§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish the use of corporal punishment in all educational establishments and to make provision for alternative forms of punishment.Just before the Christmas Recess I sat up all night outside the Public Bill Office to ensure that this would be the first Ten-Minute Bill to be introduced in this parliamentary Session. Perhaps it was appropriate that I should undergo some physical discomfort to enable me to introduce the Bill. If it eventually becomes law it will mean the end of a great deal of physical discomfort suffered by thousands of schoolchildren throughout the country.
The use of corporal punishment in our schools is one of the last vestiges of legalised formal violence left in our society today. Virtually every other country in Europe has abolished this practice. Indeed, Poland is approaching the two-hundredth anniversary of its abolition.
Article 3 of the European Rights Convention states:No one shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.Despite such lofty and well-meaning pronouncements, despite the fact that the Plowden Report recommended the abolition of corporal punishment in primary schools at least and despite the fact that even the most hardened criminal who has committed the most heinous crime cannot legally be subject to any form of corporal punishment, many children are daily subjected to a violent form of punishment with the full approval of our educational system.
We could have the anomalous situation whereby a child is given corporal punishment for a minor misdemeanour in school but if he or she commits a very serious criminal offence the law does not approve of corporal punishment for that crime.
I am informed, to my surprise, that it is still legal to administer corporal punishment to handicapped children. I 1154 submit that the use of corporal punishment has a brutalising effect on the teacher-pupil relationship, which should be based on mutual respect and not on violent confrontation. The use of corporal punishment is degrading both to the giver and the receiver.
I speak with some experience of both positions. Until I became a Member of this House some 15 months ago I had spent the major part of my working life teaching in comprehensive co-educational schools in Scotland. Soon after entering the teaching profession I learned that I was expected, if not specifically instructed, to administer corporal punishment. Through experience I learned how to eliminate its use completely in my own classroom situation but it was still particularly difficult to avoid it when latterly, as head of a large department, and then as assistant headmaster of a large comprehensive school, I was expected to support other teachers in circumstances in which children had refused to accept corporal punishment. But, of course, such a confrontation could not possibly occur if corporal punishment were abolished completely.
Many young teachers come into the profession with great pacifist ideals but soon find themselves caught up in the system. They see their older, more experienced colleagues resorting to corporal punishment and they soon find that they are likely to be branded as "soft marks" unless they follow suit. Corporal punishment is therefore endemic in many schools, and the only way to eliminate it completely is by legislation.
In my experience corporal punishment is also ineffective. It may act as a temporary form of suppression of bad behaviour, but it is by no means a long-term deterrent. Indeed it may be counterproductive, because violence breeds violence. If a pupil sees the teacher using violence to solve a behavioural or social problem, this legalising or formalising of violence may have a lasting effect on a child at a very impressionable age. If child-beating is legal in our schools, is it any wonder that there is child-battering and other forms of violence in society at large? In extreme cases the excessive use of corporal punishment could lead to sadism on the part of the teacher and to masochism on the part of the pupil.
1155 It has been argued that all that is required is control or a code of practice. There is a code of practice in Scotland but it is not mandatory and it is frequently flouted. For example, the code states that corporal punishment should not be administered for failure or poor performance in a task, even if the failure appears to be due to inattention. Recently, however, I received a letter from a parent complaining about a whole class of primary schoolchildren being belted for allegedly not paying attention to a lesson.
The Scottish code also states that in secondary departments only in exceptional circumstances should any pupil be strapped by a teacher of the opposite sex or should girls be strapped at all. That part of the code referring to "exceptional circumstances" is very open to interpretation and is frequently abused.
Lest any of my English or Welsh colleagues think that this is a practice confined to Scotland alone, I point out that I noticed a Press report last week stating that a Tyneside headmaster had caned some girl pupils. Furthermore, the Sex Discrimination Act may mean that it is no longer permissible to distinguish between the punishment code for boys and the punishment code for girls, and some individual heads and teachers may take advantage of this to increase the administration of corporal punishment to girls.
Surely it is not beyond our wit or the wit of the teaching profession to think of some alternative, non-violent form of punishment. Extra homework, for example, is a far more appropriate punishment for an offence such as late-coming, and withdrawal of privileges may be more appropriate in other cases. In some large schools it may be possible to set up special centres for pupils with extreme behavioural difficulties. The pupils in such a centre could be taught in small groups by an experienced teacher—and there are teachers particularly gifted in dealing with difficult pupils. The main educational aim of such a centre would be social education and not just academic education, with the eventual aim of reintroducing the pupil into the ordinary classroom after the cause of his antisocial behaviour had been identified and, hopefully, eliminated.
