§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
I beg to move, in page 79, line 5, to leave out "Joint Education Boards," and to insert:
§ "Local Education Authorities.
§ (1) The council of any borough (not being a county borough) or any urban district may claim, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, and in any case not later than six months before the commencement of Part II of this Act, to be the local education authority for such borough or urban district. The Minister shall consider such claims and shall, if the council of the county within which such borough or urban district is situated do not object to such claim, or if it appears to him that the local administration of education will be no less efficient if effect is given thereto, by order constitute the council of such borough or district the local education authority for such borough or district. The Minister before giving his decision on any such claim, may (and shall if such borough or district has a population of not less than forty thousand according to the registrar-general's estimate for nineteen hundred and thirty-eight or is a borough or urban district of which immediately before the date of the commencement of Part II of this Act the council was a local education authority for the purposes of elementary education, and if he is required so to do by the council of such borough or district) cause a local inquiry to be held under section 2030 eighty-six of this Act with respect to such claim and shall take into consideration the evidence given at such inquiry and the report of the inspector or other person holding the same."
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
On a point of Order. I wish to submit that this Amendment is not in Order. We have passed in Clause 6 this specific provision:Subject to the provisions of Part I of the First Schedule to this Act, the local education authority for each county shall be the council of the county, and the local education authority for each county borough shall be the council of the county borough.That lays down in specific terms that there can be only two local education authorities, the council of a county or the council of a county borough. It is true that in the Clause there are the words: "subject to the provisions of Part 1 of the First Schedule." That, of course, enables the Schedule to qualify the provisions that follow. Therefore, it is right that in the Schedule we should find provisions which constitute joint education authorities, that is, the putting together of two education authorities as defined in the Clause. It is perfectly right that, within the terms of those words "subject to the provisions of the Schedule," we should find provisions for delegating some of the authority of local education authorities by the creation of districts and so forth. They are comprehended within the words "subject to the provisions of the Schedule"; but in my submission there cannot be comprehended within them a possibility of, in fact, repealing in the Schedule the specific provisions of Sub-section (1) of Clause 6, which limits local education authorities to The council of a county or the council of a county borough. I have examined the Amendment and it does in terms say that in certain circumstances other bodies shall be local education authorities.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
It may, of course, be the opinion of the hon. and learned Member that this Amendment is not in Order, but in actual fact it has been selected as being in Order. It is for the Chair to decide that point.
§ Mr. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
Does the fact, Mr. Williams, that you have selected this Amendment mean that the Amendment preceding it upon the 2031 Order Paper and the others which follow that one are deemed to be out of Older and will have no consideration?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No. The Chair is given the power of selection, but because it does not select an Amendment that does not necessarily mean that that Amendment is out of Order.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
It is a remarkable fact that although the proceedings on this Bill have lasted for something like 20 days the Amendment which I have moved actually presents the Committee with the first opportunity it has had to consider the case of the local authorities. Throughout our Debates there have been veiled suggestions and dark hints that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board was about to encounter the most obstinate obstruction from a number of small but reactionary local authorities. There have been references to municipal trappings, and promises to come to his support if it was necessary to rescue him from the dragon of municipal opposition. Nothing could be further from the truth than that, and now that at last we have an opportunity to state the case of the local authorities it will be found that they are, in fact, supporters and, if I may say so, enthusiastic upholders of my right hon. Friend and the administrative schemes incorporated in this Bill.
This Amendment, which stands in the names of about 70 of my hon. Friends, is, in fact, conceived within the administrative framework of the Bill. Let no Member of the Committee suppose that by supporting this Amendment he will upset in any fashion the administrative arrangements which my right hon. Friend contemplates. The Bill proposes that there shall be within each area a single, unified, all-purpose authority administering all branches of education. With that proposal the local authorities are in entire agreement. Whatever may have been the merits of the present system of divided responsibility in days gone by, it is plain that that system will not meet the requirements of to-day, and as far as I understand it nobody contends now that it should. Therefore, my right hon. Friend in this Bill seeks to ensure that in the future administration should be in the hands of larger units better equipped to undertake the extended responsibilities which this Bill will place upon them.
2032 If my right hon. Friend had consistently pursued that object probably the local authorities would have had very little to say. But our criticism is directed to the fact that my right hon. Friend has apparently failed to do that. He has selected county councils and county borough councils as his units of administration, and by so doing he has shut out all other authorities into the outer darkness of delegated responsibility.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The result of what my right hon. Friend proposes will be that between the county councils and the county borough councils on the one hand and the county district councils on the other hand there is to be fixed a great and impassable gulf. This Amendment proposes that instead of drawing a fixed line of demarcation between the county councils and the county borough councils on the one hand and the county district councils on the other hand my right hon. Friend should investigate the local circumstances of each local authority which regards itself as capable of exercising the full, extended responsibilities of a local education authority under this Bill. We are asking that those authorities who consider that they are capable of undertaking those extended responsibilities should have the right, at the stage when the scheme of divisional administration is being made, to claim to be the local education authority within their area, and that my right hon. Friend should then determine whether the county district authority in a particular place should be the local education authority for that place or whether responsibility is to be vested in the county council.
Unless something of that sort is done the result will be that a number of large authorities who have a good record as local education authorities, who have completed reorganisation and are, in fact, administering an education service comparable to the service administered by county councils and county borough councils, will be excluded from direct responsibility for the administration of education merely because they have never reached the status of county boroughs.
The position to-day with regard to county boroughs is altogether anomalous. The reason for that is that the Local 2033 Government Act, 1888, by which county boroughs were brought into existence, has never been carried out in the manner in which it was originally intended that it should be. Successive Ministers of Health have advised Parliamentary Committees against the formation of new county boroughs. The result has been that we now have non-county boroughs which are much larger and possessed of much greater resources than many existing county boroughs which were constituted county boroughs under the original Local Government Act. There are 12 county boroughs with a population of less than 60,000, which is the figure which my right hon. Friend has selected as the optimum population size for an administrative unit in education. There are 21 county boroughs with a population of less than 70,000. Under this Bill all those county boroughs will be local education authorities for all branches of the educational service. The position with regard to county councils is almost as anomalous. There are five English counties with a population of less than 60,000, and six Welsh counties with a population of less than 60,000. These county councils will be retained as local education authorities either alone or as members of a Joint Board. There are 17 non-county boroughs having a population exceeding 75,000; 12 of them have populations exceeding 100,000.
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)
Would the hon. and learned Member tell us whether he is quoting pre-war figures, or whether they take into account transferences of population due to war and other conditions?
§ Mr. Hutchinson
They are the last census figures, but my hon. Friend may rest assured that the position is substantially the same to-day as it was when the census was taken. There may be a little difference one way or the other, but there is no substantial difference.
Take the case of the non-county borough which I represent in this House. Ilford has a population of over 180,000 people. The borough is fully reorganised. It employs a director of education with full professional qualifications, yet under this Bill the borough council will cease to be the local education authority. The responsibility for the education service will be transferred to the county 2034 council. It is true that my right hon. Friend has gone a long way to meeting us by constituting excepted districts, but they are only agents. We maintain that large authorities should be given full responsibility for education under this Bill. This artificial differentiation between the county borough and the non-county borough, is, I suggest to the Committee, one of the major anomalies of our local government system. This Bill accepts it, indeed, not only accepts it, but perpetuates it. There is no reason why it should. We invite my right hon. Friend to examine the circumstances of any authority which regards itself as able to undertake the important responsibility of a local education authority, and decide, as a result of that examination, whether a more efficient service can be provided by transferring responsibility to the county council, or by the authority itself retaining it.
What we are really inviting my right hon. Friend to do is to accept the principle that an authority which is neither a county council nor a county borough council, can, in fact, be a local education authority. If my right hon. Friend will accept that principle, we are quite prepared to leave ourselves in his hands. We are only asking in this Amendment that that principle shall be accepted, and then we are quite ready to agree that my right hon. Friend should be the person to decide in each particular district which authority is likely to give the most efficient service.
My right hon. Friend may say that these county district authorities have not the experience which the county and county borough authorities lave. But, in fact, the education service which many of these authorities are administering to-day bas ceased to be elementary education, in the sense in which that expression was once regarded. Many of these authorities, as I say, are fully re-organised; they have established their central and modern schools and their senior schools. They can afford to employ, and they do employ, officers possessed of adequate professional qualifications and they have provided buildings which are, in every way, equal to their purpose and equal, or superior to, those at the disposal of many of the higher education authorities.
What is, perhaps, of even greater importance is this. These authorities have 2035 attracted an energetic and public-spirited type of elected representatives who display the most active and untiring interest in the administration of education in their particular neighbourhood. I would suggest to the Committee that this is something which ought not to be lightly thrown away. It is, I suggest, a valuable factor in the efficient administration of education in this land, and not one which ought, without due consideration, to be put on one side. Unless the full responsibility of these authorities is retained, I suggest to the Committee that you are not going to get that interest and energy which the local elected representative has brought to bear upon the administration of the existing system. In this Amendment we have not selected any particular figure of population—
§ Mr. Hutchinson
We have not selected a particular figure of population, and there is a very good reason why that has been done. When you turn to examine local conditions, it becomes evident that there are some comparatively small authorities which, owing to the special circumstances in which they are placed, would be fully capable of discharging the extended responsibility of local education authorities under this Bill, whereas, on the other hand, there may be some much larger authorities which could not be withdrawn from the county administration without prejudicing the efficiency of the administration within the county. Therefore, we have left it to my right hon. Friend to examine the circumstances of each particular neighbourhood and to decide, as a result of that examination, whether a more efficient service can be given by one authority or by another. All we are asking is that, if the authority has a population of not less than 40,000, or is an existing Part III authority, before my right hon. Friend gives his decision he should hold a local inquiry into its claim.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I think the Amendment itself is quite clear. If the hon. 2036 Member finds any difficulty in understanding it, I am quite prepared to explain it again.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think I should be prepared to allow the hon. and learned Member to explain his Amendment a second time.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
My right hon. Friend may be going to say: "This Amendment may expose me to a large number of frivolous claims and to a very large number of local inquiries." But I think we must assume that the local authorities are going to act reasonably in this matter, and that the local authority, which is clearly unable to undertake the extended burdens placed upon it by this Bill, is not going to claim to be the local education authority. But, if it does, I see no reason why there should be delay in bringing this Bill into operation by reason of that claim. Local authorities have to make their claims six months before Part II of the Bill comes into operation. My right hon. Friend has, in any case, to consider, before he approves the scheme of the divisional administration, all the local circumstances. I suggest to him, that it will not take him any longer to consider whether the county district is a better local educational authority than the county council, than it will to determine the scheme of divisional administration. The local inquiries may be another matter, but, after all, there are to be six months within which to hold these inquiries, and, if the claim is a frivolous one, I assume it is not going to take the Board's inspector long to deal with it. If it is not a frivolous claim, then it is certainly one that ought to be investigated. We shall not gain anything, by avoiding something which appears to cause delay.
This Amendment cannot, in my submission, do otherwise than promote the efficiency of the administration of this Bill, because its ultimate result will be that the Minister will be required to examine local conditions and to say which of the different authorities is capable of giving the most efficient service. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will see his way to meet us on this Amendment. I hope that by that just and generous gesture of which we know him to be capable, he will throw open to us, as well, the gates of Valhalla and allow 2037 some of us to occupy that place among the immortals which we feel that we fully deserve.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I had hoped that the special Amendments placed on the Order Paper in my name and in those of certain of my hon. Friends would receive separate consideration. I now find myself in the position of being compelled to state my case on an Amendment with which, perhaps, I would not fully agree. I hope that in stating my case before the Committee to-day and before the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, I shall carry some measure of conviction as to the right of the Rhondda to receive special consideration.
For some time past there has been considerable discussion, and much speculation in this country regarding reconstruction. A number of questions have been raised, and among them was the question of the future of local government. There has been a good deal of speculation about what should be the unit of administration for local government purposes. I think hon. Members will agree that we are suffering considerable disadvantage in discussing this Bill without knowing the Government's intention about local government. Seemingly, we are to have this matter sprung upon the House, piecemeal, by a series of separate proposals, each being negative in character, with regard to the effect upon local government. This Bill proceeds to wipe out a very large number of authorities. Why, no one is told. No hint is given of the special principle governing the decision of the Government, and one is justified in looking into the future.
The White Paper with regard to the future of the health service has already been published and distributed and there the same thing is in operation. Who is not to administer health is already decided and, in turn, the question arises, who is not to administer education? We shall find ourselves with some kind of local government bodies left in existence who are deemed to be fitted for their several tasks, but why they should be so deemed, no one in this country can possibly judge. That is the position we are left in, and it places hon. Members, generally, at a considerable disadvantage. In this Bill, seemingly, only two kinds of local government bodies are deemed to be proper and efficient for the task of education.
2038 A county borough with a population of 5,000 would be deemed, for some reason or other, to be an efficient body for Education purposes, either as an independent education authority or jointly with others, but, for same reason, an urban council with a population of 250,000 is deemed to be entirely inefficient and unfit for the responsibility of administering education. Why? The Committee are entitled to demand from the Government some statement of principle and reason that will determine the basis of local government administration for the future. No reason is advanced at all, but there must be some principle. The Government ought to be asked. There should be insistence upon the point. The House ought to be brought into the confidence of the Government with regard to this matter, for the future. The result, under the Bill, is that one half of the existing local authorities are eliminated. There are 146 administrative counties and county boroughs, but there are 169 boroughs and urban councils completely eliminated, or more than half of the existing local government bodies of the country.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
On a point of Order. I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I should like some guidance as to how wide the Debate is to be. I want to know whether I shall be in Order in following the hon. Member in the scope of his argument. I have not yet been able to trace in his speech any reference to the Amendment. If the Debate is to be spread over such a wide area as the reform of local government, I wish to know how far I can go.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It was loped that by selecting this Amendment we could have a reasonably wide discussion to cover the point, but I think I should be expressing the wish of the Committee as a whole in hoping that hon. Members will not go too wide. The Debate must be kept within reasonable limits. I suggest to the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) that he is stretching to the full my desire that he should not go too wide.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I hope I shall not trespass too far upon your leniency, Mr. Williams. I want to emphasise that no reason whatever has been given to us for this distinction that is being made among the local government bodies of the country. I am particularly interested in 2039 this question, because the Rhondda, the district which I represent, has been a local education authority in the full sense of the Bill for a very long time past, for all purposes. It naturally has a desire that it should be retained in that position now instead, as is purposed in the Bill at present, of being relegated to the outer darkness, to which the hon. Member who preceded me referred.
By agreement with the administrative county of Glamorgan, the Rhondda has for 40 years been its own education authority. The present agreement actually dates from 1920 and it leaves the Rhondda complete control of primary and further education. In one respect only does the Rhondda, itself an urban district, differ from county boroughs and county authorities in the country and that is that technically, under the existing Education Act, the administrative county of Glamorgan is the financial authority. Thus the Rhondda, despite its very friendly agreement with the county, with which complete harmony exists throughout, is bound to go through the farce of sending its financial figures, estimates and so on, to the county hall in Cardiff, so that Cardiff may send them to the Board of Education in London. That is the only piece of fiction the Rhondda has to carry out in order to operate the full authority of an education authority.
§ Sir Joseph Nall (Manchester, Hulme)
Is the hon. Member quite sure that the rates raised in the Rhondda pay the whole of the Rhondda's bills?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
Exactly as they would in any other authority in the country. That is not questioned anywhere. In fact, I may say that on no occasion have Glamorgan county council ventured to criticise or supervise any figure submitted to it by the Rhondda authority. At all times the county council have been perfectly satisfied to accept them all the way through. Except in that technical sense, the Rhondda has been a Part II authority for all these years. In that regard, the Rhondda is without parallel. It is the only authority of its kind. That is why we ventured to put down the special Amendment dealing with the Rhondda in that sense. A much more important point is that it is the only authority responsible for further education that is now threatened with extinc- 2040 tion. It is the only authority in the country that is being deprived of anything by the Bill. The Amendment seeks to obtain powers for the Part III authorities, but in our case it is otherwise. We seek to protect that which we now have. We are, therefore, placed in a position very different from that of any of the other authorities.
I hope the Minister will be disposed to consider the Rhondda's case, even though he fails to deal with the Part III authorities. There are other Part III authorities with a greater population than the Rhondda, and they should receive the same consideration as to whether they are competent bodies to administer powers that are now talked about. The last speaker mentioned certain figures. As a matter of fact, the Rhondda has a larger population than 10 out of the 13 counties of Wales and Monmouthshire and than seven administrative county authorities in England. It is the third largest community in Wales. It is larger than two of our county boroughs and there are only four of them in Wales. It is larger than 45 county boroughs in England. It has been an authority itself for nearly 40 years. Therefore, it is being very unjustly dealt with by the provisions in the Bill. It has a population greater than any three boroughs and urban councils that can be found in Wales. It is now deemed incompetent. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. If we are not deemed incompetent we would be included among the authorities regarded as competent bodies for the future.
During the last 25 years, the Rhondda has built itself up the honourable position of being the fifth authority in the country, in relation to the provision made by itself for educational purposes. Quite recently, I put a question to the President of the Board of Education, and his reply was that we are ranked as the fifth authority in this country in terms of progress. At the beginning, Rhondda had two intermediate schools, but it now has six schools. It has a technical school and were it not for the war there would be a new school erected. It has two subsidiary mining schools. In school feeding, upon which so much necessary stress is placed in the Bill, the Rhondda has been referred to in the House of Commons as a model, and the pioneer authority in this matter. At the present time, we are rapidly approaching the point of feeding 15,000 school children 2041 per day. We have five school clinics and, in addition to the medical officer for the district, there are five assistant medical officers attending schools. There are 20 health visitors and nurses. This authority can well pride itself and challenge comparison with any authority in the country. It has given full proof of its ability to carry out any policy that may be outlined in this country for education. It has a school population of well over 20,000. There are 20,000 in the primary schools alone and nearly 3,000 in its secondary schools. It has a mining organiser for special mining technical work, two physical training organizers—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I desire to be as lenient as possible in curbing discussion, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to go at such great length into one individual case. If all hon. Members were to do that, it would be extremely difficult to make any progress with the Debate.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, the hon. Gentleman is not compelled to do it. I have tried to meet him, but he must remember that there are Rules of Order for this Committee which must come first, and I am asking him to keep to those Rules of Order.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I will obey you at once, Mr. Williams, if only for the reason that I am compelled not to say these things at the moment. The position is that the Rhondda, having performed these services, is threatened with being left like an oasis in the big county of Glamorgan, with a far higher standard of service in its own little unit than can be provided by the county authorities themselves. What will be the result now? On the one side, the Rhondda is to be merged into the county of Glamorgan. Glamorgan will be taxed at a higher level than now in order to maintain a far higher standard of service inside the Rhondda. Is it conceivable that any county in England or Wales, burdened with an area like this, will spend still further money on progress in a specially privileged area?
