county districts shall be able to make representations to the Minister which the Minister shall consider. It is a matter of considerable importance and it is rather surprising that such provision has been omitted from the text of the Bill. I think it is a very conspicuous omission considering my right hon. Friend's desire, which he has frequently expressed, and which we all know he feels very strongly, to maintain local interest in education and to encourage the councils of the county districts to believe that they will remain an integral part in the national scheme. The omission to include any provision for
bringing into discussions councils who have been Part III authorities and for many years have done admittedly good work might be regarded by such authorities as rather scurvy treatment. I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend does not desire they should feel that they have been treated discourteously. I am sure that he will also recognise that it is in the interests of the plans that they shall be devised after all considerations have been put forward and that these district councils should be brought into consultation. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will accept this Amendment.
I would like very briefly to support on two grounds the proposal moved by my hon. Friend. The first is to avoid waste. There is a great deal of experience and knowledge and enthusiasm working to-day in these local councils. The second reason I support the proposal is that we want this great scheme to get together the utmost good will of all parties concerned, and if there was any suspicion in any case that these councils were not to be consulted it might damage a section of the scheme. I hope, therefore, that this provision will be put in as mandatory instead of permissive.
Although the hon. Member who moved this Amendment devoted some part of his speech to dealing with the Part III authorities, his Amendment in fact goes far wider than those authorities, and in view of the desire of the Committee that there should be reasonable speed in preparing these development plans, I hope the Committee will realise, in considering this Amendment, exactly what the implication would be. Take the county with which I have been connected. We have 32 county district councils and the Amendment asks that everyone of them shall be consulted at all stages in the preparation of the development plan. Quite clearly that would involve an amount of time and consideration of detail by people, many of whom have never been connected with the education service before, that could only tend to delay. In the whole of England and Wales there are 309 municipal boroughs and 572 urban districts. I do not know how many rural districts there are, but rural district councils would also be brought in. It is clear that this would involve a very considerable delay in the preparation of the plan.
Under the first Schedule the question of the duties to be devolved upon the Divisional Executives will come up for consideration. Where the Divisional Executive is that of an excepted district it may very well be that in some cases the duty of preparing part of the development plan relating to that area may be devolved upon the Council of the excepted district.
Where the county district is not an excepted district it will nominate members to a Divisional Executive whose duty it will be to consider the educational needs of the district, and I should have thought that in most, if not all, cases the county council in preparing their development plan would take consultation with their Divisional Executives, who will certainly have a substantial part of the administration to carry on after the plan has been prepared. I venture to say that that will be a far more effective form of consultation than saying that every municipal borough, every urban district, every rural district irrespective of its size, shall be consulted at all stages. We are exceedingly anxious, as the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) said, that local interest shall be preserved and shall be aroused in some districts where it has not hitherto had much chance of finding expression. In the scheme prepared under the first Schedule we can do this more effectively than in the words of the Amendment, which really would impose such a duty with regard to consultation that either it would be so perfunctory as to be valueless, which we do not desire, or would be so overwhelming that it would impose intolerable delays in the preparation of the plan.
We are very anxious to allay the legitimate fears of the county district councils in this matter who have been Part III authorities. I am advised that paragraphs 8 (b) and (e) of the third part of the first Schedule are sufficiently wide to enable arrangements of the kind I have indicated to be given effect to, and I hope that that will satisfy my hon. Friend.
I think my hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to do what he has done and take the words of the Amendment that have been moved. However, I did not understand the argument of the hon. Member to mean that what he really desired was that every detail of the development at all stages should be submitted for representations to be made by all the county districts, though I agree that is what the. Amendment says. I rather think that what is at the back of the minds of those who have put down this Amendment is merely to secure what I think my hon. Friend has sympathy with, that a county district shall have the right to make representation to the county authority about the plan in so far as it affects their area. It is not intended they should have power to make representations on the county scheme as a whole but that they ought to be consulted, to be given information and to have the power to make representations, no matter how small they are, about the development plan as it affects the area for which they are the council. I take it that what my hon. Friend had in mind was that the part of the Schedule to which he referred gives power for them to be consulted in that way. I do not think it covers every district. I rather thought that what was intended here was that every elected authority should have a voice in the development of an education plan for the area for which they are elected representatives. That was behind the Amendment as I understood it.
My hon. Friend makes his speech and always interrupts the people who have the very difficult task of replying. His arguments are so logically expressed that they present enough difficulty in answering without having one's mind put off by further interruption. There are 1,356 county district councils in the country.
There are 475 rural district councils. They are in addition to the numbers I gave before, for municipal boroughs and urban districts. These bodies are elected for specific purposes; among those purposes is not education. We propose to give them a share in education in the future, through the divisional executive, which will contain those members of the district council who are interested in education. This is the proper body to consult. In the case of the excepted districts—that is, by and large, the larger ex-Part III authorities—the divisional executive is the town or urban district council, so that in those cases the consultation will be with the council. In the case of the smaller authorities, by grouping them with the larger executive we shall get a reasonable idea of what their needs are. The third part of the Third Schedule will indicate to hon. Members interested in this Amendment that we are with them in their desires and think that this is the most effective way of meeting them.
