I beg to move, in page 13, line 21, to leave out from "order" to the end of line 24 and to insert:shall have effect notwithstanding anything in any trust deed relating to the schoolI suggest, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this Amendment might be taken with the next one.
§ Mr. Renton
Subsection (1) of the Clause as reported to the House empowers the Secretary of State to include in an order regulating the constitution and proceedings of the managers of a voluntary approved schoolsuch modifications of any trust deed relating to the school as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary for removing any inconsistency between the provisions of the order and of that deed.The first of the two Amendments takes away this power and provides instead what, I think, the House may agree is something better, namely, that the provisions of the ordershall have effect notwithstanding anything in any trust deed relating to the school".The reason for this change is that alterations in the constitution of the managers of an approved school made by order under the Clause may have to be varied from time to time in the light of experience and it would be a cumbersome thing to have to make corresponding amendments in the trust deed on 359 each occasion that there is a fresh order. This Amendment would save all that trouble.
The second of the Amendments adds two new subsections to the Clause. The new subsection (4) provides that if a school ceases to be an approved school any order made under subsection (1) and any appointment of additional managers under subsection (3) shall cease to have effect. A school may cease to be an approved school either because the Secretary of State withdraws his certificate of approval or because the managers voluntarily surrender it. Both of these are very rare contingencies, but we must provide for them.
The new subsection (5) gives the term "trust deed" a wide definition similar to that which was given to it in the Education Act, 1944. Those hon. Members who discussed this matter of voluntary approved schools in some detail in the Standing Committee will remember that they are managed by a variety of bodies under a variety of legal instruments which may include not only a trust deed in the strict sense of the word but also a will or even articles of a registered company. Also there are some voluntary approved schools which operate under the rules of unincorporated associations and there are yet others which are operated under charitable schemes made by the High Court or by the Charity Commissioners or by the Minister of Education. It is necessary technically that we should include within our definition all these possible types of trust deed used by all these types of body.
§ Mr. MacColl
I find some difficulty in following the hon. and learned Gentlemen in his account of these changes and in assessing their precise significance. We considered this Clause in a fair amount of detail in Committee. I did not appreciate then that he was proposing to make alterations of this kind.
One of the points I am not very clear about is, although he mentioned the Education Act, how far these Amendments depart from the general procedure of the Education Act, how far they make a new departure for which there are not precedents in other fields.
The other point I want to ask about is in relation to the new subsection (4) which deals with schools ceasing to be 360 approved schools. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman explain whether it is completely free for the managers or trustees of a voluntary approved school just to go out of business whenever they want to? Is there any limit on their powers which they have to give notice that they are going out of business? Is there any provision whereby, if they decide they do not want to continue with the school, the Secretary of State gets first refusal in order to be able to make other arrangements for carrying on the institution?
In the new Clause which must not be discussed we made some suggestion for providing that where the managers want to give up running an approved school the local authority should have first refusal. It seems to me that it might put us in a very embarrassing position. We might find that public money had been used for many years in maintaining an approved school. The school might have built a substantial goodwill and an experienced team as a staff and might have filled an essential place in the working of the approved schools system. As a result of pressure applied by the Home Secretary on the managers to make changes in their administration they might say that they would not continue under those conditions. This was said in Standing Committee as being one of the dangers in an Amendment which we then moved. If that happened, would the staff, the goodwill and everything else disappear overnight, or is there some arrangements whereby the school would be preserved if it filled a key need in the approved schools system?
§ Mr. Ede
I wish to deal with the Amendment which the Joint Under-Secretary has moved, but most of what I shall say about it will also apply to the second Amendment which I understand we are discussing with it. This is a strange Amendment to come from a Conservative Government. This is even more powerful than the usual Henry VIII Clause. What the Secretary of State decides to do shall have effect notwithstanding anything in any trust deeds relating to the school. The wishes of the pious founder and all the other people, less pious, who have maintained the school will be subject to the right hon. Gentleman's view when he comes to 361 make an order regulating the constitution and the proceedings of the managers. I think it desirable that that should be so, but then I am not a Conservative.
These powers will have to be used with very great discretion unless there are to be even more than sixty-nine hon. Members opposite upset by some of the things that it will be possible to do. I see that the Home Secretary has returned to the Chamber. As we did not see him in Committee upstairs we might as well take this opportunity of letting him understand what we want.