Let me give an example. Great stress is laid upon the importance of making provision for the youth of the future. The Rhondda has already been compelled to 2042 pay attention to this matter and its position has already been registered by the authorities, who say that there shall be constructed, at as early a date as possible, a youth centre in each of the II wards of the area. Is it likely that the county of Glamorgan will do this work? Is it likely that any county in Britain could embark upon such a policy in similar circumstances? It is the object of the Bill, but is it likely that a rural population would be taxed in order to provide special facilities in one area within a county? It is extremely unlikely and unfair. Why should they be taxed for it? The Rhondda has demonstrated its power to organise its own services and it is exceedingly jealous of what it has done. It is anxious for the opportunity to develop those services further and is looking with considerable apprehension into the future to know whether it will be able to continue on the same path of educational progress.
On every hand they can see themselves hemmed in, and they will have for the next 25 years a policy of "wait" until other surrounding districts have been raised to their level. For Rhondda there is nothing at all in it. To say this to a body of people, a large population who have striven so hard to educate themselves and their children, to tell them now that the powers they have wielded so far are to be ruthlessy taken away from them, is not merely unjust, it is positively cruel. Those people for 25 years have lived in this atmosphere of better and greater education for their children. Rhondda has for 25 years not only exported coal but exported hundreds of school teachers into England, and well they know it, as they have taken jobs that otherwise would be available for English people because they have been better trained. This Bill means that everything they have done in the past is to be taken from them. I do not wish to say that Rhondda alone should have these things—any place similar to Rhondda in power, population and so on ought to be similarly empowered to carry on this work—but I urge upon my right hon. Friend to give to Rhondda special consideration for the reasons I have enumerated.
§ Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)
The hon. Gentleman, in his eloquent appeal for Rhondda, has at any rate given substantial evidence in support of the prin- 2043 ciple which is embodied in the Amendment. I hope we shall not be tempted to follow his example by enlarging on the respective merits of our individual constituencies. If we do that we may incur not only the displeasure of the Chair but we may provide my right hon. Friend with quite good reasons why it might not be possible for him to comply with all the wishes we may put forward for our respective constituencies. I do not intend on this occasion at any rate to bring forward any special plea for my own constituency. What I wish to do is to underline the general case presented, I think so fairly and fully, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson). Some hon. Members seem to take the view, that some of these Part III authorities are no longer capable of carrying out their duties. They seem to suggest that the duties for which these Part III authorities have been responsible in the past have not been carried out satisfactorily. That is not the view of those who are well versed in the work they have done nor, I venture to suggest, the view of the President of the Board of Education himself. I am sure that the President has a high regard for the work which has been done by people who would not perhaps like to be called education experts, but who deserve to be called education enthusiasts, and who have given a great deal of personal time and sacrifice in the work they have done for education.
What is it that is really objected to by some of these Part III authorities? I think probably it is that most of them have performed public service for many years and then suddenly they are politely told that as education authorities they are to cease to exist, with not so much as "Thank you" for their past service. Not only do they cease to exist as education authorities but they have not a right, which I think common fairness suggests, and which is embodied in this Amendment, of stating their case. What the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) has said is prima facie evidence not only of his case but of the type of case which ought to be considered. There are, he said in his closing sentences, many other cases of a similar nature. It is not surprising that these people, who have rendered excellent service in the past, should feel rather resentful that their services are to be dispensed 2044 with. I hope that the President may find means, not necessarily in the exact terms of the Amendment, of utilising the services of these people who for many years past have rendered great service. In this matter I am prepared to make efficiency the test. I think efficiency is the thing that matters rather than any arbitrary or artificial boundary which suggests that because a place is in a particular geographical position or enjoying a particular nomenclature it is able to do a job efficiently. I am also suspicious of the idea that only large units can carry out the duties which this Bill imposes. I think it is a fallacious argument that only a large unit can do the work to be imposed effectively and efficiently. I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the Amendment in the terms it lays down, that is on the ground of efficiency. These authorities should have their case examined.
Is it an unreasonable thing to say, when this House has depended so much on the administrative work of these local authorities, that when certain work is to be taken away from them and handed to someone else, they should have an opportunity of stating their case? I hope my right hon. Friend will not put up as part of his defence that it will mean holding a good many inquiries, which will subject his Department to inconvenience. I do not think that will be a good defence. I think it is work which will be worth while. I repeat that I base the claim solely on the ground of efficiency. I think the Amendment makes that perfectly clear. It leaves power to the Minister to decide, after holding an inquiry, whether these non-county borough and urban district councils who are making a claim shall in the future be regarded as the responsible local education authorities.
Many other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will cut short what I intended to say and read an extract from a letter which I think states the general position. It is not a letter from my own division. I will not even mention the name of the authority, but I think it states fairly well the general case of existing local educational authorities. Written to me, it says:It is not the intention to question the main proposals to improve education but the proposals relating to the form of local administration are regarded by those most experienced in this work with consternation and alarm.2045This Non-County Borough with a 1939 population of over 60,000 but a 1931 population (before the extension of the Borough) of 45,000 is a Part III authority and the Local Authority also has experience of administering higher education. The School Medical Service is completely linked with its public health services and administered through the same Medical Officer of Health, health visitors and school nurses and administrative staff.The Town Council believe that higher and elementary education under the School Medical Service is being administered locally in accordance with the highest standards throughout the country, and they protest against the County Council with its administrative centre 30 miles away being made the education and the school medical authority for this Borough.The proposal to empower the County Council to institute divisional executives under its financial control and served and staffed by its employees is an unsatisfactory way of preserving local administration.I think that broadly states the case for local authorities, and that it lays down a point of view which is worthy of consideration. The importance of a proposal of the kind in the Bill has a much wider significance than its application to this Education Bill. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me referred to the fact that in a White Paper the same kind of artificial differentiation has been made with regard to the proposed comprehensive medical service. This matter is, I think, of great importance, because for the first time in our reconstruction legislation we are laying down a principle which, as presented in this Bill, will cause great disturbance, and in my view will not result in the greatest efficiency in the administration of a service we all wish to see administered with the maximum degree of efficiency and effectiveness.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)
I do not wish to intervene for more than a few minutes. I would like to say that I am lost in admiration for the enthusiasm displayed, genuine enthusiasm, for retaining that civic interest, that local patriotism, which is all to be encouraged. There is a suggestion that in these days the public are not interested in local government. It is right and proper that their elected representatives should come here and champion the cause of the districts they represent. I think that the arguments that have been put up indicate the need for an inquiry into the whole system of local government. Many of us have pleaded for it, whether in the form of a Royal Commission or by Parliamentary inquiry, I am 2046 not inclined to say. At the moment the Government are inclined to resist such a proposal.
I feel compelled to support the President of the Board of Education in what is an essential feature of this Bill, that Part III authorities should go. I do not think we realise enough that we are changing, in this Bill, the whole idea of elementary education, and we are putting in its place, first, primary education, followed by secondary education. If we are to justify secondary education for all, a popular phrase, but very often misinterpreted, we must have variety of schools and variety of opportunities. We must have the modern school on the one hand, the grammar school on the other, the academic system of education for those who have a literary bent, and on the other hand opportunities for technical education. The same, of course, applies, perhaps even more so, to the young people's colleges. We must have large areas if every child is to get not only in name, but in fact, equal opportunity. If they are to be tied down to small localities equal opportunity for all will not be a fact. In view of the fact that the President has shown his willingness to meet the champions of local patriotism I think we must support him.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Has the right hon. Gentleman realised that under the Government's proposals some of the smaller authorities would be retained, and some of the larger ones would not?
§ Sir P. Harris
I quite appreciate that, but that is a case for reform of local government. What I do like to see is the keenness and enthusiasm of men and women who retain their interest in education. Believe me, if this Bill is to work there will be ample opportunities as school managers, school governors and members of committees, for all men and women of good will to find scope for their enthusiasm and ability. Even more important than the interests of local authorities are the interests of the children. They must come first every time. If the child is to have that great opportunity which this Bill aims at providing, we must have large areas, so that there shall be variety of choice right through, from the top to the bottom, in the primary school, in the auxiliary school, in the technical school, and in the grammar school or modern school, as the case may be.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The right hon. Gentleman is really not doing justice to the Amendment. What we are asking the Minister to do is to decide in each area what authority can give the most efficient service, in the interests of the child.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
I would endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) said about the need to consider, above all, efficiency. But what kind of efficiency? We do not want a remote bureaucratic efficiency, situated 30, 40, or 50 miles away, entirely in the hands of officials, however admirable those officials may be. It must be a live efficiency, vitalised by close contact with the elected representatives of the people. I pointed out in my remarks on the original Clause that in the case of Lowestoft it meant a whole day's travelling, 45 miles there and 45 miles back, and that, therefore, we could not utilise the experience and keenness of local people, because they could not afford the time. We must somehow plan in our organisation for efficiency to use the experience and the keenness of local administrators, who have been carrying on this work for 20, 30, or 40 years. It would be a tragic thing to cast aside all that valuable knowledge, keenness, and experience, which we shall be unable to utilise if we centralise the administration 30 to 50 miles away.
The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), in a most interesting speech, referred to the fact that this Bill is taking away large powers from existing local authorities, and he pointed out that the White Paper on the National Health Service threatens the same sort of thing. This particular part of the Bill has aroused grave fears among local authorities, who feel that this is the beginning of their destruction, that bit by bit they are to be deprived of their powers—powers over education now, and powers over public health next—and that, as a result, we shall have devitalised local authorities, without any power. I ask my right hon. Friend to give the very moderate thing asked for in this Amendment: the right for these local authorities to ask the Minister to hear their case, the right to have an inquiry into their case. I know that my right hon. Friend is a classical scholar, and I would quote to him these words of Virgil "Rhadamanthus castigat, judicatque." He chastises, and then judges. All we ask is 2048 that he should judge first, before he carries out the execution, and judge with justice, on the basis of whether there has been efficient administration in the past.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage (Louth)
The urban districts which I know are entirely in favour of keeping the powers which they have. Before those powers are taken away, they would like to know the answers of my right hon. Friend to certain questions. In the first place, are there any complaints against the urban districts or the 'borough councils as the local education authorities? If there are such complaints, they can be ventilated at a public inquiry. Is it necessary that the urban districts should be included in the county districts in order to pay for bringing the county districts up to a condition of efficiency? That, also, is a matter for public inquiry. There is a great suspicion that the urban districts are so much more efficient that it is necessary to include them in the county areas in order to bring the county areas up to a state of efficiency. We pride ourselves on our system of local government. The reason for the excellence of that system is that we have given local responsibility. The local authorities are the training ground for our Parliamentary institutions. By taking powers away from them we shall lessen that sense of responsibility, and shatter the whole edifice of local government throughout the country.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) has said, there is a feeling that the local authorities' responsibilities are being gradually done away with. The result will be inefficiency. Is it necessary to take away from these efficient urban districts powers which they have been carrying out efficiently? I am sure it is not. Rhondda has been mentioned; it is, I think, the greatest urban district in the country, with a population of about 120,000. I beg the Minister to grant the concessions which are asked for in this Amendment, and to give the local authorities a chance of expressing their opinions. It will not upset the structure of the Bill if efficient local authorities are allowed to run education. That will build up interest in local government, which we all wish to promote. The more powers you take away the less interest people will take in local government; that is a thing which cannot be too strongly stressed.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I entirely agree with the Minister's view that Part III authorities ought to be abolished. There are, I believe, 169 of them, and I was very impressed, when representatives of Part III authorities spoke to Members of Parliament upstairs, by the fact that they admitted that at least 60 of the 169 would have to be done away with. They suggested that no possible case could be made out for those 60, and that the case they were making was only for the remaining 100. It is very invidious to distinguish between authorities so as to maintain 100 and to dispose altogether of the other 69. I would point out that efficiency does not depend upon numbers. I have the privilege of speaking for one of the smallest Part III authorities in the country. I represent a part of a country where the only Part III authority in North Wales functions. The town is a small one, with a population of 20,000 to 25,000 people. I have made inquiries, and everybody, from the Board of Education down, gives high praise to this small authority. Of course, its position, like that of all Part III authorities, is anomalous. The town is the commercial centre of a considerable district. The authority has control over primary education, but in the same town there are two first-class secondary schools and a technical college, and the authority has nothing to do with any of those institutions. If we really are going to get on, authorities that can supervise only a certain part of the public system of education ought to go out of action. But the decision ought not to be made entirely on population.
I do not know whether I shall be in Order in referring to this fact—I think references have already been made to it—that it is the intention of the Minister to associate these authorities, which have had a long experience, which have performed a fine piece of work, very intimately with the working of the new Act. Surrounding this small town is a very large industrial area, which has a population of 100,000 or 110,000. The town is the natural centre for all that area. I would humbly suggest that, in delegating powers to parts of the county, the Minister should consider the work that the Part III authority in this area has done, and that he should make it responsible for education for the whole of the industrial area surrounding the town. If I remember 2050 rightly, an attempt was made to delegate power under the Balfour Act, but I think these delegated powers, or, at any rate, the committees that were supposed to function under them, disappeared very shortly. If we could utilise the authorities which have had experience as Part III authorities, get them in, so to speak, on the ground floor, and not impose upon them something that the county councils want, more or less, to get rid of—if we could get them really associated with that experience in the working of this new Act, I think that the Part III authorities in that way could prove of very great service to the country.
§ Major Woolley (Spen Valley)
I do not think the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) can have understood the Amendment thoroughly. The hon. Member said that he thought it was wrong that an authority should exercise powers over elementary education but not over higher education. That is exactly what the Amendment provides against. It provides that certain authorities who are to be excluded under the Bill shall become local education authorities and 'have jurisdiction over both primary and secondary education. I think perhaps the hon. Member did not truly understand the implications of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Richards
I was referring to the position of things at the present time, not as they might be under the Amendment.
§ Major Woolley
I thought it was worth while to make it clear that this Amendment did not allow an authority to have jurisdiction over one type of education without having authority over another kind.
§ Major Woolley
Yes, entirely without regard to population, but on the basis of efficiency. The question of school population will be taken into consideration by the Minister when he gives consideration to the particular points we are making, and not only school population, but several other elements which he would take into consideration. They would therefore rest ultimately in the consideration of the Minister, who has all the information at his disposal. Many efficient authorities will have education taken away from them under the Bill. I think 2051 that is unjust, and I do not think it is in the best interests of the children, for whom the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) was pleading. Last week we had an unfortunate display. The President of the Board of Education resisted a certain Amendment. He resisted the Amendment because equal pay covered a wider field than merely that of education, and I would like to read what he said on that occasion:I must warn the Committee that this question of equal pay for equal work for teachers is obviously linked up with the national position and we cannot decide it absolutely in isolation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1944; col. 1368, Vol. 398.]I suggest that a very similar position obtains at this juncture. Here we have something which is affecting the whole structure of local government, and yet it is being introduced into an Education Bill, and I respectfully suggest to the President that he is, perhaps, a little inconsistent in this. He resisted the larger issue last week and said it was wrong to introduce that issue into an Education Bill, but now he is introducing into the Education Bill something which has a very much wider implication than that of merely education, and therefore I feel that that is a point worthy of his consideration. I am not going to make a special plea for my own local education authority. I suppose that the issue is wider than that. I feel, however, that it would be a great pity to lose the interest of so many people now serving on local education authorities, which I am sure will go if their authority is taken away from them. This tendency will be unfortunate, and I am sure that it is one which this Committee in general would choose to resist. Therefore, I hope that the President may see his way to accept the very reasonable Amendment which by hon. and learned Friend has moved.
§ Lieut.-Commander Tufnell (Cambridge)
I will not intervene for very long at this stage. I have already given my views on this particular matter of allocating local education authorities to certain boroughs or urban districts, and I still feel that the Government are doing the thing completely the wrong way round. Obviously, the right way is to take those authorities which are efficient to-day and work on them. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will very sympathetically con- 2052 sider this Amendment, which is going a long way to right that feeling of injustice and resentment which will pervade the boroughs and those non-county boroughs which will not be local education authorities. If authorities can make a thoroughly sound claim that they are efficient, can provide the staff and have the knowledge—which some of them have had for 40 or 50 years—surely, it would be the greatest pity to throw that knowledge away just because they do not happen to have reached the status of a county borough or a county council. Under the proposed scheme there will be the greatest anomalies and a feeling of injustice in the different boroughs which you cannot take away just by telling them "You can have that authority delegated to you by the higher authorities, such as the county authority," if, at the same time, you insist upon the financial control still remaining in the hands of that higher authority. If we give way on the financial side, the authority which has financial control is bound to demand from the authority to which it has delegated this power and which will have to carry it out, an assurance as to what staff is being provided. Not only that: there is a great feeling of wonderment about what is to happen in the future if the Government continue taking away powers from local authorities and making them feel they are not wanted. I hope the Minister will consider very seriously either this Amendment or something similar which will restore confidence to the local authorities.
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
In rising to support the Amendment, I do not propose to repeat all the arguments in favour of it, because they have been very clearly stated by the hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson). I propose to confine what I have to say to one point only—the point which was emphasised by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) Like him, I have been exceedingly concerned as to the prospect for the future of local government. We have been told that we are not to be given any opportunity of considering this question as a whole, but we are to consider it piecemeal. Today, it is in respect of education, the next time it may be in respect of police, and another time it may be in respect of fire brigades, and so on. There are, 2053 obviously, great advantages in considering this question piecemeal, but, if we have to act in this way we ought to be extremely careful, each time one of these proposals comes before us, to see that as little damage as need be is done to the very valuable structure of local government which we possess. That is really the strength of the case for this Amendment to-day—that no more damage than need be should be done to existing local government arrangements.
The President of the Board recognises for this purpose the county borough. I beg any hon. Members who represent county boroughs not to sit back in their seats and think "Oh well, we need not worry, we are all right!" because, next time it may be their turn. I appeal to hon. Members who represent county boroughs to help us to impress upon the Government that, when these various services come up for discussion, and when reforms are proposed, as little damage as need be shall be done to the existing structure of local government. I speak with some feeling on this matter, because I represent the authority of Colchester which, under these proposals, will lose its identity. I am broad-minded enough to say that, even if that were not so, I should still argue as I am doing to-day. I am concerned with the interests of local government as a whole. I want to make a constructive suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary, and to ask him if he will put this proposal to the President of the Board. This proposition we are discussing is really much wider than any mere question of education. It really concerns the question of local government as a whole, and I suggest that it might be well if the President would fortify himself by discussion with other Ministers who will be affected in respect of other services, notably the Minister of Health, to see whether, perhaps between now and the Report stage, they cannot come to some general understanding on what the attitude of the Government should be, for example, in regard to non-county boroughs in respect of those various local services in which reforms are from time to time suggested. I cannot see that there will be any harm in that.