As the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has suggested, I desire only that district councils should be consulted on matters affecting their districts. I would like to make one correction. When I inquired whether Part III authorities would be consulted at the development stage, I meant, on the preparation of the development plan. I would like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary could reply "Yes" to that also?
Clearly that would depend on the scheme. The smaller Part III authorities—those, let us say, of under 30,000 people—are in a very different category from those, let us say, of over 60,000 people. It is impossible to give a general reply on a subject which goes into such different details.
No; that will depend upon the scheme that is drawn up. They have the right, when the scheme is drawn up, of making their representations and of being consulted with regard to the powers that will be delegated.
Might I ask for your guidance, Major Milner? I have an Amendment dawn—in page 8, line 10, to leave out "other than county schools." This Amendment is linked with a further Amendment that is to be moved. The point of the Amendment is that all secondary schools and not merely the auxiliary schools should have governing bodies of their own. The main argument on that point will come up on Clause 16, and I wonder whether I should move this Amendment now?
I beg to move, in page 8, line 10, to leave out "other than county schools."
The county school, whether secondary or elementary, is not going to have a governing body of its own. It is though separate from the other schools in the same area to be included under a common scheme. In drawing up this Clause, it was quite impossible to include among the managers who were to be consulted by the local education authority the managers of county schools, because the managers of county schools would be the local education authority themselves. The matter is rather complicated, and the whole question of whether secondary schools in future are to have their own governing bodies or are to be lumped into one holus-bolus of a county authority is, I think, one of the basic points of this Bill. I trust the Chair enough to be fairly confident that when we come to Clause 16 it will be possible to discuss this matter then, and I merely move this Amendment formally.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 17, at the end, to insert:
The appropriate Diocesan Education Committee shall for the purposes of this Sub-section be deemed to be managers or governors as well as the actual managers or governors of a school in which, either by trust or usage or repute, religious instruction according to the doctrines of the Church of England is given.
This Amendment is designed to define further the words in lines 9 and 10 of page 8, where a duty is placed upon the local education authority of consulting the managers or governors, or persons representing the managers or governors of all schools other than county schools. Under a Measure sent up by the Church Assembly and agreed to by this House last year, diocesan education committees were established in every diocese of the Church of England. Reading the Bill, I have little doubt that it was to bring in those committees that the words:
Or persons representing the managers or governors.
were introduced in lines 9 and 10. However, the Bill as it stands imposes no direct duty on local education authorities to consult diocesan education committees in every case. It would certainly be to everybody's advantage that that direct consultation should take place, because at some stage or other the diocesan education committee must be brought in, and the earlier they are brought in the better it will be for them, for the managers or governors, and for the local education authority, which will be able to obtain the committee's view. It is solely because a local education authority which might not be fully aware of the advantage of consulting the committee at an early stage might fail to do so, that I move this Amendment, in order to make certain that that consultation with the committees will actually take place.
The Government are in sympathy with the principle enunciated by the hon. Gentleman that there should be consultation with the diocesan education committees. For one thing, we very much
approve of what I may describe as the rationalisation of church organisation and finance, without which some of the association between the Government and the local authorities and the church schools would not be so easily carried out. I do not want to be misunderstood when I say that we sympathise very much with the recent Measure passed through the Assembly of the Church of England—the Diocesan Education Committees Measure. Section 2 of that Measure includes the following provision:
To promote and co-operate with other religious bodies and with local education authorities in promoting religious education within the diocese.
That is paragraph (iii); paragraph (iv) of the same Section says:
To give advice as and when the Committee thinks fit to trustees or owners and managers of church schools and others concerned as to any matters affecting church schools within the diocese.
The difficulty we have with the terms of my hon. Friend's Amendment is that it looks as if it were possible, under the Amendment as drafted, to conduct relations direct with the diocesan education committees, over the heads of the managers or governors. That we do not think is the proper relationship if the managers and governors do not choose that such a relationship should exist. The Bill is drafted so that, in the first place, there shall be direct contact with the managers and governors, and, if they choose, with the diocesan committees. This is a complicated matter. To understand it fully Members would need a complete knowledge of the Diocesan Committees Measure, as well as a complete knowledge of this Bill. It is difficult enough to have a complete knowledge of this Bill; to have a complete knowledge of the Diocesan Committees Measure as well would be very difficult indeed. Therefore, I suggest that my hon. Friend should not press his Amendment to-day. I will take his point that this is merely permissive, and accept the principle in that spirit. But to accept the Amendment—
I hope the hon. Member will feel satisfied that we are dealing with the diocesan committee in individual circumstances, and not seeking to over-ride them in any shape or form.