1156 For some pupils who are repeatedly guilty of bad behaviour, detention may be the appropriate form of punishment. I propose to include in my Bill additional powers for school authorities to detain pupils beyond the normal school hours, even, say, on Saturday mornings, when they could do some useful community service. The parents must, of course, be brought into consultation at an early stage when a child's behaviour is antisocial to that extent.
I would also be willing to listen to other constructive suggestions from teachers themselves and from the teachers' unions about how best the Bill can be phased in and what other alternative powers of punishment might be required.
One matter is clear, however. The continued legalised violence in our schools is quite clearly not the answer. Parliament did not go on its knees to ask the permission of chimney sweeps to stop children being shoved up chimneys. Parliament did not go on its knees to ask the permission of the hare-hunters to ban hare coursing. Parliament should also have the guts to stand up now and show a lead to the nation by saying clearly that hitting children has no place in our educational system.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I do not think that this House has ever heard so much rubbish in so short a period. Like the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), I have been on both sides of this problem, but if he had taken a little time, as I did this morning, to consult the Secretary General of the National Association of Schoolmasters he would have got a rather more astringent reply than he will get from me.
I feel that the proposals which the hon. Gentleman has put before us ought to be thrown out as the ludicrous set of specious, do-gooding nonsense that they are. [Interruption.] It is a pity that discipline, with or without corporal punishment, is not better on the Government Benches today. Discipline is an essential part of teaching, and it is very significant that people who pretend to believe in consultation do not listen more carefully to those who have the duty and the difficult job of trying to enforce discipline in some of our schools.
1157 It is regrettable that a former colleague who is now able to enjoy himself in this theatre should attempt to withdraw from the teaching profession a sanction without which many of those in it could not carry on in their jobs. [Interruption.] I am gratified to have a significant measure of support from the Government Benches for what I am saying, because people should consider this problem.
People who have the future of our children truly at heart will agree that there is something to be said for the old adage that if one spares the rod one spoils the child. When Baroness Burton attempted to introduce a Bill to ban corporal punishment two or three years ago, even she acknowledged that it was necessary for parents to be excluded from the provisions of her Bill. The fact is that in many of our more difficult areas the teacher is increasingly in loco parentis. The teacher has the job of seeking to instil civilised values and a proper sense of order into very often extremely rebellious children. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett), who from a sedentary position shouts his customary stupidities, is, if he did but know it, contributing towards that climate of vandalism and illiteracy which is far too prevalent in our schools today, and it is a matter which gives real concern to all those who have the future of British education at heart. [Interruption.] It is—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) should be allowed to make his counter-argument without interruption.
§ Mr. Cormack
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
We ought to reflect on one or two facts when we are discussing an issue like this. One is the frighteningly high
§ level of illiteracy. One reason why it is so high is the lack of discipline in our schools. Another factor which we should consider is that juvenile vandalism is costing the country something like £8.5 million a year. About £32 million is spent on the provision of penal facilities for delinquents, and one reason for the need for this is the increasingly lackadaisical, permissive and libertarian atmosphere pervading many of our schools. Anyone who has read even a few paragraphs of the activities at the William Tyndale School and what free expression can destroy must consider carefully the sort of proposal that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire is putting before the House today. [Interruption.] It seems to me that if anyone should go back to the nursery it is the crew at present occupying the Government Benches below the Gangway—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The Chair will make decisions regarding interruptions, not the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West. I ask all hon. Members to allow the hon. Gentleman to finish his speech uninterrupted.
§ Mr. Cormack
Anyone listening to this debate will know that those who are truly concerned and who have really reflected on the issues that we are discussing cannot but think that the move of the hon. Member for West Stirling-shire, however well intentioned, can only do destructive damage to the country's education system and the future of countless millions of children.
§ I beg to oppose the motion.
§ Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—
§ The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 181.1161
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[4.28 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Canavan, Dennis||Faulds, Andrew|
|Ashley, Jack||Carmichael, Nell||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Ashton, Joe||Cartwright, John||Flannery, Martin|
|Atkinson, Norman||Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Corbett, Robin||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bates, All||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Crawford, Douglas||George, Bruce|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Graham, Ted|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dean, Joseph (Leeds W)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Booth, Albert||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Hayman, Mrs Helena|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Edge, Geoff||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Hooley, Frank|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Horam, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Huckfield, Lee|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Hunter, Adam||Mendelson, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Mikardo, Ian||Snape, Peter|
|Janner, Greville||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Kelley, Richard||Molloy, William||Storehouse, Rt Hon John|
|Kerr, Russell||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Stott, Roger|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Lamond, James||Noble, Mike||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||O'Halloran, Michael||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Orbach, Maurice||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Litterick, Tom||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Tomlinson, John|
|Loyden, Eddie||Ovenden, John||Urwin, T. W.|
|McCartney, Hugh||Palmer, Arthur||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|MacCormick, lain||Park, George||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Parry, Robert||Ward, Michael|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Pavitt, Laurie||Watkins, David|
|McNamara, Kevin||Pendry, Tom||Watkinson, John|
|Madden, Max||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Mahon, Simon||Radice, Giles||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Richardson, Miss Jo||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Marquand, David||Roderick, Caerwyn||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Rooker, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Meacher, Michael||Sedgemore, Brian||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Selby, Harry||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Mr. Bruce Grocott.|
|Adley, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Molyneaux, James|
|Alison, Michael||Hampson, Dr Keith||Monro, Hector|
|Awdry, Daniel||Hannam, John||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Beith, A. J.||Harper, Joseph||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Hastings, Stephen||Morgan, Geraint|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Hawkins, Paul||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hayhoe, Barney||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Henderson, Douglas||Mudd, David|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hicks, Robert||Neave, Airey|
|Bottomley, Peter||Higgins, Terence L.||Nelson, Anthony|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Holland, Philip||Neubert, Michael|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Hooson, Emlyn||Nott, John|
|Brotherton, Michael||Howell, David (Guildford)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Oppenheim, Mrs Salfy|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Buck, Antony||James, David||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Budgen, Nick||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Penhaligon, David|
|Burden, F. A.||Jessel, Toby||Percival Ian|
|Campbell, Ian||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Cant, R. B.||Jopling, Michael||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Channon, Paul||Kershaw, Anthony||Rathbone, Tim|
|Clegg, Waller||Kilfedder, James||Rees-Davies. W. R.|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Reid, George|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Corrie, John||Knight, Mrs Jill||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Costain, A. P.||Lambie, David||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lamont, Norman||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Dempsey, James||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Doig, Peter||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lawson, Nigel||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Dunlop, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Durant, Tony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|English, Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shepherd, Colin|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lipton, Marcus||Silvester, Fred|
|Farr, John||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Sims, Roger|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McCrindle, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McCusker, H.||Small, William|
|Forrester, John||Macfarlane, Nell||Speed, Keith|
|Freud, Clement||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Spence, John|
|Fry, Peter||MacGregor, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fits)||Mates, Michael||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mather, Carol||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mawby, Ray||Tebbit, Norman|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tinn, James|
|Gray, Hamish||Mayhew, Patrick||Trotter, Neville|
|Grylls, Michael||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hall, Sir John||Mills, Peter||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Viggers, Peter|
|(Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moate, Roger||Wakeham, John|
|Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Welsh, Andrew||Woof, Robert|
|Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek||White, Frank R. (Bury)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Wall, Patrick||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wiggin, Jerry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Watt, Hamish||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||Mr. Cyril Smith and|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Winterton, Nicholas||Mr. Iain Sproat.|
|Wells, John||Woodall, Alec|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During the Division a right hon. Gentleman was nodded through the Aye Lobby. I asked the Member nodding him through where I could see the right hon. Gentleman. I was advised that he was in the Library. I have had the Library checked, and he is not there. The Member concerned is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. What action may be taken, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
§ The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It so happens that I was in the company of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the House five minutes ago.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
Further to that point of Order. I received information that my right hon. Friend wished to be nodded through. The word of one gentleman to another being taken, he was nodded through.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I could not remember the name of the right hon. Gentleman concerned, but I saw him during the course of the Division, and it is certain that he was in the House.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith
In view of the information given to the House, I withdraw. But I say in self-defence that I asked where the right hon. Gentleman was, and I was told that he was in the Library. I had the Library checked, and he was not there.