If the Minister would do that, he might be able to put before us on the Report stage some modified proposal which would 2054 get over our difficulty. He has shown himself exceedingly willing to make inquiries and consult all sorts of people in connection with the Bill. I hope that he will show sufficient good will to adopt also this suggestion. We are now going into Recess and there will be some little delay before the Report stage is taken and there will be time for such inquiries to be made. I conclude by pressing the Parliamentary Secretary to put that suggestion before the President of the Board of Education.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
The speeches that have been delivered have been of very great interest to me and, no doubt, to other Members, particularly the speech of the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), and the speeches of the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards). With the last two I am in almost entire agreement, but I cannot say that I agree with perhaps the more interesting speech of the hon. Member for East Rhondda. I do not want to discuss it except to say that I think he made out an extremely good case why East Rhondda ought to have been a county borough. But East Rhondda, which appears to have been so efficient in other directions, does not appear to have availed itself of the opportunity that might have brought it into a position that would have enabled it to be an education authority under this Bill. The other point of that speech which struck me was the extraordinary generosity of the people of Rhondda. We were informed by the hon. Member that, if the Bill was passed in its present form, the County of Glamorgan, of which Rhondda would become a part, would have its education rate raised; and Rhondda wanted to save the county from that by retaining the privilege itself of having high rates. That may be the position in regard to Rhondda, but it is certainly not the position in regard to most authorities that are Part III authorities to-day, and it is not the position of most authorities which will become the authorities under the Bill.
§ Major Woolley
Would not the hon. Member agree that in many cases where the Part III authority levies the rate, the contribution that authority makes for higher education is less than the county council's standard rate?
§ Mr. McEntee
I agree on that, but we are not considering existing conditions but the conditions which will prevail if and when the Bill becomes law. The expenditure on the new foundations will be extremely heavy as compared with the expenditure under existing conditions. We are to have a wider and better system of education and as a consequence new buildings will be required, better trained teachers, and better equipment, in order to create a system of education infinitely better than that which we have at the present time. That is what we have to discuss in regard to the financial responsibilities of the authorities who will administer them in the future. Although I am speaking as a member representing a Part III authority in the county in which I live, I am entirely out of harmony with the great majority of that authority, in that they would accept the decision of the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment, while I am not prepared to accept it, and in that I am in a minority in my own town. It is not anything unusual for me to be in a minority. I have been in a minority all my life, but I form my own judgment of the future entirely from the point of view of whether it will be better for the children, and whether, in addition, it will be better for the people in the area in which I live, and in similar areas throughout the country.
I do not think that anybody would question that, as a consequence of the passing of this Bill, boroughs like my own, which are now Part III authorities, would have to shoulder, if they became the authority, a very much heavier financial responsibility than at the present time. The financial responsibility should be placed on the county and not on the smaller and poorer areas, which will have to bear the cost in the future when the Bill becomes the law. The Amendment asks for the postponement indefinitely of the bringing into effect of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
If the hon. Member will look at the Amendment he will see that a claim has to be made six months before Part II of the Act comes into operation.
§ Mr. McEntee
I know what the Amendment says and what it means, but I try to think how effect is to be given to it. Although it is six months before Part II comes into operation, it will be six years, 2056 or probably more than that, before effect can be given to the Amendment, if the Minister is prepared to accept it, and I hope that he is not prepared to do so. Anybody claiming to be an education authority can, if the county does not agree, come to the Minister and he may, if he so desires, hold an inquiry—and he must hold an inquiry if the population is over 40,000. That would undoubtedly lead to delay and to a lot of unnecessary trouble because, the Minister, I believe, has made up his mind what he is going to do and the holding of such an inquiry would have no effect, would be useless and would satisfy nobody. Nobody would be satisfied with the result of the inquiry.
I am arguing with regard to my own case again, and, despite the fact that I am not in harmony with my own people, I make the assertion that my own authority and similar authorities would be infinitely better under the new conditions than they are under the present. They are a good and an efficient Part III authority, but, under the Bill, they will become, in effect, not only a Part III authority, but a Part II authority. It is true that it will be delegated control. Is not all the control that we have to-day delegated? It is delegated by Parliament to Part III and Part II authorities through the Board of Education. In most cases the only difference will be that it will be delegated from Parliament through the Board of Education, through the county, to the local committees that will administer the Act within their areas. If the scheme submitted is not acceptable and they are not willing to delegate sufficient powers to Part III authorities and the area authorities, they have the right to appeal over the head of the county authorities to the Minister. I am sure that my own local authority, which is big enough to become an education authority within the meaning of the Bill, and other authorities similarly, will have benefits far greater than they have now. It is sheer nonsense to talk about authorities 50 or 60 miles away and to say that people do not want to have to go to a Part II authority. I am satisfied that the children will get a far better education than they do to-day and that the financial burden will be spread wider. Local authorities, such as my own, will have far greater power—though this will be delegated power—of administra- 2057 tion than they have had up to now, and it will be better for the local authority and for the children.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) asked what the Amendment proposes, and I will try to answer that question. The Amendment simply asks that Part III authorities should be given the right to state their claim.
§ Mr. Lipson
The Part III authorities are not asking that they should be given the right to be an education authority but that they should have the right to claim to be an authority, and the decision as to whether their claim is justified is to rest with the President of the Board of Education. That is a reasonable proposal. It shows a confidence in the President of the Board of Education and a willingness to abide by his decision. My hon. Friend said he agreed with the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards). I find it difficult to see why he did so, because the hon. Member for Wrexham said it would be invidious for the President of the Board of Education to decide to destroy some 6o Part III authorities and leave the other ro9. The hon. Member for Wrexham is prepared to agree that 169 authorities should go but he has a difficulty in agreeing that only 60 should go. That is a perfect example of somebody being prepared to swallow a camel and strain at a gnat.
It is also urged against the Amendment that the inquiries would involve a delay. I want to put this to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and ask him if he will submit it to his right hon. Friend. If that is held to be so, would he agree that what the President should decide when the claim has been put to him is whether there is a prima face case for an inquiry? If the President of the Board decides that there is a prima face case for an inquiry, let the inquiry be held, and if the President of the Board decides that there is not, then the Part III authority will accept the decision. That is a way of dealing with frivolous applications and a way in which undue delay can be avoided. It is not fair to Part III authorities to say that, in fighting for their continued survival, they are championing a vested interest. The members of Part III 2058 authorities are voluntary servants of the community. They give of their time, and what they ask is to continue to serve. It is not fair to charge them with trying to preserve a vested interest for their own sake. It is said there is a conflict between what they are asking—their continued survival—and the interests of the child. They say that it is in the interest of the education of the child that an efficient authority should continue to function.
We are not asking for the continuance in power of a single inefficient authority. All we ask is that those authorities which, by their record, have justified themselves on the scale of efficiency, should not be condemned to execution out of hand. That, I submit, is a perfectly reasonable thing. It is quite true, as has been urged during the discussion, that what is involved in these proposals is not purely an educational matter, but also the whole future of local government. You cannot put out of office 169 local educational authorities and say that this is not bound to have a serious repercussion on the whole structure of local government. Therefore, I urge most strongly that this Amendment should be given very serious consideration by my right hon. Friend because I believe it to be a most reasonable one. It is a claim which the local authorities concerned, in virtue of their past services to education, have the right to make, and one which I believe is in the interests of the children who are our principal concern in this matter.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
A number of arguments have been advanced in support of this Amendment which, to me, do not seem to be very good ones. For my part, if the case for the Amendment rested only on local patriotism, there would be no case for the Amendment at all. If it rested only on the claim that to accept the machinery of the Bill is to make a further inroad on the authority of local government, I think that would not make out a case for the Amendment either. Nor does it seem to me that a good case is made out for the Amendment merely by saying, "If you take away from the people powers they have been exercising with interest and diligence, then their interest will disappear and the State will lose the value of their diligence." For my part, I am prepared to keep out of the discussion every one of those claims, though, in their context, 2059 they would be important and would have to be faced. I entirely agree with what was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), that the only test was the interest of the child, and whether the major purposes of the Bill would be endangered or advanced, if the Amendment were accepted. On that ground, which I am sure is the ground on which the Government and every Member of the Committee approach the matter, I say that the case for this Amendment is made out, and I am prepared to throw out of the scale all the adventitious small points that have been introduced in the Debate. I am prepared to base the case for the Amendment on that ground.
What does the Bill do? What kind of test does it apply as to whether an authority, that admittedly has been doing a good job and has been carrying out the purposes of the Bill already for so long—on what test do the Government propose that the exercise of those functions shall come to an end? As I understand the matter, they apply two tests which have no connection with one another, which logically do not belong to one another at all, and neither of which seems to have anything whatever to do with the matter. One is: Are you a county borough or not? What in the world does that matter? This is one of the tests applied in the Bill but, really, what does it matter whether you are a county borough or not? The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) made a comment on the speech of the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring). Apparently the hon. Member for West Walthamstow agreed with the case made out by the hon. Member for East Rhondda.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member will perhaps allow me to say what I have to say, and then if I get it wrong, he can correct me afterwards. I think that the hon. Member did agree. He did not challenge any one of the things said by the hon. Member for East Rhondda. He accepted all that. He accepted that it was efficient, that it was doing a good job, that it was a good education authority, that it was capable of doing all the things required under the Bill. None of those things did the hon. Member challenge. 2060 He said that the hon. Member for East Rhondda had made out a very good case for East Rhondda becoming a county borough. What he meant by that was, that if only East Rhondda had become a county borough, then it would have been able to do every one of the things that it claims to do, and my hon. Friend would not have objected at all. What I am saying to the hon. Member for West Walthamstow, to the Government and to the Committee is that it can make no manner of difference to the merits of the case whether East Rhondda is fit to carry out the purposes of this Bill, is fit to be an administrative authority under this Bill, is fit to be a Part III authority under this Bill—it can make no manner of difference to that, whether it has a charter as a county borough or not. For my part, I cannot understand why the Government have introduced into this question, as one of their yardsticks, irrespective of population, irrespective of size, irrespective of efficiency, irrespective of any of the matters which ought to be considered, and which would be considered at an inquiry such as is contemplated by this Bill, whether it is to be a county borough or not.
That is not the only test they apply. They apply another test, one of size, of population, of school population. No one would deny that that is one of the elements that ought to be considered, because, quite clearly, all the major constructive purposes of the Bill could not be carried out by an authority that was too small and too poor. Certainly not, but that is not a question of an arbitrary line, at any rate it ought not to be. The real case for the Amendment is that where you have an administrative unit that has shown by its records that it is big enough, not too poor, efficient enough, responsible enough, progressive enough, experienced enough to carry out the purposes and the obligations laid upon an educational authority by this Bill—when by its record it has demonstrated the conviction that it has all those powers—that you shall not cut it off and prevent it from doing the work that 'it has done efficiently up to now.
The Amendment does not claim, and so far as I know nobody has ever claimed, that the local authority in question should be the judge of whether its record shows that it has those powers and experience or not. The Amendment is content to make 2061 the President of the Board of Education, acting through his expert advisers, the judge of that. It does not say, "Because we have done it, let us go on doing it." It does not say, "Because we have such and such a population, or because our rate is so high, or because we have so many schools, or because we have a lot of local patriotism, let us carry on with the job." Nothing of the kind. The Amendment merely says to the President of the Board of Education, "Do not stop an authority that is doing a good job from going on with it, and you should be the judge of whether it is fit to carry on with that task or not." Surely that is a reasonable claim to make? How in the world is any major purpose of the Bill damaged by it at all?
I do not want to fall into the great temptation of talking about my own constituency and the local education authority. I think Nelson, for instance, and Colne too, but certainly Nelson, could make as good a claim as any authority in the country. I think it is very high indeed, and I think the President would admit that it is, I cannot conceive how anyone thinks that educational advance in this country would be assisted by bringing that authority to an end. Who would gain? Who would profit? Who would lose if it continued to exercise the functions it has exercised so admirably already? My hon. Friend who said that it would still exercise them, is wrong. It would not. He ought to read the Cause again. It is all very well for people who live in or near London, and whose thinking is influenced by considerations that apply to London and which do not apply elsewhere, to make free and easy comment and think that they can decide every question in the light of their own local experience. London is a very parochial place. It is too apt to think that what goes on in London is a guide to what goes on everywhere else. It is not true at all. The great cities of the provinces and the county areas, and some of the small ones too, compare very favourably with the backwardness of many London authorities, which are very ready to take advantage of the Bill to get out of the rut they have got into.
What I am saying is that nobody would gain at all by preventing progressive authorities from continuing to exercise their authority No one will lose if they are allowed to do it, and the Amend 2062 ment specifically adds that the Board of Education itself shall judge whether the particular claim makes out its case or not. If it does, why in the world should it not be allowed to go on? If it does not make out its case, it is content to stop.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I hope I shall not be creating a diversion by stemming the stream of speeches in favour of the Amendment to which we have listened with great interest and pleasure, but I feel it would be as well if we could rather look at this matter from the opposite point of view. Those who have spoken in favour of the Amendment have stressed the importance and the efficiency and the desirability of continuing the existing local education authorities, the urban district councils, and the borough councils. The point I want to make is that the Bill immensely enlarges the scope of education. I think it is agreed that it is desirable, so far as possible, that that increased scope shall be spread through increased areas, and I feel that we might very well look at this matter from the point of view of the county authorities instead of the local authorities. So far as the local authorities are concerned, whether the Amendment is accepted or not, they will still have a very large part to play in the administration of this scheme. They are going to have a certain amount of difficulty. I think it will be agreed that their task will be much easier if they have, within their scope, the resources of the urban districts which are at present local education authorities.
I fully sympathise with hon. Members who have pleaded the case of these local district authorities which are urban districts. No one would wish them to lose the powers they have enjoyed, and have exercised with efficiency and for the general good. But I venture to suggest that it would be to the greater general good if the facilities and the powers which they have could be thrown into the wider pool, and shared with the county authorities. I think we all agree that it is desirable, as far as possible, that our children, as they develop and grow—and also in the more juvenile stages—should get the greatest benefit possible from being resident or educated in the country. With regard to further education particularly, and to the young people's colleges, I feel that everything possible should be done to encourage the development of these facilities in 2063 the rural rather than the urban districts. If the local education authority is an urban district, it will be very difficult for that council to carry out schemes of further education outside its own boundary. I would stress the desirability of spreading the available education facilities over a wider area.
I have every sympathy with the arguments which have been put forward about divesting local authorities of powers. No one takes a stronger stand on that than I do, but I firmly believe that a case has been made out—and I have discussed it with local authorities myself—that as far as local education authorities are concerned, the Ordinary local authority is, for a variety of reasons, not a sufficiently diversified and extensive unit to administer to the best advantage the education that we are visualising in this Bill.
§ Captain Prescott (Darwen)
Could my hon. and gallant Friend say why, if there are a county borough and a non-county borough with equal populations, and both are efficient, one should be obliterated and the other should remain?
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
That is hardly a question for me to answer, but my personal view is that both would be obliterated.
§ Mr. Messer
This Debate has spread over a very wide field and if at any time I am tempted to reply to the points which have been made and which may bring me out of Order I hope you, Major Milner, will not allow me to get so far out of Order as to prevent me from developing the points I want to make. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) is no longer here, because I feel he should be answered. The Amendment proposes to go very much further than the mover indicated in his speech. At the moment, there are 169 Part III authorities and it is admitted that at least 60 of them cannot continue to justify their existence. But the Amendment will entitle not 169, but 660 local authorities, with populations of less than 25,000 each, to claim to be education authorities and 370 local authorities, with populations of less than 10,000 each, to claim to be local education authorities.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
My hon. Friend always speaks with so much special know- 2064 ledge on these topics, that I would like to put this question to him: He appreciates that the Minister has, in any case, to review the circumstances of all these authorities when he makes a scheme of provisional administration. That being so, could my hon. Friend say why it should take any longer to consider whether an authority itself has a claim to be a local education authority?
§ Mr. Messer
I have not said a word about the length of time it will take; I am merely saying that the Part III authorities are not merely claiming something for themselves but are claiming for every local authority the right to be a local education authority. Ira the light of a further Amendment on the Order Paper we are driven to believe that this is the first line of attack and that if the Minister is so unguarded as to give any encouragement to it, he might be persuaded to give more encouragement to a later Amendment—and following Amendments—should they come before the Committee.
I want to support the Minister, because I believe that the whole symmetry and form of this Bill will be destroyed if he concedes anything like what is being asked by the Part III authorities. It is curious that we are continually asking for improved social services but as soon as it comes to building a machine which will efficiently administer these social services then those who have been engaged in the work look away from it towards the little petty authorities. I have not heard one argument that justifies the assumption that because you have efficient Part III authorities they are necessarily fitted to be Part II authorities. It is true that Part III authorities, in many instances, have been efficient. But will anybody say that, if you can show efficiency on the part of such an authority, it should deal with secondary education? It is being claimed that because the Part III authorities are efficient, they must not go out of existence. But if you have to have secondary education for all, you have to create the instrument that will enable it to be provided. If that means some people surrendering a little dignity of office it is a great pity, but it is a sheer exaggeration to say that they can find no place in the administration of education. Of course they can; they can even aspire to the dizzy eminence of a county councillor. I have never been able to 2065 understand why it should be considered that a parish council, an urban district council or a non-county borough council is a democratic and popularly elected body and that a county council is not—
§ Mr. Loftus
In the borough of Lowestoft, for 25 years, there has been no county council election, whereas every municipal election has been hotly contested. The reason why there has been no county council election is the distance of the administration from the town.
§ Mr. Messer
That does not alter the fact that if there was that public spirit which is required people would not want to serve in the paths of pleasure and ease but would choose a service that means some sacrifice, because the result of the service was worth while. A case has been put forward for keeping all Part III work and having Part II added to it 'because of the authority it gives, but I hope the Committee will not give recognition to anything of that sort. It is true that you cannot have the Part III authorities, as they exist, efficiently administering secondary education. If secondary education is a question of finding a grammar school or a high school that is one thing, but what will happen to the technical schools? Every present Part III authority cannot have a technical school that will deal only with its own children. Obviously, it will also have to deal with children from other areas. Who then will administer it? Let us go beyond technical education. In Hornsey, there is a splendid art school to which, at the present time, students from the whole county go. What will happen if every Part III authority is to have its own art school?