Does that include a provision that discussion with the diocesan authorities shall not take place except where the diocesan council takes financial responsibility for the school which is involved in the consultation? I hope the Committee will not mind my saying so, but I had a professional experience once which has left the deepest impression on my mind. I once acted for certain persons who were injured in an accident, in which some people were killed, in a Church of England school in Liverpool. There were 142 persons crowded together in this school at some exhibition. The floor collapsed and they were precipitated on to a floor below. Some were killed and some injured, some seriously and permanently injured. In that case, the owners of the school were the council—I do not want to go into details now—and there was a trust deed which provided that that council were, and should always be deemed to be, in occupation of that school. The council had accepted that position of legal occupiers, and had insured themselves against the liabilities of occupiers, but when remedies were sought in the courts the council said that this was nothing to do with them, that the duty of keeping the school in repair—and it was admitted that it had not been kept in repair, and that there had been no proper inspection for years—did not lie with them. They said, "We are the owners, we are the occupiers under the trustees, but the Statute lays the duty only upon the managers, and therefore the financial liability lies upon the managers, and your action can only be against the managers, but, unfortunately, the managers have no money." In the end, the Education Council actually sold the school for £2,000 and put the money in its pocket.
No, no. Perhaps I had better say—I did not want to give the name—that there was a body called the Liverpool Church of England School Society, which had a general committee, and this general committee were the trustees and owners, and, by the deeds, the occupiers, but they shuffled out of all responsibility, and in the course of the litigation actually sold the buildings for £2,000 to the Liverpool City Council and put the money in their own pockets, and the rest of the liability fell on the penniless shoulders of the others. Eventually the Council had no responsibility at all. If Councils of this kind are going to claim the privilege of being consulted, then they should take full responsibility for schools about which they wish to be consulted, and I would like to hear if the Minister accepts that view.
My difficulty is in reconciling the two Measures, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to look at his Amendment again because it says:
the Diocesan Education Committee shall for the purpose of this sub-section, be deemed to be the managers or governors as well as the actual managers or governors of a school.
That is not our reading of the Diocesan Education Committee Measure, 1943, which, in Section 2 (2) simply provides that
the trustees or owners and managers of every Church school in a diocese shall be bound to consult the Committee and to have regard to its representations in any negotiations for and before making any agreement or arrangement with the Board of Education. … or the local education authority for or with respect to the restoration, rearrangement, continuance, discontinuance, closing, sale or lease of, or other dealing with such Church school, or for or with respect to the amalgamation thereof with any other school.
If that is to be the view of the Diocesan Education Committee Measure it is different from the Amendment on the Paper, which says that trustees and managers shall be deemed to be one and the same thing. I do not think the Government should advise this Committee so to legislate until we are satisfied by the movers of the Amendment that the terms of the Diocesan Committee Measure and of the Amendment are the same. If the hon. Member will not press it to-day, I think it is desirable to have more information.
Surely it is important to know, when considering these matters, whether the council which is to be consulted is going to be discharged and have no responsibility for the statutory obligations of managers? Surely, that is the point.
I could not answer the question raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) without going far beyond the terms of the Amendment, which refers to Diocesan Education Committees. It does not refer to a Liverpool school council or any other form of Church or other society.
With great respect, it is not the same thing. These are bodies brought into statutory existence by the Church Assembly and this House within the past 12 months. I would certainly like to respond to the spirit in which the Minister has replied to my Amendment. We do not wish in any way to supplant the managers or governors of any of these schools. What we do wish to ensure is that there will be consultation with both the managers or governors and the Diocesan Education Committee, and perhaps it will be possible, in further consultation, to work out a form of words which might achieve that agreed object.
That is precisely what we do not want. That is the situation. What justification is there for the consultation with the Diocesan Council at all? We have already been told they have been in existence for over a year and they are not a repository of any great educational experience in their own rights. They may have members with educational experience, but as bodies they have none. Why should the Minister have his negotiations cluttered up by having to consult not only the managers but this other extraneous body, whose functions are entirely denominational? We have been told that it would be unwise to consult a very large number of elected bodies—local councils—because there are so many of them. We are now saying—and I am suspicious of the Clause—that in addition to consulting the managers or the governors of all local schools, which are now going to be mostly controlled schools, for which we will be entirely responsible financially, the Minister ought to consult another body outside these. What for? I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that the use of the words "or persons representing the managers" could be interpreted as substituting the Diocesan Council for the managers or governors. Do we understand that? If that is to be the case, some of us will have to take serious exception to it, because we see no reason at all why the Diocesan Council should be consulted in a development scheme of this sort—a non-elected body. I should like a little more specific clarification. If the hon. Member will press his Amendment, we will divide on it—or at least I will—on the grounds of this purely extraneous body. It would be unwise to divide this Committee on any educational matter; but if, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman says that his meaning of the term is that managers and governors can be set on one side and the diocesan body established, I should also be suspicious of that, for I see no reason at all why that body should come into the picture at any stage.
I have said once and say again that there is no desire by the movers of the Amendment to supplant managers or governors or deprive them of any of their rights. I rather think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) should have raised his point on the Diocesan Education Committee Measure in the last Session and not on this Bill. But if I have the good will of the Committee I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 26, to leave out from "made," to "necessary," in line 27, and to insert:
by any person to whom particlars or further.
