After the discussion that we had yesterday I should like to direct the attention of the Committee to what a controlled school really is. What we are seeking to do here is to establish that kind of school where now, in a single-school area, there is a denominational school. The origin of the controlled school is this. It is well recognised—indeed the President himself recognised it yesterday—that the demand for an improved system of education will mean that schools dependent upon trust deeds, will not be able to provide the equipment and the buildings. Necessarily, therefore, a large number of them would, in the ordinary course of events, become council schools maintained entirely by the community. The device of the controlled school has been resorted to in order to soften the blow upon the Anglican community. It is a compromise which, it is hoped, will enable them to face more readily increased public control. The device of the controlled school carries with it for the denomination which has been unable to continue the other kind of school, a considerable number of valuable privileges. They have, automatically, the right to appoint one-third of the governors or managers, who have special rights in connection with certain of the teachers, and the Bill secures that there shall be special provision for denominational teaching in accordance with the trust deeds—that is, a special provision for Anglican teaching. It provides a quota of teachers known 'as reserved teachers chosen specifically to do this denominational work within the schools. That is, again a valuable denominational privilege. Furthermore, it gives to the denomination, control of the buildings on Saturday and Sunday, an exceedingly valuable privilege, especially in single-school country areas. It then provides that the general religious teaching shall be on the basis of an agreed syllabus.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) yesterday sought to represent this Amendment as an attempt by Nonconformists to turn the tables upon Anglicans. They now control religious teaching in the schools and his suggestion, thoroughly unfounded, was that an effort is now being made to change that, and to introduce Nonconformist teaching in its entirety, to which Anglicans will be compelled to submit. Nothing of the kind. The religious teaching there, is religious teaching of the whole school on the basis of an agreed syllabus, which has been accepted in many parts of the country by Anglicans themselves. It is an attempt to get some measure of agreement, at any rate, in religious teaching. It has been found acceptable to Anglicans and to other denominations. It is an endeavour to provide a proper kind of compromise and in no sense an effort to subjugate Episcopalians to Nonconformists. Nor is the agreed syllabus an attempt to put the Deity into commission. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) who spoke of that, may be strong on economics, but his theology is a little deficient.
That is the picture that we have of the controlled school—a school taken over in its entirety, with considerable concessions left for the Anglican Church. Is not this, patently, the kind of compromise best fitted for single-school areas? The grievance with regard to single-school areas has been acknowledged by the Archbishop of Canterbury. May I quote from his presidential address to the Canterbury Diocesan conference as reported by "The Schoolmaster and Woman Teacher's Chronicle" of 26th October, 1943:
There is no doubt that Free Churchmen feel a genuine grievance with regard to their position in the single-school areas. They do not claim that in many cases their children are, in fact, subjected to teaching which the
parents are bound to resent, but they say that this does occasionally happen and that, when it happens, the bitterness caused is great, just because these families have no remedy—they must send their children to a school where they receive teaching and sometimes treatment which is bound to cause resentment in the parents. There is, therefore, good reason why in our own administration of our trust we should do everything possible to avoid creating that sense of grievance.
The Archbishop goes on to deal with another point with which I will not trouble the Committee and he concludes:
We have to determine our policy over against these two great factors and to realise that even if we could, by political pressure, secure the placing on the Statute Book of something which satisfied our own aspirations while leave Free Church grievances unremedied, and teachers' aspirations unfulfilled, we should have created a new kind of tension which would prevent our new enactment from having the beneficial effect which we desire.
That is a clear admission by the Archbishop, of the justice of the non-Anglican claim with regard to the single-school areas. He is supported, in one aspect of it, by the Archbishop of York as reported in the "Yorkshire Evening Press" of 12th November, 1943. He said:
They must recognise that it was impossible for a democratic State to continue to acquiesce in a system by which the headmasterships of nearly 10,000 schools were closed to Nonconformists.
Although the claim for fair treatment of the single-school areas is accepted by the great leaders of the Anglican Church, I agree that inside the Anglican community there are certain dissidents like the hon. Member for Keighley, but those who are more entitled than the hon. Member to speak for the Church as a whole, have accepted the justice of the case that we make out.
I am not going to weary the Committee by repeating what I have said earlier, but if the hon. Gentleman had been here he would have heard his argument on that point completely devastated. The case that has been presented here has been accepted by the great leaders of the Anglican Church. I will go further. Somebody said yesterday,
after listening to the speech of the President, that he was giving us nothing. He did, however, give us one thing of great value. He admitted the justice of our claim. He said that it was reasonable. Indeed, that is not the first time its justice has been admitted. I have here a report circulated to the Free Churches on the coming Education Bill over the respected name of Dr. Scott Lidgett. In that it is stated:
The Free Church Federal Council desires the adoption of one or other of the following alternatives—
That is the basis on which the Free Churches gave their whole-hearted support to the White Paper, and to the Bill. I looked forward yesterday to hearing the Minister say what offer he would make but he had nothing better to tell us than that we must retain the alternative of aided schools and controlled schools. That is not the alternative. Thousands of these Anglican schools will go. They are bound to go. The alternative is not whether they become controlled or aided schools. The alternative is where are the aided schools to be. If the Anglican Church desires to maintain its position of authority and influence, it will see to it, as a community, that these aided schools will be in the single-school areas which they can dominate effectively, and that they will not be lost in the large agglomerations of population where there are alternative schools.
Therefore, the alternative is cast back to this Committee. We are passing this Measure, and, knowing that thousands of these schools will go and that those which will have to go first will be the Anglican schools in the single-school areas, it is for us to say what the alternative should be. We have made out the justice of our case and it is the only logical answer to the problem. We demand that it shall be done. If not, we shall have to follow the only course open to us and support our views in the Lobby.
The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) in a helpful speech yesterday appealed to us to do nothing that would increase sectarian bitterness. I shall try to follow that advice in my speech, as other hon. Members who are opposed to me have done. If we can discuss this matter without any animosity, we shall be setting an example to the villages where any troubles of this kind have arisen. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) for quoting the words which the Archbishop used. I ventured to interrupt yesterday, because I thought that some hon. Members have been giving rather too patronising a gloss on the speech which the Archbishop delivered. Anybody who listened to the quotation, which the hon. and learned Member gave, will agree that the Archbishop of Canterbury was approaching this difficult question in a truly Christian spirit. There is no suggestion on the other side of the Committee, I am certain, that the leaders of the Church of England have approached in any narrow spirit what is agreed to be a genuine Free Church grievance.
The question is how we can find the best means of alleviating and if possible removing it. There is work of that kind to be done by the Churches. There may be work also to be done by some of us within this House. I have certainly tried to show myself ready to discuss this in a friendly way with my Free Church friends in the Committee. It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that either of the Archbishops or any of the other Church of England leaders have advocated a solution on the lines of this Amendment. In my view, and clearly in their view, this is too heavy-handed a way to try to remove this injustice. In the Report which the Archbishop of Canterbury commended to the Church Assembly on the subject of religious education it was stated:
The National Society would strongly oppose any wholesale transfer of Church schools in single-school areas to the local authority. The great majority of the schools occupy an honoured and responsible place in village life, and the Society holds that this tradition would be largely lost if their essential relation to their environment were altered.
The Minister yesterday advised the Committee that he would not be prepared to
accept this Amendment because it would upset the balance of the Bill. I would not like the Committee to think that this was merely a matter of checks and balances. We must look at what this Amendment would actually do. We must picture the situation to which we are addressing ourselves. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said there were 10,500 Church schools. That actually is a 20 per cent. over-estimate. He was giving, I think, the figure of all auxiliary schools. There are under 8,500, and something under 4,000 are in single-school areas.
So far, there is agreement. The difference here arises about the extent of the existence of a real cause of grievance in those single-school areas. My Nonconformist friends tell me that it is very widespread. Such inquiries as I can make, and the information that is available, I understand, to the leaders of the Church of England, show that the existence of a real local grievance is very much rarer than is commonly suggested. I would say that out of these 4,000 single-school area schools, there are not more than 100 where real positive difficulty arises—difficulty, I am afraid, that is usually caused by some individual, on one side or the other, trying to stoke up the flames of old controversy. What solution does the Amendment propose? It proposes that the whole of those 4,000 schools should be compulsorily transferred from aided to controlled status, on account of difficulties arising in about 100 of them. The hon. Member for the University of Wales quoted cases in his own country where one found Church schools, and where 99 per cent. of the people of the parish were Nonconformist. It seems clear that, in an area like that, the school will become a controlled school, under the Bill.
Certainly. The school can remain an aided school only if there are funds available to carry out the necessary alterations to the school. We all know that those schools which are most out-of-date, are those in villages. If 99 per cent. of the population are disinclined to contribute anything towards the alterations and improvements, I cannot think that the other one per cent. would be able, in perpetuity, to maintain the school.
If it is true that the large number of these schools will be controlled, would it not be a grand gesture for the Church to offer to give them up? If they are passing over, why not enact that they should pass over?
Those are points to which I was coming. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen suggested that the Church of England or the Church in Wales would, when this Bill passed, sit down and try to do the nasty thing, that is to say, add up its available resources and then determine to concentrate them upon keeping as aided schools those which would best enable it to exert power against the Free Churches. Really, it seems such an exaggerated picture as to be hardly worth denying. I have not the slightest doubt, that the way in which both the Church of England and the Church in Wales will proceed when the Bill is passed is to reckon their available resources and then decide to use those resources so as to keep the best schools. It is because the effect of this Amendment would be compulsorily to change the status of a very large number of schools which are admitted by everybody to be good schools, in areas where no trouble of this sort has arisen, that I and my Church of England friends feel that we cannot agree to it. We want to make friendship and to enter into conversation about our difficulties and we hope that our Free Church friends will be willing to enter into conversation about their difficulties. Much of the poison in education controversy arises from a minority of cases, little points of friction, where the bearings run hotter and hotter until the whole machine is in danger of being jammed. If we, in this Committee, can do something to apply lubrication to those points, let us not tire in our efforts to do so.
In my own opinion, the consequences of this Bill will be that the single-school-area schools will be reduced from about 4,000 to under 2,000. If there are 100 schools where real difficulties now exist, they will be reduced to 50. That is the extent of our problem. How can we meet it? As the Minister pointed out, Clause 27 re-enacts the provision, which became law for the first time in 1936, that in Church schools of all kinds the parents of Nonconformists can claim agreed-syllabus teaching within the school.
How could it have had much chance of operating if it was passed just before the war? I trust that by discussing it in Committee we may be able to re-enact it and make it an effective instrument.
Discussion ought to go on about this matter, and I hope we shall pay attention to that Clause in such a way as to make the best use of it. My impression is that a great many of the stories of severely felt injustice arose before 1936, when there was no provision of this kind in the law. I must point out that that provision is an easement, which up to the present the Free Churches have denied to Church of England or Roman Catholic children in county schools, who have felt perhaps, equal dissatisfaction with the form of religious teaching available to their children.
In addition to that, the Minister has indicated to us that he would like to see measures taken to improve transport facilities. That too is an idea that we ought to follow up. Thirdly, I would ask my Free Church friends to consider the potentialities of the Diocesan Education Committee Measure to which there have been earlier references in this Committee. Hitherto, these acute troubles have arisen in isolated villages, where, as I say, there have been one or two difficult personalities. Now this House has approved a Measure, sent up by the Church of England, which creates, in every area, a Diocesan Education Committee, a much more responsible body than any small group of managers. That committee has to be consulted by the managers of a church school in connection with any major decision. It seems to me that the right course, if there is a real difficulty in any village, is that those who feel that difficulty—my Free Church friends—should put their case before the Diocesan Church Committee so that it may be thoroughly ventilated among people whose minds are not narrowed by any strong local feelings. These are the lines, I suggest, on which we might have discussions and see how we can minimise, and if possible remove, this very genuine grievance. My feeling about the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery is that he is proposing to burn down the house in order to make himself a cup of tea. If we can have these discussions inside the House, and if the Churches will proceed with discussions in a truly Christian spirit outside the House, I hope and pray that any injustice of the single-school area may be removed.
I rise to support the Amendment. No one appreciates more than I do the care and sympathy with which the President has conducted the negotiations over the whole field of the Bill as far as the dual system and religious teaching are concerned. He has, I understand, endeavoured to secure a balance in the Bill. I, for one, am prepared to admit he has secured some measure of balance. But on this particular point I think a profound and widespread grievance still remains. The single Church school in the single-school area is indeed, we may as well be frank about it, an offence against the Nonconformist conscience. Indeed the single Church school in the single-school area is not only an offence against the religious susceptibilities of thousands of our people but it is as a matter of fact, and I believe that the President would not disagree with me in this, the central problem of the dual system. It is the case, as has been stated in a document issued by the Board, that the dual system is full of complications; it is uneconomic, it is administratively bad, and it has prevented the educational progress that ought to have taken place in the countryside.
I challenge any Member on this point. There is no religious dispute in this issue. It is not essentially, or, shall I say, it is not mainly, a religious matter. Behind the single Church school in the village is not merely the religious issue but the question of the social control of these village schools. There is no religious problem as such. The schools get on quite comfortably in that respect. What causes friction is the control of the vicar and his wife, if I might put it that way, in these village schools. I was talking only this week to a director of education. He said he had made some inquiries in his county as to the number of teachers who bad applied for transfer from council schools and the number who had applied for transfer from Church schools in villages. In the same period, not one applied for transfer from the council schools but 200 applied for transfer from the village schools, not because of any religious difficulty, but because of the niggling social interference—I put it in these terms again—of the vicar and his wife.
Hence it seems to me that if we are not merely to meet the religious issue which some Members have raised, but if we are to have what I might call, social appeasement in these villages, then indeed these schools ought to go over from the control of the Church, as aided schools and become, as my hon. and learned Friend proposes, controlled schools. I will put it in this way—that there can be no final solution of the aided school question until the issue of the single school is cleared up. It stands in the way, and I ask my Church of England friends to consider this seriously. It is not enough to say that the Churches ought to meet outside in Christian fellowship, or that the Churches outside ought to make a gesture. We inside this Committee should put on the Statute Book something which will make a great contribution to the easement of this whole situation.
My Roman Catholic friends have received most of the shots but as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, behind it all the truth is that as far as the religious schools of this country are concerned, the Church of England has by far the greatest gain out of this Bill. If anything has been said wrongly about my right hon. Friend the President—and I have noticed for some months now that he has been attacked from this angle—it is that he has not been concerned about religious teaching in the schools, and has been somewhat indifferent. This Bill is full of provisions for religious instruction. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Thank God."] Very well. For the first time we have statutory compulsory act of worship, a statutory religious instruction, and the State comes in to inspect it. Since my right hon. Friend has made such a contribution on a high level, I ask my Church of England friends to make their contribution. Indeed it is in this sphere of the single-school areas they can make it.
I have not seen them really anxious to meet the problem yet. If a lot of these schools are going why not do the fine and generous thing and let them go to the State? Why should the process of attrition go on any longer? This process, as a matter of fact, has resulted in thousands of the most filthy schools that one can imagine. I wish hon. Members opposite who speak for the Church of England, would read the Report I have here on the village schools in England. I will not read any of it, but any one who wishes to see it can do so. It shows nauseating physical conditions. It is true that the Church has made its contribution to our educational system. It is equally true that, for many a long day now, they have retarded educational progress in the villages of England.
I have here a copy of the agreed syllabus for the county with which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is well familiar. These agreed syllabuses have been accepted, and, indeed, largely influenced in a number of areas, by the Church of England. They are parties to them; the Free Churches are parties to them; the local authorities are parties to them; the teachers are parties to them. Here is what I thought might have been used as an instrument for complete reorganisation in rural England. Why do not the hon. Members who are connected with the Church of England get up and tell us quite straight that they do not accept the agreed syllabus? It is all very well for my hon. Friends to decry the agreed syllabuses; but the decrying of the agreed syllabuses in many instances is not due to religious objections; it is due to the fact that the agreed syllabus is mainly an instrument for getting the Church of England schools into public ownership and control. I would invite hon. Members to look at this agreed syllabus. Here is the first-year course for children of eight to eleven.
I am sorry, but I do not think that in these Debates I have made Second Reading speeches. I see this as being very germane to the controlled schools. Look at the pages of the syllabus for children of eight to eleven. The memory work is simply colossal. There is not a Member of this House, not even the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who would pass an examination on that agreed syllabus.
We have an agreed syllabus in this House with which we open our proceedings every day: I wonder how many Members of this House can remember two lines of that agreed syllabus.
I do not know. I want to make my contribution in the spirit which has been suggested before, but I say quite definitely that if my hon. and learned Friend divides the Committee on this Amendment, I shall go into the Lobby with him. The single-school area problem is a burning and an offensive one throughout rural England.
I cannot tell; but I say quite definitely that this is a burning issue, and I repeat if my hon. and learned Friend divides the Committee I will go into the Lobby with him, because I do not believe that a settlement of the religious issue can be reached until the burning grievance of the single-school areas has been removed.
; I think I can satisfy the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) that more than one Member for an English constituency is in favour of the Amendment. I speak as an English Member for an English constituency. I thought that the number of these schools had been cut as a contribution to this problem. If those of us who are Free Churchmen could be assured that this problem of the single-school areas was to be settled by such a gentleman as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) I should have no need to rise and speak on this Amendment. But that is not the case. My hon. Friend—he will correct me if I in any way misinterpret him—estimated that there were 100 cases in which, owing to grave personal reasons, this system was not working as it should work. There may be more, as it depends entirely on personalities. Certainly, years ago there were far more than 100, and who is to say that during the time when this Bill will be law the number may not increase again from 100—if it is such a number at present—to what it was in the unhappy days of religious trouble? I noted the hon. Member's figures with some interest. There are, at present, 8,000 aided schools under the control of the Church of England, and he suggested that approximately half of them, under the stress of the educational development of this Bill, should go, leaving 4,000. We, as Free Churchmen, argue that, in this reorganisation that must take place, the Church of England should accept it, that the 4,000 to go would be the 4,000 in the single-school areas.