If there is a weakness in the administrative provisions of this Bill, it may be because some importance has been attached to the name, "county borough." Apart from that, I must concede, as one who has tried to find out what is best not for the county or borough but for the child, that when you are developing services of this description you must have, first of all, a big unit. I know that this problem faces all reformers. For efficiency you must have a big unit, one that can be responsible not merely for raising funds but one that will ensure adequate population. The problem is that if you have too big a unit it is removed from the people. There are two services which differ from all other social services. The 2066 public health and educational services are of a personal type; they are of an individual nature and affect persons as individuals rather than in the mass. Here we are faced with the necessity of creating a machine that will be big enough to function efficiently and yet function in a way that will not destroy the value of that human contact. How can that be done? I think the Minister has met it in the Bill. He has said that once we have decided the wide area within which we shall function we shall delegate to the smaller organisations within it the responsibility of administering the policy which has been decided. That seems to me to be the right thing to do.
It is not true to say, as has been implied, that the Part III authorities will have no power. If I may be forgiven for quoting again a county of which I am proud to be a member, in Middlesex there is a special problem. Many Part III authorities will be entitled to be excepted districts, which gives them almost complete autonomy. They will not merely retain their Part III powers; they will have, in addition, Part II powers. The excepted districts will be getting all that the Part III authorities want, with the exception of raising the rate. Middlesex will be presented with a very great problem for out of 40 excepted districts in the country no fower than 14 will come out of Middlesex. Out of the 26 authorities in Middlesex no fewer than 14 will be excepted districts.
I am hoping the Minister will give this his attention because no matter what your desire may be for uniformity throughout this country, there are certain exceptions like Rhondda, where the Minister may find it necessary, in the interests of preserving that degree of efficiency, that symmetry of form, that ease of production in the working of the machine, to make some exception, but it is not true to say that the Part III authorities are being slaughtered, killed or exterminated. What happens is that there is room for them still within the educational scheme—it is true not as Part III authorities, but does that really matter? They find their place in my view in a scientific way within the administrative scheme by a series of steps from the county down to the point where contact now takes places between the people and the Part III authorities as they exist.
2067 I am anxious to see every boy and girl given equality of opportunity in secondary education. If the principles which have been enunciated for the salvation of the Part III authorities were accepted that would not be the case. No matter what your intentions in the Bill may be, no matter how keen your desire to ensure it, unless you have the ability in the instrument that you create to carry it into effect, it is so much waste paper. I am not saying this because I want to see every form of local authority go out of existence. The time has arrived for the reform of our local government machine. The one great weakness in the Amendment is this. I know that the mover used it as a defence. He said "The Amendment does not mean anything beyond asking the Minister to decide." How often is he to decide? Does it mean that when an inquiry takes place and you set up your authority, if the conditions that justified him in arriving at that decision were to change in two or three years there is to be another inquiry? Is he to have a series of inquiries throughout the years which will determine on certain conditions that certain authorities shall continue to exist and others not? If not, what is going to happen is that, with changes of population and the changes that take place, many of those not entitled to become local education authorities will later be entitled. We are going to get back to the census figures, which have been a false basis for the organisation of our present authorities. I hope that those who have put up such a fight on behalf of the Part III authorities will for once consider the interests of education, cease to be mandarins of the parish pump and be real reformers.
§ Mr. Butler
I feel that the Committee will be indebted to the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) for putting forward what is perhaps the major reason for the proposals in the Bill, namely, that the system of education is being organised in a series of successive stages and the authorities who administer education must correspond with this new conception. That is the whole basis for the scheme set out in the Bill. This is, of course, an important issue and the Government have deliberately listened with interest to the many speeches that have been made during this, the longest Debate we have had in the Committee. We have been 2068 very glad to welcome the speeches because hon. Members have had every opportunity of stating their case. I hope, however, that we may now come to some decision so that we can proceed with the many Amendments on the Order Paper, which the Government are determined to deal with to-day. Members who have not been able to take part may find some satisfaction in the many Amendments in which they can take part later. They will find that the Government have been very amenable in regard to the rest of the constructive work which has been put into the Bill by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson). I must pay him this tribute. He has, in all his Amendments, done his best to fit them into the framework of the Bill. His Amendments cannot be regarded in any sense as wrecking Amendments. The Government have by their Amendments later on the Paper been able to come very near him. On this Amendment, however, they have great difficulty in meeting him. Let us examine the case put forward from various sides of the Committee. I should like to pay a tribute to the assistance that I have had both from my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio and from the Parliamentary Secretary, who has particular knowledge of this subject. They have both taken a particular interest in it and the Parliamentary Secretary will be taking a special part in the remaining portion of the Debate during the discussion on the details of this Schedule, with which he is so well acquainted. It is important, however, that I should make a general speech on the subject before us.
My hon. and learned Friend put the issue quite clearly, in his usual lucid and forensic style, when he asked, Why should we perpetuate the difficulties of the Local Government Act, 1888? He used various striking expressions, one of which was that we were tending to perpetuate the major anomalies of the local government system. The issue up against which I must bring the Committee quite sharply, is whether I am to attempt, in an Education Bill, to remedy those anomalies completely or not. My answer is that, if the Committee want reform, they have to take the local government world as they find it and not try to reform it by way of this Measure. That is why the Government have taken what amounts to a simple decision, though it leads to a good 2069 deal of heartburning and distress, namely, to take counties and county boroughs as we know them as local education authorities under the Bill. It has been said that that is very sad. There are places, such as my hon. and learned Friend represents, which are of great magnitude and which have in themselves every possible quality for the exercise of educational duties. I do not deny that, but if once I depart from the firm basis upon which I stand in this Bill, where am I to stop? My hon. and learned Friend makes an ingenious suggestion.
I think I had better examine the Amendment, before I come to consider the other arguments that I wish to put before the Committee. It suggests that any borough or urban district may put forward a claim to be an authority if it has a population of over 40,000 and the Minister shall decide—in the case of those with a population of over 40,000 after an inquiry—whether they are worthy to undertake all educational functions. There is in almost every case with which we have to deal at the Board no question of worthiness or unworthiness to perform these functions. Many of the most worthy authorities are those which have carried them out throughout the many years since the last reform, namely, the Part III authorities, and there is no question of our wishing to denigrate their work or wishing to do them down in any way. The Amendment would mean that, in the first place, the door is opened wide to any borough or urban district. That in itself would constitute a potential flood. The Amendment constitutes a very bad outlook for an already overburdened administrative Department in having to accept and consider such claims. The mover prescribes a minimum population of 40,000 for those in whose case an inquiry would be held. I have, accordingly, had taken out for me the number of boroughs and urban districts with a population of over 40,000. There were 73 such boroughs, and 21 urban districts, making a total of 94, a figure which on to-day's population has gone up to 99. That means that the Minister would be landed with virtually 100 inquiries at a time when the Committee is most anxious that the Bill should be brought into operation. Basing myself on the facts of the situation, I could not honestly advise the Committee to accept an Amendment which would impose such a potential burden on 2070 us, nor could I advise the Committee to accept an Amendment drafted as this is, because, though it is fairly drafted, and an honest attempt has been made to meet a difficulty, it would tend to raise false hopes. It is really wrong to suggest that many of these smaller places would be able to administer the whole wide range of educational services, from children of two up to young people of 18, under the terms of the Bill. The Amendment is drawn in too wide terms for the Committe to be able to accept.
Now we come to a more general consideration. Should the Government depart from the basis of the county and the county borough and include in their scheme any new authority? I should like to pay a tribute to many Members who have spoken. They have put forward their own local point of view. I do not think there is anything wrong in doing that. They are here to represent their own constituencies and they have done so with grace and pertinacity. I have noted the views of the hon. Members for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell), Spen Valley (Major Woolley), and Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), and I was able to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). All these hon. Members and many others have particular problems of their own, but perhaps the problem put forward at greatest length was that put forward by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring). The position of the Rhondda is peculiar. It is a Part III authority which has a special devolution agreement which was made with the Glamorgan County Council in 1920. The Rhondda, though a Part III authority administers at present Part III and Part II powers, and it is able to pay from its own rate. The hon. Member who spoke on behalf of the Rhondda used, I thought, what was rather exaggerated language when he referred to the extinction of the district as one having an interest in education. I have visited the Rhondda valley and I know they have made some of the most up-to-date educational experiments in the country, whether in nursery schools, where they have one of the best in our islands, or in technical schools, where they have one of the comparatively few junior technical schools that there are. In my view this Bill involves no risk whatever to the educational advance 2071 which can be carried on in the Rhondda Valley. After all, what is the position? The Rhondda will be able, under this Bill, to become an excepted district and so the difference, as far as I can see it, is that instead of having its own particular rate, the general rate for the area will be mixed up with the county and, in fact, while the Rhondda, in my view, will have very similar powers in running its education to those it had before, it may well find that things are not so expensive owing to the wider area over which the rate is now to be levied.
It is a typical example of whether you understand our scheme or not. If you understand our scheme, you will see that the inhabitants of the Rhondda are not going to have a worse time. They are likely to have a better time, and one which will be not so expensive. I cannot say that for all districts because the rate incidence differs in different parts of the country, but it does happen to be the case there. Therefore, I think that nobody should take such a sad view of the matter as the hon. Gentleman did himself. However, I welcome his intervention in our Debate, because it shows local keenness, and I like local keenness in education.
This leads me to the general position of the Government to-day. The general position of the Government is that they prefer to stand on the basis of county and county boroughs because they know where they are in doing that. They prefer, at the same time, to accompany that system of administration with the most up-to-date system of delegated responsibility that the world of local government has yet seen in this country. That system of local government is contained in the Schedule to which we shall devote, I hope, the rest of to-day and on which the Committee will see the Government have been exceedingly forthcoming in the Amendments put on the paper in their desire to make that system work. Hon. Members will find that the excepted district is one of the inventions of this Bill, and the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) is quite right in saying that if people get this idea of status out of their heads, and imagine the excepted district as having a new status, which it can develop for itself, they will realise that in an excepted district the Part III authorities will get increased powers over both primary and secondary 2072 education and a more developed life than before. Many areas which were Part III authorities will have more power under this Bill than before.
We shall be discussing later the particular devices, including an appeal to the Minister, which I have put on the Order Paper. The Government intend to be as amenable as they can in meeting the wishes of the Committee. In every respect, while not leaving this sure ground on which they stand, the Government wish to meet the wishes of the Committee. If we were to leave this ground of the counties and county boroughs, I maintain that we should only increase our difficulties. We may have difficulties now, but we should certainly have more difficulties then. Some have said: "Why cannot you make an exception in the case of the large isolated districts outside the built-up districts in the London area?" As a result of the inquiry proposed by the hon. and learned Member, if the Government were to concede that, the borough of Ilford would be happy. Does the hon. and learned Member think that a differentiation between an immense area such as he represents and a smaller area outside, would lead to equity in the world of education? I can assure him it would not. We have not mentioned sufficiently the great built-up areas which are not yet Part III authorities at all. Let me take Harrow, Willesden or Romford. These are not Part III authorities.
§ Mr. Butler
No, not Willesden; I meant Wembley. These are not Part III authorities. Are we to include these authorities in any concessions we are to make as the result of an inquiry and, if we are to include them, what will a district outside London feel if we do that? The Committee would find itself in greater difficulty than it is in now. The main difficulty the Committee is up against now, is that the Government have taken a firm stand, which they intend to maintain, that the local authorities shall be the counties and county boroughs, subject to the combination of certain counties and county boroughs in joint boards as suggested in Part I of the Schedule. That is, I maintain, a fair stand to take. If we left it, we should get into worse difficulties and what the Committee should do for the remaining part of this day's Sitting, 2073 is to try to see that the delegated responsibilities are real and genuine and that the districts can have a local life of their own. If that is done, I think we shall be combining common sense with local government. If the Committee take that line, they will be taking a constructive view and will not imperil the success of the education reform by instituting a series of inquiries which will lead to heart-burning and difficulties.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Is the Minister aware that in my home town we have a very high standard of education, but in the matter of authorities we have an even higher standard? We support the Scottish system in this matter.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Before my right hon. Friend concludes, may I put this question to him? The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) pointed out that not only the education service, but other services, notably the new health services, are involved in the decisions which the Committee has to take on this part of the Bill. My hon. Friend asked the Minister whether he would discuss with the Government and with the Ministers who are responsible for the other services concerned this particular problem of the relation of the large non-county borough to the county borough and the county council. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can give the Committee some indication of his views on that particular point?
§ Mr. Butler
In answer to the hon. and learned Member I have, of course, been in communication with my colleagues in the Government, and I have discussed the matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. The Committee is perfectly right in considering that what we do to-day must have an imprint upon what is done to-morrow in the course of the Government's programme of social reform. But the main principle upon which I stand appears also in the outline of the Government's proposals for the health services and, while I am perfectly ready to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and with my colleagues in the Government the arguments which have been used to-day, particularly with a view to the future—because we are all anxious about how these matters will develop in the future—I could not give any undertaking that such a discussion would result in a radical alteration of the 2074 plan. The Government are desirous of ascertaining, as far as possible, the views of the Committee and, to that extent, I shall be ready to have a discussion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe (Brighton)
I think the Committee will have been impressed by what the President has said and I was certainly impressed by his request to us to bring this discussion to a close. Therefore, I will not be very long. But there was one point to which I wanted to draw attention. I have noticed a technique during this Debate to-day of each speaker beginning by saying that he was not going to deal with his own constituency, and then spending a great deal of time doing so. This technique only made the speeches much longer. I am greatly interested in the borough of Hove, which comes on the borderline. It may be that the Amendment which the President is to move later will be sufficient for the purpose, but a borough which has a population of 55,000 comes very near the dividing line in this matter, and I would be grateful if we could have some assurance from the President on whether he considers that Hove is a borough in that category. I will not take up any more time because I do not want it to be said, as was said by the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) that we are only interested in parish-pump politics. As far as I know, there is no parish pump in Hove.
§ Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
I think my right hon. Friend's reply was most unsatisfactory and disappointing. It appeared to me to be dictated mainly out of consideration for administrative convenience. I was astonished to hear that he shrank from the prospect of holding 100 inquiries. Surely, his Department is capable of that. I do think that haste in this Bill is being overstretched. The vital thing is that we should get the right administrative machinery set up. The whole trouble, I think, arises from the rule which my right hon. Friend has been defending—the rule that only county councils and county borough councils can be local education authorities. That, I think, is the root of all the trouble. It is completely illogical, and there is no reason for it on the basis of efficiency.
Surely, efficiency should be the sole test—efficiency for educating the children. Many hon. Members have stressed that we 2075 should never lose sight of the fact that the interest of the children should be paramount. There is no relation whatsoever between the accidental constitution of a county, council or county borough council and the interest of the children. The constitution was purely fortuitous. This Amendment has sought to substitute a logical basis for the education authorities. It is offering my right hon. Friend the widest possible discretion. Who should be better fitted to exercise discretion as to the interests of the children than my right hon. Friend as Minister of Education? Surely, he is the proper arbiter as to who should be the authorities in the interests of the education of the children, and I am astonished that he should so readily accept the existing machinery that has no logical connection with those interests. He is offered by this Amendment the opportunity of selecting the administrative machinery best adapted to the purpose, and I think it extraordinary that he should reject it.
My right hon. Friend has very wide powers under the Bill. He has been given powers at least as wide as, if not wider than, the Amendment proposes to give him. I have not noticed that he has hitherto been inclined to reject those powers because they are too wide. The provisions under the Bill, and particularly under this Schedule, are much too rigid. It seems to me absurd that highly efficient authorities which have been Part III authorities and large urban districts should have to wait until they may be able to become county boroughs before they can exercise any authority over education. No account is taken of the rapid growth of some of those authorities and their prospective growth in the near future. The Amendment would give my right hon. Friend the opportunity of taking that prospective growth into account.
A good deal has been said by hon. Members about particular instances. I will not quote two excellent illustrations from my own constituency because the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) has already rather overstocked that market. I do, however, think that my right hon. Friend should bear in mind that, while it may be necessary to have some minimum with regard to population, it is at least as desirable to have some 2076 maximum. As I see it, he will constitute some of these authorities on much too large a scale. Delegation will not really serve the purpose. It is a mere agency. It does not convey any real power, and my right hon. Friend ought not to try and persuade us that the delegation which he is offering will satisfy these authorities, many of whom have conducted education for centuries. In my own constituency there is one borough that has conducted education for 400 years. That kind of thing should be taken into account and my right hon. Friend should not, for the sake of administrative convenience, accept only county councils and county borough councils as the local education authorities. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will divide the Committee on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)
I rise to support what the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) has said and to express my disappointment that the President has not seen fit to accept the Amendment. It was so drawn as to give him wide opportunities to overcome existing anomalies and to make it as easy and flexible as possible for him to include such places as my own constituency, Swindon, which has carried out higher education in a highly effective way. There will be great disappointment at the Minister's attitude towards the Amendment, which would have enabled him to use his discretion, as I have no doubt he would have used it if it had been accepted. His argument was that there would have to be some 100 inquiries. That would happen, however, only if everybody claimed to have an inquiry, and it is reasonable to suppose that very many would not claim an inquiry. Therefore, that argument falls to the ground. I am disappointed at the attitude of the Minister, particularly in view of forthcoming legislation and the effect that the rejection of this Amendment will have on it.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Although I agree with much that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), I am going to ask the Committee to give me leave to withdraw the Amendment. I cannot say that I am otherwise than disappointed at my right hon. Friend's reply, but he has promised that he will discuss with his colleagues in the Government, and in particular with those Ministers whose own proposals are con- 2077 cerned with this matter, the problem of the large non-county boroughs in their relationship to the reorganisation of the social services on which the Government are engaged. My right hon. Friend was good enough to say one or two things about me, and I desire to say this about him. I would like to acknowledge the patient and sympathetic consideration which he has given from the beginning, not only to me personally, but to the local authorities and to those associations of local authorities whose views some of us have endeavoured to put before the Committee. That prompts me to feel that my right hon. Friend's promise of a discussion with his colleagues in the Government will be a reality and that it may well lead to same solution of this problem.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I beg to move, in page 79, line 8, after "applies," to insert:or for the area of a county borough and part of a county.It is thought that in many cases a very suitable education authority might comprise a county borough and a small part of the adjoining county, such as an adjacent urban district. The object of the Amendment is to enable that to be done. If this were effected the county borough would not be losing its identity.