I understand it would be convenient if, with this Amendment, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) and other hon. Members, we considered the Amendment in my name and that of other Members, in page 8, line 29, after "Sub-section," to insert:
(if such objections are so made not later than three months after the date or latest date on which such particulars or further particulars were received by that person).
and also the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon)—in page 8, line 29, after "Sub-section," insert:
(if such objections are so made not later than three months after the date or latest date on which such particulars or further particulars were received by that person).
Under Sub-section (3) of Clause 10, to which I refer hon. Members, the local education authority has to consult the managers or governors of schools, and after submitting the plan to the Minister, has to furnish to the managers or governors sufficient particulars to show the manner in which the school will be affected by the execution of the plan. If the Minister is of opinion that no particulars, or insufficient particulars, of the plan have been furnished to any person who, in his opinion, would be affected by the execution of the plan, he is to give such directions as he considers expedient for securing that sufficient particulars are so furnished.
Under the provisions of Sub-section (3), I understand there are three classes of persons to be considered. First, there are the managers or governors who have received particulars which the Minister may consider sufficient; but there is another class—those managers or governors who have received particulars which the Minister may consider to be insufficient and to whom he directs that further particulars shall be furnished. There is a third party to be considered—that is, any person affected by the execution of the plan who has received no particulars and to whom the Minister requires particulars to be furnished. There are thus three separate parties to be considered by the Minister before his decision is given. If hon. Members will refer to Sub-section (4) they will find that it provides for consideration by the Minister of
any objections to a development plan made to him within the period of two months after the date on which he is satisfied that all necessary particulars have been furnished in accordance with the last foregoing Sub-section.
The position is a little complicated and I must apologise, but in the view of my hon. Friends who put their names to this Amendment there is no requirement as to publication of notice of the day on which the Minister is actually so satisfied, and any person to whom particulars are
furnished pursuant to Sub-section (3) would have no means of knowing whether the Minister was or was not satisfied that the local education authority have done all that needed to be done or as to the date on which the Minister may be so satisfied. Moreover, the particulars or further particulars will have to be furnished to a large number of persons and it would appear to us that any individual persons would take it that the time for lodging objection would begin to run from the date on which the Minister is satisfied that in all cases the necessary particulars have been furnished. This would add to the difficulty of any intending objector in ascertaining the actual time when he must lodge his objection to the scheme.
It will be noted that the time for lodging objections is "within a period of two months." This would mean that any objections made either before or after the expiration of that period need not be taken into account by my right hon. Friend. The object of the Amendments on the Order Paper is to secure that, in the case of each person to whom particulars or further particulars are furnished under Sub-section (3) of the Clause, the time for lodging objections shall run from the date or latest date of the receipt by the Minister of the particulars or further particulars. I submit therefore that this is the only practicable way that the Minister would have of ensuring that persons affected shall have an adequate opportunity of submitting objections to a development plan. The period of two months for the making of objections we consider to be insufficient and, in a similar case, under Sub-section (3) of Clause 12, the period of three months is allowed for the submission of objections. The Amendments which I am now moving accordingly provide for the lodging of objections within three months.
I wish to say a few words in support of the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Cardiff, South (Colonel Evans). It is most important that the date on which the Minister has satisfied himself should be made very clear to all concerned. That is not clear from the Clause, and neither is the date from which the two months should run. Even if the date were clear, we submit that two months is insufficient time and that the period for lodgment should be extended to three months. We have heard all sorts of suggestions as to improvements which ought to be made in the Bill with which we are in hearty agreement, but I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that it would be unfair to the managers and governors of schools if insistence was made on provisions which they could not provide, and they found themselves without time to produce or lodge their objection. We do not insist that these words should be part of the Clause but we ask the President of the Board of Education and his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to consider our point of view between now and the Report stage.
The hon. and gallant Member for Cardiff, South (Colonel Evans) said that this was a very complicated matter. It is and I congratulate him upon the clarity with which he managed to move his Amendment. It deals with the situation that will arise when the managers or governors know the requirements that will be placed upon them. They will then have a period of time within which to decide whether they are going to say that they are reasonable requirements and they intend to carry them out, or whether they are going to lodge an objection upon any ground that may be open to them. On the question of time, I do not think that the period of two months should be regarded as being too short. These are schools which have been in their possession for a considerable time, They have probably a pretty good idea before things start as to what they ought to do, and one knows that in most cases the surveying of the school by the local education authority and the consideration of what ought to be asked for will be carried out in consultation, not necessarily formally, but informally, with the representatives of the managers or governors.
