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Clause 10—(Further Education During Whole-Time Service 7 & 8 Geo 6 C 31)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 7, line 9, at the end, to insert:

"(3) In making arrangements for such further education as aforesaid the Service Authorities shall have regard to any representations made to them by or on behalf of bodies of persons concerned with education."
The House will remember that in Committee my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) moved an Amendment which received some support on both side of the Committee in relation to this matter. I he purpose of my Amendment is to meet if not in the letter certainly in substance the point advanced by him. Although I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you are not calling the Amendment to the Amendment that stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), may I point out that my Amendment being the greater, covers his Amendment which is the lesser. I hope that without going into details tonight, the House will agree to my Amendment I have attempted honestly and fairly to meet the points put from both sides in Committee. I do not think the House will want me to explain in detail and go into all the various points which have been put already.

I understand that the Amendment to the Amendment in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends—in line 2, to leave out from "by" to the end, and to add:

"the Minister of Education of forwarded to them by the Minister of Education from a university or from a body of persons recognised by the Minister of Education as concerned with education."
—will not be called, and therefore it is convenient that I should speak at this stage. I understand that the reason for not calling the Amendment that it can conveniently be discussed on the right hon. Gentleman's new Subsection. Though I think the intention of his Subsection is admirable, it is unsatisfactory in the form in which it has been moved and something on the lines of my Amendment is really required. Let me give the reasons in outline. In the Debate in Committee, to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, it was agreed by Members who spoke from all sides that, whatever other differences there might be between us, the Minister of Education was very much concerned in this. In the right hon. Gentleman's Subsection there is no mention at all of the Minister of Education. If he is really to carry out his purpose efficiently, he must mention the Minister of Education. It may or may not be necessary to mention the Minister of Education as a Minister whom the Service authorities have to consult because, whether he is mentioned in that connection or not, the Minister of Education can of course make his wishes and his views known to his colleagues in charge of the fighting Services.

10.45 p.m.

There is, however, another respect in which I suggest that the Minister of Education must be mentioned, if the purpose of the new Subsection is to be fulfilled. I agree, and I expect it is common ground in all quarters of the House, that there are bodies concerned with education that can give valuable advice and make useful representations on this topic, but those words "bodies of persons concerned with education" are extremely wide and extremely vague. Let me put to the right hon. Gentleman some points which I think might command general assent. The first is this: A great many people whose views may not be very well worth hearing and who may not have any great claim to say that they are concerned with education, may trouble the Service authorities and give them a great deal of unnecessary work. What is more, some may worry one Service authority and some another, and there will be no guarantee of any uniform estimation of the value of these outside bodies by the different Service authorities. There is one member of the Government who is, by his very functions, enabled to judge the value of these out- side bodies and that is the Minister of Education. I should have thought it would be very convenient to the Service authorities that all representations from these outside bodies should reach them via the Minister of Education in order that the Minister of Education may, if he thinks fit, comment on these representations. Anyhow, he can say whether or not the body making them is one that he recognises, with all his expert knowledge and experience, as a body concerned with education.

In order to carry out the purpose common, I believe, to all quarters of the House, and for the purpose of obtaining some uniformity in the conduct of the various Service authorities in dealing with education, and for the convenience of administration both by the Ministry of Education and by the Service authorities, I believe that something on the lines of the Amendment in my name should be incorporated in the Minister's Subsection. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to improve his Bill by providing that these outside bodies can make representations, but he has done so in language which is much too wide and too vague, and I ask him to consider the points I have made. If on looking into the matter, he realises the force of what I have said, I hope he will make the appropriate Amendment.

I hardly think it is necessary to amend this new Subsection in this way. I have read carefully the Debate which took place previously and it seems to me that the essence of it was that there should be consultation with civilian authorities, and that this connection should be retained through this very precious Service year. The Army at any rate has an advisory board and therefore, I think, will be able to deal with the situation in its own way and modify the old Central Advisory Committee, which was very useful during the war but which may not be the right machinery now. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air are here. I think it is high time both of them set up comparable bodies in their respective Departments because, at the moment, we are 3,000 persons short as regards officers for those services.

Whatever the machinery is to be, there is one difficulty which I beg the Secretary of State for War to consider. So far as consultation in this country is concerned, it is allowed for in Clause 10, out when it comes to troops overseas some machinery will be necessary. I believe that too heavy weather has been made of this. There is only a year and there is not much that can be done. It has been impressed on me from all over the country that this Service year, is being regarded by some people in the education world as a year of deterioration. Therefore it is important that, in some way or other, we make it a Service year which will retain a connection with civilian education that we give the maximum physical and mental development during the short year in which these lads are going to serve, between school life and adult life. This new Subsection pretty well provides for his, and I think it is not necessary for any provision to be made for going to the Ministry of Education on everything

I find that I cannot agree with the senior hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Lindsay). I think we all agree on the general desirability of the Subsection, but the hon. Member thinks that no Amendment of it is necessary. As things stand, at present without some Amendment as to who is responsible for judging, and who is the person concerned with education, the Service authorities are placed in an impossible position; and certainly so if they merely dismiss the representations of bodies of which they do not approve. They are acting contrary to the spirit of the Act in so doing. There is no need to be legalistic about it. "Bodies concerned with education" is obviously a phrase about people closely concerned with education, and no body which has no connection with education has a right to express views, but somebody must be a judge of which bodies are to be recognised. I submit that the logical person to make the judgment is the Minister of Education, and I cannot see now the argument that certain bodies within the Service Departments should concern themselves with education, if the whole idea is to continue with civilian education, can apply. Surely the more that subject is under the civilian and professional Ministry, and the less it is under the control of these bodies which, from their very nature, are unsuitable, the better. I think that the Minister should meet the point in some way because, at present, the scheme is unworkable and will throw the whole educational machinery of the Services into chaos.