§ Colonel Greenwell (The Hartlepools)
I support the Amendment. I am one of those who deplore the tendency which has been exemplified in this Bill for the piecemeal alteration of the status of local government authorities. We have seen that tendency exemplified in the recent White Paper on the new health services. The difficult position in which certain Part III authorities will be placed by this Schedule is exemplified by my own constituency. Within practically a ring fence there are two boroughs joined together so that nobody can see where one begins and the other ends. One is a county borough and the other a non-county borough. Both have had the administration of education, one being a Part II authority and the other a Part III authority. The ancient Borough of Hartlepool, which is a royal borough with a charter dating from Queen Elizabeth, will be put under the aegis of the county council without any option. If the Minister accepted the Amendment it would give a non-county 2078 borough in that position the opportunity of opting to go in with the county borough to which it is adjacent.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
My right hon. Friend made it clear in the speech he made on the last Amendment, that we have to take the local government system as we find it. It is not possible, therefore, to accept the Amendment, which would lead to the breaking up of the county areas. There may be one or two anomalies of the kind mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Colonel Greenwell), but they should be cleared up in local government law and not in education law. We are bound to stand on that principle with regard to this Bill.
§ Sir S. Reed
In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir S. Reed
I beg to move, in page 79, line 42, at the end, to insert:and if either House of Parliament within the period of forty days beginning with the day on which any such order is laid before it resolves that the order be annulled the order shall cease to have effect but without prejudice to anything previously done there-under or to the making of any new order.In reckoning any such period of forty days no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.This is a proposed addition to paragraph 4 of Part I of this Schedule, which provides that an Order constituting a joint education board shall be laid before Parliament. The object of the Amendment is to enable either House to pass the Resolution annulling the Order.
§ Mr. Ede
We had a discussion on this point on an Amendment which was moved yesterday, when my right hon. Friend indicated that he was willing between now and the Report stage to have a conversation with the Members interested in this point on the effective grouping of the various kinds of Orders and the Parliamentary procedure that should be adopted with regard to them. I suggest that this Amendment should come into that category, and if my hon. Friend will withdraw it, I will undertake that it shall be brought within the ambit of the conversation.
§ Sir S. Reed
I thank my hon. Friend for his statement, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I beg to move, in page 79, line 47, to leave out "census," and to insert "estimate of the Registrar-General."
I really think this point has been largely met. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I will formally move the Amendment and leave my hon. Friend to carry on the discussion.
§ Mr. Lipson
This is a point which can be met by the Parliamentary Secretary, because it has already been agreed to with regard to the excepted districts. It has not yet been decided with regard to when a non-county borough becomes a member of a joint board, and we ask that the estimate of the Registrar-General shall be accepted instead of the census.
§ Mr. Ede
This Amendment relates to paragraph 5 of the Part I of the First Schedule, which, in a very large number of words, brings the boroughs of Cambridge and Peterborough within the provisions of the paragraph. As a matter of fact, altering the words will not bring in anyone else and will not exclude anyone else. However, we do desire that the Bill should be tidy, and so we propose to put down an Amendment in appropriate terms for the Report stage, in order to secure that, in addition to the population being estimated, it shall be certified by the Registrar-General. That is a different thing from having it certified by the medical officer.
§ The Deputy-chairman
I must point out that only the mover of an Amendment can ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I have no reservations at all in asking the Committee for leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 8o, line 15, after "may," to insert:after consultation with the authorities.This Amendment secures that the Minister will not take steps to establish a joint education committee except after 2080 consulting the authorities who will be brought into any such arrangement. The Committee will perhaps agree that that is a reasonable step to take, and I hope that they will accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Keeling
I beg to move, in page 8o, line 31, to leave out "a majority", and to insert "two-thirds."
§ I move this Amendment formally.
§ Mr. Ede
I would have been glad if my hon. Friend had said a few words in support of his Amendment, because it is desirable that we should leave as wide a discretion as possible to the local education authority in framing its scheme for an education committee. What we secure is that at least a majority of the members of the Committee shall be members of the authority, but my hon. Friend wants to make the minimum number two-thirds. It is not always possible, on a local education authority, to find a sufficient number of members really keen on the work to make the proportion as high as two-thirds. By securing that at least a majority shall be members, we get democratic representation. If the authority likes to make a scheme providing for two-thirds or three-quarters of the local education committee to be members of the authority, it is open to it to do so.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
The difficulty arises that an important decision may be taken at a time when the majority of people present are non-elected. Would the Parliamentary Secretary see whether that point is covered? There may be opposition from the elected members and therefore some objection raised, if the decision in question has been taken by a non-elected majority.
§ Mr. Ede
That might happen, but it would depend upon the delegation to the committee by the authority and how far the decision of the committee itself was binding. Some local authorities attempt to safeguard that position by a standing order which provides that there must always be a majority of elected members present when a decision is taken, but again this is a matter for the detailed administration of the local authorities. It would be unwise to hamper local 2081 authorities unnecessarily in framing their standing orders and carrying out the procedure to which they are accustomed.
Sir Patrick Hannan (Birmingham, Moseley)
I only wish to point out that in my long experience of the proceedings of this House and its Committees, I have never known an Amendment proposed so succinctly as this.
§ Mr. Keeling
In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 80, line 44, to leave out from "Schedule," to the end of line 45.
This proviso to which this Amendment refers enables a county council to discuss a matter relating to education, even if the education committee has not reported upon it, in certain circumstances. We desire those circumstances to be only when the matter is urgent, or when it has been sufficiently reported upon by a divisional executive. As originally drafted, the proviso would enable a similar consideration to be given if the matter had only been discussed by either a committee or sub-committee of such an executive. After all, these are bodies comparatively remote from the seat of authority, and it would appear to be very undesirable that the county council should be able to receive reports over the heads of the divisional executive. As we desire that divisional executives shall have as full a life as possible, we move to strike out the words.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 8i, line 2, at the end, to insert:9. The minutes of proceedings of an education committee of the local education authority shall be open to the inspection of any local government elector for the area on payment of a fee not exceeding one shilling and any such local government elector may make a copy thereof or an extract there-from.The Amendment re-enacts the existing law which gives to local government electors the right of inspecting the minutes of the education committees, on payment of a fee of 1s.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Lipson
I beg to move, in page 81, line 29, to leave out from "such," to the end of line 31, and to insert: 2082divisions all functions relating to primary and secondary education.It is the intention of the Bill that when a district council is set up it should control all education in its area, but there is no prescriptive right to this in the Bill. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that the councils should have control of all the education in their area, without of course the right to levy a rate or to borrow money, which is excepted in an earlier part of the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to accept the Amendment, as it carries out the purpose which he has in mind in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
Paragraph 2 of Part III of the Schedule endeavours to set up a very flexible instrument that shall be capable of adaptation to the most diverse parts of the country and even diverse parts inside a single county. We are therefore not anxious that the definition of the powers to be delegated should be too closely defined. If they are, it may very well lead to county councils being reluctant to set up a divisional executive in regard to some part of their areas to deal with some rather smaller part of the education field. We intend that, where the divisional executive has an area of population sufficient to justify the delegation of both primary and secondary education, that shall be done, but in rural counties, where we have a very sparse population, it may be unwise to specify that that must be done. If an area does not carry a sufficient population and range of schools to enable it to be done, the county council would be prevented from setting up a divisional executive to deal with some more restricted range of education. I hope that my hon. Friend, who I know has great experience of county council work in a county that is both urban and rural, will appreciate that we are exceedingly anxious to meet the difficulties of county councils charged with the duty of administering education in an area such as his, but I hope he will allow us to retain the Schedule in its present form.
§ Mr. Lipson
I am anxious that divisional executives, which are entitled to have full powers, should have them of right. If the Parliamentary Secretary says that the proper way to deal with the matter is when the schemes are put up by the bodies concerned, and that he will look after this matter then, I am prepared to 2083 accept that, but I want to have some assurance on the lines suggested.
§ Mr. Ede
Quite clearly that is the time at which this arrangement should be considered, and it will be the duty of the county council to consult all the district councils concerned. When these ultimately see the scheme, they can make representations to the Board if they do not think they are getting sufficient attention. Then it will be the duty of the Board to exercise a judicial function with regard to the representations made by the district councils and the county council respectively. I am quite sure that the Board will endeavour to see that my right hon. Friend's declared policy of giving divisional executives a proper amount of work to do will be carried out.
§ Mr. Lipson
In view of that statement of the hon. Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 81, line 43, to leave out paragraph 4, and to insert:4. If the council of any borough or urban district has, before the first day of October nineteen hundred and forty-four lodged with the Minister a claim that the borough or district be excepted from any scheme of divisional administration to be made by a local education authority the Minister may direct that the borough or district shall be so excepted and the Minister shall so direct if the borough or urban district fulfils either of the following conditions that is to say:
- (a) that the population thereof on the thirtieth day of June nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, as estimated and certified by the Registrar General, was not less than sixty thousand; or
- (b) that on the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and thirty-nine the total number of pupils on the rolls of the public elementary schools in the area thereof was not less than seven thousand,so however that no such direction shall be given in the case of any borough or urban district which does not fulfil either of the said conditions unless the Minister, after consultation with such other councils as appear to him to be concerned, is satisfied that by reason of special circumstances the borough or urban district ought to be so excepted. Any borough or urban district which has been directed by the Minister to be so excepted as aforesaid is in this Part of this Act referred to as an excepted district,This Amendment deals with a great many points which have been raised in 2084 the course of the previous discussions today. Perhaps it may be of assistance to the Committee if I run very briefly through the main points that are raised. Under the original paragraph 4, a very limited number of authorities of county districts were given the right to claim to be excepted districts. Two criteria were set out, the first that the district had a population at the last census of not less than 60,000, and secondly that it had at 31st March, 1939, 7,000 school children on the rolls of its elementary schools. If a district was not qualified by one or other of those conditions it was precluded from becoming an excepted district. In the first place it is quite clear that a considerable change of population has occurred between the census of 1931 and the outbreak of war in 1939. Therefore, one of the alterations that we introduce is set out in paragraph (a) of the new paragraph 4, where we set the standard for population as that estimated and certified by the Registrar General on 30th June, 1939. I think hon. Members will agree that that is as near as we can get to the population figure at the commencement of the war. Quite clearly, to take estimates that have been made during the war would be to inflict injury on some districts whose population may have fallen as a result of the war, and might bring in other districts the population of which has been inflated purely temporarily during the war Therefore, we have endeavoured to bring the population basis up to date.
We do not, under the new paragraph, limit the right to be an excepted district to those who satisfy those two conditions. What we do under this paragraph is to enable the council of any borough or urban district, before 1st October next, to lodge a claim that it shall be an excepted district, and if my right hon. Friend is satisfied that by reason of the special circumstances of the district it ought to be an excepted district, although it does not reach the standard population, or did not have 7,000 children in its elementary schools on 31st March, 1939, it may become an excepted district. I think that is a reasonable way to meet the needs of particular areas as the population of this country is spread so unevenly over the surface of the country. It is very difficult even to do rough justice by any standard that is set down in a Bill. 2085 What we have now secured is that the borough or urban district with a population of 60,000 or over as near to the outbreak of war as possible, shall have the right, if they like to claim. If they had 7,000 children in their elementary schools on 31st March, 1939, they have the right, if they claim. Other areas which had not the population or number of children on the school roll, but which feel that they have a case for being excepted districts, now have the right to claim, and my right hon. Friend will have to consider their claims judicially when they make them.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I am not quarrelling with what my hon. Friend says, but could he give any sort of idea of the kind of criteria that will be applied?
§ Mr. Ede
Undoubtedly the past record will be taken into account, whether it tells for or against. I have been rather amazed at some claims made to-day on past records. I hope that no hon. Member will take particular consolation from the fact that past records will be one of the criteria we shall take into account.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
Will my hon. Friend explain what he means by self-contained? Does that mean that if children have come from a surrounding area for secondary education that is a point against the authority?
§ Mr. Ede
No, that is a point that might be dealt with on a later Amendment. Here, again, we desire to have a flexible instrument, but let us take the position where a particular county district has a substantial population and is supplying a majority—though I would not even be bound by that—let us say a substantial minority, in the secondary schools of the borough or urban district, with others coming in from surrounding villages. It might then be desirable, if the central borough or urban district is made an excepted district, that representation should be given on its education committee to the surrounding districts, by members either 2086 being co-opted by the borough or urban district, or nominated either by the county council or the councils which govern the villages on the periphery of the excepted district, We desire that to enable a very substantial amount of delegation to be given to the councils of those districts which qualify under the new Amendment, and I very sincerely hope that the representatives of those councils in their own areas will recognise that this is an opportunity we afford them of making a quota towards educational life in the future. I wish to make it quite clear that this is not confined to county district councils which were Part III authorities. Those places which have grown up since 1902, and were not qualified in 1902, but which can prove that they have a case for being made an excepted district, will be able to submit their claim. The fact that they have no record on which to base it may even tell in their favour on occasion.
§ Mr. Loftus
I only intervene to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his clear explanation, and to thank my right hon. Friend for the very substantial concession. I can assure him that to many efficient boroughs with just under a population of 60,000 this will bring a very great deal of consolation, and hope for the future of being able to participate actively in the educational administration of the borough. I would like to thank him very sincerely.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I rise to express my welcome for this Amendment, and to thank the Minister, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), for the concession he has given. I realise fully that it will mean an addition to my right hon. Friend's labours and responsibilities, but I am sure he will be fully rewarded by the better results that will be obtained. I hope that he will take the view that the quality of administration is not necessarily in proportion to the quantity of children to be administered. It is the duty of every education authority, and always has been, to have the most efficient administration possible and it is right that it should be judged on past records but it is not its duty to make itself as big as possible. Therefore, it is rather hard on it to be judged on its size. The Part III authority which I represent, Scarborough, is very content to be judged on its record in the past, but not on its magnitude. I also hope that my right hon. Friend will 2087 take into account the geographical position of Part III authorities like the one I represent, which is so remote from the proposed education authority that local interest in education and with it efficiency of management might well be jeopardised.
§ Major Woolley
I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the concession that has been made in this Amendment. Seing that certain non-county boroughs and Part III authorities were not able to obtain their previous desires I am sure that this will go some way towards meeting them. I hope that when these applications are made the interpretation will be generous, and that authorities which have a good record of past service will be rewarded for the efforts they have put into education in their own areas in past years.
§ Mr. Lakin (Llandaff and Barry)
I must add my thanks for this concession in the case of good authorities. I represent an authority to which I hope it will apply. At any rate we have every confidence in the Minister's judgment. We have just as much confidence in it as we have in our own abilities.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I think this Amendment is a great improvement of the Schedule. I am inclined to regard the figure of 60,000 as a shade too high. If the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary would consider that figure, and could find their way on the Report stage to substitute 50,000 for 60,000, I can assure them that they would have not only my support but the support of very large numbers of my constituents.
§ Major Procter (Accrington)
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to clear up one point which is troubling my constituents, and not only my constituents but other local authorities also We recognise that a great concession has been made, and while I shall not congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary, as others have done, yet I recognise that throughout the proceedings on this Measure he has removed a great deal of friction. His function appears to be that of a sort of animated oil-can, to smooth the machinery of the Bill. There is an Amendment in my name and in the names of a number of other hon. Members which I understand will not be called, so I would like to ask whether provision can be made 2088 whereby a group of urban district councils may come together and so get the requisite population figure that is required. If a number of small urban authorities wish voluntarily to link up with a town like Accrington, will that be possible?
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
May I also "say it with flowers," at the risk of burying the Parliamentary Secretary under a mountain of bouquets? I would like to ask whether, if authorities do not exactly reach the figure of 60,000, there is some measure of elasticity, so that they may benefit from the concession?
§ Mr. Hutchinson
This Amendment bears a certain resemblance to that which I proposed earlier. For that I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary and to my right hon. Friend. It has been said that a woman who really loves you will do anything in the world for you except the one thing you want. I think the Parliamentary Secretary does really love the local authorities, because in this Amendment he has shown himself prepared to do a great deal to meet their case. I desire to acknowledge the attempt which has been made to give these authorities a proper place in the new system of education.
This Amendment shows how unwise it is, when considering the question of an efficient local education authority, to confine oneself to population questions alone. As one looks into the circumstances of different authorities, in different parts of the country, one is struck by the fact that there are many authorities, small in population, not possessed of great resources, which yet, because of their special local circumstances, are well able to undertake considerable responsibilities in connection with education. My hon. Friend was asked to define "special circumstances." I did not expect him to accede to that invitation, because the expression "special circumstances" is usually put into an Act of Parliament when the draftsman is uncertain what those circumstances are likely to be. I suspect that that is how it has got into this Amendment. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that when he has to determine what are the special circumstances which would make a local authority a proper authority to be an excepted district, although it falls below the prescribed population standard, he should resort to a public inquiry to 2089 ascertain local opinion and to enable the local authority to state its case. I desire to acknowledge the way the Minister has attempted to meet this part of the case of the local authorities, and to say that I think that this concession amounts to a substantial contribution.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I take it that the Minister will give an assurance that there is no possibility of rich areas contracting out of their liabilities as the centres around which there are hinterlands which depend largely upon them. It is possible that a very prosperous district might want to separate itself from a less prosperous district, in order to throw the liability on that less prosperous district.
§ Mr. Ede
The question which my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) has put cannot arise, because the local education authority, which raises the rate, is the authority for the county, and no matter how rich or how poor the excepted district may be, it will come under the county rate, and will pay the same amount in the pound as every other district in the county. We have proceeded a very long way towards equalisation of rates by the proposals which we have put into this Bill. May I thank the Committee for the overwhelming vote of thanks which has been accorded to my right hon. Friend and myself. I never felt more uncomfortable in addressing hon. Members than I do in the face of such widespread acknowledgement, which was fortunately tempered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) describing me as an animated oil-can. I can only hope that one of the popular cartoonists heard him, although I tremble to think what my wife will say when she sees the result of his efforts.
The hon. and gallant Member put a very interesting practical point, with which I will endeavour to deal. We are discussing excepted districts, where the local authority—that is, the local borough council or urban district council, as the case may be—will become the divisional executive. There is no device known to the law whereby two or three such authorities can meet together to take on the kind of powers that are delegated under this paragraph. What can happen in such cases is one of two things. There can be the arrangement which I suggested to my hon. Friend the Member for 2090 Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). If the central district concerned is a comparatively large and populous one, and the surrounding districts that wish to come in are comparatively small, there might be an arrangement whereby the education committee of the larger area should include members nominated by the small areas. In that case the council for the larger area would be the council of an excepted district, with the status that that gives. If that is an unwise procedure, the three or four councils concerned may nominate members, in some proportion to be agreed in the county scheme, and these members will meet to form the divisional executive. In one or other of these ways it will be possible for contiguous districts to set up a divisional executive which will be able to administer such education functions as are delegated to the executive for the area of all the authorities concerned.