The hon. Member asked me to correct him if in any way he misquoted me. I did not attempt to make any conjecture as to the number out of the total 8,500 Church of England schools which would become controlled schools. I said that out of under 4,000 Church of England schools in single-school areas, in my personal opinion at least half would become controlled schools, so that there would be fewer than 2,000 aided schools remaining in single-school areas.
There is no doubt that in the single-school areas many are doomed to go in any case, and we ask that the determination as to which should go, should be put into hands which we know and of which we approve. I would be glad as I say to leave it to my hon. Friend, but obviously he cannot do it. I would be glad to leave it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he cannot do it. This Amendment would determine it by law. I would be glad to leave it to the President of the Board of Trade [Laughter.] That could have been said only through a slip of the tongue or from a desire for impartiality. I mean that I would be glad to leave it to the President of the Board of Education. I would be glad to leave it to the local education committee. But with whom does it rest at the present time? It does not rest with any of these people. So far as I am aware, it does not rest with the diocesan education board. It rests with the small groups of managers, whoever they may be, however they may have been appointed, and however they may be acting at the present time.
The trouble is that nobody knows at the moment what mind will be directed to this determination. One wealthy eccentric person can determine this system in any number of areas, as he chooses. Equally, the devoted people who have been working on the happiest and most friendly terms with the Free Churches will be unable to retain the system because some of their schools are old. There is one other point. I do not think the Committee, in its consideration of the Amendment, has considered the position of the teachers. These single-school areas are wide and sparsely populated areas, and in that community the school teacher has a definite position and a part, which, usually, he plays extraordinarily well. The difference in the status of a school teacher is very great in the controlled system, as it is in the aided system, and it reinforces our argument that these educated people, such as school teachers, who have very special responsibilities and special duties, should have some greater protection or security in their posts than is given to them where the aided school remains.
I hope that the Committee will not find it necessary to divide on this Amendment. It would be a pity if the first Division on this Bill should take place on a ground of religious controversy. I can well understand many of my hon. Friends taking part in such a Division, but, on the other hand, I want them to realise that there is a very widespread need among the Free Churches, and we have to face properly the problem of the single-school areas and deal with it on these lines.
I suppose I represent the feelings of the great mass of the Committee when I say that I want this Bill passed, and I want, personally, to give any help that I can to the President in getting it through. For that purpose, I shall throughout maintain the maximum silence compatible with intelligibility, because loquacity is one of the Bill's chief enemies. This particular Amendment is just the beginning of what is bound to be a large and difficult question. My own attitude is that I agree with the Roman Catholic position, broadly, and I should like them to get most of what they want. Equally I think, as this particular Amendment shows, that the Nonconformists have a real grievance, which ought to be capable of being met. I believe—my experience is not recent in the administration of an education committee— I believe that the practical grievance is very limited as to numbers, but, nevertheless, wherever it exists, it is discreditable to the Church of England and we ought to do what we can to meet it.
The President has made what I believe to be an extremely practicable suggestion—that further attempts should be made among those responsible for the leadership in the different religious bodies, to come to an agreed solution. The alternative to that, I believe, would be simply our supporting the President blindly in the steps that he suggests and voting on each occasion in favour of his proposals. But there does seem to me to be all the material for agreement, if the spirit that has been manifested in this Debate is followed throughout. Some in this Committee will remember the attempts made at agreement in 1930, when the President of the Board at that time invited a small number of his fellow-Members to act as a sort of advisory committee, to come together and help him. I believe it was the impression of all of us who took part in that committee, that we could have arrived at a firm settlement, and that we were prevented only by the fact that outside forces were too strong for us. My hon. Friend says it is happening now. I wonder if that is so.
I have complained to my Roman Catholic friends that their propaganda has added to irritation, and has stimulated opposition. The production of a mass of senseless postcards and pathetic letters from overseas forces, and all that sort of propaganda, has set in motion forces that will make it almost impossible to get anything that they or I want. The method of progress on the particular matter of the single-school areas, and on the matter of Roman Catholic claims, is that there should be persuasion, conference and agreement among the parties interested. I suggest that those who lead the different denominations and the Free Churches should get together through their Members of Parliament, and that, within this House, a body of Members who can speak with authority for the different communities, should make a serious attempt to come to an agreed solution. Meanwhile, we should give firm support to the Government.
I wish to make one further point, for, unless my right hon. Friend makes some genuine concession I shall have to join those who wish to bring this matter to a decision. In the former Debate which we had on rural education, I spoke, perhaps with some force, about the position of rural schools in England. We are discussing not only 4,000 village schools; we are discussing 4,000 rural villages in England and the life behind them. I would say to my hon. Friend who has just spoken that this is not a question of dividing on a religious issue: we are in fact dividing on an educational issue. When I interrupted the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) I was aware that the schools under the 1936 Act had not been put in operation, but I do a little deprecate the President in the White Paper, referring to the three concessions made—and one is in Clause 27 (1)—as this is not new. It is in the 1936 Act.
If my right hon Friend's great concession, after three years, is to reenact something that was in the 1936 Act, I do not consider it a great modification. I think that in practice it is going to be extremely difficult to carry out. My mind goes back to the Jewish boys in my own school, who had to be segregated while the service was going on. It is a very bad thing to have this segregation of children, especially young children, and the logical conclusion of the proposal of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) is that you are going to have a number of denominational teachers and children going, very often, to Methodists and Baptists for their own denominational teaching.
Children are segregated for science or Latin in any case, when difficulties in the same circumstances do not arise. The logical conclusion is surely, not what the hon. Member says, but to hasten reunion amongst Christians.
I do not propose to enter into that question, because I should be drawn into far wider curriculum questions. We are talking about a division of the curriculum on religious questions. I have taken the trouble to go into a number of village schools in the last few weeks, including the area with which the Parliamentary Secretary is connected in Surrey. I have had a fresh look at the agreed syllabus—which is complicated enough—that you are going to work in the new controlled school. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. M. Hughes), in the first part of his speech, was extremely reasonable and pointed out six provisions in the controlled school which give a Church of England or Anglican bias. I congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading and backed him on it because I thought the agreed syllabus was going to be the major instrument in bringing about the reorganisation with which the rural problem is faced in this country. You cannot re-organise the secondary and junior schools unless you persist with this instrument. The reference to transport will not help in most cases.
The third argument of my hon. and learned Friend yesterday was to hope that further conversations would take place. After three years where are these conversations to take place? If they take place between hon. Members of this House, there may be a case for them, but there is no case for more conversations outside. From what I hear from Free Church friends, these conversations have not only gone on long enough, but, with all Christian patience, they have been trying very hard in the last three years. I do not think they can go further. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) mentioned the teacher question. It is not good enough; let hon. Members read the book by Mr. Burton, with 30 years' knowledge, and see the description of village schools in this country and also the problems with which teachers are faced. We are, in fact, giving compulsory denominational education.
I would appeal to my right hon. Friend, if he cannot accept the exact words of
the Amendment, whether, in the spirit of the speech made by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, he can say that the direction need not rest with the managers of these schools? Does he realise that one person can hold up the whole thing? My hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham seemed to imply that there were 100 village schools where there is hostility. I know that where there is a reasonable vicar and a reasonable teacher, there is great friendliness in many cases. It is not the hundred bad cases that matter, but the general spirit of the whole. If the hon. Member looked into the practical questions, he would find that it is not just a case of 100 bad examples, but a much more fundamental educational question. I quote from the Editor of "The Countryman":
We should not be faithful reporters of rural feeling if we did not state that the best elements in the country districts are increasingly impatient with the confounding of religious principles or the good life with denominational views, are sick of the condition of so many of our village schools, deplore the narrowed lives of not a few of their teachers and lament the way in which country youth has had to wait for the intelligent provision from which the rural life of small nations like Denmark, Norway and Sweden has so notably benefited.
That is the argument. We wish to see a change enacted in the Bill, if it is possible to enact a change in the curriculum in a Bill, and we think that it is one of the ways in which we can help to restore the vitality of village life. There is not only an argument for tradition but also an argument for posterity. The Church did enormous work in the 19th century but we have to think of the children coming afterwards. If hon. Members could see the conditions which I have seen in Devonshire and Leicestershire, where the vicar himself as Chairman has welcomed me, they would hardly have believed such a welcome change was possible. You will increase such conditions throughout the country, and will extract more good out of the Bill if you agree to the Amendment, than by the present words of this Clause. I, therefore, support the Amendment.
It is my desire to help the Committee as much as I can. The Committee will, perhaps, realise now some of the difficulties with which I have been faced for the last two years, and they will perhaps begin to realise, as we discuss the religious issue, that the Government have, throughout, taken an impartial line and have been guided solely by the interests of the children and the future of education. The question of religious instruction, of course, has come very much into our discussions and in no case more so than in this problem of the village school, where certain parents have no option but to send their children to a denominational school of which they may not fundamentally approve. Therefore, the Government cannot be other than interested in all the arguments that have been put forward to-day.
I have been impressed by the appeal made by the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) and I have listened to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), with all his experience of these matters. My difficulty, which I frankly put before the Committee, is this. If I accept an Amendment of the type that is being moved, it imposes upon the Minister the duty of saying that in single-school areas—that is in some 4,000 areas—the school shall be a controlled school. It is not according to the general spirit of the discussions that we have been undertaking on the religious issue, that the matter shall be decided by ukases from the centre. The criterion by which I must judge the Amendment is, If I were to accept the Amendment, would it, in fact, create a better spirit in those villages where the Minister made an Order? In my opinion, the mere fact that there was coercion from the centre would lead to a continuation of bitter feeling in any particular village where such a school existed.
Looking at the problem as I do, to accept the Amendment on these lines would be unusual and would lead to bitter feeling in those areas. What am I to do? I cannot accept the Amendment. What is the best suggestion to make? I must try to continue to show in this Committee the same spirit of understanding and realisation of the difficulties that I have tried, along with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and my advisers, to show throughout these difficult times. I have been very much aided by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has explained to me, if I have not realised them, many difficulties which exist in this problem. I cannot accept the Amendment, because I do not think that it would be wise or would achieve what hon. Members desire. Therefore, I suggest, first, that it must be left to the individual consciences of hon. Members to take what line they like on the Amendment, and we must always follow that in all discussions in the Committee. Everybody must be allowed to do what he thinks best.
Provided that this is understood, I suggest that it would be useful, now that this matter has been revealed in Parliament to be one which arouses great interest and feeling—and it would be incumbent upon me as the Minister responsible—to get together any hon. Members who are interested in this subject, and to undertake to confer with them to see whether, in one way or another, this problem can be eased. If it cannot be eased in the way that this particular Amendment suggests, can it be eased in any other way? We shall have opportunities for considering the question again on various other Clauses—on Clause 27, to which reference has been made, and Clause 53—and no doubt in other parts of the Bill. Quite apart from this, we ought to have a further discussion between us, irrespective of the opportunities under these Clauses, so that if the Government find that there is a possibility of further accommodation in this matter, then we would have contributed even more than we can actually on the Floor of the Committee. But it would have to come back to the Floor of the Committee, and be our own contribution towards the easing of a time-honoured problem.
The reason I suggest this is that it is not for me to organise and influence discussions outside. The leaders of the churches have already met on this matter. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock is worried because they have not made more progress; I would have liked myself, to have seen more progress. The fact is, progress by coercion does not solve a single problem, and, therefore, the only alternative left to me is to progress by agreement, and, if necessary, a little push from time to time will do no harm. I have found that to be so in the course of these negotiations. Therefore, if those outside will accept the responsibility for getting together and seeing what they can do, within the precincts of Parliament, with my hon. Friends and those who have taken part in these discussions, I will undertake that there shall be further consideration to see what we can do. On those understandings I would ask hon. Members whether they desire to press their Amendment. If they do I must leave it to them, because this is a free country.
I should like to put a question on a point of procedure. Will the fact that we have had a very full discussion on this principle influence the Chair in the acceptance of an Amendment at a later stage of the Bill? Our difficulty is that we may part with our authority at this stage and not be in a position to refer to the matter again if the Chair does not select an Amendment on which the principle can be raised.
It is difficult to express an opinion at this stage. I would remind hon. Members that there are further stages of the Bill and that the Chair will, naturally, take note of the desire of the Committee. I do not think I ought to be more definite.
I am very grateful to the Minister for intervening at this point. As the Committee will have realised, this is one of the major matters to be considered. I doubt very much whether the whole Committee realised how serious the matter was until we had this discussion. We are concerned only about the education of the children in the future and the best that can be done for them. We are now asked again to postpone our demands on this point to some later date. May I, with every respect, say that the citadel is in charge of the Church of England. If there is any coercion it is brought upon those who do not accept the full tenets of the Church of England. We are most anxious to meet any religious prejudices and to do our utmost to co-operate, but to me the primary consideration is the child and his education and his welfare. I hope all those matters will be considered. The question now is, When? I very much doubt whether there is a better occasion on which to consider this question than here and now on this Clause. I doubt very much whether it will be dealt with with equal efficiency anywhere else. I think the Committee is pretty well seized of this problem now, and I hope the authorities outside will agree that the best occasion for the further consideration of this point—and ample opportunity ought to be allowed for it—is when we reach this question during the Report stage. I do not think it could be raised as fully or effectually on any subsequent Clause. If that appeals to other hon. Members then I would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Colonel ARTHUR EVANS: In page 11 line 47, after "Act," to insert:
or of a school for the establishment of which proposals may hereafter be submitted to a local education authority with a view to and resulting in the making of an agreement similar to the agreements to be entered into under that Schedule.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 6, to leave out "six" and to insert "three."
This Amendment is on the lines of earlier ones which have been moved and is aimed at reducing the period allowed for the approval of schemes. I suggest that the six months provided in the Clause is much too long and that three months would be much more reasonable. On earlier Amendments dealing with this question of the time to be allowed the Minister did say that he would look into the matter to see whether a shorter period should be substituted, and I suggest that on this Clause the same arguments apply as were used on the earlier occasions. I hope that he will be able either to accept the Amendment or to make some suggestions for reducing the period of six months.
This Amendment is so closely akin to one which I put down to reduce the period to two months that I am sure that if the Minister does not give way on this Amendment he is not likely to give way on mine. My chief concern is that we should show some desire for speeding up the work. I cannot find any reason for waiting six months. The work could easily be done in three months. If there are practical difficulties in the way, no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will explain what they are, but in the interests of getting on with the job we ought to reduce the period to the minimum that is compatible with efficiency. Notwithstanding the fact that there is in the Bill a date for the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 the Minister has power to postpone that date, and unless we show some sense of urgency we shall not get that reform introduced at anything like the time when we think it ought to take effect.
The point upon which this question of time has been raised differs rather from the previous points on which we have discussed it. This merely concerns the date at which the managers or governors have to make up their minds whether they will opt for aided or controlled status. The school will be going on the whole time; there will be no hindrance to education. I am sure that hon. Members will have realised from the discussions we have just had that in certain cases the position may be a very delicate one, and may involve negotiations not merely locally but between the managers of a particular school and the Diocesan Education Committee, who may desire them to exercise their option one way or the other. In view of that I do not think six months is too long. There will be nothing detrimental to the education of the children in the interval. I very much doubt whether anyone going into a school during the hours of secular education would ever be able to say whether it was an aided or a controlled school. The issue is purely administrative. The feelings expressed on the last Amendment indicate the kind of issues that are involved. This is a decision that will be made, probably once and for all, and it is surely desirable that it should be made without any undue pressure as regards the time limit. In view of these reasons I hope that my hon. Friend will not feel it necessary to press the Amendment.
The next Amendment stands in the name of the hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Sir P. Hannon) but I understand that it is to be moved by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I understand that it is the desire of hon. Members that that Amendment should be considered in conjunction with two Amendments in the
name of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes)—in page 12, line 31, at end, to insert:
(ii) the estimated expenses which would have been incurred in effecting such alterations and repairs as aforesaid in the month of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, under the conditions then existing, whichever shall be the less."—
and in page 12, line 34, after "buildings," to insert:
and for the proportion not payable by the managers or governors of the school under the foregoing paragraph of the expenses referred to in that paragraph.
That would involve a general discussion, which I hope may not be too prolonged, on the question of the extension of the Act of 1936 to new schools and the question of the expenses to managers and governors and the question of the division of responsibility. It will not, of course, permit a Debate upon the proportion, whether 60 per cent. or any other proportion, to be contributed by the Minister, because that will be formally discussed on a later Clause.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 17, after "school," to insert:
or of an auxiliary school maintained by a local education authority (not being a special agreement school) in respect of which the managers or governors have conceded to the authority the right of appointment of teachers to be selected from a list drawn up by the appropriate denominational body.
We thank you, Major Milner, for the tolerance which you have shown in allowing these Amendments to be discussed together. Those who have read the Amendments will see that they come under Sub-section (3) of Clause 14. They deal with what is called the aided school, where certain expenses are payable by the managers or governors, namely:
any expenses incurred in effecting such alterations to the school buildings as may be required by the authority for the purpose of securing that the school premises should conform to the prescribed standards, and any expenses incurred in effecting repairs to the school premises not being repairs for which the authority are responsible under the following paragraph:
That is the case we have to argue—the aid to the schools, what will be given to help to keep them in proper repair. Aided schools cover all denominational schools, but what I am saying bears chiefly on the Roman Catholic position, because the Roman Catholics are perhaps more keenly interested in this matter than any other denomination. Anyone who has followed the record of our religion will see that in spite of all hardships we have not given up any of our schools. We have made the sacrifices required to carry them on. It is on that ground that we put forward our case.