The right hon. Gentleman wrote me a letter dated 7th April, which, thanks to the inefficiency of the Postmaster-General, did not reach me until yesterday morning, but the right hon. Gentleman has very much hampered me by putting at the top of the letter the word "personal" because that has prevented my discussing it with my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). We wished that a voluntary school should have added to its management committee some persons nominated by the local authority in whose area it was situated and possibly also, where a school covers a wide area and accepts children from all over the country, representatives nominated by more than one local authority.
We proposed in Committee an Amendment to provide that at least one-third of the membership of the management committee would be composed of persons nominated by the local authority. Judging from his letter to me, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that we wanted members of a local authority appointed. That is not so. We were trying to follow what has been the practice with rate-aided and State-aided schools since 1902, and to allow the local authority to nominate one-third of the number, not necessarily from its own membership but from persons whom by the local authority's own knowledge of the locality, it believed to be suitable persons for this purpose.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to quote his letter. I regard it as a very precious private possession at the moment, but if he is willing to give 362 it the circulation to which its authorship ought to entitle it, I will read it. It says:I intend that we shall examine the constitution of each committee of management and that in the exercise of the powers under Clause 19 (1) we shall provide for the addition of one or more local authority members unless it is clear that the constitution of the committee already provides a sufficiently broad representation. I must reserve my judgment in exceptional cases, but I should expect the result to be that it will become the normal practice for local authority members to be on the committees of management.If they are local authority representatives rather than local authority members, I welcome that as bringing the schools more into line with the general education system of the country, and I hope that the county councils and county borough councils, which are the authorities for this purpose, will take some pains in selecting suitable people.
I proposed for consideration by the Standing Committee—it stood on the Notice Paper for a long time—a scheme to constitute county councils and county borough councils approved school authorities similar to the way in which they are local education authorities, and enabling these voluntary approved schools to be part of the system of such an authority in the same way as the Church and Roman Catholic schools are part of the provision maintained by local education authorities in the counties and county boroughs.
But, in the end, I was faced with the difficulty that there are, comparatively speaking, so few of these schools that most local approved school authorities would have only one school to manage. It might be a local authority school or it might be a voluntary school. I do not think that we want to create the tremendous machinery that would have been involved merely for that purpose. However, I hope that the local authorities in whose areas the schools are situated will be given opportunities to assist them with regard to some of the problems of management, particularly where they get into difficulties with the local authorities or even with benches of magistrates and the parents of pupils, which might lead to recourse to the courts if they do not get the kind of advice that a local authority legal department can give to the existing schools under local education authorities.
363 As I say, I do not mind the right hon. Gentleman and his successors as Secretary of State having the tremendous powers which the first Amendment gives them with regard to trust deeds. The way in which some of these need to be amended cries out for this drastic form of treatment, and I hope that, as a result of the powers which the right hon. Gentleman is taking under these Amendments, we shall be able to get rid of some of the difficulties and anomalies which were alluded to by my hon. Friends in the Standing Committee.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has kindly acknowledged my letter. I am sorry that it was of such a personal character, but it was written from home and I dare say that it was marked "personal" as a natural instinct. Perhaps I should have made it available to his hon. Friends, but he has read out the vital paragraph, which I did not intend to keep private. I was intending to say something about this matter, and I will do so now. The position is as stated in my letter, but I shall enlarge upon it.
I accept that instead of "local authority members" it should be "local authority representatives". I think that the expression "local authority members" is wrong. He spoke to me about this some time ago, and we were considering the matter in relation to our old experience as joint partners in the Education Act, 1944. I must make it clear that at one stage I thought that we could have a reform of the approved schools more on the lines of the Education Act, but I then found that that was not practicable, in view of the nature of approved schools, and that is the answer to the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South East (Miss Bacon), who put down a thoughtful Clause which was not called, dealing with the provision and management of approved schools.
I do not think that we could have done anything quite so neat and tidy as she proposed in relation to the approved schools, which do not follow a local authority area. The situation is different from that of the Education Act, under which schools are essentially under the local authorities. We have found under Clauses 18 and 19 as amended, and in this machinery, a method of close association 364 with the Home Office while still preserving the voluntary principle.