We are anxious, as the Committee has shown on this Clause and the previous one, to get on with the job of bringing these schools into a fit state of repair and I hope that the Committee will feel that, in these circumstances, the period of two months is a sufficiently long time. With regard to the other point as to the date from which the two months' period is to run, undoubtedly, it is very desirable that the managers or governors or anyone else concerned with the matter should know the date from which their period of making an objection runs. I should have thought that the words in the Clause made it clear that it would have to be some disclosure of knowledge on their part that would enable my right hon. Friend to be satisfied that all necessary particulars had been furnished. We are advised that managers or governors are amply protected by the words in the Clause but I respond to the appeal made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). Undoubtedly, this is complicated and we do not desire that anybody should be cut out through not having the knowledge. We do not want anyone to get into difficulties inadvertently. We do not desire that anybody should be able by some manoeuvring to prevent managers from lodging their objections in time, and we will examine the words to see if the exact date on which the furnishing of the particulars has taken place and from which the opportunity for notices will be given can be made more clear.
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cardiff, South, will be grateful but we want to be clear that the people entitled to receive notice of the alteration or improvements in the Order shall have sufficient time. It is not sufficient that they should know that the Minister was satisfied. They might only know that he was satisfied a month after he had become satisfied. We want to be sure that the people responsible shall have ample time to lodge objections within the dates authorising them.
We desire that they should have two months from some given date during which they can consider whether they are going to lodge an objection or not. That is what we intend them to have and I hope that the Committee will feel that a two months' period is long enough. If there is difficulty when we look further into the words in making that date absolutely certain, we will endeavour to meet them.
I wish to put the position briefly because I want to expedite the progress of the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will accept my Amendment, though I have not high hopes that that will be done. There is no obligation here upon the Minister to consult local education authorities with regard to objections he has received. We think—and I am speaking for the county education authorities—that it is desirable that there should be an obligation under the Bill for him to notify the local education authority of the objections and to consult them with regard to the objections which have been received. It would lead to better administration if this were done. The Minister may say that he would naturally do this in the course of his administration, but we think that it would be better to make provision in the Bill for the obligation to be placed upon the Minister to bring about consultation.
I hope that I shall be allowed to move my Amendment as it stands. It covers the same point as the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) but it makes the Bill better English and it is much better grammar. My hon. Friend is able to get in ahead of me by having put his Amendment down two lines further up in the Bill, but I would put it to the Committee that my Amendment really does make a much better Clause. I do not want to repeat what my hon. Friend has said, or to take up much time on this, but I think it is the most reasonable Amendment which has been moved on the Bill. I want to sup- plement in one respect what my hon. Friend said. He mentioned that the local authority ought to be consulted about objections received. I put it rather in another way. I hope that the Minister will not modify the plan of the local authority and give directions to the local authority to override their original plan without giving the local authority the chance of stating their position practically without consulting them. May I then be allowed to move my Amendment?
I do not want to prove you an untrue prophet, Sir Charles, but we prefer the Amendment, where it is proposed to be made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) rather than in the place suggested by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb). The two Amendments have practically the same effect but the change fits into the drafting of the Bill better in the second case than in the first. While we accept the spirit of the Amendment, we should prefer that it should be in the place where it has been put down by the hon. Member for Walsall.
I am prepared to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member fox Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). It is the object of my Amendment that I want, and if it is more likely to be accepted by the Minister at the place indicated I shall be ready to ask leave to withdraw my own Amendment if I can be assured by my hon. Friend that the Amendment of my hon. Friend will be allowed to be moved.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 39, at the end, to insert:
The object of this Amendment is to ensure that, before a development plan to which objections have been lodged is approved by the Minister he shall exercise his powers under Clause 86 and hold a local inquiry unless all objections are withdrawn. My hon. Friend and I who have put their names to this Amendment submit that the formulation of the development plan is of such vital importance that the fullest possible inquiry should be held before such a plan is approved.
I want to say a few words in support of the Amendment, the object of which, as my hon. and gallant Friend said, is to give people a proper opportunity of taking action. We want to secure proper publication regarding the development plan. It is suggested in the Amendment that the "London Gazette" is the proper means of giving this publicity. I am not sufficiently well informed to know whether that is the best means or not, but manifestly, when managers are concerned with schools that they have to administer and which may be taken away from them as a result of not being able to carry out the plan, they should have full and proper notice of the intentions regarding the plan. Equally, it is important that the Minister himself should exercise his powers under the Act to hold a full inquiry if the objections which may be made from time to time to such plan have not been satisfactorily cleared up. I would refer to what I have said already on a previous Amendment with regard to the possibilities of this matter—that everybody is desirous of having the maximum amount of development. We have heard talk of large playing-fields to be provided for everybody; we have heard talk of canteens for everybody, wireless sets, and goodness knows what. That is all splendid, but if the development plan is to include all that, and the managers of the schools have not the wherewithal to provide it, surely they are entitled, before being shut up, to be sure that the Minister means to hold a proper inquiry into objections to the plan?