It will be said that under this Bill there is an opportunity for us to hand them over to the State and so rid ourselves of the expense. I want to remove any idea that hon. Members may have that we should ever do that. Whatever may be the decision of Parliament, Roman Catholics will not give up their schools. If we do not succeed in lessening the burden we shall still carry on doing what we have been doing in the past. We have tried to meet requirements as to reasonable alterations but they have grown and grown, and rightly so, because there can be no question that the children must be provided with proper school buildings. We have tried to keep up with the requirements, but in some cases we have not been able to do it. Many of the schools have fallen into a state of which one cannot very well approve, but in spite of that we have held on to them.
Under this Measure the authorities are demanding, quite rightly, a higher standard of school equipment and we are called upon to meet that expense if the school goes on as what is called an aided school. I want to give Members of the Committee the figures of the Catholic population. There are 2,400,000 Catholics in this country, with 370,000 between the ages of 11 and 14 attending elementary schools. During the last 25 years; to try to keep our schools intact, we have collected £3,500,000 to meet our end of the burden. Anyone who follows the religion of a Catholic will know what happens. When we attend Mass the priests say, "We have to make certain alterations in our schools. We hope the congregation will be generous and help us in our difficulty." It is a good appeal and we respond to it. I always feel, when I am asked to do so, that I am giving something to my people and I never object. If we do not meet it that way, collections are made, and by those means we keep up our end.
I am making no complaints about it but, under the new arrangement, it is estimated that the cost to the Catholic community will rise to £9,850,000, that is, taking the 1936 agreement with the present requirements under the new Act. That is the point we want to argue, because the higher figure is based on a 35 per cent. increase during the war and it may be higher. We can see before us a stupendous figure which it will be well nigh impossible for us to meet unless we make extreme sacrifices. When I meet my people they say, "Right and justice demand that we should have 100 per cent." I have never led them that way. I have always said that after all if we value our faith we must be prepared to make a sacrifice for getting some special privileges, but I agree with them in saying that the present costs which would have to be met under the new Bill are greater than our people could reasonably bear, for there would have to be extraordinary sacrifices.
The Catholic working-class family is descended from Irish stock. I am myself an Irish Catholic, though I have never been to Ireland. I am one of a large number who settled in England and who came from that stock and were in lowly circumstances. I was one of a family of 10. There was a Catholic school two miles away, and our parents instructed us to take this walk through all kinds of weather in winter and summer. That shows what we will do for our faith, and we did that besides giving all the money we could to keep the school going. That is typical of the Catholic people. We are as loyal citizens as any other citizens of the country. We live in a good country, and it is our duty to be loyal citizens, but we are appealing to the House of Commons to be a little more generous than they have been in the past, or as they will be in this Bill. I want to emphasise why I say that. If I was arguing to-day on the strict principle of the dual system, I would be in a difficulty, because I see how strong is the case of those opposed to it. It has been agreed that the dual system should be allowed to carry on, so I say to those who feel strongly about it, "For a compromise, to get the Education Bill working smoothly, you have agreed that it shall continue. If we ask for a little more generosity by way of a money grant, we are not putting up any established principle." Therefore, I appeal to the Committee to be a bit more generous to a lot of hard-working people to make it possible for them to carry on.
May I quote a paragraph in the White Paper showing how hard it has been in the past to carry on? This is what the President of the Board of Education says in speaking for the continuance of the dual system and the help that ought to be given.
If large numbers of children are not to be deprived of healthy and decent school conditions—to say nothing of equal educational opportunities—there is no disguising the fact that, unless a considerable number of voluntary schools are to be brought to an end and replaced by new provided schools, some further assistance from public funds must be found towards the maintenance and improvement of the premises, where such improvement is possible. Discussions carried on in recent months with the many interests concerned have satisfied the Government that there is a wide measure of agreement that voluntary schools should not be abolished but rather that they should be offered farther financial assistance, accompanied by a corresponding extension of public control which will ensure the effective and economical organisation and development of both primary and secondary education. It is believed that the view will generally be taken that in framing the proposals for such control the services of the Churches to the community as pioneers in public education, as the protagonists of Christian teaching in schools, and as having for many generations voluntarily spent large sums on the provision and upkeep of premises for this purpose, cannot justly be disregarded.
I build my case upon that. We have decided now that what is called the dual system shall continue, and that those who enjoy its privileges shall pay something towards carrying it. We do not object; but appeal to the Committee for a spirit of toleration and generosity. I hope that this educational reform will go forward. Throughout the country there is need for a greater educational system than we have had in the past. I believe it will come under this Bill. When it goes forward, I want all sections of the community to join together in believing that fairness has been given to everyone.
In conclusion, I want to thank the President of the Board of Education. He has been very helpful in this matter. He has not given anything away, but he has met us to discuss the points we wanted to put before him. I feel particularly grateful for the Financial Resolution, for I have seen Bills brought before the House with a Financial Resolution, which, after the Second Reading has been passed, has stultified anything further.
I have only paid a tribute to the President of the Board, but I was just going to put this point. I hope Members will approach this in the spirit outlined by the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). In a very good speech, he said he felt for the Catholics in their difficulties and he hoped that some further agreement would be reached when the question comes before the House. Here is one of those opportunities. I put my case before the Committee in good faith, and if they decide against it, there will be no feeling against the Members who speak. I want to say also that in our propaganda, much will be said with which I do not altogether agree. I never believe in threats, and I hope Members will not take any notice when they get certain literature threatening that if they do not do certain things they must watch the voting. I hope that will not influence Members one way or the other. The English character is not to be driven; in fact, the more you try to drive, the more obstinate we get. So I am putting my appeal on the ground that we want to carry this Education Bill forward, and the section to which I belong would be very thankful indeed if the burden can be made more tolerable than it is at present under the Bill. It is on these grounds that I make an appeal to the Committee to put the matter in order.
I at once rise to endorse the admirable speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I think it is a great tribute to one of our colleagues in this House, who has gone through vicissitudes and has raised himself to the position occupied by my hon. Friend, that he can make a speech so generous and so tolerant. I also appreciated the speech made by the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke). There was a touch of human charity in that speech which Members would do well to imitate in every case. The appeal he made was so touching, so clear, and to me so convincing, that I am pretty certain he, himself, and those associated with him, will play a great part in solving the major difficulties on this Bill. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to see his way to give us a measure of financial assistance which will enable us to bring our schools up to the standard prescribed by the Board of Education. Our difficulty is that a large number of our schools are in a very poor state of repair. Costs have gone up enormously and we shall have to face the serious burden of the rehabilitation of those schools at some date in the future which has not been indicated. Indeed, nobody knows when the date can be fixed, not even the President himself, who, I am sure, would not be willing to impose a burden on Catholic schools which it would be impossible far them to carry.
Therefore, we are pleading for further consideration. I am glad to say that a large number of Members of the House of Commons, my Church of England and Nonconformist friends, have acknowledged the justice of the claim we are making. I have had repeated correspondence with my hon. Friends, supporting the point of view entertained by Catholics with regard to the provision of their schools. If we are to provide the Christian atmosphere which is the guiding principle of the Bill, we must teach denominational religion as a religion. If an undue burden was imposed upon us for the repair of our schools it would be impossible for us to maintain that atmosphere, or the amenities attaching to our schools, unless we had more generous assistance than is indicated within the limits of this Bill. We are asking for our schools that the expense of maintenance should be borne in some way, as in the case of controlled schools. I am all for facilitating the passage of this Bill in the shortest possible time; I would like to see it on the Statute Book before long. We are in full agreement with the general purpose of the policy of the Bill, but we cannot allow a Measure of such magnitude to have an adverse effect on so many people of this country, loyal citizens, who are governed by their own faith. Therefore, we are asking that consideration should be extended to us in respect of the
financial provisions of the Bill. I appeal to the President to consider whether he cannot make some arrangement to enable the heavy burden of costs which rests upon the managers and governors of Catholic schools to be met out of public funds. That is our case. We are determined
I would like to suggest, with great respect, that the problem of finance does not relate only to Catholics. It relates to the Church of England and many Non-conformist bodies, which are equally concerned with the importance of obtaining a generous concession. I know from my own knowledge that there is a very strong feeling that the concession ought to be more generous and comprehensive than is indicated within the framework of the Bill. We do not want anything unreasonable; all we want is recognition of a right. After all, the Catholic community has in the past been responsible largely for the continuity of the education of the people of this land. It must be remembered that the schools of this country were maintained through a dark and dismal period by the enthusiasm, loyalty and spirit of sacrifice on the part of Catholic people, especially teachers. I hope we shall have the sympathy of the Committee with us in making this appeal.
I rise to support the Amendment and to say at the outset that I am of the opposite faith to that held by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). But we all believe in the philosophy that we never allow our religious differences to sever our personal friendships, and I hope the few words I have to say will manifest the same feelings that I have always had for my hon. Friend. It always strikes me, when I get up to speak in this Chamber, that I am pleading for something more than the Minister has preferred to give. I hope my plea, and the plea of my hon. Friends who have preceded me, will not fall on deaf ears. Education is a power for good if it is used intelligently, and in our approach to the Amendment I hope we shall apply that intelligence and tolerance which we have gained by experience in past years. The President of the Board of Education yesterday refused to accept an Amendment on the ground that it would disturb the balance of the Bill. I hope he will see his way clear to accept this Amendment, in order to give a little more help, justice and fair play to the managers and trustees of the non-provided schools. We have admitted the continuance of the dual control. Whether we find fault with that or admire it is not the point under discussion now: we have admitted it and in carrying out that principle we must render what assistance we can to those people who are responsible. During the last 25 years I have been a member of an education committee and for eight years I have been its chairman. I want to say, with all modesty, that that committee has controlled 11 elementary schools with a school population of nearly 4,000. In the area we have two Catholic schools and it is to the credit of the managers and trustees of those schools that we have always been able to work harmoniously. Had it not been for the war a new school would have been built in the area by the Roman Catholics.
The importance of this Amendment lies in the fact that if we are to set the high standard of education which we are supposed to be setting, we shall have to make it easier for people to put their buildings into a condition commensurate with that high standard of education. In the village in which I live I hold the position of day school correspondent, and from 1916 to 1926 we were constantly reminded by the Board of Education, through their inspectors, that certain alterations and modernisation must take place in order that children might be taught in separate classrooms. From 1902 to 1926 we had to raise, in our village, over £3,500 to put our school into a satisfactory condition. This money had to come from the hard-earned wages of the working-class population, all believing that it was their duty to make the best provision they could for their children. It is an amazing thing that in our industrial areas parents are so anxious to see that their children are taught in the best conditions. May I remind the Committee and the President that children pass this way only once and that it is our duty now to see that the best we can provide for them is provided.
I have heard adverse comments on the Bill, but it is generally agreed that it has for its objective a very high standard of education. At the moment building costs, we are told, are 105 per cent. above pre-war level. This will adversely affect improvements to non-provided schools. How can we expect the trustees and managers of such schools, whether they be Nonconformists, Established Church, Roman Catholic or of any other faith, to make provision for the modernisation of their schools when building costs are so much higher than they were in 1939? We have to do something more, if we are in earnest and sincere, than merely giving instructions for this and that to be done. We have got to render all the financial help we can in order that the managers and trustees of the non-provided schools will be able to carry out the desires of the Board of Education and of this House, and of every right thinking man and woman, to put their buildings in proper order. A great deal has been said about hurrying the Bill into operation. If the children have to wait until money is raised by the local people, a generation of the children will have passed through the schools and will not obtain the benefits of the Bill. I make a special appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give consideration to the Amendment and I heartily support it.
I am very glad to associate myself with the Amendment. I think it is encouraging for the future that these proposals should receive the support of representatives of as many religious bodies as possible, because it indicates what is a very good thing, understanding and appreciation by one religious body of the difficulties of another and a desire to co-operate and help. I believe that spirit will bear very good fruit, because in an Education Bill of this kind we have to take long views, and those of us who want to see after the war a better and juster order of society established realise that if that is to be brought about, all the religious bodies must co-operate, and I believe that if we can begin that co-operation in this field it will be extended elsewhere. We have been told that Roman Catholics—I think it is true of other denominations—are determined to have their schools and to maintain them at any price. As far as the Roman Catholics are concerned, I am convinced that that is no idle boast and that they will maintain their schools. Their history shows that, and we have had evidence during the discussions on the Bill how very strongly they feel on the matter, and I appreciate the feelings which actuate them. The question, therefore, is who would really benefit if the concessions asked for in these Amendments are granted. I have no hesitation in saying the children all the time. Speaking as a member of two education authorities, I have had experience in my area of Roman Catholic schools. Given the desire for goodwill on both sides, there is and need be no cause for friction.
I am satisfied that all the additional assistance given to Roman Catholics and other denominations will be put into the schools, and the schools will be better equipped for that reason, and the children will get the opportunities for education we want them to have. We all know what will happen if the denominations are given an almost impossible financial task. Their schools, through no fault of their own, will remain in many instances on the borderline. No local authority is going to stir up trouble by deciding to close a Catholic school if it can possibly be avoided. The Catholics realise that many of their schools ought to be in a better condition, and that the children would benefit if this was realised. Because I believe the children will benefit by it, I hope the President will give favourable consideration to these Amendments. I trust there will be no opposition to these proposals from other religious bodies, because there is no question of principle involved. It is simply a question whether the religious bodies should be given a chance which will enable them to do what the law allows. If the Roman Catholic body had among their members a Mr. Ford, who was prepared to give them £10,000,000 or £20,000,000, they could have all the schools they want and there could be no difficulty under the law from any religious body. But because they have to rely—I believe it is a greater source of strength to them—upon the contributions of the comparatively poor members of their own community they may not be able to realise the desired standards for their schools. Is that the proper approach to a question of this kind? Is that how we want to leave this question? I would most strongly urge the President to be generous because I believe that in religion, as in politics, magnanimity is not seldom the highest policy.
There are, in my constituency, some 15,000 Catholics, many of whose families have held their faith since pre-Reformation days. Yesterday, one of them told me that his family had been there for many hundreds of years and that one of his ancestors had suffered for his faith at Preston. I am not a Catholic but I can understand the impossibility, from the Catholic point of view, of separating religion and education, and that they must feel a certain sense of injustice in certain respects under the Bill. Though I do not agree that there is injustice, I ask myself to what extent, in the interest of goodwill and of harmony all round, I can mitigate that injustice without doing any harm to any principles that I may hold myself. In this particular case I cannot see that there can be any objection, other than the purely financial one, to doing something under these Amendments to help the Catholics out—Catholics are the principal people involved though it applies to other Church schools—to a greater extent than at present from the financial point of view.
When the hon. and gallant Gentleman says it applies to other schools, does he realise the scope of what he says? Hitherto there has been reference to only one denomination.
I gather that the Amendments would extend naturally to all denominational schools. I was thinking last night, while watching the blitz, and making a calculation of the cost of what was going up in the air and what one is able to do in these years of war. I hope I shall not be accused of saying that pounds, shillings and pence mean nothing. They mean something from one point of view and nothing from another, but I cannot pursue that now. I feel that a concession could be made to the Church point of view on this issue without substantially upsetting our financial arrangements after the war. Therefore, I should like to add my voice to others who have spoken in pleading with the President between now and a later stage that something should be done to meet the financial requests of the Churches on this point.
I rise only because I feel it right that all of us, from different points of view, should let the Minister know how we feel on this matter. I want to deal briefly with the financial aspect. This financial difficulty is a very great one to the communities concerned, but from the public point of view and in relation to public expenditure, it is a relatively small matter. I feel deeply concerned that the financial difficulty should be used as a lever to drive any denominational school out of existence.
I do not think it is possible to put the case better than it was put by the mover of the Amendment. If the Catholic case had throughout this controversy been argued in such terms of moderation, good sense and justice, I venture to say that it would have found itself in possession of much greater support to-day than it actually has. I think his argument was a good one that in the Bill the dual system is to be preserved. Once you have accepted the fact that it is to be preserved, it offends my conscience that the mere financial difficulty should be used as a lever for driving certain schools out of existence. We are a very illogical people. Very few of us realise that we are already paying something like 95 or 97 per cent. of the total cost of denominational education. The fact that we boggle over a portion of the balance—
It is in Order to point out the difficulty of carrying the burden, but it was laid down by my predecessor in the Chair that you must not, by doing that, ask the Government to increase the proportion of their contribution. It may seem a narrow point, but the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), whose speech I watched pretty carefully, almost always kept well on the proper side and avoided the matter of proportion almost entirely.
On a point of Order. Your predecessor, Mr. Williams, said there would be wide scope for discussion and that we could take into consideration a large number of Amendments, which could all be discussed on the Amendment which has been moved. The majority of us thought that the matters which have been discussed by my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) and the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) were in Order.
I hope that the implication of the Ruling has been accepted by the Committee. It is that the Government will be very glad to listen to all the arguments, but the Government are equally bound by the Ruling and cannot indicate how they can help by any form of contribution. If that is appreciated there will be no misunderstanding.
We seem to have got into an area of doctrinal controversy in which I feel out of place and must move very cautiously. I will not follow the point any further; I think I have made it sufficiently clearly, and I will conclude at once. We are discussing all the Amendments together and I am not arguing precisely in favour of any one of them. I daresay that all of them will, for very good reasons, be unacceptable to my right hon. Friend. But I did want to take this occasion of speaking according to my conscience, and saying that I hope my right hon. Friend will somehow or other be able to find means whereby the mere financial difficulty shall not put any denomination into a position which they cannot afford to meet. Let every denomination by all means—and I am sure they will—give such contributions as they can afford as a guarantee of the sincerity of their feelings, but let us not make the financial burden an entirely impossible one.