§ Major Procter
But this would have no statutory effect unless it were put into the Bill. Will my hon. Friend see that provision is made for these desirable things to be carried out?
§ Major Procter
But if two or more local authorities in the same geographical area desire to unite in order to fulfil the conditions set out in paragraph 4, can the Minister make an Order approving such a proposal?
§ Mr. Ede
I endeavoured to describe the point of the excepted district, which is that the county district council itself is the divisional executive. There is no process known to law by which you can combine two councils to get them to meet together. Even their membership is not always in proportion to population. One council may be larger than another although it represents a smaller population. If those two councils met together, the joint meeting might result in very difficult problems of representation arising.
§ Sir A. Maitland
The hon. Gentleman is not dealing with the point. There are today joint authorities for all sorts of purposes, sewerage boards, water boards, and the like. My hon. and gallant Friend 2091 wants to know whether it is possible for authorities to meet together, not as single councils but as joint authorities.
§ Mr. Ede
That was what I endeavoured to explain. Joint hospital boards, joint sewerage boards, and a large number of other joint boards are constituted by local authorities agreeing to nominate members to serve on them. No joint hospital board is constituted of all the members of all the contributory councils, meeting at a given time, and that is not possible under this scheme. There is no limitation, as far as I know, in paragraph 2 of this part of the Schedule, on the way in which a divisional executive can be constituted so as to give adequate representation to such number of councils as may desire to be included in it. The only point that remains is the question of the voluntary arrangement. The duty is laid on the county council of consulting all the county district councils concerned. If the county scheme does not accord with their wishes—and, after all, there would be a desire, I imagine, that, as far as possible, it should be arranged by agreement—they can approach the Minister, and suggest that they have a better way of dealing with their particular area than the way inserted by the county council in the scheme.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Lest there should be some trouble in my constituency because I alone have not congratulated the Minister, may I congratulate him?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I beg to move, in page 82, line 22, at the end, to insert:Provided that in the event of the local education authority objecting to a scheme or any part thereof they shall send to the Minister a memorandum setting out their objections and at the same time shall transmit a copy of such memorandum and any representations made to the Minister to the council of the excepted district and such council shall be entitled to furnish the Minister with its observations on such objections or representations and failing argeement the Minister shall hold a local inquiry before making an order.This Amendment is intended to afford a local education authority an opportunity, if it objects to a scheme made by the excepted district, to submit its objections to the Minister and it requires the local education authority to forward a copy of its objections to the council of 2092 the county District by whom the scheme has been made. The object is to enable the council of an excepted district to be informed of the objections which the local education authority may have to the scheme of divisional administration which it has made for its own excepted district. If an excepted district authority has submitted a scheme, to which the local education authority takes exception, the excepted district authority ought to be made aware of those objections, so that it may inform the Minister of its own views on those particular objections.
§ Mr. Ede
There is no doubt that the local education authority has the right to object to the scheme, and I hope it will be felt that, in dealing with such objections, my right hon. Friend would consult the county district council who had, in fact, made the scheme. There may be some point about whether there should have been prior communication of the objections by the county council to the county district council. I will look into that point between now and the Report stage, and if it is necessary to insert words to ensure that, I will see that it is done. It will have to be reciprocal, in so far as other councils might object to the county scheme, and if they are going to object they should send a copy of their objections to the county council. It will have to be a two-way traffic, and if it is necessary for it to be arranged, I will undertake to have that done on the Report stage.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
In view of the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. Of course we recognise that any scheme which he introduces at a later stage of this Bill to meet this point must be reciprocal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I beg to move, in page 82, line 22, at the end, to insert:6. For the purposes of paragraphs 4 and 5 of this part of this Schedule the councils of any borough or urban district or adjacent county district may by agreement combine to form an excepted district for an area which fulfils either of the conditions (a) and (b) mentioned in paragraph 4 and in such case the councils of the areas concerned shall make, after consultation with the local education authority, a scheme of divisional administration for the combined area which shall provide for the exercise by a joint committee of the functions thereby delegated as the divisional executive for the purpose of 2093 the scheme and shall transmit the scheme to the local education authority for submission to the Minister.The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the councils of any borough, urban district or adjacent county district to combine to form an excepted district and to formulate a scheme of divisional administration for combined areas, and to proceed to exercise, by a joint committee, any functions thereby delegated to them as the divisional executive. I think that this Amendment would overcome the difficulties which the Parliamentary Secretary was discussing a little while ago, when he mentioned that there was no legal power that he knew of for several councils to meet together. This Amendment would enable them to exercise any functions delegated to them through a Joint Committee. I think that a divisional executive formed in this way would, from many points of view, be ideal, as regards area, size of population and character, with a centre not too remote. As such a unit would be formed by agreement of its constituent parts, harmony would be assured. I do not think it requires many words to commend this Amendment to the Committee. I do not know whether there is any objection in principle to such a combination, but I can hardly imagine that there could be. If we get combination by agreement, I am sure it should produce the most satisfactory results.
§ Mr. Ede
I thank the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) for moving this Amendment, which appears in the names of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) and the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer). I know that the hon. Member for Winchester, who is away from the House on important military duties, has taken a very great interest in this particular matter, and, at his request, I met the representatives of the ancient city which gives its name to his constituency, the representatives of the adjoining and quite modern borough of Eastleigh and the surrounding rural district of Winchester. The three together form a population of somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000, if my recollection is accurate. They desire, in the first place, to be an excepted district. For the reasons which I gave in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter), it is quite clear that they cannot, in fact, be an 2094 excepted district, but it is very desirable that, where these local arrangements can be made, they should be made. We have to recollect, however, that the county council is charged with the duty of preparing a scheme for the county as a whole, and if numerous people got together in a county to make themselves various voluntary schemes, which would have effect by themselves, the county might be left with bits and pieces and would no longer be a satisfactory administrative unit at all.
I think I gave the answer to this Amendment, with the principle of which we are thoroughly in accord, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington. The county council will, first of all, have to consult all the county districts, and I would suggest that, when the consultation takes place between such local government units as I have mentioned, they should present their scheme to the county council and say "We desire that we should be amalgamated, because we have these interests in common, and, in fact, our education services are adequate to cover the area we represent, or can be made adequate." Then, I am quite sure, they would get, so far as every county council which I know is concerned, a very sympathetic response; but, supposing the county council did not, in fact, accept their views, it will-still be possible for them to submit their scheme to the Minister, as an alternative to the scheme put forward by the county.
As I have mentioned that particular scheme, perhaps I might carry it a little further. It was suggested to me, by a number of other, people whom I consulted, that part of the Winchester rural district falls rather towards Ramsey than towards Winchester, and it might be to the interest of sound administration over the whole of the county that some parts of the Winchester rural area should not gravitate towards Winchester for this particular service. I think that case is evidence of the desirability of any such scheme as this being prepared in consultation with the county, so that the desires of the whole population, and the efficient working of the machine, can be studied.
I think I have indicated that we are very sympathetic indeed to the county district councils getting together to formulate their own schemes. We have suggested that the best way to do it is to 2095 bring schemes forward in consultation with the county councils, and that, if they do not get satisfaction, they have a right of appeal to the Minister, who will then have to adjudicate on the claims of both the county and the county district councils and decide which scheme is to be preferred.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I hope that my hon. Friend will look at the Amendment again, especially as he has hinted that it contains a principle with which he is in agreement. I thought I detected a different feeling in the objection to this proposal, from that which the Minister indicated earlier. I understood my hon. Friend to say that the main objection to the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) was a legal one. In the formula presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), the argument is not so much legal as adminitrative, and I say quite frankly that I was not impressed by the Parliamentary Secretary's argument. I thought he suggested that the main function was for the county authority to formulate a scheme, and that he seemed to be obsessed with the idea that it would be wrong to do anything which would upset the county scheme. I thought that was putting a burden on a small number of authorities who might be able to prove to the satisfaction of the Minister that they had a good scheme. It prejudices their case if he says that the county councils apply their schemes to the whole county. The smaller authorities are prejudiced in submitting smaller schemes. I hope the Minister will look at the Amendment again and come back on the Report stage with something that would meet the point. I beg of him not to come back with the argument which he advanced so eloquently on the presentation of the last Amendment, but to look at the arguments again and perhaps be able to take another view.
§ Mr. Ede
I know that you are a hard man, Mr. Williams, regarding neither hon. Members nor Ministers. If I had repeated the argument I used on a previous Amendment, I should, no doubt, have come in conflict with the Chair. I thought that, as we have a fairly permanent attendance in the Committee, it was not necessary to repeat 2096 those arguments. Certainly, the legal argument still stands against this being an excepted district. I do not admit that it gives the county council any more power than is given in the Schedule. It is a duty placed upon them by Statute to prepare a scheme, and it is also their duty to consult with the county district councils concerned. I believe that it is by the use of the powers of the county district councils—if dissatisfied after consultations—to approach the Minister, that they will be able to secure what they desire, if, in fact, it is the best scheme for the area which they represent. I will, of course, examine these words to see if they might be incorporated in the Schedule, but what we are anxious to do, as I have said on other Amendments, is to have so flexible a scheme of administration that it can be adapted to fit the diverse circumstances of the various parts of the country.
§ Sir J. Mellor
As the Parliamentary Secretary has said that he will re-examine the proposals, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The next Amendment I intend to call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Viant), in page 82, line 34. It and the subsequent Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield)—in page 83, line 34, at end, insert:The council of any county district in the area of a local education authority by whom any such scheme is submitted to the Minister may make representations to the Minister with respect to such scheme and may in such representations express objections thereto or submit proposals alternative thereto.—more or less stand together.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
May I ask you, Mr. Williams, whether you intend to select the Amendment which stands in my name and the names of other hon. Members—in page 82, line 31, after "councils," insert:the council of any borough or urban district may, not later than two months after a copy of the scheme has been served upon them, submit to the Minister representations in relation to such scheme and in particular may represent that the council of such borough or urban district ought to be constituted the divisional executive within the borough or urban district or within the borough or urban district together with such added areas as may be convenient.
§ Mr. Viant
I beg to move, in line 34, at the end, to insert:In the event of the council of any county district making objections to or representations upon a scheme made by the council of an excepted district a copy of such objections or representations shall be furnished to the council of the excepted district and the proviso to paragraph 5 of this Schedule shall thereupon apply.The Amendment does not need a great deal of explanation—it is almost selfexplanatory—but it is put on the Order Paper in order that we may, if possible, succeed in obtaining smooth working between the respective authorities. The Minister has suggested and the Committee has emphasised the need for a clear understanding between the county council and the other authorities responsible for administration, and the Amendment has been put down with that object in view. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it.
§ Mr. Ede
This Amendment is very similar to an Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) a short time ago, and it will be recollected that on that Amendment I promised that we would consider how far it was necessary to provide, actually in the words of the Schedule, for this kind of representation being made. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Viant) will understand that the promise I made, when I said this should have been a two-way traffic, applies to this Amendment as well as to the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member, and that on that assurance he will be willing to withdraw his Amendment at this stage.
§ Mr. Lipson
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether this assurance also applies to the next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) and other hon. Members, which deals with the same question?
§ Mr. Ede
Yes, the promise I have given covers it. I do not think that there is any need to give people the right to make representations on these matters, but it may be desirable that a duty should be placed on them to intimate to the other interested parties, at the time they make their objections or representations, that they have made them.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 82, line 36, to leave out from "provide," to the end of the line.
There is a consequential Amendment—the next on the Order Paper—to insert certain words which are necessary to make this paragraph coincide with the amended paragraph (4) which we dealt with earlier to-day.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The importance of this Amendment seems to depend upon its implications rather upon its actual terms. I would like to put this point to the Parliamentary Secretary. There were upon the Paper two Amendments standing in the names of a large number of my hon. Friends and myself, the effect of which was that an authority—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Committee cannot discuss Amendments which have not been selected on another Amendment.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but the point I was going to put to the Parliamentary Secretary does arise on the Amendment of the Minister. I will, if I can do so without trespassing beyond the Rules of Order, put my point in a different way. I hope that I shall get an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary upon it.
There may be Part III authorities, which, neither by reason of their size, nor by reason of their special circumstances, can be constituted in excepted districts under the Amendment moved by the Minister a short time ago. Where you have an area of divisional administration which contains an authority of that character, is it contemplated that, in suitable circumstances, delegation may be given to the council of that authority in their own area, increased, if necessary, by adding areas to bring it up to the prescribed population standard and, of course, making provision for representation of the populations of these added areas upon the education committee of the authority? Is it considered that there is power under this Schedule to give the delegation to an existing Part III authority in these circumstances, instead 2099 of constituting within their area a new body, the "divisional executive," to whom the delegation is to be given?
§ Mr. Ede
I hope that we can get away from the phrase "existing Part III authorities." Clearly, we are now dealing with county district councils, some of which were Part III authorities and some of which were not. There is nothing in the Schedule which gives a prescriptive right to a county district council which was a former Part III authority. I want to make that clear, because I have heard several times a suggestion that because a body was a Part III authority, it has the right under this Schedule to something better. The Amendment I moved inserting the new paragraph (4) has made it possible for a district that has less than the prescribed population to become an excepted district. The two Amendments we are now considering make it possible for the county to confer on a district council within the county the position of being the divisional executive itself. What the subsequent arrangements may be will depend upon the scheme. If arrangements are to be only with the county district, the scheme can be comparatively simple, but it may be desirable, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) pointed out earlier, for a few rural parishes contiguous to the borough or urban district, to look to that borough or the district for its education services. In that case, we would have to make arrangements to secure that these areas were adequately represented on the committee of the divisional executive. That should have been in the scheme, and this Amendment is an attempt to secure that the whole of these arrangements shall be made. It goes a long way, if not all the way, towards meeting the point in the Amendments which have not been called.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
May I put one further point to the Parliamentary Secretary? Is it his view that it will be lawful for a county district council, which desires that delegation should be given to itself and not to a new divisional executive, to make representations to the Minister to that effect?
§ Mr. Ede
It would be very rash of me to tell the hon. and learned Member what is the law. It is certainly our intention— 2100 and that has been dealt with in another group of Amendments—that a county district council which feels that it is aggrieved by the scheme, shall have the right to make representations to the Minister to suggest an improved way of dealing with the county district in the scheme.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 82, line 38, at the end, insert:
except where the scheme provides for the functions thereby delegated being exercised by the council of a borough or urban district as the divisional executive."—(Mr. Ede).
§ Mr. Viant
I beg to move, in page 82, line 38, at the end, to insert:and every such body shall include a majority of representatives appointed by the councils of the county district or districts in the area of such divisional executive.The Amendment has been placed upon the Order Paper in order that we may have a statement from the Minister with regard to the representatives of these bodies. The feeling is that they should be directly elected representatives and that there should be nothing in the nature of co-opted members.
§ Mr. Cove
May I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary will deal also with the point I am raising in the Amendment which I have put down—in page 82, line 38, at end, insert:(b) make provision that every divisional executive shall include persons of experience in education and persons acquainted with the educational conditions prevailing in the area for which the divisional executive acts, and such persons as aforesaid shall where it appears desirable be appointed by the divisional executive on the nomination or recommendation of other bodies representative of educational interests in the area.That deals with the position of teachers, which is not quite clear.
§ Mr. Messer
No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will go as far as possible in the tidying up of the machine, but it would be a very serious thing to lay down in a Statute that what might easily be an agreement between the local education authority and the smaller bodies should be restricted by the use of words such as these. There is a possibility that it might destroy just what we want, namely, that co-operative principle and spirit which will make this thing work. It is not going to be possible to have this excellent Measure 2101 doing the best work it can unless we can rely on the common sense and good will of all those who are in it. If you prevent initiative in deciding how a body shall be formed, you are not going to make the thing better, but rather more difficult.
§ Mr. Ede
I am rather surprised at the argument my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) based on the words of this Amendment. I did not think that they bore the meaning ascribed to them. I was surprised that he thought they meant that only the directly elected representatives of the county district councils would be available for appointment.
After all, we have had some experience of that in local government affairs. In 1925, the area assessment committees were set up, and there the county district councils were allowed to nominate anyone to serve on them; whether members of the county district council or not. Then we had the guardians area committees under the Local Government Act of 1929. There it was laid down that the county district councils could elect only people from among their own elected representatives to serve on the guardians committees, with the astonishing result that I know of one urban council which failed to find among its members anyone willing to serve on the area guardians committee. When the county council concerned promoted, in a private Bill, a Clause to bring the law with regard to area guardians committees into line with the assessment committees, it was refused by a Committee of this House on the ground that one county council ought not to alter the general law of the land—a decision which might have been useful to us on occasion in the consideration of this Bill.
I think the words as they stand would mean that on every divisional executive there would have to be a majority of persons who were nominated by the county districts concerned, and that they might be members of the district councils or they might not. We anticipate that these divisional executives will be set up in this way that the scheme will provide that so many people will be appointed by the 2102 county council, and so many people by each of the county district councils who come within the sphere of influence of the divisional executive. We desire that the choice should be as wide as possible, that it should include the persons mentioned in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). It may well be that just as a scheme for an education committee generally includes provision that there should be persons of the type mentioned by him, so the scheme for the divisional administration would set out, let us say, that the county council should appoint six, one district council should appoint eight, another should appoint seven, and that from each of those groups a certain proportion should be persons having the kind of experience that the hon. Member for Aberavon requires. That would be one way of doing it. But here again we desire that local influence shall be strong and that educational influence shall be strong. It will be desiraable that there shall be no definite rule laid down in the Schedule because then we shall have a machine flexible enough to produce the result required for the peculiar circumstances of the area under consideration.
§ Major Woolley
I rather understood the Amendment to mean that the divisional executives themselves should have the majority of their members not from the county council but from the county district councils. If that is the intention of the Amendment, it is rather desirable, and I should hope that the Parliamentary Secretary would give some indication as to his views if the Amendment—
§ Major Woolley
It is desirable because the district executives are going to administer education within their own areas. Therefore, why should the county council come and have a majority of its members on the divisional executive? It seems to me so obvious that the local people should have a majority of members on the divisional executive.
§ Mr. Messer
But suppose you have a district with members on the county council. Is it to be presumed that those members who represent that district on the county council are going to be antagonistic to the interests of the district? Of course not.
§ Major Woolley
Members on a county council for a particular district are in a minority on the county councils.