I know this is not the proper place to discuss finance, and I am not going to do it, but the reason why we are anxious to get inserted in the Bill provision for a public inquiry, if proper objections have not been satisfactorily met, is in order to safeguard ourselves against being required to do something which, under the provisions of the Bill, we are entirely unable to do from an economic point-of-view. There may be other objections as well, but all I am claiming—while not in the least wishing to obstruct any development scheme of any kind whatever—is to see to it that the schools are not closed down without having any objections properly ventilated in a public inquiry, and full opportunity given so that the managers and their representatives may turn up at such inquiry, state their case, and have it fully and properly held by the Minister under the powers given to him in Clause 86. I hope that if, in the opinion of the President of the Board of Education and of the Committee, I have made my case, the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to find some way of meeting this.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 3, to leave out "and" and to insert "or."
The only doubt I have is whether the people interested will read the "London Gazette" and I should prefer to see "and" altered to "or," in the Amendment, so as to give the President of the Board of Education the chance of doing what he thinks best.
It may be necessary to have an Amendment but I would ask the Minister to consider very carefully any such Amendment. In connection with the publication, if the Amendment is accepted, the proper medium of publication would be the "Daily Worker," but the important thing about this Amendment is that it visualises conflict—
I understand, but the fact is that if the White Paper and the Bill are to be carried out, in the sense that the House and the country desire, it will call for the maximum co-operation between the Minister and the various authorities responsible for the carrying on of education, whether they are county or denominational schools. Hon. Members who are moving this Amendment will agree with me that the greatest possible value for denominational schools, as well as for county schools, will come from the maximum measure of co-operation. That is why I want the Minister not to accept such an Amendment light-heartedly, but to consider carefully what he is doing, in the light of the absolute necessity for getting the best results from the Bill, of getting the maximum co-operation, and avoiding at all cost conflict between the different authorities in connection with the carrying out of this scheme.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
I sincerely hope that the Minister will not accede to the second part of this Amendment. It is designed not only to cause friction, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has said, but it will operate automatically to cause considerable delay in bringing the plan into operation. Reference has been made to Clause 86 which gives the Minister power to direct a local inquiry if he thinks fit to do so. Clause 86 says be may, but the Amendment now moved, places it within the power of a sectional interest, organised in different parts of this country, automatically, without any question of distinction, without any question of ascertaining what the weight of the objection is, without ascertaining whether it is material or considerable, to insist that if an objection is lodged, the Minister must direct an inquiry to be held. That could be staged quite easily by an energetic, sectional interest in a great many parts of this country at the same time.
May I interrupt? The hon. and learned Member is not stating at all correctly what my hon. and gallant Friend and I said. We said that if any objection has not been withdrawn—not if any objection is merely lodged. The President may be able to satisfy those objections and with the co-operation he hopes to have, he should be able to do so.
May I remind the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) of the terms of his own Amendment?
(b) The Minister shall consider any objection made by or on behalf of any persons appearing to him to be affected which is sent to him within the required time and, unless all such objections are withdrawn, shall cause a local inquiry to be held in accordance with Section 86 of this Act.
In other words, they would be able to say to the Minister, "If you do not agree to every word of objection that we put before you, we shall not be satisfied, and we will compel you to hold a local inquiry." That will not come from just one area. The interests represented in different sections of this Committee will take very good care to see that it is not one objection that will be on the Minister's plate but a couple of hundred, and they will all say, "You give way to this objection, or 200 local inquiries"—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, No."] That is what will happen if this Amendment is accepted. I have some experience of inquiries held by Government Departments into matters affecting local administration, and I know that it takes time to get an appropriate inspector from the Ministry to conduct the inquiry. It takes time to find an appropriate place at which the inquiry is to be held; it takes time to see that all the persons who are properly interested in the inquiry are given notice to be there, and they again will produce further delay because they will say, "Wait a minute, you cannot hold the inquiry next month or the month after. We must instruct counsel, we must be adequately briefed and represented." The procedure, it this were conceded, might hang up the whole of the operations of the scheme for obtaining the development plan to get on with the job which this Bill envisages. For those cogent reasons, I hope that the Minister will reject this Amendment.
I have very great sympathy indeed with this Amendment and I did not follow the hon. and learned Member's arguments against it. It is quite clear that in a Bill of this kind there are many of what the hon. and learned Member calls sectional interests, although I think he refers to them as denominational when he speaks of his own.
I have never in the course of the discussions on this Bill argued once for my own denomination. I have argued for Protestants, Nonconformists, council schools and public schools in general, but never once have I uttered a word here in favour of my own denomination, the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.
I have my own opinion upon that, but it is quite clear that a number of interests are affected very cogently and very directly, and I think the Committee should make every effort to meet any of those objections which can be met without upsetting the whole scheme. Here is an opportunity where we can meet what are obviously the very sincere feelings of a certain section of the community, without doing any harm to the main intentions of the Bill, and I therefore support it. You do not get rid of friction by slurring it over in the preliminary stages. If you are to have friction, you had much better have it out, than prevent people bringing up their real objections by refusing them the facility for inquiry and then afterwards saying, "Let us hope for the best and that they mill forget about it." That is not the way to make a sound scheme; the way is to give everyone an opportunity of airing their opinions in so far as they have a legitimate locus standi and then trying to meet their objections.