In reply to a discussion yesterday the Minister drew attention to the possibility of the balance of the Bill being upset if certain Amendments were accepted. I was so much impressed by the Minister's argument that I spoke to the hon. and learned member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), and said that it was preferable to lose an Amendment than to hinder or lose the Bill. It must always be understood in any discussions we have that we want to get the Bill. I am certain that the Catholic Members also, want to get the Bill, and that they would not push Amendments, or force an issue that would, in any way, block it. It is very necessary to get it. So far as the claims of the various sects are concerned, I am a belligerent neutral. I am anxious to see that everything possible is done to ensure that all children get the best education. I do not accept the proposition that education has any relationship to religion. There is nothing in the Beatitudes or in any other part of the Scriptures which says, "Blessed are the educated; woe unto the illiterate." Religion has no connection with this question, and if Members would understand that and treat this Bill and education from the point of view of getting all the children educated, into good citizens, we would get greater progress.
I want to draw attention to a point I raised in our discussions a week or two ago. It is that more can be got out of co-operation between the various authorities and the Minister and by looking forward to and encouraging co-operation than by suspecting difficulties and traps and the possibility of "driving schools out of existence," as it was put by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). The hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Denville) also said yesterday that he was suspicious that the powers in the Bill would be used to drive out schools. The worst thing that could possibly happen would be for members of any community to approach this question with those ideas in mind. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said that Catholics were loyal citizens. He did not claim that as a credit, but
rather as a recognition of their duty. I have been closely associated with Catholics and I know that any advance that they have made in this country was won by them because of the spirit of co-operation they have shown in the different communities. If they had approached their neighbours, as some people have attempted to approach the Minister and this Bill with suspicion that something was going to be put over them they would not have made anything like the same progress. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said in regard to another matter we were discussing:
In regard to our attitude on the single-school areas we would be quite prepared to hand over our single-schools—I admit they are only a handful, some 13 or 14—provided adequate provision was made for proper religious instruction for our children. If they could be transferred where possible, to other Catholic schools not too far distant that should be done. We see the difficulty and are perfectly prepared to make that contribution in order to assist.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1944; Vol. 397.]
That may be so, but it is not mentioned here. I am suggesting that not by such Amendments as these, but by that character of approach, the denominations will get the best results. The Amendments should not be pressed, but the President of the Board of Education, the local authorities, and the denominational authorities should make up their minds, to get in full measure the best results for all children through this Bill, and to co-operate for that purpose. If that is done, I am certain that the Minister would not himself take nor would he tolerate any local authority taking action which was against the best interests of education for any of our children.
It is a remarkable thing that in the discussion on this rather wide field of toleration, tributes have been paid from all sides to the enormous amount of beneficial work which is being done by the denominational schools. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said that religion had nothing to do with education. I beg to differ from him. I think he must have been speaking rather off the record, for the evils that exist in our midst could not possibly exist if the population were brought up on a religious rather than a secular basis.
I do not think I can do better than accept the interjection of my hon. Friend. The whole principle of religious education is to draw out in the child's mind that there is something much more important in life than adding two and two together and making four, and even trying to make five of it. The evils that exist would disappear were the whole country to adopt a more friendly attitude towards bringing up our children in a highly religious atmosphere. It is because of that that I, as a Church of England man, want to pay my tribute to the great work that has been done by the Catholic community in applying the principle that moral standards far supersede any knowledge which can be given to the children towards the building of a grand new world such as, I am sure, the hon. Member for West Fife would be glad to see. In urging my own support of the Amendment I want to include the advantage that would come to other denominational schools as well. Although the Debate has concentrated most on the Roman Catholic schools, the Amendment applies also to the schools of other religious denominations. The great strength that underlies the appeal that has been made to-day is that the State did not build these schools. They belong to the religious denominations which, through many years of thrift, energy and goodwill have acquired the money to build them for the education of children. Side by side with secular education, they have tried to instil into the young minds of the country that there is something nobler and greater that lies behind education.
These schools have been built and kept going at a sacrifice to which we must all pay tribute. I know in my own constituency of Coventry what is being done by the Catholics to maintain their schools. I know how the priests go round, week by week, collecting the small contributions which people who can ill afford them, give to maintain the schools. In lowly homes, even if the person is not able to be at home when the priest calls, the money is left on the kitchen table ready for him. It is a point of honour with them to do all they can to maintain their schools and the religious education in them.
I have never yet come across a Roman Catholic school that pumped its religion into any child that did not want it, or when the parents of the child did not want it. There is no compulsion, on a Protestant child who attends a Roman Catholic school, to be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. But the school is to Roman Catholics and to English Catholics a centre where they believe their children will be surrounded by the environment which they think likely to bring out higher attributes than can be obtained from a purely secular education. Their efforts have been going on for years. People have struggled to maintain their schools. Suddenly there comes a burning desire that no expense should be spared to make our schools what they ought to be, schools where children can, in proper surroundings, receive their secular education. The communities which have struggled so hard are suddenly confronted with an almost impossible task. It is as though a pistol were held at their heads. They are told: "Either you put your schools in order, or we shall take them away"—those schools which have been built on the sixpences and pennies of the workers of the country. So far as the Roman Catholics are concerned, I feel that a great injustice will be done unless the purse-strings can be opened a little wider so as to enable those schools to be maintained without question, in a Christian country, where we are anxious to see Christian doctrines spread.
It is all very well to suppose that children will grow up with high morals and virtues, but it will not be so unless they can get religious education in the schools at their most tender age. It is not a job that parents—or the great bulk of them—can reasonably undertake. The teaching of religion is a science. You might as well expect father and mother to take the place of the doctor, or to teach arithmetic and geography, as to expect that they will be able to answer the many questions that puzzle a child's mind. The schools provide those places where the childish mind can be fed with just that food that is required to bring out—which is what the word "education" means—those high virtues. There is something more involved than mere secular education. There is something worth while keeping, something for which it is worth while sinking party prejudice or sectarian feelings, something in this great march forward of the moral virtues of our young population. It is the children of the country who are going to save England in the future.
People with other ideologies, such as Hitler, realise that they must get hold of the children first. If we can, in our schools, have this definite religious education, we shall be able to draw out qualities from the child's mind which will make the child realise, when he leaves school, that he has not been educated only for the purpose of enabling him to earn his bread and butter, or to make his way by triumphing over his neighbour by use of superior brain or intellect. He will realise that there is a life apart from the life through which he is passing. He will realise that he has been trained in a way that will lead his soul forward, and that that is far more important than the education of the body. For these reasons I give my strong support to the appeal that has been made in favour of these religious schools.
I have received a number of strong representations from Catholics and Church of England people in my constituency with regard to this matter of the schools in which they are so deeply interested, and I have undertaken to put their case before the House of Commons. They are people who have made great sacrifices in the past in the cause of education, and they feel very deeply and sincerely on this matter. They take the view that education is of very little value unless it is permeated with the religious teaching in which they believe, and that there should be a religious atmosphere in the whole school. That is their view and there is no question at all that they put it forward with the utmost sincerity and will make any sacrifice they can for it.
I want to put their position before my right hon. Friend. He knows how difficult it is to reconcile the views of different people, and, at the present time, his Bill is the result of, and is bound to be a compromise. No one is going to be completely satisfied with it, and everybody will feel that he would have liked things a little different. I ask him to consider whether, having regard to the necessity for compromise, and appreciating that the majority of the people in this country do not take a strict view about the necessity for denominational religious teaching in the schools, whether he will consider most carefully, before we come to the next stage, how far, he can go to give satisfaction to the deeply-held views to which I have referred. There will be opportunities on other Clauses to deal with these matters again, but I thought I would take this opportunity to carry out the promise which I made to my constituents that I would impress upon the Committee and the Minister the views they hold and make an appeal to him to consider what he can do to meet their wishes, consistently with the desires of other parties and with the need for a general policy of conciliation.
On my way to the House to-day I passed a Church which had been destroyed by enemy action. That building figured many years ago very largely in the minds of people, because from its pulpit a very great divine preached who was a leader in the educational controversy of those days. I refer to Dr. John Clifford, the spearhead of the Passive Resistance movement. I could not help but recall that, when an Education Bill was being discussed in those days, there was bitter controversy about religious education and deep passions aroused, and the real question of the education of the child was ignored. I am happy to think that, in these days, we have considerably advanced and, as is evidenced by the Debates on the Bill, while we often hold tenaciously to our religious views, we are prepared to be tolerant to the views of other people. I speak not as a Roman Catholic; I am a Nonconformist, but I am standing here to ask the Minister to give the most sympathetic consideration he can to the Amendment. I fear to incur the displeasure of the Chair by contravening the Ruling that has been given. I understand that we are not allowed to discuss additional financial provision, to carry out what will be necessary, if the Amendment is accepted by the Government.
I was not going to enlarge upon it at all. I understand that the Minister himself is precluded from making any reference of that kind, but I take it that I shall not be out of Order in stating, if the Minister says that he will sympathetically review these Amendments and if, in that sympathetic review, he and those associated with him come to the conclusion that these Amendments are justifiable and would be an improvement to the Bill, that, of necessity, there would have to be an alteration in the financial provisions.
I am hoping that we shall regard these Amendments as fundamental. Logically, I believe, the real solution of these problems is in secular education. I have held that view for many years. Thank goodness that, as a nation we are not too logical, and in not being logical, perhaps we are more human and practical. Perhaps, in war-time, with its attendant dangers and perils, more than in peacetime, there is a yearning desire, among parents who themselves have no religious aspirations and no religious contacts, that their children should receive guidance and instruction in religion. That being so, Nonconformist as I am, I say that we should make it easy for all religious denominations who so wish, to have their own schools. I submit that the Minister and his Department are not concerned with any particular form of religious instruction. They are concerned only that the religious instruction given in the schools shall not impair educational efficiency. I submit that, if these concessions are granted, they will, in no way, impair the efficiency of the Bill and that education will be just as good with them as without them. There will be the great advantage that the people who are keen upon having their own schools and not having to suffer under what they consider an injustice, will more willingly and heartily co-operate, and that the educational efficiency of the schools will be improved. Therefore I hope that the Minister will at least promise, if he cannot accept the Amendments as they stand, that he will give the most favourable consideration to them and after reflection that he will find it possible to implement them when we come to that part of the Bill which deals with financial provisions. I hope he will be able to announce that, after due consideration, he can accept the spirit of the Amendments.
My last word, in congratulating the Minister upon the Bill, is to express the hope that it may soon be upon the Statute Book and that the children of the country may soon have the benefit of the better, wider, broader education that I believe the Bill will give them. I hope at the same time that it will not only give to all parents of this country their due sense of responsibility for the education of their children, but that their children shall be brought up in a good way of life and that, through education and the development of ideas, we may have far better citizens in this country than we have ever had before.
I rise to support the Amendment, as a non-Roman Catholic and as one who believes that there is a strong case to be made for those who are in favour of non-provided schools, not only Catholic and Church of England but Nonconformist and all denominations. We must recognise that education, as we have it in this country, is the product of religion and of the religious mind. Up to 1870, practically the whole of education was entrusted to those who had care of the religious life of the people. As a non-Catholic I am perfectly satisfied with the agreed syllabus for my children but I am also aware that a great number of people want their children taught the religion of the parents, and to do this they have built their own schools. Many of these schools are in Lancashire because Lancashire holds one-third of the entire Catholic population of Great Britain.
Catholics and many Church of England people believe that you cannot separate religion from education, that secular instruction alone cannot give that true education, which embraces the moral side as well as mere text book information. In regard to this Bill, in the discussions on all these points affecting the religious aspects of education, great toleration has been shown, a toleration which far exceeds that shown in regard to any other Education Bill which has ever been before the House. This Bill is, in itself, a milestone, measuring the advance of our people towards the higher education we all desire to see.
I am glad to see that under this Bill the value of religion has been recognised to a very great extent, and that every sympathy has been shown by the President towards those who have this matter at heart. Therefore, this Amendment, in my opinion, will go a long way to remove the great feeling of injustice on the part of many thousands of loyal English people. They feel that in spite of the sympathy of the President of the Board of Education, in spite of the recognition of the principle of dual control, if this Bill goes through unamended, the contribution required from them will be so great that it will be impossible for them to carry on. If that is so, and as the Board has adopted the dual system which includes religious instruction, I am certain that the President would not willingly do by financial pressure what some people would have him do, that is to liquidate religion in the schools by making the contribution required from those who hold certain religious ideas so heavy that they could not meet it. It is just as fatal to be drowned in 50 feet of water as in 100 feet and if it is said, "Yes, we agree with the dual principle, but we will impose such conditions that you cannot carry out your financial obligations," then we might as well abolish the dual system altogether. I would ask the President whether this is not a question purely of finance. I would be out of Order in discussing percentages that each side would have to pay, therefore I shall not pursue that point. But I understand that, if the extensive demands are made it will, over a period of years, cost the Catholics of the Salford Diocese of Lancashire, £2,500,000 to do what we all want to do, namely, to have better schools and better facilities for the children. Surely, it is not beyond the wit of man—there is no point of principle involved—for the responsible religious authorities and the President of the Board of Education to devise a way in which something can be done for the alleviation of this grievance of a well-deserving section of the community, whose loyalty and service to the State are second to none.
I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of the Labour Party, which, as we all know, is fully supported by the great trades union movement in this country, numbering many millions of working people, acting in the fullest co-operation with the State in the conduct of this war. I did not wish to mention that. I do not think it has much to do with the case, but loyalty and service have been mentioned in speeches in favour of this Amendment, and continually through the proceedings on this Bill, and in the discussion on the previous White Paper a lot of eloquence, especially Hibernian eloquence, was employed in a rather charming way on the same point. It was, I felt, rather like "The flowers that bloom in the Spring" in that it had very little to do with the case. My own position has something to do with the case because my own people, the trade unionists, have been thinking about this for many years. They thought of it in an atmosphere quite free from the kind of pressure such as is quite evident in this Committee to-day; I have had that pressure put on me for six months, and it does not influence me at all.
I would like to speak as my people feel and express their convictions on this matter. Personally, I speak without any prejudice at all. I was a dear little choir boy at one period of my life in an Anglican Church, and I have attended a great many services whenever I got the chance. Two of my three daughters were educated in a Roman Catholic school, and for a rather interesting reason. The L.C.C. school, in all its correctitude and carefully measured out way of life, would not allow them a half day off a week to attend the Margaret Morris Academy for dancing and physical culture. So I took them to a Roman Catholic school where they were given that indulgence. That was my doing and they were very grateful. I had no prejudice against them entering a Roman Catholic school. I also admire very much many of the traits of Roman Catholic people of whom I have met a lot, especially in Ireland, in the course of my trade union work. But as I say, I have to speak for the trade union movement as a whole. I would also like to speak as a typical Englishman, because in the Surrey village in which I live, a typical English village, they call me not "the Labour M.P." but "the British M.P." I think that is a very nice compliment. I always try to be true to British traditions. May I say too that I like the tolerance with which the Debate has been conducted. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) was most exemplary in the way he put what he had to say but he is one of nature's own gentlemen and always does it like that.
I wish to ask the President not to defer to this Amendment and not to defer to the pressure put on him, which is so strong in this Committee at the moment. It does not represent the opinion of England. England is a Protestant country, overwhelmingly Protestant. That should be said, and if there is any important deference to these claims, which are being pressed so vigorously and cleverly—too cleverly I think—there will be a revulsion in the minds of quiet people who feel that the President has submitted a splendid scheme of education, and has given very great care to all the issues and factors involved. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has given everybody a very fair deal. In fact many of my friends think he has been a bit too generous to denominational interests. He has certainly been very generous. I want to say this most earnestly to my Catholic friends. I am very fond of all of them, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who always amuses me, but I suggest that it is most unworthy the way a lot of people in the Catholic movement have led their rank and file people to believe that the President proposes to contribute only 50 per cent. of the whole cost of running their schools. They have had that drummed into their ears. It is most pathetic to have appeals on this subject not merely from Catholic people and priests generally but from widows, mothers, parents, children, young people, the Young Christian Movement and so on. You find they all have the impression that there is to be only 50 per cent. assistance to them in running their schools. A very worthy young trade union officer in London, well known to most of us, wrote in that sense in the "Daily Herald" and I am sure he believes it. The bare 50 per cent. impression is not true. That implication ought never to have been given. The whole question was—
Speaking of truth, I have listened very carefully, and the arguments which the hon. Member has used up to now, have little or no relation to truth or to the Amendment on the Paper. The effect of the Amendment is to provide that the liabilities of the managers or governors of aided schools and special agreement schools in respect of alterations or repairs only shall be determined on the basis of (a) the actual cost incurred in effecting alterations or repairs or (b) the cost which would have been incurred in effecting the same alterations or repairs, if they had been executed in the month of March, 1939, whichever of these costs is the less. That is what in fact we are asking the Government to do.
I understand that, but that argument has been supported by a lot of sentimental statements and I think I am entitled to say a word against them. I will not pursue that further. This is not an easy job, especially for one who has never spoken at this Box previously, but the whole thing seems simple to me. I have to be careful about money. I believe the hon. Member for Leigh did quote a figure of something like £9,000,000 which I understood had to be found pretty soon. I will call it £10,000,000. That is for the building costs involved. The purpose of the Amendment is to get that sum reduced. It can only be reduced by contributions from elsewhere. That is perfectly plain, though it is out of Order to say anything now on that side of the matter. The Roman Catholic community will not have to provide the £10,000,000 at once. If they had the money, they could not spend it at once. It will be a gradual process of raising and expending this money. They will not have to raise it themselves.