§ Mr. McEntee
I was going to ask whether in this case something might happen—I do not put it any higher because, broadly speaking, I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary—that might be avoided if the Bill provides for an appeal. I want to know whether in regard to this Clause the same appeal to the Minister would be available to a district within the county that might be ignored in the setting up of the area committee when in fact they think they ought to have a representative. Suppose for instance a number of rural areas came to a local area and said, "We would like to make you the centre for our educational arrangements" and they presented a scheme to the county, and the county left out one or two of those rural areas. If those rural areas thought they ought to have a right to be represented, would they have the right of appeal to the Minister?
§ Mr. Ede
May I answer the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee)? Undoubtedly if certain rural parishes were brought under a divisional executive and the county council refrained from giving them representation on the divisional executive, the rural district council concerned would certainly have the right to approach my right hon. Friend and say that when the scheme was submitted to him the membership of this particular divisional executive ought to be altered so as to secure adequate representation of the rural district council.
With regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Spen Valley (Major Woolley), I agree that in most cases it would be desirable that the district councils should have a majority on the divisional executive, but of course it is rather difficult to conduct an argument between the conditions of Spen Valley and the conditions of South Tottenham, because there we have two very different areas to administer. However, in the counties outside Middlesex and in the urban part of Essex, I should say that mere force of circumstances will compel a majority of the people to be representatives of the district council. The number of county councillors, in such an area, in proportion to the district councillors is 2104 very low indeed and not all the county councillors, unfortunately, are interested in education and some may not desire to serve on the divisional executive dealing with education. I have no doubt that if, in any scheme of educational administration set up in such an area as represented by my hon. Friend, a county council was so unwise—and after all the West Riding is a very wise county council but if they were so far to depart from their tradition—as to attempt to get a majority of representatives on the committee, my experience of Yorkshire district councils is that they are quite capable of speaking up for themselves even when the county councillors are in the same room with them. Therefore I do not think that the danger which the hon. Member for Spen Valley might fear is likely to materialise.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) will think the answer I have given him on the various points raised has been satisfactory, and I hope he will also agree that it is desirable to leave the machinery part of this schedule as flexible as possible so that we may have regard to the very differing circumstances in various parts of this country.
§ Mr. Viant
I want to express my appreciation of the admirable explanations given by the Parliamentary Secretary. I can quite appreciate the difficulty of embodying this in the Schedule, but I take it from him that it would be more profitable probably, and achieve the same purpose, if guidance could be given to the authorities whereby their appointments might be made.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend may rest assured that when this Bill is passed there will have to be several circulars addressed to local education authorities on the way in which this machinery is to be brought into operation. I have no doubt that, as a member of one of those authorities, my hon. Friend will burn a good deal of his midnight electric light in studying them.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Lipson
I beg to move, in page 82, line 42, at the end, to insert:and in the case of a scheme for an excepted district include among such functions the employment of all officers for the purposes of 2105 such functions and the appointment of a chief education officer of the divisional executive.This Amendment really is to give to the excepted districts the right to employ all officers and to appoint a chief education officer. I know that they attach very great importance to having these officials in their own service. As these officers would have to work with the excepted districts, it is important that they should be appointed by them and should be people in whom they can have confidence. Therefore I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
This Amendment raises a matter of some considerable importance. Throughout this Bill my right hon. Friend has been at pains to explain that he attaches very great importance to local interest and to local responsibility. How can local interest be better aroused than by trusting to the local people the important task of employing the servants of the local education authority who are going to carry out the work of education in their district? If this Amendment is accepted, it is going to make a very great difference to the reality of delegated powers. My right hon. Friend impressed upon the Committee to-day the importance he attaches to making delegations successful. I would suggest to him that one of the best ways to make delegations a reality is to accept this Amendment and to place upon the divisional executives in excepted districts the responsibility for employing their own staff. At an early stage in this Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I should warn the hon. and learned Member that there is an Amendment on the next page standing in his name and that it is my intention to select that Amendment. However, if he goes very much further with his present discussion he obviously cuts out his own Amendment later.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Since it is your intention to select that Amendment, Mr. Williams, I desire to say nothing further on this.
§ Mr. Ede
It would be clearly impossible for us to accept this Amendment because, as I explained on Clause 6, the employment of these officers must be a matter for the local education authorities. Who appoints the officers will be a matter for the scheme. With regard to the appoint- 2106 ment of the chief education officer of the divisional executive, we desire that there should be the same kind of arrangements even where the appointment vests in the excepted district, that will prevail in the appointment of the chief educational officer of the authority.
The Committee will recollect that Clause 81 is now amended so that before a local education authority proceeds to the appointment of a chief education officer it shall submit its list of persons, whom it is proposed to interview, to my right hon. Friend, Hon. Members will recollect the argument adduced in favour of that course: exactly the same kind of argument prevails as between the excepted district and the local education authority. It is desirable that the person appointed as the chief education officer should be one in whom the local education authority has confidence and, therefore, if a similar arrangement was included in the scheme we should regard it with favour.
Apart from that question, the appointment of officers, teachers and servants will be a matter for inclusion in the scheme. The excepted district has a right to prepare its own scheme and the county council cannot alter it. It can, of course, make objection to my right hon. Friend that the scheme is not in accordance with its own desires, but I cannot imagine, in view of the importance which the excepted districts have made clear that they attach to this right of appointment, that the scheme will do other than include the right of appointment of officers. While we cannot accept the Amendment, I suggest that it would be better to rely upon the excepted districts' use of the scheme rather than upon something placed in the Schedule.
§ Mr. Messer
Do I understand that when a scheme is submitted to the President the county council can make what observations they like on that scheme to the President?
§ Mr. Lipson
I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend recognises the importance of 2107 this matter to the excepted districts and I quite agree that the proper place to deal with it is in the scheme. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 82, line 50, at the end, to insert:(f) provide for the determination by the Minister of any disputes between the local education authority and any divisional executive.This Amendment is one to which I know those who speak for the county district councils attach very considerable importance. It enables any dispute between a local education authority and any divisional executive, whether it be the divisional executive of an excepted district or not, to be referred to the Minister for decision. I do not think we could have made this appeal wider. This clearly covers any dispute that may occur between a divisional executive and a county council, and I hope Members will feel that my right hon. Friend has gone as far as possible to meet them.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I have not troubled the Committee with any observations so far on this stage of the Bill. I have exercised a self-denying ordinance and I only break it now because of the problem which is troubling my people in Rugby. In Rugby our educational institutions are extraordinarily highly developed—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Perhaps the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) will confine himself to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Brown
It is a little difficult, Mr. Williams, when such noises are going on around me. As I was saying, Rugby is the one educational authority in Britain which has taken full advantage of the Fisher Act. It has the only adult school 2108 of its kind in Britain; it has a first-rate secondary school, a day continuation school and a first-rate technical college. The town has taken advantage of the Act of 1921 to levy a special rate of 1d.—which, under a subsequent Act, was increased to 1⅓d.—for the purpose of developing an extensive scholarship system in the county. The Rugby Town Council are apprehensive about the Bill as a whole. Under the Bill, their power to levy that rate disappears and they feel that the Warwickshire County Council will not be willing to apply that levy over the county as a whole and that in time the effect will be that Rugby town's education system will tend to decline to the level of the county system as a whole. This Amendment is very wide; it permits an appeal to the Minister in any disputes between the local education authority and any divisional executive. The operative words are, "any disputes." They may relate to the nature of the scheme or the financial apportionments. There is no limit to what may be referred to the Minister. So, I want to extract from the Parliamentary Secretary an assurance that the purpose of this Bill is not to level high standards down to lower standards but, on the contrary, to bring the lower standards up to the higher standards. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will be willing to give me that assurance.
§ Mr. McEntee
Would it be in order for the Minister to determine beforehand a possible appeal that might be made three or four years from now?
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) mentioned this matter to me privately—and I thank him for doing so—and I have had an opportunity of looking into the circumstances. I think, however, that his memory was playing him false when he said that the observations he made just now were the first he had addressed to the Committee on this Bill. Perhaps they were not observations, but I recollect a powerful oration that he delivered on the Motion that Clause 82 should stand part of the Bill. That may have passed from his mind—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
We must not go back in this way, although I, too, recollect that an awful lot of Members think they have not spoken before.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not know what exactly is the stress that can be placed on the word "awful" in that connection, Mr. Williams. I can rightly give my hon. Friend the assurance he asked for, that the kind of dispute he mentioned can be referred, under this Amendment, to my right hon. Friend. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) pointed out, my right hon. Friend will be exercising a judicial function and it would not be right of me to say that anything that came from Rugby will, of necessity, be approved. But we do heartily agree with my hon. Friend that the machinery of this Bill is not to be used for the purpose of levelling down. Where an area is a bit in advance of the surrounding neighbourhood, that advance has at least to be maintained, and we anticipate that the wider provisions of this Bill will enable the surrounding district which is behind to catch up with the more advanced area. In so far as there may be any suggestion that the Bill might be used in certain circumstances to level down, I hope that that will be removed and that any divisional executive which feels that the standard already attained in its area might be reduced, in the kind of circumstances mentioned by my hon. Friend, will feel that they may use this Amendment, when it gets into the Bill, to maintain the educational standards on which it has set store.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
This Amendment is one to which the county district authorities attach special importance and I want to ask whether it is clear that this right of appeal will extend to disputes arising out of financial matters.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I beg to move, in page 83, line 9, at the end, to insert:Every scheme made in respect of an excepted district shall provide that—This Amendment is intended to ensure that this system of delegation, which is the outstanding administrative feature of this Bill, will be a reality. As the Committee know, delegation is not a new thing in local government; it is a form of administration which, in the past has not been popular and, in particular, it has aroused the suspicion of the county district councils. My right hon. Friend is basing the administration of this Bill to an important extent upon this system of delegation. Therefore, it is essential that we should be sure that there are inserted in the Bill provisions which will make the system of delegation a reality and which will free it, as far as may be, from the suspicion with which it has hitherto been regarded by the county district councils. In this Amendment we have endeavoured to put down two or three matters in respect of which the councils of the excepted districts will have a statutory right to include in their schemes of divisional administration. First, the Amendment provides that the excepted district councils should be the authority who are to employ the officers, teachers and servants who will be employed. A few moments ago the Parliamentary Secretary was dealing with an Amendment on somewhat similar lines and he made it quite clear that it was intended that the councils of the excepted districts should have the right to appoint their own officers and servants. That goes a very long way to meet the point of this Amendment.
- (i) all officers, teachers and servants shall be the servants of the council of the district;
- (ii) the district shall have a right of appeal to the Minister in the event of dis-
2110 agreement between the local education authority and themselves on questions of policy, finance, interpretation or otherwise;
- (iii) there shall be joint consultation between the local education authority and the divisional executive in regard to the formulation of policy relating to all branches of education and also including the siting of schools; and any scheme under the provisions of which the council of any borough or urban district is constituted a divisional executive."
§ Mr. Ede
I was listening very attentively and I was going to reply to that point. I did not say they could appoint their officers as a right. I said that the right of appointment and dismissal could be embodied in the scheme. I have not said anything beyond that. When I reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman I am 2111 going to say that I do not propose to accept the first paragraph of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I do not think I misunderstood the statement the Parliamentary Secretary made. There are two matters in which my Amendment is not met by the hon. Gentleman's statement. We are asking that excepted districts should have a statutory right to include in their schemes of divisional administrant the right to employ their own officers. I appreciate that the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary does not go as far as that. The other matter in respect of which we are asking that he shall go a little further than he has hitherto been prepared to go is that not only the councils of the excepted districts should have the right to appoint their officers, but that those officers should be their servants. The argument which the Parliamentary Secretary used when this point was raised on one of the Clauses of the Bill was that it was not possible for the officers to be the servants of the divisional executive because divisional executives were not bodies which had either the statutory power or the necessary funds to employ officers or to make proper provisions for their superannuation. I agree that in the case of a divisional executive set up under this Schedule which is not a council of an excepted district the argument that he has used is perfectly sound, and I should not try to tempt him to depart from it, but in the case of an excepted district the position is quite different because there you have an authority which has power to employ officers and has the necessary funds to make provision for their superannuation.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but there is a recent instance of this under the Air Raid Precautions schemes where the county authority was the scheme-making authority. In that case there was delegation of the functions of the county council to county districts, but the county districts are the authorities who employ the officers. That is a parallel to the position which will arise under this Bill.
The next point for which we ask is that the excepted district should have a right of appeal to the Minister. That, in view 2112 of what the Parliamentary Secretary has just said, has been met by the last Amendment. The final point is that there should be joint consultation between the local education authority and the excepted district council in regard to the formulation of policy, including a very important matter, the siting of schools, and joint consultation with regard to any scheme under the provisions of which the council of any borough or urban district is constituted a divisional executive. If an Amendment on these lines could be adapted on Report it would go very far to dispel those feelings of suspicion with which district councils at present regard the whole system of delegation. It is very important that those suspicions should be dispelled. We are not only making a new system of education. We are making local government history in this Bill. Delegation is going to play an important part in the future development of local government. Therefore I ask the right hon. Gentleman that something should be put into the Bill which will give those county and district councils the confidence in this system which we desire that they should feel.
§ Mr. McEntee
The hon. and learned Gentleman has raised several bogys, imaginary disputes which will go on for ever and an absence of cooperation between the authorities who will administer the Bill. Really no such thing will occur. There may be an occasional one but it will be very rare. The first part of the Amendment ought not to be, and I think cannot be, accepted. After all, the education authority will pay the staff, and they are the people of whom the staff must be the servants. What the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking is that, although the education authority will have the right to pay the staff, it will have no control whatever over them. That is an entirely impossible position and it ought not even to be suggested. I hope we are going to hear that the people who pay shall have the actual and ultimate control.
§ Lieut.-Commander Tufnell
I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider this sympathetically. Surely the excepted districts, who know the circumstances and know the people, should have the first consideration as to whom they should appoint. We were suspicious from the start that the county authority having 2113 the financial control would wish to control the appointment of the excepted district officers and, therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman will examine very carefully the proposition whether these can be appointed by the excepted district.
§ Mr. Messer
The Amendment seeks to put the officers into the employment of the excepted district, which is a very different thing from the excepted district appointing them. What happens now? The county delegates to a local body the right of appointing and dismissing an officer in the employment of a county authority. The districts are merely asking that they shall have the right to appoint, and there is no reason why it should not be granted. You have a range of officers who may be appointed by a local committee. The officers must be, however, in the employment of the major authority. You could have a county council agreeing to a director of education being appointed by a local authority, or to teachers, even headmasters, being appointed by an excepted district, but they must be in the employment of the county council. I do not see how you can have a rate levied by a body and take away from that body the right to lay down the terms of employment.
§ Mr. Ede
I want to bring home to the Committee exactly what my hon. and learned Friend means by his Amendment, although he will not say it. He asks for a statutory right to do certain things in the scheme. He is not without any statutory right. He makes the scheme and he can put in what he likes. What he is asking is for a statutory prohibition on the Minister not to take anything out of the scheme. That is what he wants and that is, of course, an entirely different proposition. While we are prepared, and have been prepared throughout, to give him what he asks for in making his speech, we are not prepared to give him the words that he puts into his Amendment, because unfortunately, when it came to administration, his speech would be forgotten but his Amendment would remain. I want the Committee to appreciate the exact point which my hon. and learned Friend was carefully concealing in his 2114 speech. It is a pretty thin case when one is driven to defend it on the analogy of what happens in the legislation relating to air raid precautions. They are an excrescence on local government. It is not for me at this Box to repeat some of the speeches I made on the other side of the House when that legislation was going through, because it might lead to disunity on this bench, but we all admit that it was emergency legislation passed to meet what we hope is a purely passing phase. I am sure that if after the war we have to reconstruct Civil Defence legislation, we shall have learned a great many things from the difficulties it has created inside the local government service.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The hon. Gentleman's argument with which I was dealing was that this could not be done because there was no lawful background for doing it. I drew an example from the A.R.P. services where the very thing is being done which he said on an earlier Amendment could not be done.
§ Mr. Ede
I should like to examine the legislation in detail before I accepted it as final that it could be done even in that case. The excepted district has been given the right to prepare a scheme. It can put these things in, and if the county council objects, it will have the right of being heard before any decision is taken. I should have thought that that was a sufficient provision for my hon. and learned Friend.
I am not satisfied that he has yet dealt adequately with the position of superannuation, because many of the officers, apart from teachers, are within the teachers' superannuation scheme, and the local education authority has to make a contribution towards the superannuation fund in respect of them. The excepted district is not a local education authority. That was the difficulty that was raised earlier to-day. The only way in which it can get funds for education is from the local education authority. As I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument it amounts to this that at some period or other in the year, the expenses of the excepted district will be met by a grant from the local education authority to cover the expenditure approved by the authority, and that, because out of that money the superannuation fund requirements can be met, therefore it is reason- 2115 able and right to make the officers the servants, not of the authority which provides the money, but of the authority which is the conduit pipe through which their salaries travel from the local education authority into their pockets.
I do not think that is a sound argument. These people must be in the employ of the local education authority. The extent to which their activities in their offices may be controlled by the divisional executive is a matter for the scheme, and can be included in the scheme which the excepted district will make. It is entitled to put as strong powers for itself in the scheme as it thinks right. My hon. and learned Friend admits that the second part of his Amendment has been met by the Amendment which I have just moved. The third part is again a matter for the scheme, especially in regard to the siting of schools on which he laid such stress. It may well be more important for the county council to have regard to the siting of schools than for the excepted districts. There may be a danger, where there is an excepted district withdrawn largely from the ambit of county administration, of the county proposing to place a school just outside the excepted district and the excepted district proposing to put one just inside its area, so that there might be a secondary school on either side of a tramline. It is as much to the interest of the county council to prevent that as it is to the interest of the excepted district. The selection of sites inside the excepted district might very well be one of the functions to be included in the scheme.