While the voluntary principle has been criticised in the House, and while the self-perpetuating nature of many of these bodies has been criticised, I think that, with our new powers and the building programme that we have in mind, we shall be able to modify any evil results of the present organisation of the schools and be able to enhance the value of the voluntary principle.
Only a proportion of these schools is voluntary. The others are under local authorities. There are quite sufficient powers now under the central authority to watch over voluntary schools and improve their position, but it may not be as broad a plan as was envisaged by Members opposite. I believe, however, that it will be effective, which is what matters.
I am sure that the House will join with me in wishing the voluntary and local authority schools the best of good fortune in this new venture which they will be undertaking, and in thanking those who have given so much voluntary work in the past for all that they have done and intend to do.
§ Miss Bacon
I am sorry that I was not in my place when this discussion began, and I did not quite get the gist of the letter which had been sent by the Home Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). But while it seems that the position is to be better than it has been up to now, I hope that the Home Secretary will not regard this as an end.
I hope that, when he is considering the further Bill dealing with children and young persons, which he has promised us, he will once again look at the approved school system and see whether he could not do something on the lines which we would have liked. The Amendment which we had on the Order Paper was drawn up with the training colleges throughout the country in mind. Under that system, we have one training college for several local authorities. We thought that that plan was reasonable.
It is not only a matter of the numbers of people who will be representing the local authorities on the boards of managers; it is the services of the local authorities that are so important. Where we have a local authority school—and 365 only a quarter of the approved schools are local authority schools—there is close integration with the medical and educational services of the local authority concerned, which we do not get with the voluntary or local committee schools.
The word "voluntary" in this respect is rather misleading, because it does not mean "voluntary" in the sense of a voluntary school under the education system. Of the 118 approved schools in the country, 51 do not belong to any voluntary organisation but are simply local committee schools some of which have been carried on in that way since the middle of the nineteenth century. They are responsible to nobody in their area except themselves, and when a manager dies or retires the other managers simply co-opt someone in the same area in his place. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not regard this as the end, but will look at the whole matter again. At the same time, we thank him for going some of the way towards meeting us on this matter.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
As a trustee of one of these charitable organisations running some of these approved schools, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to clarify one small point. What is the relative position between the Charity Commission and the trustees when the Home Secretary uses these powers? This is an unusual power which he has taken upon himself. Will there be any difficulty about getting court approval for the Charity Commissioners?
§ Mr. Butler
This is complicated, because it involves the new Charities Act, 1960. If my hon. Friend puts down a Question, I will answer it. In any case, I will communicate with him and give him a full answer.
§ Mr. MacColl
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman answer the important question which I put about schools which give up business?
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Member asked three questions. The answer to the first is that the definition in subsection (5) in the Amendment in page 13, line 43 follows in substance, if not in precise terms the definition of "trust deed" in the Education Act, 1944.
366 The hon. Member's second question was what notice had to be given by the managers of a voluntary approved school before it could be closed. The answer is that they have to give six months' notice to my right hon. Friend.
His third question was about the assets, the property of an approved school, most of which will have been paid for entirely out of public funds. That is governed by Section 104 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. The hon. Member will find that under that provision various arrangements can be made as a condition of the payment of capital contributions towards expenditure by the managers on capital account. When a school is closed, the managers repay the whole or part of the capital sum to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary; or, if he wishes, my right hon. Friend can arrange for the school which has been closed to be taken over by a local authority, as another approved school run by a local authority; or can find other managers to run it on a voluntary basis as before; or, if it were to be taken over for some other public purpose, there would have to be a financial adjustment between the Government and the managers—in other words, the Government would buy the school from the managers. There would be no question of public money which had been advanced on capital account having been thrown away.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: In page 13, line 43, at end insert:
or under subsection (4) of this section.
(4) Any order or appointment made under this section in respect of an approved school shall cease to have effect in the event of that school ceasing to be an approved school; but nothing in this subsection shall affect the validity of anything done while the order or appointment was in force.
(5) In this section 'trust deed', in relation to any school, includes any instrument (not being an order under this section) regulating the constitution of the school or its maintenance, management or conduct or the constitution or proceedings of its managers".—[Mr. Renton.]