All these pathetic stories about collecting halfpennies from little school children are too bad. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is true."] Let us look at it as business men—and Roman Catholics are extraordinarily good business men. The money can be raised, on loan, the credit of the Church is so high, on terms bearing interest at 5 per cent. which would also cover sinking fund charges, reckoning 4 per cent. for interest and one per cent. for sinking fund. The effluxion of time will wipe out the debt. The Church will only have to find, taking the figure as £10,000,000, round about £500,000 a year. I suggest that is not a heavy contribution. It is all they have to find for the great privilege, the very great privilege in this country, of being allowed an exclusive and complete domination over certain schools for their own purposes. Of course, they have to provide buildings. How on earth can you expect otherwise? But the Minister is generous over that. He gives a 50 per cent. contribution, and in certain cases, 75 per cent. As I said on 30th July—and I have been "lambasted" about it ever since—the condition of many of these denominational schools is deplorable. Many of them have got into arrears of repairs. They say, "That is because we have no money." The ordinary answer to that is, "If you cannot bear the cost of your own schools, why not hand them over?" The Church of England have done that in many cases. This charge of £500,000 a year for the Roman Catholics to find is not extravagant at all.
I was rather amazed that the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), for whom I have the highest regard, talking about the State contributions of many more millions rather lightly. People like me have to tell working people that they must not talk lightly about millions of pounds of public money. Yet we have a very sedate Member of this House talking as though these millions were beside the mark.
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), may I say that, listening to his speech, I did not get that impression at all? He certainly said nothing of the kind in my hearing.
I listened very earnestly to what the hon. Gentleman was saying—I always do. He said that; and he also said that the Government were going to drive these Catholic schools out of existence. That is typical of this propaganda. It is not fair. If they cannot raise the £500,000 a year, it does not say much for their devotion to education. This is how it strikes me as an ordinary man. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland), with whom I am very friendly over transport questions, made another extravagant speech. He spoke as though demoralisation would follow if these schools were not maintained. It is all very well, but you cannot substantiate any suggestion that Roman Catholic character, or Roman Catholic behaviour is of a higher standard than anybody else's. I find that men of the very highest character do not profess any religion. In a tolerant country, we should not talk like that. But I have received many communications from another organisation since I spoke on the question, telling me dreadful things about the young Roman Catholic population in the cities where they predominate. It is a very serious thing, but I do not want to bring it up here, because I do not want to create bad feeling. However, I cannot find any country in the world which is any better for having a Roman Catholic majority in the ascendant. Look at Spain at the moment. Can we take her word? Have we ever been able to do so?
I am obliged for the latitude you have given me, Sir Lambert; it is only because of what other hon. Members have said that I ventured to make my remarks, I was going to speak of Italy, but I will not do so now. Roman Catholics do not mention, in their churches or in their schools or anywhere else, that the President of the Board of Education is prepared to pay the whole of their working costs, to pay caretakers, and to keep the places clean and sweet. They have only to maintain the fabric externally and to keep the roof all right. The amount which they receive for each child in the schools is 20, 30, or 40 times more than the capitalised cost of providing the seat. The Minister is paying for all that, and there is no gratitude for it at all.
Well, that is the first time I have heard it: let us be grateful for what little we can get. I suggest that this Amendment ought not to be encouraged. I want to give quite a calm and careful warning. There are millions of people who have nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church who believe that the Minister has made a very fair settlement; and if this balance is disturbed you are going to have religious strife in this country again. It will also enter the industrial world. It is able to do so because the Roman Catholic influence enters into trade unionism, as it enters into politics. You cannot have an election without their pressure. We are going to have strife such as we do not want to see again if the Amendment is accepted. I ask the Minister, with all the earnestness I command, on behalf of the trade union movement and my own party, not to accept the Amendment.
The last two congresses of the T.U.C. considered the matter, and came to a very emphatic decision upon it, and issued a print upon it a year ago last September; they have issued another since. Therefore, the position is perfectly clear, and well understood by all trade unionists. The party, as distinct from the trade union movement, considered the first White Paper when it was issued, and came to a decision fully in the sense in which I have been speaking to-day, as the chief representative of the party here knows well. Since the Bill came out we have considered it, and a decision has been made in the same sense. The leader on this side, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), made a statement on the Second Reading in the sense in which I have spoken. If I have accentuated it, is not that my duty? I am a little surprised to hear my namesake object.
I apologise, Sir Lambert; I, of course, intended no reflection on you, but in a Debate on Amendments like this when hon. Members are allowed to go very wide, it is difficult for an ordinary Member to decide what is in Order and what is not. I am sure I shall be accorded the same latitude as was accorded to the hon. Member in making a somewhat vicious attack on the Roman Catholic community in an extremely suave manner. It was a most artistic performance, and his suave manner, I think, took none of the sting out of it. When he says that we misrepresent the case, I deny that utterly. If he had been here during the Second Reading Debate—I do not think he was—and had heard any of our speeches, he would have agreed that we put oar case forward with the utmost moderation, discretion, and accuracy. Certainly, if he will read my own Second Reading speech he will see that I almost read from the Bill the part about the 50 per cent. to which he has referred.
I am glad to have that assurance: I was about to produce certain evidence on the same lines. I have myself in recent months been attending many meetings of Catholics with Mr. Jack Donovan, a prominent trade unionist, who is well known to the Minister of Labour, and his view is by no means the view expressed by the hon. Member for South Bristol. I can also assure him that the tens of thousands of Catholic trade unionists do not accept his view either—not a single one of them.
I do not wish to be controversial; it has been our desire throughout not to be controversial, and I think the Committee will agree that up to the present we have not been so. This unfortunate element of controversy has been introduced by the hon. Member. Amongst other things he stated that this was a Protestant country. I am not quite sure what were the implications of that remark. Were they that, because this is a Protestant country all minorities—the Roman Catholics, the Jews, the Mohammedans—were to be denied the rights which everybody else has? Does he say that minorities must suffer? If so, that remark was thought of, before him, by Himmler, who said it in Germany. The reference to delinquency in Catholic children and the hon. Member's query, "Has any country been better off by being a Roman Catholic country?" were, to say the least of it, somewhat unfortunate, and not in any way calculated to help the harmony of our proceedings. However, I propose to say nothing more about the hon. Member's speech except this—that, if he claims to represent the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, all I can say is that the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress have been very badly represented in this House to-day, because he has been a voice crying in the wilderness, and perhaps we had better leave him there.
Now I turn to the Amendments for a change. I want to refer to some of the difficulties which we Catholics have to face. Since 1902, we have, by very great sacrifices, managed, by scraping and saving and borrowing, to keep our schools up to an admittedly low standard, and that was, of course, because the State only required a comparatively low standard. The standard required from 1870 onwards indeed, was quite modest, but, particularly since the Hadow Report in 1926, the requirements of the Board of Education have gone forward by leaps and bounds, until now the standards are undoubtedly far higher than before. I hesitate to venture into figures, and I do not know whether the President would agree that school places just before the war would cost something in the neighbourhood of £70 in primary schools, and, in secondary schools, from £90 to £100. That is only my own estimate, but what are we going to add to this to get the cost after the war? Even if you add a modest 60 per cent., it will give a figure very high. In 1938, we had approximately 150,000 Catholic children between the ages of 11 and 14 in public elementary schools, and in the "efficient" and State-aided secondary schools. With the raising of the school-leaving age, we shall have to add something like two-thirds to that number, which brings it up to 250,000.
We shall, therefore, have to provide senior schools for some 250,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16, and, in addition, we must alter existing schools so as to make primary schools for about another 250,000 children between five and eleven. The total figure of children being dealt with will probably be something well over 500,000, and all this has to be done in a few years. It is very easy to suggest that the money can be borrowed on good terms, but I see no reason why it should be any easier for us than it has been in the past, and when the hon. Member for Bristol, South, talked, I think rather slightingly, of the efforts made in working-class districts, I do not think he can ever have seen the straits to which our people have been put for years in areas such as Lancashire and Yorkshire. As I said in my Second Reading speech, emotion is a bad master, but it is a pitiable thing to see the second collections on Sundays, the parish priests and the managers going round collecting pennies and arranging whist drives and dances, and all the people scraping pennies together to keep their schools going. Our people have been accustomed to this for years, and it is no light thing for them to face a further burden of the nature of which they are unaware.
The object of these Amendments is twofold. Firstly, to find out what we are in for, because we have no means of guessing how much it is going to cost us. Some people say £10,000,000, some say 15,000,000; we cannot tell. And secondly, we want some assurance that the burden will be made tolerable for us. That is all we ask, and I do not think it is an unreasonable request. I ask the President, in view of the fact that this discussion has ranged very widely over a number of Amendments, if he can, in his reply, give us some clear indication that he will consider the proposals which we have put forward, with a view to meeting us in some respects at a later stage of the Bill—perhaps, on Clause 95. We would like some such assurance from the right hon. Gentleman to-day. We have no desire to press Divisions, unless absolutely necessary, and it would, I think, be for the convenience of the Committee and would help things along—we seem to be very much behind with our schedule on this Bill—if the right hon. Gentleman could give some firm assurance on this matter.
I think the Committee will agree that this series of Amendments is not brought forward for the purpose of religious controversy, but to secure justice for people who desire to retain denominational schools. As previous speakers have said, it has been accepted in the Bill that the dual system should continue, so far as education in this country is concerned. That being the case, I submit that it is a matter for the Committee to decide which is fair or unfair to the educational interest, regarding the continuation of these schools. I well remember the President, in his Second Reading speech, making a remark which has stuck in my mind ever since. That was when he said he had no desire, within the provisions of this Bill, to close the denominational schools. I respectfully submit that, unless there is going to be an alteration in the Bill, a large number of denominational schools will be forced to close as the result of the provisions of the Bill. I accept the President's word that he had no desire to do this, but this will he only another way of closing these schools rather than stating, in the Bill, the desire to have denominational schools closed. The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Walkden) said that he had taken the advice of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour movement in general in regard to his remarks. The Trades Union Congress, it is perfectly true, passed a resolution requesting the abolition of the dual system, but, since that, and since the Education Bill has been presented, the Congress has taken no action which justifies the hon. Member in making the case he did to-day. The Trades Union Congress has not said that denominational interests should not have better financial consideration than is given them now. The Labour Party, at its annual conference, has not said anything at all about better consideration for denominational interests. I respectfully submit that the point of view put by the hon. Member for South Bristol is not quite correct, as far as the Labour Party and the trades union movement are concerned.
In one of the Amendments, we say that we will be prepared to hand over to the local education authority the right of appointment of teachers. That, to Catholics, has been something very dear to them in the past. In fact, they have got into conflict on many occasions with people who did not agree with their point of view, as the result of their insistence on the local managers being able to appoint teachers. We are prepared—and I want this to be known as widely as possible—from now onwards, to forgo the appointment of our teachers, which may be left to the local education authorities, and should be continued in a way similar to that which prevails under the Scottish system. That being the case, if we are prepared to do that, I submit that we are justified in this Amendment, which would give us more financial facilities, as is given under the Scottish system. That is all we are asking for, and I am quite certain that nobody is going to say we are unjust or making too heavy a claim in that respect.
Does the hon. Member mean that, if the local education authorities appoint the teachers, the Catholic section would have no rights to insist, or will not insist, on those teachers passing a religious test?
That is part of the Scottish system. I submit that what is good enough for one side of the Border should be quite good enough for the other. If the Scots are in front of us in that respect it is about time we caught up with them. One would imagine from the speeches made that we were trying to avoid financial responsibility. We really are not. In other Amendments, we are just pointing out the impossibility of our being able to provide all the money necessary, even were we desirous of continuing the sacrifices we were making prior to the war. I contend that, with great respect, to talk of getting £10,000,000 at four per cent. interest, with the lightness of a previous speaker, is most out of place. We have had the hardest possible job in the world to get the money we got in the past. Great sacrifices have been made by members of my own class and by members of the class of the hon. Member for South Bristol in providing this money. So far as Catholics are concerned, the money that will be needed to retain the whole of our denominational schools is impossible to obtain.
Therefore, I contend that it would be a great injustice if these provisions are going to be left in the Bill, and it would be out of keeping with the President's statement in his Second Reading speech when he said he had no desire to close down the denominational schools.
The most notable feature of the discussion which has arisen upon these Amendments seems to me to be the general expression of a desire that the denominational schools should continue to play a part, and an important part, in our educational system. That demand has arisen from both sides of the Committee, and from, I think, all denominations. I believe that the desire that the denominational schools should not lose their character, almost universally expressed as it has been in this Committee, also represents the state of feeling in the country. All hon. Members receive many communications on this topic, I, like other hon. Members, have received a great many. Some of these communications have struck me as being different in character from the communications which one very often receives on topics such as this which are being widely discussed outside Parliament. I have received letters from soldiers serving actually on the battlefronts in Italy, who have evidently, amidst the storm of battle, found an opportunity to study the provisions of the White Paper, and even of this Bill. Unlike some of my correspondents on other topics and other occasions, they display a very striking understanding of the issues involved in the subject upon which they write.
I believe that the Minister is himself not unsympathetic to the demand that the denominational schools should continue to play their part. If my recollection of his speech in the Second Reading Debate is correct, he said that he hoped to carry the denominational schools with him. It is evident from his whole approach to this problem that that is his wish. That being so, this Committee, the public outside and the Minister himself all desire that nothing should be done to put an end to the part the denominational schools play in our education system. Is this Bill going to give effect to that universally expressed desire? That is a question which is really raised by all these Amendments. It is not a question of whether the Bill will involve the Roman Catholic community in the expenditure of £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 or of whether it will involve them in an annual expenditure of £500,000. The question is, will this Bill place upon the denominations, not only upon the Roman Catholic denomination but upon all denominations, a burden which they will not be able to carry? That is the question. Is the result of this Bill going to be that these denominational schools will disappear from our education system in five or 10 years' time? I submit to the Committee and to the Minister that, unless the Minister finds it possible to meet this universally expressed desire, this Bill is not going to meet the wishes of the House of Commons or, I believe, of the public outside. I suggest to the Committee, as the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. W. Edwards) pointed out very clearly, that that really is the question that we have to decide.
If we come to the conclusion—and it seems to me to be the general wish—that the burden which the Bill is going to place upon the denominations will be beyond their strength, then surely my right hon. Friend ought to be able to see his way to make such modifications, either in this part of the Bill or in some later part, as will give effect to the wishes of us all. I should be out of Order in suggesting now how that ought to be done; but I hope that I shall remain within the bounds of Order when I say, that the real question, as we all know, is not so much whether the financial provisions of the Bill are fair or unfair, whether 50 per cent. which this Bill is going to establish as the permanent basis of the dual system is a fair settlement or not, but whether we are going to place these denominational schools in a position in which they will fairly be able to play their part under this Bill? Are we going to give them a fair start? Are we going to bring them up to that new level of higher efficiency at which the Bill so rightly aims?
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that, when he comes to consider this Debate, he should consider not so much whether he ought to vary the proportion of financial responsibility to be inserted in this Bill, but whether he cannot devise some proposal for bringing these schools up to the new standard which we all desire to see, so that they may be given a fresh and a fair start, and in that way be sent forward to play the important part which we hope that they will play in this new system of public education which the Bill is going to inaugurate.
I confess that I cannot by any manner of means wholly agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson). He has a legal background which is of great assistance to him, and he puts his case with great clarity, but he took refuge in the time-honoured method of saying that the question before us is something which in fact it is not; indeed something totally different. He said, so I understood him, that the question was: Are we going to put such a burden on all the denominations, and if so, will they be able to carry out the work that they have done for so many years? My hon. and learned Friend knows that is not the question. The question before us is, Are we going to pass an Education Bill for the good of this country?
That is another legal matter into which I do not propose to enter. We have had an example today which touched me to the heart. The hon. Member who spoke for the Free Churches, after a long and rather animated, and at times almost rancorous Debate, withdrew his Amendment. I said to a friend of his that I hoped his example would be followed by Members who had put down the Amendments which we are now discussing. I ask my Roman Catholic friends—and I have a great many of them—whether they will not follow the noble example which has already been set?
If we are not very careful and we bring sufficient pressure upon the Government, the House of Commons, and therefore the State, will become the parent of innumerable sects. That is a thing to which I cannot look forward with anything but distress. I have a great many Roman Catholic friends and I am conducting the affairs of two constituencies at the moment, and, therefore, I have received an extra lot of letters. I have done my best in meeting deputations to explain the situation and point out to all, that never in the history of education in this country has the State been as generous to the denominations. That left them cold. I do not know why. They did not respond to it in the way that I would have wished. But it remains the fact. I also told them that in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America the State does not give a single shilling towards denominationalism or to denominational education in schools, and yet they got along there.
There is one point on which I must say something which is not perhaps as kind as it might be. I have been told by a number of my Roman Catholic correspondents that they possess a standard of conscience to which mine is not comparable. I do not propose to accept that view. I told them so, and I am now telling the Committee so. I hope that the Minister will take his stand firmly on this matter and make it, if necessary, a test division; that he will realise that the heart of this country is Protestant and that, although we owe a tremendous debt to the Roman Catholics, we do not think that it is such a debt that we have the right here, as a House of Commons, to provide unlimited finance, which would have the effect not only of increasing the denominational schools of Roman Catholics, but of every other denomination. That is something towards which I look with real misgiving.
A few days ago I had the honour and pleasure of addressing a Federation of Women's Institutes, and the Committee will agree that they are essentially a British institution. I told them something about the Education Bill. I said that we had spent 26 hours discussing seven or eight Clauses and that there were 100 odd Clauses in the Bill. They asked what was the cause of the delay, and I told thorn that we could not agree with one another. They asked whether we realised that it was an Education Bill and what I was going to do about it. They were horrified and, I say frankly, they were angry. I believe that they put the general view of the British public in this matter. I want to read a paragraph from a highly
respected Roman Catholic journal on the subject of whether the State should or should not support very generously, or too generously, the various denominations. I am quoting from the October number of "Blackfriars," the organ of the English Dominicans. I believe them to be a very highly reputable body of great antiquity and commonsense. It says:
Since 100 per cent. State assistance is not a possibility, Catholics will do well to console or fortify themselves by considering the disadvantages that would have accompanied the 100 per cent. if we got it. First, the school buildings would not belong to us, and we should not be able to use them in the evening or holidays, unless by asking permission and paying rent. Secondly, if Catholics could get schools just for the asking, every other denomination that could get enough parents to sign a requisition would be able to do the same. Methodist and Baptist schools would soon be multiplying, spiritualist or Christadelphian in some places perhaps, no doubt Communist schools too under some religion-of-humanity camouflage"—
I notice that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is not here—
indeed, if the necessary number of parents demanded an Atheist school, how could it be refused? Is this what we really want, what anybody really wants, this new lease of life for sects as such? Would it perhaps be better to pay a modest price ourselves for the privilege of teaching the true Faith, doing our best, of course, to bring down the price to as modest a figure as possible?
