I beg to move, in page 44, line 18, to leave out from "and," to the end of the Clause, and to insert:
any transport provided in pursuance of such arrangements shall be provided free of charge.
(2) A local education authority may pay the reasonable travelling expenses of any pupil in attendance at any school or young people's college or at any such course or class as aforesaid for whose transport no arrangements are made under this section.
This reconsideration of Clause 53 is also inserted to meet points put forward during the Committee stage. At that time it was thought that a rather simpler Amendment to the Clause would meet some of the anxieties expressed by not only those who are interested in the matter from the local education authority angle, but from those who are interested in it from the angle of certain denominations, in particular, in respect of children, attached to those denominations, who may be scattered over sparsely populated districts. We have by this fairly complete redrafting of part of the Clause tried to meet the desires of Members who spoke on the previous occasion. The redrafting of what amounts now to the first part of the Sub-section of the Clause makes it clear that any transport provided in pursuance of arrangements described in the first part of the Clause, and over which the Minister may be said to have general supervision, should be provided free. That, I think, will go a very long way to meet the anxieties which have been expressed. The second Subsection of the Clause is included for the purpose of making it possible for the local education authority to pay reasonable travelling expenses to any pupil in attendance at the places described in the Subsection. The reason for that is that it was not clear, in the original Clause, that it would be possible for the local education authority to pay for bus, fares or to provide aid towards transport that might be described as coming under the general transport system, or aid in any other way towards getting children to school. We have, therefore, thought it wise to insert that other aspect in the Clause, which is a slightly different aspect from that in the other Sub-section.
There have been suggestions that we should further amend the Clause in certain respects, for example, that we should make it obligatory for children to be brought to school by the aid of the local education authority if they live half a mile away from school. We cannot undertake such a drastic change in present circumstances as that, nor could I make it any clearer that it is our desire that children belonging to a particular denomination should go to a school of that denomination. That is the whole object of that Clause. It is our desire that the wishes of the parents shall be carried out so far as is possible and with the provision in this Clause of Sub-section (1), bringing in, as it does, the Minister, if necessary, and by the addition of the refinement of the opportunity of the local education authority to pay expenses on any public conveyance and in other ways, together with my assurance that children should go to the school of their own denomination, we think that we have met the requests which have been put forward during the Committee stage. I am much obliged to the Committee for enabling us to strengthen the Clause in this manner.
As I moved the original Amendment during the Committee stage I would like to observe that the word "may," instead of "shall," still remains. The local education authority may say that they are under no obligation to carry out the wishes of the Minister, and I would like to be certain that the Minister is entirely satisfied that the Clause, as it is at present drafted, will make it obligatory on local education authorities to give effect to the wishes which my right hon. friend has enunciated to-day.
Will the Minister make it clear whether the words, "of any pupil," in Sub-section (2) include local authorities who are in charge of pupils, because it is a very important point? A certain amount of liability rests on the authority and where it is necessary to maintain discipline during transit will those in charge have the opportunity of having free transport at the same time?
On behalf of my hon. friends and myself I would like to say how grateful we are to the Minister for the alteration that he has made. If I may say so, with respect, my hon. and gallant friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans) seems to have misread the second part of the Amendment. The word, "shall," does stand in the first part of the Clause, and it is obligatory on local education authorities that they shall pay. We are also very grateful to the Minister for his intention that children shall be conveyed to the right schools. But the Clause does not necessarily say so and unless we are to take it that all through the Bill all schools are to be governed by the earlier Clause which says that due regard shall be paid to the wishes of the parents then it would seem to some of us that something more specific ought to be put into the Clause.
I want to know if there will be some indication in this Sub-section of the Clause, dealing with the local education authorities and the payment of travelling expenses, whether there is to be some distance limitation. The first part of the Clause deals with people in country districts where distances are greater, but what is to be the position of the teeming populations of the towns? I take it that it is the intention of the Minister that where children travel two or three miles to school, travelling expenses ought to be paid by the local authority.
I do not think I can improve on the Ministerial utterances of my hon. Friend and I am very much obliged to him for his assistance. I cannot give a general undertaking on the question of crowded cities and children being carried to particular schools, but I would refer my hon. Friend to the Amendment made to a previous Clause by which Authorities must have regard to the wishes of the parents. It is the intention of the Government that children should be carried, either under what may amount to a form of public transport services—and this is dealt with in the first part of the Clause—or that generally the matter shall be decided in an intelligent manner where other transport services are used, and this is dealt with in the second Sub-section of the Clause. It is all for the purposes of enabling children to attend schools which are suited to the beliefs and desires of their parents. I can give a definite undertaking about that. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), whether those attending and accompanying children to school can be paid for under this Clause, I am advised that that is the case. The position is that where children come a long way by bus and their parents have often thought it better to come with the children and travel with them, then district sub-committees have been permitted to pay for this and that matter is in the Bill.