I thank my hon. Friend for supporting this Amendment, because that is the very point. The movers of the Amendment have provided that all such objections being withdrawn then the proposed inquiry shall not be held. We are told that there should be ample time for inquiries to be held but you will find that this provision would be used only in cases where there is strong local feeling or strong religious opinion and I think it will be the exception rather than the rule.
If the situation were as simple as my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) has made out, I might find it easier to meet my hon. Friends who moved the Amendment. But let us face the facts of the situation. We all want aggrieved persons to have a chance of stating their views and we all want inquiries to be held whenever there is an injustice but this is a question to do with the submission by an authority of a development plan. It is quite clear that in this matter the less delay we have the better. The sense of the Committee has been in favour of speeding up the submission of development plans and if we were to adopt the Amendment in the terms as drawn on the Order Paper we should throw into our education administrative system cause for indefinite delay. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) who, with great modesty and wisdom refrained from representing his own religious views, pointed out that this might lead to certain troubles and that it might be in the best interests of the movers of the Amendment if we accepted it in the terms on the Order Paper. I think the movers of the Amendment are mixing two things. This development plan refers only to the layout of existing schools within the authority's area. When we come to Clause 12, which deals with the establishment and discontinuance of county and auxiliary schools, there is full provision laid down in Sub-section (3) for objections to be made and when it comes to a new school or the discontinuance of an auxiliary school there is elaborate machinery under which to local government electors can object to the proposals. On the matters where they are likely to be affected the Bill is wide and democratic in the sense they desire.
Let us go back to the development plan on the existing schools. If this were to be published in the "London Gazette," even supposing I accepted the words, "and or," or "or and," I do not think it would give great satisfaction. Let us take an area in Wales, such as that represented by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen. I do not think the citizens of that district would feel particularly excited if they had this published in the "London Gazette" or the Press generally. What they want is that the people they understand and know should be happy about the layout which the authorities suggest for their area. If Members will look at this Clause they will see that there are elaborate provisions under which a local education authority, before submitting the plan to the Minister, must consult with all the small educational units involved, such as the managers or governors of the different schools. In my opinion, it is through their own local representatives that those who support the Movers of this Amendment will find their salvation. If there is adequate machinery for consultation with all those engaged in the conduct of school administration that will be sufficient, rather than resorting to the ambitious and dilatory method suggested in the Amendment. If you differentiate between a development plan for existing schools and an elaborate plan for new schools those who moved the Amendment are fully covered. But if, on the other hand, you stick to the layout of administration, to accept an Amendment as elaborate as this would not be appropriate and would slow up things enormously. The Government will examine this matter with a view to seeing whether we can do anything but I cannot accept the Amendment in the rather broad terms in which it has been drawn, although I well understand the motives of the hon. Members who have supported it.
We are, naturally, in some difficulty at this stage of the Bill but if the Minister can assure us now that he will endeavour to cover our main fear, namely, that some arbitrary local authority, without consultation with the governors of schools, will insist on certain developments and improvements in a school which the governors are totally unable to provide, then I think OUT fears would be met. We want to provide for the persons who have, hitherto, run their schools very well, although perhaps not so up to date as they should have been. We want the closest possible co-operation. [Laughter.] Well, it is the Minister who wants to continue the dual system, not we. We do not want the dual system. All we want is that the State should provide schools with Catholic teachers.
I was only answering the imputation by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) about our lack of co-operation. I was trying to make it clear that we wanted the maximum co-operation. We want to have the best for our children. We do not want to have schools arbitrarily closed. We want the fullest inquiry of there is anything which cannot be carried out because of the financial burden.
I think the answer to the hon. Member is to be found in Clause 64. If there is a dispute on a matter between managers or governors and an authority it automatically comes to the Minister for determination. However, I would rather like to look into the matter from that angle than from the elaborate manner in which it has been suggested.
There are two points that I would like to mention in connection with this Clause, which is of key importance to the future layout of primary and secondary education in this country. This Clause makes 1st April, 1946, a crucial date. That is the date before which every local education authority has to make up its mind how its schools are to be arranged for primary and secondary education. I hope the Minister will make sure, if he is setting up any further Committees or securing any further authoritative reports from independent bodies, that they will be submitted and published well before that date, and not shortly afterwards, because it would throw this work into chaos if reports and recommendations of the greatest significance for education were published and were to become available shortly after instead of well before that important date-1st April, 1946. We had an interesting Debate at an earlier stage of the Bill on rural education, when it was obvious that the Committee wished local education authorities to give careful attention to the most modern and enlightened views as to the manner in which education in rural areas should be organised in future. I do not know whether that is one of the subjects which the Minister intends to refer to his new Advisory Councils. Personally, I hope it will be. But if he is setting on foot any new inquiry of that sort, will he make sure that the findings are available before the date when local education authorities have to submit their development plans? It will be disastrous if all plans have to be reconsidered in the light of new and important findings which are published shortly afterwards.