That is what is called paying the price and calling the tune, and, therefore, I beg of my friends—I hope they will continue to remain my friends even after what I have said to-day—to realise, if they are to get what they ask, that we shall have a multiplicity of sects, and consequently the Government will have to call the tune. It would set up the greatest possible difficulties, and I ask them to remember what I said at the beginning, that this is a national Education Bill and not a forcing ground for religious controversy.
I am not a Catholic. I have never been one, and frankly I do not think that I ever shall be, but I have a good deal of sympathy with the churches, perhaps more with the Catholic churches, because of the poverty which has already been referred to in certain districts. I regret that I did not hear my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. A. Walk-den), but I understood from later remarks that he gave the impression he was speaking for the Labour movement as far as could be judged. I do not agree. I have been in the Labour movement a very long time, and I have heard the religious controvery discussed inside the movement just as keenly and as bitterly as in any place outside the movement. I know there are majorities and minorities, and I know that they have always done, in regard to this religious controversy, what I consider to be the sensible thing, that is they have always said, "We will not come to any definite decisions in regard to the matter, we will leave it to the conscience of the people concerned to take what action they themselves think wise and best." That was the decision within the last week or two of a body that has some authority, speaking on behalf of Members in this House, and I am taking this opportunity to express my own opinion, quite apart from the religion that I hold myself or the religion of other people.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear Admiral Beamish) said what I consider to be quite a right thing. He said something to the effect that the question really is the well-being of the nation's children. That is the whole question we want to discuss. The Government, so far as this part of the controversy at any rate is concerned, have already decided that. In the opinion of the Government, the well-being of the nation's children will be best served by a continuance of the denominational schools. It says so in the Bill itself. That being so, the next question which would arise in my mind is whether it is the desire of the Government to give effect to what they say in their Bill, or is it their desire having said the well-being of the nation's children will be observed by a continuance of the denominational schools, then to make it impossible for them to continue, by enforcing upon them conditions that we know beforehand they will be unable to meet? I do not think the Government would desire to do that, and, having that in my own mind, I have tried to reason out whether it is really possible for the Catholic schools and at least some of the schools of the Church of England—to which I myself belong—to continue?
When I put that point to a friend of mine, a Member of the Front Bench on this side, he said, "The Government are being generous." I said, "What is generosity in this regard?" If a Church organisation is able to meet a responsibility of 50 per cent. in existing conditions and, under the new conditions, the Government say "We will give you 55 per cent.," that may be considered generous, but if they impose conditions that will double the expenditure of the Church, then an increase of 10 per cent. or even 20 per cent. will not make it possible for them to meet their new responsibilities. I look at it from another aspect and ask myself, What is the actual time imposed on the schools for religious teaching? Let me assume it is one hour in a day, and that a day is a six-hour day. It might be reasonable for the Government to say, "Well, if you want denominational teaching for one hour in six every day, we will make you pay for your own denominational teaching by imposing one-sixth of the cost of the school." That would appear to me to be reasonable. On the other hand, if the Government say, "We will compel all schools to teach arithmetic, geography, grammar, and religion," I see no reason in the world why they should say "We will make you pay for the religious teaching in the school but we will give you a grant for geography and arithmetic and the other subjects that we want you to teach in the school." Why should they impose a charge on the people responsible for the school for teaching a religious subject?
I am sorry, Sir Robert, but I thought I was in Order in dealing in a general way with the percentage contribution to the denominational school. I am not concerned with religious teaching in schools. I have not entered into controversy but, when it is forced upon me by an act of the Government and put into a Bill on which I am expected to vote, I ask myself, Is the proposal of the Government reasonable? The proposals are that religious teaching shall be given in the schools, and if it must be given, as the Government have determined, is it reasonable to impose conditions for these schools—which the Government say ought to continue—such as make it impossible for them to continue? That appears to me to be the whole paint, and I hope the Government will make some further and more reasonable concessions than they appear up to now to be willing to make.
I think the whole Committee is agreed that we should discuss and settle these questions with only two objectives—the ultimate benefit of the children, and the fulfilment of a real democratic purpose. If there is any suggestion that these matters should be settled in terms of pressure groups, then we shall not only discredit Parliament but we shall do unending harm to the cause of British education. The first of the two Amendments that we are discussing offers the denominational schools an additional option, whereas the second one would provide a financial easement. My hon. Friend the Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walk-den), in his important but evidently not universally acceptable speech, said that the Roman Catholics could raise loans at 4 per cent. or perhaps 5 per cent., including sinking fund. I would remind the Committee that these Amendments concern equally vitally the Church of England, and if those figures are true of Roman Catholics, they are certainly not true of Church of England school managers. No Church of England school could raise a loan at 4 per cent. or 5 per cent., including sinking fund. We must have the background of this right if we are to reach correct decisions.
I have made it quite clear in my constituency, and I want to say again here, on the one hand, that we must be sure that we are carrying out democratically agreed purposes, and, on the other, that my personal desire is for the Government to be as generous as it feels it can be to Church schools of all denominations, without, as I say, doing anything that will recreate that sectarian bitterness which we all wish to see buried. Several hon. Members have expressed the kernel of this matter. It is agreed by Parliament that the dual system shall continue. The Government has stated its intention in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill, and I would like to call the attention of the Committee to Clause 19 of that Memorandum. The Government says there:
The object of the Bill is to enable the auxiliary, no less than the county, schools to play an effective part in the education of the future.
I shall be completely satisfied if the Minister will be guided by that sentence of his own in dealing with this Amendment and others concerning the financial
structure of the scheme. If we were to find, after the Bill had gone through, that it created a situation in which the auxiliary schools could not play an effective pant, could not enter into that partnership, then we should have frustrated ourselves. The Government itself, if it had withstood Amendments, would have created a situation that negatived its own purpose. It is in that spirit that I appeal to the Minister to regard all these Amendments.
We have now heard an interesting discussion on this question for some two and a half hours and I feel that the Committee will agree that there has been a chance of expressing every point of view. Following particularly upon the great attention given to this matter in the Second Reading Debate, which was commented on widely throughout the country, I think people felt then that an absolutely fair opportunity had been given to those who have expressed a point of view similar to that expressed here to-day. Therefore, we may well say that, as Members of this Committee, we are seized of the issues involved, and it is now my business, first, to say that the spirit in which we have considered these Amendments has been equivalent to that in which we considered the previous Amendment this morning. We have had two general Debates, thanks to your Rulings Major Milner which I think have done credit to the Committee and have ventilated very important issues.
Now let me address myself to the issues in this Debate, just as I did to the issues in the previous Debate. We are considering here Clause 14, and if hon. Members will look at the shoulder note on the Clause they will see it relates to the "Classification of auxiliary schools as controlled schools, aided schools, or special agreement schools. Now this is a general and important Clause, and it is on this Clause that hon. Members have put certain Amendments which would have the result of considerably increasing grants from public funds to the auxiliary schools. We are in some difficulty, as you, Major Milner, have pointed out, because, as has been stated by more than one hon. Member, the Government cannot be asked to indicate the nature of the contribution which they will make because that arises on the later clauses which deal with the financial grants under the Bill. Therefore, the Government are in the position, as are hon. Members themselves, that this is not the occasion on which to indicate exactly the nature of the financial grants to be made to auxiliary schools, otherwise one would be out of order. Therefore, the Government must confine themselves to noting what has been said, and to analysing shortly some of the observations that have been made. If I examine the Amendments, I think hon. Members will see that really they are not Amendments which we need bring to a head at this stage. They are Amendments which ventilate the issue and have given a good opportunity to the Committee to consider all the questions involved.
The first general observation which I must bring the Committee right up against is this—that any increased aid to voluntary, or as they are now called, auxiliary schools, must apply to all auxiliary schools equally. That is what I am very glad the hon. Member for Lewisham West (Mr. Brooke) had an opportunity a saying before I rose. The earlier part of today was spent in discussing Church of England schools, and it, was said in the course of that Debate, that there are some 8,000. In fact, there are not less than 10,000 departments of Church of England schools. There are also 1,200 Roman Catholic schools. The Committee really must face the fact—which many hon. Members have not done—that if they use this general language about increasing the aid to auxiliary schools, the extent of the aid covers a very wide area indeed. When it is considered that the principles of an Amendment of this sort may be quite easily accepted the Committee must realise the scope of the matter which they are considering at the moment.
I must ask the Committee to consider the matter against the background of the Amendment we discussed earlier. There, considerable anxiety was expressed lest undue extension or support for the dual system might lead to a continuation of those very antagonisms which so many Church people want to see avoided. Therefore, I bring the Committee back to the problem which has faced me all along, namely, that we have conflicting interests in this matter and that one cannot be helped at the expense of the other. Things are no so easy and, while I am ready now to address myself to the points which have been stated, that has not been properly appreciated by the Committee. To support indefinitely the whole range of auxiliary schools, would be to upset any plan such as that which is in this Bill.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) on the manner in which he put forward his case. It was different from the case which has been put before me on some other occasions, but it did not differ in the courtesy with which I have been treated by the members and leaders of the hon. Member's denomination. I would like to draw attention to the arguments which have been raised and in particular to those which seemed to try to make out that we are taking away the Roman Catholic schools. It is not our intention to take away Roman Catholic schools. On the contrary, it is our intention, as stated in paragraph 54 of the White Paper, to enable existing denominational schools to play their part in the reforms described in the earlier paragraphs. Paragraph 54 was reproduced in paragraph 19 of the covering Memorandum to the Bill and may be taken to represent the general policy of the Government. Our view is that our policy makes it possible—and here I refer again to paragraph 54—
while removing the educational handicaps of the present system to do justice, in the terms of that paragraph, to all the interests involved.
Those words must be carefully weighed. As our first Debate has indicated, there are educational handicaps in the dual system. In our second Debate hon. Members wished to give a great deal of extra support to the auxiliary school and the Committee must decide whether, if there is an over-balance of the scheme in that direction, it will achieve the first object. It is the opinion of the Government that the scheme we have put forward is more likely to achieve the two objectives than any other that can be devised. An appeal was made to me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower), and others, that the Government should consider what has been put forward as the time for discussing grants and general financial proposals would soon arrive. Of course, the Government will consider every argument and will continue to give proper attention to everything which is said. But I do not want to mislead anybody into thinking
that in the course of that consideration there may be great and wonderful benefits to come, for the reason that the balance I have described would be unduly upset.
Perhaps it would help hon. Members if I now tried to deal with their arguments. It has been widely stated that a great financial liability is to be placed on the denominational schools, and perhaps the most forward in expressing the extent of that liability have been members of the Roman Catholic community. It has been mentioned by them that between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 will, eventually, be placed upon that denomination if it is to keep its schools going. The hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. G. Walkden) rightly pointed out that the annual liability should be looked at in terms of interest and redemption charges, which amount eventually in loan charges to a figure not unlike that mentioned by the hon. Member. But that would be after a great number of years and the intervening years would involve a very much smaller annual liability, amounting, in the first years, to really very little. That point of view has hardly ever been expressed and has not been appreciated by the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham raised the question of rates of interest and loans. Well, we will examine them but the fact is that we must not look on this liability in terms of a global capital figure. We should get used to looking at it in terms of redemption and loan charges over a number of years.
Now we come to the question whether this is a problem of capital expenditure, repairs, alterations and improvements, or whether it is a question of running costs. The hon. Member for South Bristol was right in reminding the Committee that under Clause 14—the details of which we shall be discussing later—we have revised the whole liability of managers as against the settlement of 1902. The whole liability of manager is now virtually confined to repairs to the outside of the buildings. That is what we are to discuss in a few minutes and there are Government Amendments to make it clearer. The whole problem of wear and tear, under the Act of 1902, is removed. But what the hon. Member did not bring forward is that not only primary schools but also secondary schools are to have their maintenance and running costs borne by public funds. That will be of great benefit to the Roman Cathloic community, as, I am sure, they will be first to acknowledge. It means that the teachers' salaries and also the day to day running costs of denominational or auxiliary schools—whatever you like to call them—will, as to the vastly major proportion, be borne by public funds and that all the 50 per cent. refers to is the necessity of bringing schools up to the required modern standard.
The hon. Member for Leigh referred to the great sacrifices which his community had undertaken since the last measure of educational reform. We are the first to acknowledge that and to say that we think his fellow religionists derive considerable benefit from the spirit in which they tackle their own educational problems. But the fact is that the standards of many schools—not only of his community—are extremely bad. It is no good mincing words and saying that they are not. We would not have taken the trouble to come forward with these reforms unless we knew that there was need for placing the whole dual system on a new basis.
This is a very important point. My right hon. Friend must have formed some estimate himself as to the additional cost which would be place on all denominations if the schools at present under their charge were brought up to the standard which suited him and met their requirements. Could my right hon. Friend give any indication of such an estimate?
That raises a very general question, because it would mean that we would have to calculate on the basis of the present dual system and on the basis of this Bill. That would lead us into a complicated figure, which I would rather not give at a moment's notice. However, so long as my hon. and gallant Friend's basis is quite clear, I will do my best to help him afterwards.
As I was saying, the problem of the communities has been that, although they have done their best to spend money, many of their schools are not up to the requisite standard to-day. A great deal of the odium which Government policy has incurred is due to the fact that we are insisting on standards. There is nothing immoral in that. It is regarded as a reproach to me and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that we should have laid down a vast target in this Bill simply because we want to bring the standards of denominational schools up to what we think they should be. Denominations take the line, "The Government are merciless; they want to take our schools away simply because they are imbued with the spirit of reform." Therefore, the problem is not so much one of cost as of standard and it is for that reason that the Government have introduced into their policy an increased grant far above that which was included in the 1902 settlement, not only for running costs but also in the case of capital expenditure for which, for the first time, we have introduced a 50 per cent. grant. I must not get on to the scale of grant, or whether it is applicable or not but I am pointing out that these are vital Debates we shall have to hold.
I do not think the Committee would be wise to accept the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) because I do not think that to try to work out the liability of a Roman Catholic or any other community, on the basis of 1939 costs, would be an accurate way of imposing a charge on public funds. I have been into the matter with the architects and my other advisers and I am told that in some cases it is possible to employ a quantity surveyor actuarially to calculate the cost of a certain structure at a certain date, but I do not recommend that to the Committee, nor do I think it worthy of them to decide the matter on that basis—which is what the Amendment asks. The mover and supporters of the Amendment think it is a way of settling the Catholic liability. In my view it is not the best way and I think it better not to insert into this Clause methods of assessing liability of this denomination or that. Therefore, I hope the Committee will not expect the Government to accept the Amendment. A further Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), on the same point, tries to gain the whole value of 100 per cent. grant from public funds for schools which fulfil certain conditions, one being that all teachers should be of the denomination concerned with the conduct of the schools. That is an offer which, to a certain extent, is worthy of the Committee's consideration and one which the Government have considered more than once and which has been discussed outside as well as inside this House. In my view, however, it does not remove, as an offer, many of those sources of difficulty which our solution of the controlled school problem largely does and, therefore, it cannot rank on exactly the same basis as the Government's solution. I will continue to bear that offer in mind as being one made more on the basis of the solution come to in another country, which hon. Members have sometimes put forward, but though for reasons which the Government have explained it will be unlikely that we will be able to attach the same deep significance to this Amendment as hon. Members imagine. Therefore, I am unable to accept it now.
From all our associations with my hon. Friends it has been put to us that practically all the teachers must be Roman Catholics, with the possible exception of purely practical teachers. It is against that background that I must ask the Committee to examine the Amendment. Though the spirit in which it is moved is quite unexceptional, if we are to apply it to the whole range of schools, including Anglican, I shall find that my Friends of this morning, who pressed on me an Amendment in the opposite sense, will not be too happy if I accept an Amendment in this sense. That brings us back to the fact set out in the White Paper that there are in this matter conflicting interests, and it is in the midst of those conflicting interests that we have to work. I attach great importance to the weighty pronouncement from the Box opposite as to the view of many millions of people, I attach great importance to the conscience and the sincerity of those who put forward the Amendments to-day, but I do not think this is the place for consideration of this question of liability to be properly dealt with, nor do I think this is the right way of putting forward the claims of the community concerned. Therefore, I must ask the Committee not to accept these Amendments but to allow us now to consider the Clause in more detail, because the more they consider it, the more they will see that the liabilities of those who wish to retain the denominational schools have been lessened and the more they will see the generous sprit in which the Government wishes to go on considering the matter.
I am profoundly disappointed with my right hon. Friend's speech. To my complete surprise he gave great weight to the speech delivered on behalf of the Labour Party from the Opposition Front Bench by the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. G. Walkden) and it was clear from the speech of the hon. Member who claimed to speak not only on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party but of the Trades Union Council as well that he was not supported in that claim by any other speaker in the Labour Party, but various Members of his own Party challenged his statement and I am therefore very surprised that my right hon. Friend attaches such weight to a pronouncement of that kind. In his reply to the Debate the Minister reminded the Committee of a fact, which Catholics freely acknowledge, that the standard of some of our schools is low. We acknowledge this. But we do not wish to keep them low. We wish to raise them to the highest possible standard, a standard no less high than that which my right hon. Friend himself wishes to see them.