We have endeavoured to meet my hon. and learned Friend by the series of Amendments we have moved to-day. We have done nothing to restrict the right of the excepted district to make its own scheme and to have it transmitted to the Board of Education without alteration. I suggest that what happens after that must be a matter for argument, if any argument arises, between the county council and the excepted district council before my right hon. Friend, who will give a judicial decision on the dispute. We have given the excepted district councils far wider powers with regard to most of these matters, if they like to include them in their schemes, than in any other scheme of delegation in local government that I know Some of the people for whom my 2116 hon. and learned Friend speaks conjure up on occasion the most amazing tyrannies that may be inflicted on them by the county councils. If they ever suffer from these tyrannies it will be because they did not employ proper counsel to draft their schemes for them. If the schemes are properly drafted, the excepted district will have a substantial measure of autonomy. May I plead, even on behalf of the excepted district, that it may well be desirable that some part of its education scheme should be considered as part of the education service of the wider area? I think particularly of such things as the promotion of teachers. It is desirable that we should not have too many land-locked little islands where there is no real ingress for people who could bring to the educational development of the area a rather wider outlook than is gained by continuous service in the area of one authority. My hon. and learned Friend has been so reasonable in regard to most of the matters contained in the Schedule that I hope he will feel we have gone as far as we can to meet him, and that we are putting no restriction on what the excepted districts may ask for. If what they ask for can be justified they can rest assured that my right hon. Friend will be willing to see that they get it.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
This Amendment was really intended to help my hon. Friend, and I had hoped he would accept it in that spirit. It is the case that most of the points for which we are asking in regard to the statutory right of delegation have been met by my right hon. Friend, and I desire to acknowledge that, but I still consider it would have been better to insert some statutory right for the excepted districts. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 83, line 38, at the end, to add:12. If the population of any borough or urban district which is an excepted district is, according to any census taken after the passing of this Act, less than sixty thousand the Minister shall, if after consultation with the local education authority he is of opinion that the borough or urban district ought no longer to be an excepted district give such directions as he thinks proper under the powers conferred on him by the last foregoing paragraph.13. The minutes of the proceedings of a divisional executive shall be open to the inspection of any local government elector 2117 for the area of the local education authority on payment of a fee not exceeding one shilling and any such local government elector may make a copy thereof or an extract therefrom.The first paragraph of this Amendment will enable my right hon. Friend to deal with the case of an excepted district the population of which falls below the 60,000 limit, if that should happen in the future. The second paragraph gives to local government electors the same rights in respect of the minutes of divisional executives that we gave in respect of the minutes of an education authority by a previous Amendment. As much of the work will, we hope, be done in the districts, the right of local government electors should be extended in this way.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the First Schedule to the Bill."
§ Mr. Lindsay
I would like to raise two small points. I do not represent any of these areas, and I therefore have said no word during the last two days, but there are two small points I should like to raise. There is some anxiety, because the words "such education committees" in paragraph 1 of Part II seem to imply that the education committee is not going to have the same importance that it had in the past. I know there are committees for remand homes, public assistance, agriculture, and others, and my desire is only to clear up a possible misunderstanding. The second point is that later there was an Amendment by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) to include women on education committees. In the past 3o years far too few women have taken part on education committees. It is vital to this great Bill that, in future, there shall be new blood on education committees throughout the country and I wonder whether it would be possible to get those words inserted on the Report stage.
We are now at the end of this Schedule. I have been to practically every education authority in this country, Part II and Part III. Some are good and some are bad. It is no good saying that because an authority is small it is either good or bad. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on doing what no Minister has done for the last 40 years—surmount the problem of areas. In fact, one Bill was wrecked on 2118 that point, during the latter part of last century. The scheme of divisional executives and of excepted districts which my right hon. Friend has drawn up depends entirely upon partnership and good will. May I say to the Part III authorities that anyone who has been among them knows that there are people on them who have done an enormous amount of good work. Likewise there are officers among them who are going to be, I will not say displaced, but who will not have quite the same position as they have had before. If members of Part III authorities look at the new position in a constructive way, they will be able to give to some backward counties the benefit of the valuable experience they themselves have gained on the smaller authorities, and, in other cases they may be able to widen their own horizons. If we look at the Bill and its conception of delegated authority in this light, we may see the most fruitful developments among education authorities throughout the country.
This is my last point. Many hon. Members have said that difficulties of travel and distance will prevent some people from taking part in the county work. We should make an appeal to industry—I made this suggestion in the Second Reading Debate—and to trade unions to ensure that people who wish to give this kind of service are allowed time off to do so. Otherwise, it may be impossible for some people to serve on the new authorities as they have served on Part III authorities. With the maximum draught of good will, the scheme may work. We wish it well.
§ Major Procter
There is no provision in the Bill for the Press to attend meetings of education authorities. Such a provision is most important, seeing that education authorities will be dealing with the most precious part of our population, the children, and also with a large amount of public money. The Press should be allowed to attend these meetings so that there is no suspicion of hole-in-the-corner business going on, and the public will not become dissatisfied about these matters. Furthermore, it would have an educational effect, by educating the public about the work of the education authorities. I am sure that a very great deal of good will be done for the community as a whole if the Minister can see his way to give a statutory right to the Press to attend meetings of education authorities.
§ Mr. Cove
The Schedule undoubtedly affects the conditions of employment of teachers. Once this law is passed the teachers will be conditioned by it. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan) had an Amendment on the Paper in relation to the power of teachers to sit as public representatives on various bodies, and I wish we had had an opportunity of discussing that matter. I do not know whether any definite argument can now be brought forward, but I hope there may be an opportunity at some future point. The conditions of the teachers will be vitally affected, and the Bill will not be a success unless the teachers co-operate heartily in the spirit of the Bill. I should have liked an opportunity of discussing that Amendment, but I certainly say emphatically that if the Committee lays down conditions for any body of employees, members of the Committee should have an opportunity of arguing about those conditions. I hope there will be an opportunity at some future time.
§ Mr. Cove
My difficulty is to know whether we can now get these words inserted. I want to be clear on this point. I suppose I am rather stupid about this. I want a chance for the Committee to determine, or for the Government to accept, particular forms of words which embody certain principles, or words in which they may clothe the same principles. If I now talk at large about the matter I do not see how I can put it in a concrete way. The only concrete way I can find in which to put it is in the form of an Amendment. [Interruption.] On the Report stage, yes; if there was an opportunity on the Report stage, certainly. That is what I would desire. I would like to hear what the Government have to say about it.
§ Mr. Hughes
There is one small matter I wish to raise. The scheme under the Schedule for the setting up of districts is this, that the county will prepare its plans 2120 subject to excepted districts, and the county will consult the district authorities about it. I suggest to the Minister that he should improve this procedure somewhat, not necessarily by any specific provision—it can, I think, be done administratively—by giving the Part III authorities that exist within the county area an opportunity of submitting their own proposals, that is, Part III authorities that are not excepted districts, so that instead of giving a Part III authority the onus of having to disturb a carefully-prepared county plan, the county plan will be prepared on the basis of suggestions sent forward by the Part III authority, not necessarily a suggestion that the Part III area should be itself a district but a suggestion that the Part III authority's area should be part of a district.
I have not taken any part in the discussion to-day, but I venture to bring to the notice of the Committee that, as an example, I am referring to my own constituency, where I have apparently the most remarkable Part III authority in this country. It is remarkable because it is entirely in favour of the Bill. Unlike the cohorts so gallantly led by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) it is quite prepared to face the effect upon it of the re-arrangements that will take place under the Bill, and under the provisions of this Schedule. Further, it is so enthusiastic that it is prepared to face that very high additional cost. Its absorption within the scheme of this Bill will mean an additional 3s. rate. Here is an area where they have county schools. The area from which county schools draw must be bigger than the actual area of the Part III authority as it now is. On their behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, whether or not they support the provisions of the Bill, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give an assurance that those authorities which will be embodied will have an opportunity to present their views before the local education authority, that is, the county council, draws up its scheme for submission.
§ Mr. Messer
There is one point I would like to put to the Minister or to the Parliamentary Secretary. As the Bill is drafted we all recognise what a big improvement it is. The county council is to be the education authority. Within the area of that 2121 county council there will be certain local authorities which may be excepted districts. What will happen is that the administration of the county council will in the main be of a character which relates to large areas of a rural nature. Take the county council for Lancashire. There will be very few excepted districts. What is to happen if we are to get a county where there will be a large number of excepted districts, leaving what is the real education authority, the county council, with little work to do? It is true that there will be elementary and secondary education through the medium of divisional executives, but there will be an inversion of what will be the general scheme.
The Minister will know that I am alluding specifically to Middlesex, where the authority which has been the authority for secondary education throughout the county will, in fact, be losing secondary education to these excepted districts, so that 14 districts out of 26 will, in fact, be local education authorities. The only relationship between the county and those authorities will be the raising of the rate. In the main the administration will be in the hands of those excepted districts, leaving to the county council a small minority of the work to do. I fear that there is a possibility that that work might not be so well done because the county's authority will be attenuated. It is quite an original position. It does not apply anywhere else in the whole country. I want to ask the Minister whether he will be good enough, in these schemes that will be submitted, to take steps to see that there is co-ordination of policy within the county area, by which I mean that the scheme submitted by the excepted districts and the schemes for divisional executives, shall have relation to county policy, which will ensure the standard of educational opportunity for all within that area.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I desire to say only a few words upon the question that this Schedule stand part. As I said earlier in the Debate, in this Bill we are not only making education history but, although my right hon. Friend would be reluctant to admit it, we are making local government history as well. As the services are being re-organised, one by one, in anticipation of the post-war period, it becomes more and more plain that in each service this question of delegated authority which we have been debating to-day on this 2122 Schedule is of paramount importance. In each service, as in education, the need is for the service to be directed or planned for wider areas. The problem is how that wider area is to be combined with the efficient, responsible local administration. That is the problem with which my right hon. Friend has been confronted in this Bill. I think he has appreciated very plainly that, in order to find a solution to this problem, which arises not only in education but in the new health service as well, the system of delegation must be made a reality. I desire to acknowledge the attempt which my right hon. Friend has made to ensure that the system of delegation in regard to education services will be a reality. I hope that the proposals which he has made will be effective in their combined purpose of ensuring that the Education Service is planned or directed over a sufficiently wide area without destroying the administrative efficiency of the existing units of local administration.
There is one point, of a rather different nature, which I desire to put before the Parliamentary Secretary replies. It is a matter of some importance. It deals with the rights of the Press to be present during the proceedings of a divisional executive. The rights of the Press to be present during the proceedings of a local authority depend on the provisions of the Local Authority (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Act, 1908. As I understand, the provisions of that Act will not apply to a divisional executive. But it may be open to the Minister to insert in schemes of divisional administration a provision that the Press shall be admitted to the meetings of the divisional executive. I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary to give me a reply on this point to-day, but I ask him to consider the matter before the Report stage, and if it is necessary to introduce provisions into the Bill to extend the application of the Local Authorities (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Act, 1908, to these divisional executives, to bring forward an Amendment for that purpose on the Report stage. If it can be done by inserting a provision in the scheme of divisional administration, that might be an alternative to amending this Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
At an early stage of the consideration in Committee of the Education Bill of 1896, Sir Albert Rollit on behalf 2123 of the Association of Municipal Corporations, moved an Amendment that every borough having a population of more than 10,000 should be a local education authority. That led to the withdrawal of the Bill, and compelled the insertion of a similar arrangement in the 1902 Act, which has remained since that date the law of the land. Our deliberations to-day have been concerned with trying to find a fresh basis for the local administration of education. I hope that our efforts will be at least as lasting as those of the authors of the Act of 1902. If so, we shall not have spent our time to-day in vain. I particularly welcome the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), because I recognise that it contained a real promise that there would be a genuine effort by all the authorities concerned, whether local education authorities or county district councils, to ensure that the best possible results shall accrue from the discussion we have had.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) asked me three questions. The first was about the grant to local education authorities of a power to appoint committees, instead of only one committee. The circumstances of some areas are such that it might be advisable that there should be more than one education committee. In such circumstances we do not desire to prohibit by Statute the appointment of more than one committee; but in the majority of cases one statutory committee, as in the past, will be constituted, and this committee will report to the county council or the county borough council, as the case may be. My hon. Friend then asked about the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), which required that women should be appointed to education committees. We take the view, and all our experience during the Committee stage-confirms this conclusion, that women have now secured so strong a position in public life that it is necessary to assume that they will have to be considered. I can see no reason why if we say "including women," we should not also say "including men." [An HON. MEMBER: "That would make them equal."] Surely, we make them equal by mentioning neither. We do not want it to be thought that a woman is a special 2124 sort of creature, to be brought into public life in the way that was certainly necessary when the Act of 1902 was under consideration. It was from no desire to ignore the position of women, but rather in order to give it appropriate recognition, that we thought it undesirable to repeat the old words. I agree with my hon. Friend that this Bill will depend locally on the partnership betwen all the various councils and committees concerned for doing what it ought to do for the districts. Just as there must be partnership between the Board and the local authorities, so there must be an acceptance of the spirit of partnership between the local education authority, the statutory local education committee, the excepted districts, and the divisional executives, if we are to get the best out of the labours we are putting into this Measure.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford raised the point of the admission of the Press to meetings of the divisional executives. I have a special interest in this matter, because in the 1929 Parliament I introduced a private Member's Bill to amend the Act for the admission of the Press to meetings so as to provide for the admission of the Press to meetings of public assistance committees. Curiously enough, there is a statutory provision that the Press shall be admitted to education committees, which, even at the time the Act was passed, were only committees of local education authorities, but it was felt at that time that such tremendous powers could be delegated to these committees that it was desirable that the Press should be admitted to meetings of the education committee, as well as to meetings of the local education authority. Therefore, needless to say, I would have liked to include in this Bill a provision to admit the Press to the meetings of divisional executives; but we were advised that this was outside the scope of the Bill, and that it should be included in any Measure that may have to be introduced in future to amend the Act for the admission of the Press to meetings.
But I am bound to say that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford has at last made a suggestion with which I find myself in hearty agreement. That is, that the schemes may very well provide, so far as I can see, that the meet- 2125 ings of the divisional executives should be open to the Press, unless they pass the resolution that now has to be passed in order to exclude the Press from the meetings of a local authority or education committee. I will undertake, between now and the Report stage, to see whether, in fact, this is possible within the terms of the Measure as drafted.
§ Major Procter
Does that mean that it will be optional? I would like it to be compulsory. Will the hon. Gentleman see, between now and the Report stage, if he cannot make the Act for the admission of the Press apply to the meetings of these authorities?
§ Mr. Ede
No, I must be quite clear on the pledge I am giving. This only relates to divisional executives. I do not want it to be extended to governing bodies, schools managers and people like that. We desire it to be applied to a body exercising very considerable delegated powers, because, in many cases, the decisions they reach will not be capable of review after they have reached them. That is the same kind of argument that applies to the admission of the Press to the education committee as well as to the education authority. The committee itself could take very considerable decisions, about which the public might know nothing at all unless the Press were admitted to the committee's meetings. I desire to see how far the suggestion put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford can help us in reaching a satisfactory arrangement on that limited issue of the admission of the Press to the divisional executives.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) raised issues which are mentioned in the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan). We were advised that the Amendment itself was unnecessary, that all the points raised in it are, in fact, covered by the existing law. There are, as I understand it, two points raised. The first is that there is a desire that teachers may be available as members of the various divisional executives and sub-committees that may be set up. I dealt with that point in speaking on the Amendment moved by one of the hon. Members for Willesden and I think there is no doubt about that.
§ Mr. Ede
Neither am I a lawyer, although I have undergone a considerable amount of tuition in the law at the hands of several of my hon. and learned Friends in the House during the passage of this Bill through Committee. I am advised by lawyers that there is no doubt about the right of the teacher there. They may be appointed now under the Local Government Act to be members of an education committee, even of the authority under whom they serve, and the argument is that, these being smaller authorities, the greater includes the less. I will have the point further examined, as the hon. Member for Aberavon says he has been legally advised on the matter. The hon. Member's other point raises an issue concerning Section 59, Sub-section (2), of the Local Government Act, 1932, on which, undoubtedly, some lawyers in the country, clerks of local education authorities and even of local sanitary authorities have expressed doubts in the past. I understand that there was a conference between legal representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education and the National Union of Teachers, at which this matter was discussed, and these three groups of lawyers decided that there was no doubt that the Clause was favourable to the claim of the teachers to be able to sit on the authority which happens to appoint a member to a sub-committee under which the teacher happens to serve. That, again, is only legal opinion, untested in the courts, but the view of these lawyers, two of whom approached the matter quite impartially, and the other one from the teachers' point of view, was that Section 59 (2) did enable a teacher to serve on the local authority concerned. Therefore, we have regarded the whole of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stourbridge as unnecessary.
I take it that the Parliamentary Secretary will look at this again, between now and the Report stage, to see if any words are necessary to embody what the hon. Gentleman has just said
§ Mr. Ede
May I go a little further than that and say that if my hon. Friend dikes to consult his lawyers, and will get them to put into writing any doubts that they think still remain, I will undertake to 2127 have them considered, with a view to the point being met, if it is felt that the doubt is substantial.
§ Mr. Ede
I now come to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. M. Hughes). May I say that I hope that, already, in the various parts of the country, local authorities, county district councils especially, are considering the part that they would like to play under this Bill. As I said in reply to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), I hope there will be these voluntary groupings going on and that small conferences will take place to bring to the county consultations their desires for the future administration of education? There is nothing to prevent that in the Bill. In fact, I think the way Paragraph 2 of Part III of the First Schedule is drafted, is really an invitation to people to get together, so that when they go to the county authority for consultation they may go with concerted plans. It will remain for the county to see that there are no odd fragments of the county not included in a scheme, where it is desirable that they should be, and some of these voluntary arrangements may have to be modified to fit into the appropriate scheme for the county. We shall welcome anything that happens, from the angle of the county district council, to ensure that their views get adequate expression at the very earliest stage of framing the scheme. I can think of no better instance than the county town of my hon. Friend's county, where, quite clearly, it would be desirable that a specific surrounding area should be joined to it in a scheme of divisional administration.
Now I come to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). Of course, Middlesex, in this matter, is a case by itself. There might almost have been a case for having a special Clause in the Bill making provision for Middlesex, just as we make provision about the Isles of Scilly, but not for the same reason. We recognise the peculiar circumstances of Middlesex, but, not only in Middlesex, but in every county, we hope there will be a wise and progressive co-ordinated policy for the county as a whole, into which the various county districts and divisional executives will fit.
2128 It is clear that many of the types of schools in which my hon. Friend took such an interest on Clauses 31 and 32 of the Bill, can only adequately function even in a county like Middlesex, if there is a county policy to which all the divisional executives subscribe. Any adequate conception, in a modern sense, of secondary and technical education policy involves an administrative machine that is based on something far larger than even the most populous county district. I am sure that we shall do everything we can to encourage policy being based on as wide an area as possible. We have taken a long time on the Schedule but in view of its importance, and, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) said, in view of the fact that we are really embarking on a completely new experiment in local administration, I do not think that the time has been badly spent, and on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself I would like to express our very sincere thanks to the Committee for the assistance they have rendered us in the consideration of this very difficult Schedule.
§ Question, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the First Schedule to the Bill," put, and agreed to.