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Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, does the Minister accept that most secondary schools and a number of primary schools do not hold daily religious assemblies? Therefore, in spite of what the Minister says, they are breaking the law. Will he agree, first, that the main reason for this situation is that there is inadequate space in many schools to hold such assemblies? Secondly, does he accept that there is also a legitimate reluctance on the part of many teachers to participate in such assemblies? And, thirdly, is he aware that the faith of many pupils in this country these days does not permit them to take part in such assemblies, which have to be of a mainly Christian character? How can the Government tolerate such a situation? Is not reform long overdue?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, to answer broadly the noble Lord's latter questions, there is a great deal of flexibility which will accommodate all those problems. In relation to the earlier matter, in the past few years we have seen around five schools which were not performing properly in this area. All those situations were resolved.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the General Synod Board of Educationa policy-making body of the Church of Englandis not at this moment pressing for a change in the law although it is consulting widely on the issue? In view of what the Minister said regarding the significance of the act of collective worship in pupils' spiritual and moral development, does he agree that ill-prepared and ill-conducted acts of worship are not conducive to those aims? Will he further accept that training is necessary for heads, for members of staff, and for those who visit schools to conduct such acts of worship, and that therefore the resources for such training should be found?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, to continue my practice of answering the last question first, we believe that perhaps the best way of approaching the issue is for schools to involve local professionals in this job. With
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I agree entirely with the Minister on the need for the spiritual and moral development of pupils in our schools. However, does he not consider it a violation of the United Kingdom's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to impose an act of predominantly Christian worship on schools where most of the children are Moslem, Hindu or Sikh?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, we do no such thing. The rules allow a great deal of flexibility to a school. If it finds itself in the situation where the majority of its pupils, or even a substantial minority of its pupils, are not of the Christian faith, it has the ability to adapt its worship appropriately.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, would the Minister not agree that, despite what has been said about policy in this country, the limits of bleak 19th century materialism have been starkly exposed in recent years? Would he not further agree that pupils in schools have never been in greater need of being shown the values of spiritual and moral aspects of life and what Rudolf Otto once referred to as,
In that connection, I wonder whether I might ask the Minister to take note of a publication which was written by Clive Andrews a few months ago on behalf of city technology colleges whichwith all their emphasis on science and a skills-based curriculumhave nonetheless insisted on an enthusiastic presentation of the spiritual values.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the present law was decided on after full discussion in both Houses of Parliament only a few years ago and that no general opinion has formed so far expressing a desire or need for it to be changed?
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, it is understandable that the established Church should be in favour of the present situation. But is it not the case that the established Church is not now the Church of the majority of the people of this country? Therefore, if one were to consult not only the established Church but also people who attend other churches or do not go to church at all, might one not get a different answer?
Lord Peston: My Lords, this is really not the time for what would be an extremely fascinating debate on all these matters. But did I misunderstand the noble Lord? Did he say that only five schools are failing to comply with the legislation? The overwhelming evidence is that between 40 and 90 per cent. of schools are not complying with the legislation. Does the noble Lord's department believe that only five schools are not complying because it has asked only five schools? It is quite a serious matter.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, the mechanism by which these matters come to our notice is that if parents are dissatisfied with the worship in schools they bring that to the attention of the governors. If parents are dissatisfied with what the governors propose, the parents can bring that to the attention of the LEA. Only if that stage fails does it come to our notice.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Has not the Security Council system, despite its limitations, helped to prevent world war, the main intention in the Charter? But is not further international agreement now needed, because the Charter excludes United Nations intervention in civil wars, and they are now the causes of much distress, destruction and slaughter? In these present difficult circumstances, will my noble friend convey congratulations to General Rose at the end of his daunting mission, and good wishes to General Smith, his successor?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments and, of course, we shall pass congratulations to General Rose and warm wishes to his successor. Equally, it is the case that during the period of its existence the United Nations has been a very significant element in the avoidance of widespread war
Lord Ennals: My Lords, I appreciate the points made by the noble Lord in favour of the United Nations and what it is doing and I also recognise the generally co-operative nature of the Foreign Office in planning the events for 1995. But will the Minister accept that the group of people who need to be educated and influenced most of all are young people in schools? Will the Government ensure that the United Nations Association and the Council for Education in World Citizenship are effectively enabled with some financial support to ensure that they can bring the message to young people in their schools?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his helpful remarks. I understand that Her Majesty's Government are offering £25,000 to the National Committee, which is part of the UK United Nations Association, to be used to provide information and to try to disseminate the kind of facts to which the noble Lord has referred.
Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the conditions set by Her Majesty's Government for the re-entry of Great Britain into UNESCO have now been met and, indeed, have been met for some considerable time? Can he think of any better way of celebrating 50 years of the United Nations than the re-entry of Great Britain into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am not in a position, because I simply do not know the answer, to give a definitive yes or no to my noble friend. But I shall certainly pass on his message to those who are responsible for this matter.
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