The Government in the White Paper and the Bill have acceded the principle of the dual system. That was against the wishes of the Roman Catholics, but we have accepted it and all we are asking the Government to do is to make it possible to make that dual system work. My right hon. Friend referred to finance and reminded the Committee that in giving a concession of the nature that we required it would mean extending that concession not only to one but to all denominations. There, again, we find ourselves in agreement. We are only asking for ourselves what we wish to see given to other denominations. He forgot to remind the Committee that if he was forced to take over these schools under Clause 14 because of the financial inability of the denomination to do what is required under the Bill His Majesty's Treasury would have to bear a burden far in excess of what they have to bear to-day. It is unfair to bring financial arguments of this kind on this question because it is in the interests of the nation that this dual system, which the House of Commons has accepted, should be made to work fairly. One or two speakers and in particular the hon. Member for South Bristol, who spoke on behalf of the Labour Party, poured scorn on the idea that this money had to be collected from the people of the religious denominations concerned. He challenged it as a statement of fact and went on to suggest that it would be quite possible for us to go to the City of London and raise the money at the rate of four and a half or five per cent. including sinking fund charges.
Is that strictly correct? The hon. Member must have made a close study of the facts; he knows that over the 25 years preceding the war the Catholic community incurred a debt in their own interest of £3,500,000. That debt has not yet been discharged. How is it possible now to increase the burden from £3,500,000 to £13,500,000 over the next 25 years?
Money at 4½ or 5 per cent. can be raised on proper security as the hon. Member knows full well. It is not impossible to raise the amount, but we could not repay it. That is the point. It has to be met. No one is going to loan that money to any religious denomination if be is uncertain of the return of the principal. What security have we to offer?
I wish the bankers I have been in touch with shared the hon. Member's point of view on loans. That has not been my experience. We have had a long Debate which has ranged over a wide ground. I hope my right hon. Friend will find it possible to again look at the financial aspect particularly in relation to the present proposals in a much more sympathetic and practical manner than he has done to-day. I was hoping most sincerely that he would be able to give us some expression of hope that when Clause 95 is reached he will have something to tell us. I have been present during most of the Debate and have only heard two speeches supporting his point of view. I hope that between now and the further stages of the Bill he will look at the problem again and realise that it is useless to argue that the House of Commons represents one point of view and the country another. Hon. Members in the House of Commons are doing their best to represent their constituents, and my right hon. Friend should accept that point of view and not point to some vague opinion outside which does not find representation and expression here.
I intervene for only a moment in what is a domestic matter affecting England and Wales and not Scotland because reference has been made to the Scottish system. I felt it right to point out that we have a system which has worked in perfect harmony for 21 years and that if something approaching the Amendment is not carried the denominational schools in England will be in a worse position than in Scotland. May I commend to the right hon. Gentleman a system which was brought into force in 1918 with the hope that statesmanship in England in 1944 will not be inferior to that in Scotland in 1918?
I want to support the point of view which has just been put by the other interventionist. I do it with all respect and with deference to the sister country. I am a strong individual supporter of the idea that this problem would be much better solved if the religious-minded people will agree to take religious teaching out of the schools altogether. I am sure that if they had taken as much part in religious instruction in school as I have done I could convert them to my point of view. I have realised, both in local affairs and Parliamentary affairs, that religious instruction in school is not practical politics, and I am sure that there is not a large proportion of people who hold religious views so strongly that they are not prepared to accept the secular solution. It is a regrettable fact, but it is an undeniable fact. All that Parliament is left with as a possible way of approaching the problem is to try and find some intelligent modusvivendi between the warring sects. In 1918 I was a member of the big Glasgow education authority controlling the education of a population of nearly 1,000,000. We had the job of transferring the voluntary schools into public ownership and control. There were a large number of Roman Catholic schools and one Episcopal school; that was the whole strength of Episcopalian enthusiasm for education in Glasgow. The feeling between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants in Scotland attained depths I have never seen equalled anywhere. Religious antagonism was carried to extreme limits in the West of Scotland. I notice that Dr. Julian Huxley calls himself a scientific humanist, and perhaps I might describe myself as that, without any science about it. It grieves a humanist like me to see the brethren of the Christian faith quarrelling in that way. I have seen in my experience that they have got a good lot of fun out of it. I do not want to interfere with people's fun in any way, but I say that religious antagonism and bitterness in the West of Scotland was for long periods more acute than I have ever known it to exist in any part of England, and it took on occasion very vicious forms.
Yet the transfer of those schools to public ownership was carried through with a minimum of friction. It involved a substantial sum of public money; I forget how much, although I was one of the signatories to the cheque, and I was very proud at appending my name to a cheque of that size. The chairman of the authority at that time, who was very active in arranging the transfer, was one of our leading Orangemen in the West of Scotland and a powerful figure in the Conservative Party, with family connections with Ulster and all the rest of it. We transferred those schools into public ownership and there they have remained ever since. I was for six or seven years engaged on meeting the difficulties that arose. Some of the teachers in ex-Roman Catholic schools felt their independence a little too much, and there were a number of little difficulties. There were none of the big difficulties, and for 25 years the settlement, which to me is not a final settlement of the educational problem but merely a way of living, has worked with a minimum of friction and to the tremendous improvement and advantage of Scottish education.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the difference between Scotland and England in this matter. Only one-tenth of the schools in Scotland in 1918 were non-provided, and that made it easier to deal with the problem. There has also been a different attitude to teaching doctrine in Church schools ever since 1870.
I know that there is a great difference between the Scottish intellect and the English intellect and that we have a more sober way of approaching the practical problems of life. I admit that there are great differences, but I do not think that the differences are so great as to make the essential scheme of the transfer any more difficult. In my view, the whole standard of education has been raised in the West of Scotland as a result of the transfer. The status, the training, the ability, the bearing and the social standards of the teachers in Roman Catholic schools have improved. Their sense of equality with their brothers in the other schools, their sense of camaraderie with the teachers in other schools, their ability to mix together in one big teachers' organisation, the school buildings, the facilities for the children's education, for their cleanliness and health—in every direction there have been improvements.
From my point of view, however, none of the education in the one lot of schools or the other is on the level it ought to be. There are tremendous advances to be made in every direction. Yet in Scotland we have got one great difficulty out of the way, and it is an example that our friends in England may very well copy.
I hope that the Minister is not so tied up by backstairs discussions, as was suggested yesterday, that he cannot now move. The problem that has been outlined is an issue of the Bill. I support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), although I do not think that it is the best or the only solution. I advise the Minister to try, from now until we reach the conclusion of our Debates, to keep an open mind as to the possibility of a better solution.
It seems to me that we have arrived at the somewhat ridiculous position in which almost everybody who has spoken in the Debate, except two Members, have supported the Amendment, and yet the Minister tells us that he cannot do very much about it. We are disappointed with his reply, and he leaves us no alternative, if he cannot give us an assurance on the matter, but to divide the Committee. Perhaps the words that we are submitting are not the best, but there is a consensus of opinion in the Debate to-day that, however generous the Bill may be in its contribution, the balance left to be provided by the community is too heavy. Unless the Minister can assure us that he will consider this real financial difficulty which we are in, and promise some concession before the later stages of the Bill, we shall have no alternative but to divide the Committee, preferably on the Amendment standing in my name.
If the matter is to be put to me in that way, that, unless I give a concession to my hon. Friend, his Friends will divide, I have only one answer to give, and that is the answer which I give straight away: The hon. Member can do as he likes. I would just like to deal with the matter in a rather calmer atmosphere. Perhaps the hon. Member does not mean to put the thing to me in that way. He has used language which might have borne that interpretation. If he wishes to use those words, I have given my answer quite clearly and the Government will take the matter to a decision.
I must ask the Committee to bring a little better commonsense to bear on this matter. We have a Clause of a very general description, in discussing which we have been asked by the Chair to confine ourselves to matters which do not involve increase of grant. The Clauses on increases of grant come a good deal later—and if we all talk so much they will be a very long time away. The situation is clear. Why we should try to force an issue on certain Amendments which, to all intents and purposes, are not applicable to the situation and are not suitable, I do not know. I should have thought that, having had a discussion of the matters and put the difficulties of both sides and having got the matter into the arena of Parliament at the beginning of the religious issue, now was the time for the matter to be considered within the arena of Parliament. We have stated our cases; now let us consider them. I am not going to accept any view that the Government must either give a concession or give way. That creates a hopeless situation, while giving an entirely false impression. This Government knows what it wants. As one of the authors of the Bill, I know what I want. I am always ready to listen to other people's arguments, as I believe I have shown. After this discussion I shall sift the good arguments from the bad and consider what to do.
I was not endeavouring to hold a pistol at the head of the President. I was only endeavouring to do exactly what was done earlier in the Debate, when it was pointed out that all the people who spoke had supported a proposal and it was stated that unless the Minister could give definite consideration to all that had been said, hon. Members would be left with no alternative but to divide the Committee. That is precisely what I am trying to say, and I wish to say no more on that. A great number of people have taken the same line as my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and it is a matter of some disappointment that the Minister has not been able to be a little more conciliatory in his reply.
I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I agree with him that the real solution to the educational problem is the Scottish system, but unfortunately we have not got to that state yet in this country. What we have is a series of Amendments. Although they may not be the best possible way, they do confirm what has been expressed very freely from my constituents, not only those in this country but those who are serving overseas. I heard the hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) say that he had received a communication from someone at the front. I was astonished to receive an airgraph from an old friend of mine who is serving in India. He is a Manchester man, and last autumn he obviously studied the proposals of the Bill and, in the midst of his duties out there, he took the trouble to send me an airgraph to let me know what he thought about the Bill.
He thought it was a good Bill but be objected, as a Roman Catholic, to what he considered an injustice to his co-religionists. I have taken the trouble to study these objections and I have met some of the leaders of the Church in my division in Manchester. I am compelled to admit that those dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church are intelligent men, and they would agree on one point, that the Bill is going to work some sort of injustice to them, with regard to their schools. That being so in their opinion, I am constrained to think that the President of the Board of Education should at least consider the spirit of these Amendments which have been put forward, if not to-day, then at some later date. I must express my astonishment. The President of the Board of Education is an old friend of mine. I think he has been in this House longer than I have, and I have been here for 12 years. I was astonished to hear him say that he accepted the statements of the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden). I have never heard a statement supposed to be made on behalf of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress which received no support at all from any other member of the party in the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I heard nobody get up to support him but I did hear two members of the Labour Party get up and contradict him.
When I heard the President of the Board of Education say that he accepts this dictum as binding the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress I must tell him that I, myself, have actually had letters from trade unionists in Manchester who are obviously Roman Catholics and who entirely disagree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for South Bristol. So I cannot follow the President of the Board of Education at all in accepting the statement of the hon. Member for Bristol, South. In fact, if these Amendments are pressed to a Division, I tell the Committee quite frankly I will support them. There is just one other thing I would mention to the hon. Member for South Bristol. He said he is a Surrey man and that he was informed of what the difficulties were for the Roman Catholics to keep their schools going.
The hon. Member did not give me to understand that he himself was a Lancashireman but that he was a Surrey man. I know the Roman Catholic population in Lancashire extremely well. When I get observations from the Bishop of Salford and the Bishop of Liverpool on this question I am compelled to take notice of these men, because in Lancashire they are held in the highest repute by bodies of opinion of all types, whether Roman Catholic or otherwise. Furthermore, I will support these Amendments, because although most of the discussion has centred round the Roman Catholic question, it affects, in my opinion, all denominational bodies, be they Jews, Moslems, Roman Catholics or Methodists. I am like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I take a broad view—
I apologise if I have repeated myself. I will conclude by saying that, to my mind, the general tendency of the Committee, listening to the speeches made on this matter to-day, is that the Committee is in agreement with the spirit of these Amendments. In that spirit I shall support them if necessary in the Division Lobby.
After hearing the verbal comments and the understanding given by the Minister that he will review the position and will provide a further opportunity of discussion on Clause 95, I think the best course would be to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. In doing that, I want to say that I am not giving up the fight. It will be an issue on Clause 95 and the Government may see their way to make some concession.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 19, after "school," to insert:
other than the expenses of repairs rendered necessary in consequence of the use of the school for purposes other than those under the control or direction of the local education authority.
This Amendment really speaks for itself. Its purpose is to ensure that the local education authority is not made responsible for the expense of repairs other than those repairs which become necessary by reason of the use of the school for the purposes of the local education authority. I do not think that this Amendment calls for any lengthy argument to support it. I should have thought that it was reasonable that if the managers of a school permit the school to be used for purposes other than the purposes of the local education authority—there is no reason why they should not do so and, indeed, they very often do—then they ought to be responsible for any damage which may be done to the school by reason of that, and the responsibility of the local education authority ought to be restricted to repairs arising out of the use of the school for their purposes and not for any other purposes. I hope that in these circumstances the Parliamentary Secretary will regard this Amendment as a reasonable one.
It will be observed that on this Clause, Sub-section (3), my right hon. Friend has a large number of Amendments on the Order Paper that will tend to clarify the wording of the Clause. Our view is that when these Amendments have been inserted there will be no doubt as to what the respective liabilities are. It is clear that when the school is not being used for school purposes any damage that may be done to the school during that period will fall upon the managers or governors or proprietors. Our view is that when the Clause has been fully amended the actual words moved by the hon. and learned Member will not be required. We want to assure him that our view is that the Clause should read as if the words had been inserted now, and they would probably have been necessary had these Amendments not been on the Order Paper.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 25, at the end, to insert "local education."
I think there are about half a dozen Amendments that are really all tied up with this one. I take it it would be your wish, Major Milner, with the consent of the Committee, that we should discuss all these Amendments together. Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee, as these Amendments occur in so many parts of this Sub-section, if I read out paragraphs (a) and (b) as they will be when all the Amendments have been inserted. Sub-section (3) starts by saying
The managers or governors of a controlled school shall not be responsible for any of the expenses of maintaining the school, but the following provisions shall have effect with respect to the maintenance of aided schools and special agreement schools:
Paragraph (a) clearly sets out the expenses which shall be payable by the managers or governors of the school. Then we come to paragraph (b), which will now say:
(a) the following expenses shall be payable by the managers or governors of the school, that is to say, any expenses incurred in effecting such alterations to the school buildings as may be required by the local education authority for the purpose of securing that the school premises should conform to the prescribed standards, and any expenses incurred in effecting repairs to the school premises not being repairs which are excluded from their responsibility by the following paragraph—
(b) the managers or governors of the school shall not be responsible for repairs to the school playground or playing fields or to the interior of the school buildings or for repairs necessary in consequence of the use of the premises, in pursuance of any direction or requirement of the authority, for purposes other than those of the school.
The first paragraph sets out quite clearly those expenses for which the managers shall be liable, and the second sets out equally clearly those for which they shall not be liable. We thought that the wording in the Bill was somewhat involved with somewhat untidy edges. If the new wording is accepted, there will be no doubt what the liability of the various authorities will be.
There is a question that I would like to ask which applies to any of these Amendments. Various expressions used here are not defined. For instance, school buildings are not defined, although school premises are. There is no definition of a school playground. Does a school playground, for instance, include a pavilion which is on the playground? Do school buildings include a schoolkeeper's house? My hon. Friend will realise that in these financial arrangements it is very necessary that it should be clear beyond all doubt what is to be the liability of the local authority and what is to be the liability of the school managers. These expressions leave some little doubt. My authority, for instance, is very concerned as to whose is the responsibility for looking after the school-keeper's premises, and the same thing applies to buildings which may be on the playground.
When my hon. Friend replies will he say whether a school-keeper's premises actually on the playground would be treated in the same way as a schoolkeeper's premises some distance away?
There are two or three similar points which I had proposed to raise on the Motion "That the Clause stand part," but I understand, Major Milner, that you think it proper that we should discuss these ambiguous words in connection with these Government Amendments. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) on the point he has made. It is exceedingly desirable that there should be no ambiguity about any of these words; otherwise, they are liable to give rise to friction in many places, and, later, possibly to litigation. The Committee ought therefore to pay special regard to them. My concern is with the word "repairs" in line 33. Does that include alterations and improvements to a playground as well as the repairs? The Parliamentary Secretary knows that there has been litigation in the past about responsibility for playgrounds. In the following line there is a reference to "the interior of the school buildings." Take the case of a school where the lavatories are out in the playground. Will repairs to the interior of the lavatories be regarded as repairs to the interior of the school buildings, or not? What is to be the arrangement as regards the heating arrangements or the sanitation, within the school buildings? Do they cone in the category of "the interior of the school buildings"? I hope that the Government will give us some guidance as to their intention; otherwise, on Report stage we shall have to move Amendments to remove any possible ambiguity.
I do not know who has advised the Minister on this, but is it intended to make the local education authority responsible for the repairs to school playgrounds, and to secure that, if they do that, they shall not be responsible for anything more? Paragraph (b) now reads:
The local education authority shall be responsible for repairs to the school playground and playing fields and to the interior of the school buildings and for repairs necessary in consequence of the use of the premises.
Someone having drafted that, it is now proposed to leave out "and" and to put in "or."
Might I point out that we are now on line 32, and that the circumstances are completely changed by substituting "the managers or governors shall not" for "the local education authorities shall."
For the convenience of the Committee, I will again read paragraph (b) as it will stand if this Amendment is carried:
… the managers or governors of the schools shall not be responsible for repairs to the school playground or playing fields, or to the interior of the school buildings, or for repairs necessary in consequence of the use of the premises.
I am not arguing the meaning of the words in law, but I am advised it relieves them of all responsibility in these things.