My second point concerns consultation. I am sure the Committee wishes that all consultation carried out under this Bill should be constructive, and not merely formal so as to comply with the Statute. I had an Amendment on this point which was not called. It is not that I want to insist on the Government altering the actual words of the Bill, but where, for instance, local education authorities are required under this Clause to consult managers or governors of auxiliary schools there are two ways in which that consultation can be carried out. They can either take the managers and governors into their confidence at the beginning of the preparation of their development plan and invite their views at the first possible moment, or, in a conceivable case where a narrow-minded local education authority had perhaps had some quarrel with those interested in religious education in the area, the authority might claim that it was complying with the Statute by writing a week or two before the last possible date and saying "Here is our development plan. This is Monday. Please let us have your comments by Wednesday, because the Statute requires that the plans shall be submitted to the Minister by Thursday." That would not be the consultation which this Committee desires. I had hoped that it might be possible to alter the terms of the Bill to secure that the consultation was genuine, but now I would ask my right hon. Friend to give an assurance that he will do everything in his power to make certain that the consultation required by this Bill is carried out in a way that is truly constructive.
One thing which, I have been told outside, is causing great consternation is the shortage of local authority staffs. Could I get some assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything in his power not only to maintain their present staffs but, if necessary, to get back further staff so that their plans may be carried through?
There is one point on which I should like some assurance. This is the Clause which lays out the scheme described as the blue print of the educational future. When you have that, there will be contained in it an outline of the new secondary system that we envisage—the new system of secondary schools of three types. It has been emphasised from the earliest day on which the White Paper was discussed that it is necessary that these three types of school shall be created on the same level, so that no child who goes to a technical secondary school will feel in any way inferior to a child who goes to a secondary grammar or modern school. They must be equated. Sub-section (2) lays down that the nature of the education and the ages of the pupils shall be provided as part of the general plan. Surely, in order to equate these three types of secondary school it is essential that somewhere or other, either specifically in the plan or by directions that the Minister may give before he approves it, specific provision should be made governing the conditions of admission of pupils to these schools. Otherwise we shall find schools of the old grammar school type hand selecting and being maintained at a level consistently higher than the technical and modern school. I should like an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will see to it that in these plans for the future there is control not only as to the education to be provided and the ages of the pupils to be taught but as to the conditions governing admission to the schools.
I should like to take up one point which has been made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). I am slightly concerned at the pressure that exists on all sorts of Ministers to release staff for certain purposes. No one can tell what the manpower position will be in 1945. It may be a question not of releasing staff but of calling up more for the Forces.
I only mentioned it because I think it is very bad for the country to let it go out that we can do a great many things that we cannot do. I am aware of the great pressure that is going to be put on the staffs.
The important thing in connection with the consultations referred to in the Clause is that those who may have objections arising out of the Clause should feel satisfied that the Minister is ready to meet them. The measure of co-operation which will be absolutely essential will depend to a very great extent on how the Minister carries out the obligations that arise under the Clause. If the necessary sympathetic attention is given to objections that are felt, there will be no need in my opinion for any friction during the course of the operation of the Bill or of this Clause.
I should like to say a few words in support of the views expressed by the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke). I hope the Minister will seriously consider the representations that have been made with regard to proper consultation. We feel that, if there is an opportunity for the ventilation of all grievances, the objections which we have to the Clause as it stands will be removed. I should like to tell the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) that this is not a blue print at all, It is a sketch.
I think the Committee is to be congratulated on having concluded the discussion of one of the most important Clauses of the Bill in a most businesslike manner, and I am obliged for the progress that we have been able to make. The Committee has taken part in the deliberations in a constructive manner and I hope it may now be possible to get the Clause and make a little more progress. I accept the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Brooke) spoke, and he was supported by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I think it is most important that the consultation should take place in the same spirit of co-operation that these three hon. Members have shown in associating themselves with the Amendment. We are seeing so happy a spirit of co-operation that I hope it will be reflected not only in the country generally but in the local authorities' areas as well. We are indeed setting an example to the world of education.
The points raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) were very well worth making. At present local authorities are working on a very bare minimum. We hope the time will come when they will able to enlarge their staffs by the inclusion of those whose minds and ideas are refreshed by the experiences through which they have been passing, but that will take time and therefore, though the Government wish to press ahead as fast as they can with these development plans—and we have resisted any Amendment likely to delay the Bill in any way—it must be realised under what a severe strain some of these authorities are working. That is why I have not always been able to give as much information and statistics as I should desire. Local authorities have made one of the biggest drives that have been made recently in war time—I refer to the milk and meals scheme particularly—with reduced staffs and, when we come to constitutional development, I am sure they will show the same vision as they have shown in war time. The question of secondary education will be included in this development plan. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen is interested in the question of entry to the secondary schools, a subject of burning interest which will arise on Clause 16. Apart from that particular issue, I assure him that there will be in these plans the plan that authorities have of the new secondary world. It is in that new secondary world and the new primary world, too—because by an Amendment the Committee has accepted to this Clause the range of primary education is now to be set before us in its various types—that we will see the whole range of peaks of opportunity which this Bill provides.