I have been asked a number of questions on definition. I am advised that the words "school buildings" do include the schoolkeeper's house, but I would not like to say that it includes the case of a schoolkeeper's house that may be some distance away from the school. I would like to have an opportunity of investigating that, because I have known cases where the local education authority, or body of managers, in order to get a school caretaker to live near a school have rented a house and allowed him to live in it, though it may be a quarter of a mile away from the school. I understand that was the sort of case the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) had in mind. The simpler case, of the schoolkeeper's house within the curtilage of the school, is included in the phrase "school buildings," but I am advised that a pavilion on the playing fields is not part of the school buildings but is part of the playing fields. The question of repairs to the playground does not include the alteration and improvement of the playground. Repairs to heating inside the premises, will of course, depend on the extent to which they are repairs and the extent to which they may be something else. For instance, repair of a grate is clearly a repair, but the replacing of open fires by a central heating system is not a repair. That, I think, deals with the points put to me, and the Amendments put down in the name of my right hon. Friend are an endeavour to make sure that all these matters shall be reasonably easy of understanding. In view of the questions that have been addressed to me I will undertake, between now and the next stage of the Bill, that these terms shall be re-examined and that if it is necessary to put anything, either into the definition Clause or elsewhere, it shall receive attention.
Will the Minister bear these two facts in mind in regard to the schoolkeeper's house? The Minister referred to the premises of the schoolkeeper as being rented. Will he remember that many of them are owned by the education authority, and it was merely because of the room taken up by them that they were unable to put them on the school playground, but they bought premises near by, perhaps only two or three doors away, which are, nevertheless, considered to be part of the school.
May I press upon he Parliamentary Secretary, from the legal point of view, and as a lawyer, that "school buildings" should be defined in the definition Clause. The term is used in the Bill and there is nothing in the definition which elucidates it. From the point of view of the future operation of the Bill and possible complications, I would, as a lawyer, urge the Parliamentary Secretary to see that "school buildings" are defined in the definition Clause.
I can gladly give my hon. and learned Friend that assurance. In reply to the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) we are dealing here with the premises of what we now call voluntary schools, which will be the auxiliary schools in the future. It does not affect any of the duties, responsibilities and expenses of local authorities in respect to a schoolkeeper's house which they have acquired for their own council schools, or, as we now call them, the county schools of the future.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 12, line 33, leave out "and," and insert "or."
In page 12, line 34, leave out the first "and," and insert "or."—[Mr. Butler.]
My object in raising the one Amendment which now remains is to cover a legal point arising in this way. As many hon. Members have said recently, it is immensely important to clarify and crystallise the remaining liabilities of managers of non-provided schools as we used to call them, and the angle from which I desire the Committee to view the matter is the point of a person coming upon the school premises and suffering an accident. When someone so suffers an accident it may be necessary to determine who is to pay the damages, and in order to ascertain that the court will have to go to the Section. I would suggest that the court will have great difficulty in deciding the meaning of "interior of the school premises." Supposing there were a beam across the school and that beam collapsed, causing injury to someone who had come upon the premises, could that be said to be necessary repairs or would it not come within that definition? I am asking my right hon. Friend to consider that legal point and to crystallise the meaning of the phrase. The effect of my Amendment would make quite clear the meaning of the Clause, and I think I am right in saying that it was the law up to now but, if it is to be further restricted, I merely desire to draw attention to that point. The other Amendment in my name, which is not in Order, was directed to much the same point, namely, that managers of these auxiliary schools should be in a position to make good any judgment that was given against them in damages, and I feel it would not waste the time of the Committee if I mentioned a specific case, in which other hon. Members of the House were engaged, to illustrate my point.
The Government are very grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for drawing attention to this point, the failure to legislate on which, in the past, has resulted, sometimes, in people not being able to recover damages for accidents for which people of straw have been responsible. We are conscious of this particular difficulty, and we think that the best way to meet it will be in some such form as a new Clause, and that that should as the hon. and gallant Member suggested deal with the other point. I suggest therefore, to him, that he should keep in touch with my right hon. Friend or myself. We will endeavour, with him, to frame a Clause that will cover all the issues involved. After all, the idea of compulsory insurance by people to protect themselves against damages is becoming almost a part of the law now, but I am quite sure the Committee will realise how much will be involved. It will be a substantial safeguard both to the managers and to the people who may be injured on their premises.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 46, at the end, to insert:
and failing such application by such managers or governors, the Minister shall, after due inquiry, revoke the order.
My hon. Friends and I suggest that the Amendment is necessary to fill a gap. The Minister makes an order that a school shall be an aided school or a special agreement school and that order can be revoked, but as the Clause stands, it can be revoked only on two conditions. One of these, naturally, is that the managers are unable or unwilling to carry out their obligations. If that was the only condition, this Amendment would not be necessary, but it goes on to say that where they
are unable or unwilling to carry out their obligations. … it shall be their duty to apply to the Minister for an order revoking the order by virtue of which the school is an aided school. … and upon such an application being made to him the Minister shall revoke the order.
But suppose they do not apply or are unable and unwilling to carry out the obligations; what is then to happen?
We are faced with a situation that two members of the legal profession are doing their very best to see that this provision is administered without recourse to the Courts. The provisions of Sub-section (4), as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) pointed out, are clear, that I do not want to be met with an answer from the Treasury box that the Minister has his remedy. I do not want to be referred to the provisions of Clause 92. I would like the Committee to look at Clause 92. It provides for the powers of the Minister in default of local education authorities or managers or governors, and it says:
If the Minister is satisfied, either upon complaint by any person interested or otherwise, that any local education authority, or the managers or governors of any county
school or auxiliary school, have failed to discharge any duty imposed upon them by or for the purposes of this Act, the Minister may make an order … and any such directions shall be enforceable, on an application made on behalf of the Minister, by mandamus.
That means that when an authority, governors or managers are in default, the Minister goes through an elaborate procedure to ascertain how far they are in default. He goes to his advisers and the Department prepares evidence; and he then solemnly marches down to the Supreme Court of Judicature and applies to the King's Bench Division for an order of mandamus.
I do not want to be any more technical than I possibly can, but as the Bill stands, this technical procedure is the only remedy left to the Minister in default of the local authority. I would also like to correct the Minister in his knowledge of the law and say that the whole procedure of the writ of mandamus has now defaulted but I can perhaps avail myself of another opportunity in future to educate him further. But the fact remains, that if we leave things as they are the remedy of the Minister upon default will be to resort to this elaborate—not quite as cumbersome as it used to be but still cumbersome—legal procedure, in order to enforce it. The Amendment suggests that if there is default and he is satisfied he should himself come in and do it. He should cut out the legal procedure and so take the bread out of the mouths of us lawyers. I do not mind but that would lead to greater efficiency and speed in achieving the end which the Bill has in view. I support the Amendment.
I am very grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for reading the words of Clause 92, which I should, otherwise, have had to read to the Committee myself. We rely upon Clause 92 in these particular cases. It must be clear from the discussions we have had to-day, that the question of the status of the various types of auxiliary school will be matters of very great concern to their managers or governors in the future. We do not feel that we ought to be armed with the powers, where no obligation has been made, although the default has occurred, of assuming that the position has therefore been brought to a head. In these cases there should be a reference to the court. I am afraid that in some later stages of the Bill we may be told that we have given far too much authority to the Minister to decide certain issues, but in view of the passion that can be aroused on these questions of altering the school from aided to controlled status, we do not feel that the Minister should be 'the final judge in the matter.
If we could foresee all the cases in the future, I am afraid that my hon. and learned Friend would not be as well employed as he is on occasion and we might be able to avoid a great deal of litigation. Surely this is the issue in this particular case: Here is an aided school which for some reason or other has not raised its 50 per cent. of the expenses that have to be met under the Bill by the managers or governors. For some reason or other they do not make application to us for an order revoking the order which made it an aided school. There may be many reasons for that. I have had far too much experience of correspondents and clerks of aided schools to make me think that always the whole body is in default, and it would clearly be wrong, merely because we could not get an answer to a letter, that we should reduce this school from aided to controlled status without having an opinion outside the Board. We were exceedingly reluctant to proceed by this method.
If I may let the hon. and learned Gentleman into a secret, we had several discussions before we drafted this Clause in the way we did. I am quite sure that had we foreseen the intensity of the discussions that have taken place on the last Sitting Day and to-day—to which the hon. and learned Member himself contributed—on this question of the essential difference between aided and controlled status, we should have reached our decision, rather earlier than we did, that this was the proper way of doing it. In view of the importance of this to the people who are involved in it, it is desirable they should feel that the ultimate decision will not be that of the Minister but will be that of the courts.
I am disappointed about this. I thought we were really being helpful and that the Government would accept this Amendment. Do managers realise that, once they apply, the Minister without any further inquiry whatsoever, can say: "All right, I will revoke the Order"? You have some people who are unable, in the Minister's view, to carry this out but all the time they postpone the matter and keep on hoping against hope that some day they may be able to carry this out. Therefore the Minister has to go through the cumbrous procedure of applying to the court for a mandamus. No one has higher respect than I have for legal judgments, but may I point out to the Committee what that will mean? The preparation of evidence by the Minister, and the preparation of evidence in the locality by the people who say that they will some day be in a position to carry out their obligations and are determined to fight this case. Then, at long last, it will come before one of His Majesty's judges either in the King's Bench or in the Chancery Division. I will not say that His Majesty's judges are unfit to try it but it is a cumbersome matter to try technical questions. They cannot use their past knowledge and they have to take technical evidence on both sides. That is why, in all commercial matters, arbitrations are becoming so popular. They will be calling evidence and taking technical evidence on both sides.
In the meantime what is happening? The children are suffering. The only reason advanced for maintaining this cumbersome way was a tender regard for the managers. Cannot we have a tender regard for the children? Must we, all the time, be told that the managers must be protected, and must be given every chance? Surely this is the right way of doing it. I hope the President will be prepared to accept this proposition. If he comes to the conclusion that they are not willing or are unable to carry out their duties, he says to them, "I am proposing to hold an inquiry to see whether you can. If I am satisfied on that inquiry, with all my own technical people to advise me, that you have failed to maintain the required standard, I am going to revoke the Order." Surely that is the right way of doing it. I hope the Minister will accept this Amendment.
I share the view expressed by my hon. Friends and I am not entirely convinced by the answer of the Minister. I think he might accept the. Amendment and, if he so desires, amend it further by adding a right of appeal for the managers against the decision at which he may arrive. I put it to him that he should give a promise to consider that point of view because, frankly, a good case has been made out for it.
In this case I think the Minister is right and my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) are wrong. I do not think they realise what a serious thing it is for school managers, and for the school, to have the status changed. The question whether they are not able or willing to carry out certain work, may very often be a question of opinion; it is not always a question of fact. Whether or not they are able to bring their school up to certain prescribed standards is very often a question of opinion and not a question of fact. The mere fact that the managers have not notified the Minister that they are unable to do this is no evidence at all that they are wrong or that they are in default. It may be that there is a genuine difference of opinion between the local authority and the governors and managers, and in that case, it is only right that that difference of opinion should be resolved by the courts and not by the President of the Board. Moreover, if, in fact, the Amendment suggested by my hon. Friend were agreed to, it would go to the courts every time anyway, because the managers would not accept the decision if it went against them. Therefore you might just as well let it go to the courts in the first instance.
Finally, I do not know that it is necessarily quicker to have an inquiry by the Minister and his organisation than it is to have a similar inquiry by the courts. This is a psychological question. I feel you have to give the governors or managers of the schools the feeling that they are going to get a square deal, and that the status of their school is not going to be drastically changed. There is a universal feeling that they will get a square deal in the courts, there is not a universal feeling that they will get it from the Board. Therefore I feel this Amendment should not be accepted and that local authorities and the Minister should rely upon the provisions of Section 92.
I am not going to argue the case, Major Milner, I am going to deal specifically and solely with the point raised by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). I will not repeat a single word I said before. The hon. Member has not appreciated the exact purport of this Clause. It is not a case of adjudicating upon the right moment at which a change should take place. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the specific words of the Sub-section which are:
If at any time the managers or governors of an aided school or a special agreement school are unable or unwilling to carry out their obligations … it shall be their duty to apply ….
In other words, one of two conditions must arise—either they are unable to carry out their duties to provide the money, or they are unwilling so to do. It is only one one of those two conditions.
In my view that is the greatest possible argument for keeping these things out of the courts. I should say that inability to comply with their obligations is a question of fact.
These are questions of fact which have to be established before anything arises under the Sub-section, where the duty of the managers or the Minister to act on these questions of fact must be established. It is not a psychological matter, such as is suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham. It is essentially a matter for the Minister to satisfy himself upon; when he has the facts he can decide and if they do not move as the facts say then the Minister himself shall act.
I understand that barristers can only act on the instructions of solicitors. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. McEntee) for his suggestion. We will examine it and see whether there is any other way in which the necessary assurances to managers can be given, that before this alteration of status takes place, there can be an independent judgment. I want to remind hon. Members that we are not merely dealing with the case of a small Church school in a Welsh village. In this Bill we bring into these provisions for aided and controlled schools great and ancient grammar schools, with wealthy foundations.
We are hoping that those who come into the State system, or remain in it, will feel that despite the alterations made in this Bill, they will not find themselves harshly, unnecessarily or by Ministerial ukase transferred from the status they were willing to occupy to some status they regard as lower. We do not want to create any unnecessary and cumbrous machinery, but if there is any way in which the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Waltham-stow can be introduced, and at the same time make it clear that there will be, finally, in the event of a dispute between managers or governors and the Minister as to whether they are actually in default, having regard to the words of the Clause, we shall be quite willing to do everything we can on that point to give a safeguard.
I wanted to put a point when the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) concluded his speech but I did not get the opportunity, and before I could say anything on the previous Amendment it was withdrawn. I consider that it is necessary, in view of the fact that two Scottish Members advocated that the Scottish system should be introduced into England, to make it absolutely clear—
That is a matter which was discussed and disposed of earlier and that being so, although the hon. Member may feel that he was put in an unfortunate position, I do not think he can raise it again now.
Excuse me, Major Milner, but it was presented at considerable length as a solution and as something which could be applied to this Clause. I want to make it clear that it is utterly impossible for it to be applied to this Clause. That is what I want to do and what I have the right to do.
I would like to raise a point which I am sure has not been touched upon. I have been here all the time and I have heard no reference to it, and I do not think it would have been in Order to have raised it on any of the Amendments. I want to refer to the position of certain schools which were formerly on the direct grant list. Many of them wish to be restored to that list. In 1922 Circular No. 1259 was issued by the Board of Education and the effect of it was that schools in the future might draw their grant directly from the Board, or indirectly from the local education authority, but not from both.
Is not this a question of classification, because the Clause provides that auxiliary schools may be of three classes? My contention is that schools which, under the Clause as it stands, would come in one of these three classes, and indeed can be so made by order of the President, may wish to become schools of a different category altogether, and I hope you will allow me to argue that point. In the circular which has governed the position since 1922 the Board said the position they felt bound to establish was one under which either substantive grants or deficiency grants, but not both, would be paid in respect of the same school.
On a point of Order. This is an extremely important question. I do not question your Ruling, Major Milner, as to whether it comes on this Clause, and I am not sure whether the Fleming Committee has reported on the question, but it has, somehow, to be brought into the scope of the discussion. Could we have your guidance whether it cannot be discussed before Clause 95? If we are only going to discuss the financial end of it, we shall be cut short.
I am not proposing to discuss the whole question of direct grants to schools. I am merely raising the question whether or not certain schools which were formerly on the direct grant list, ought to have a right to revert to that list. It is a relatively narrow point.
Perhaps I could help. To do him justice, my hon. Friend mentioned this matter to me and, after hearing him, I realised that this is not the appropriate place to give him a proper answer. Further, I have not the whole of the material necessary to give him a full answer. Frankly, I do not think it arises on this Clause. When we consider the grants Clauses we shall be able to give him an answer, and it may be possible to raise the matter when we are considering the secondary schools, on what is almost the next Clause. I do not want to avoid the issue, because there is a great deal of interest in it in the country. I should like to give a considered answer and I suggest that we postpone the subject to another occasion, on the understanding that the Government gives an answer.
Though I was not in the Chair I have heard what has taken place. I think this is one of those occasions on which probably the Committee would wish that the discussion, which is on a narrow point as far as the hon. Member has raised it, should come in on a later occasion and not now. If the Committee is agreeable to that, although I cannot pledge myself, I think that it will be almost certain that a full discussion could come later at a more appropriate place.
I agree with your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but I am disturbed by what the President has said that he is coming to the House with a decision on this matter. I hope he will hear what hon. Members have to say first.
It is not a question of a decision. What is wanted first is information on what happened a good many years ago when a choice was given. That is the first point about which the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) is concerned. I do not think that the hon. Member need worry that there has been any precipitous decision. I would like to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say.
In my submission what I was saying was in Order, but at the same time, as my right hon. Friend says that he is not at the moment prepared to give a full reply, I think it will be commonsense to leave the matter to a later stage.
The Parliamentary Secretary has promised to examine possible ambiguities in the wording of the Clause. There is a further ambiguity to which I want to call attention, but it is essential that we should pass this Clause to-day and, therefore, I will speak to him afterwards rather than take up his valuable time now.
Sub-section (4) of Clause 14 says:
If at any time the managers or governors of an aided school or a special agreement school are unable or unwilling to carry out their obligations under paragraph (a) of the last foregoing Subsection it shall be their duty to apply to the Minister for an order revoking the order.…
I suggest to the President that this is a very unfair and invidious position in which to put managers who, in spite of their efforts, find that they cannot carry on.
Judging by the hon. and gallant Member's approach to the subject, he was not present during the discussion when we went through the question from the point of view of the managers and when the Government offered reconsideration. Although the hon. and gallant Member may want to pursue it, it might be desirable if he read what was said.
I was only drawing attention to the fact that some of us thought that the Minister's decision in the matter was not quite satisfactory, and I was going to develop that in another two minutes, but in view of what you have said, Mr. Williams, I will leave it at that.