I feel that I am compelled to join in argument with those who ask the Minister to accept the Amendment. Long ago, it was said that "Education is the only serious business of the Republic." It was an American who said so, but I think that it would be a universally accepted belief. The fact that these young men are being removed from civilian education is an important fact, and something which may affect them. I would ask the Minister, Are we to be indifferent of the future of these young men? I found my period of service in the Armed Forces a fruitful and profitable one, but had it been supplemented by a period of civilian education, I might have made better use of my circumstances. Nothing is more deplorable than this apparent jealousy among Ministers. The Secretary of State for War may say that these men are protected by the Manual of Military Law and various Acts, and that they are his and his alone. I would say that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Education too has a right in regard to their welfare.

Reference has been made to bodies of educational experts whom the Minister has recognised, but there are many others. I should like to see the Ministry of Labour as well as the Ministry of Education consulted. I foresee a young man embarked upon a compulsory military career who does not seek to carry a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack but intends to follow very definitely a civilian career. Is he, during those years of service in the Army, to be denied any horizon whatever, except that of being a field-marshal or a Secretary of State for War? I would prefer it if the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Defence widened his horizon for him and suggested to him that the months of service were but the prelude to a better day. The industrialists want to know that the men carrying out this military service have certain ambitions to enter industry afterwards. The commercial men look forward to attracting promising recruits from this field. There must be many opportunities which should not be passed by.

The suggestion that the man who is to be a soldier by compulsion is to be sterilised, isolated and limited in the cold embraces of the Secretary of State for War alone seems to open up a singularly uncomfortable and unpalatable prospect. I beg His Majesty's Government to show here that vision they have shown in other directions and to accept the enlightened suggestion contained in the Amendment to the Amendment. They must be prepared to look on the military career as a prelude to a greater and very useful career. The hotel-keepers of this country see, in the men we train in the arts of war, probable recruits to the art and science of hotel-keeping and would like to direct these men while they are serving in the canteen or the officers' mess, to the potentialities which arise under those circumstances. If that is true of the noble prospect of hotel-keeping surely many other possibilities arise. There is the art of journalism.

I appreciate that there are a great many possibilities, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will not explore them all.

I thought that in this great America which I am unfolding, I might indicate one or two of the lesser States. I thought hotel-keeping was one, and journalism another, but in deference to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I merely add the headings which I have written down here so carefully. Farming, for example. What admirable training—

I accept your Ruling that I should not elaborate this matter, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I thought a mere monosyllabic recitation of the headings would be sufficient. I conclude by saying that this is a very narrow proposal of the Secretary of State. It is agreed to consult

"…by or on behalf of bodies of persons concerned with education"
I submit there can be no limitation of
"…bodies of persons concerned with education."
We are all concerned with education—profoundly and deeply—and more concerned possibly with the education of these men, whose ordinary career has been restricted by compulsory military service, than other men. To narrow it down, as this somewhat bald and to me very difficult Subsection seems to suggest, to
"…by or on behalf of bodies of persons concerned with education"
—is to invite a rebuff. I can come before the Secretary of State for War and say, "I am such a body." But the Secretary of State for War looks at me with a glinting and very disapproving look and says, "I do not recognise you as such a body." I am like all the common people of this country, deeply and profoundly concerned with education, and this lack of definition will deny me the opportunity of offering to serving men a wider experience than their military service gives them.

11.0 p.m.

I did not rise before, because I was waiting for an intervention by the hon. and gallant Member who is most interested in this Amendment, the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg). In the Committee he moved an Amendment on which the Secretary of State for War gave a pledge, which has been redeemed by the Amendment now before us. I should be interested to know whether the hon. and gallant Member is satisfied with the new Amendment which has been substituted by the Secretary of State for War for the Amendment which he moved in Committee. I should be extremely surprised if he was satisfied. In fact several times I have seen him almost lift himself to his feet, and glance rather nervously half left; then, apparently he is met by some basilisk stare which forces him to resume his seat. I supported the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment because I thought it meant something. I must confess that the Amendment put down by the Secretary of State for War means nothing at all. He made it quite clear during the discussion in Committee that he thought the whole thing was nonsense and he has succeeded in producing an Amendment which makes nonsense of it. He assured us that it was his practice to consult the Minister of Education—and he has left all mention of that out of the Amendment. He told us that he worked in conjunction with bodies interested in education—and has left that out. All he has to do now is to

"have regard to any representations made."
As I said, I thought the original Amendment had some, though not much, sub- stance, I think the Amendment as it now appears on the Order Paper has no substance whatever.

I owe the fact that the Amendment is on the Order Paper at all, not to my own powers of persuasion, but to the fact that the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), having had a good breakfast, came into the Committee at 8 o'clock in the morning, showing as much interest in the proceedings as he had shown at night. As a sensible person, if I cannot have the whole of my case conceded I am grateful for a bit of it. If my Amendment had been accepted in the first place, it would depend on the good will of the Secretary of State for War and the other Ministers and on hon. Members to see that it was carried out. The fact that the present Amendment is included in the Bill is a considerable step forward and it encourages me to believe that in the years to come something will be done for these young men and that they will be given an opportunity to turn their year of service to advantage and to prepare for a job when they come out of the Services. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for having put this Amendment down and I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for West Bristol, without whose help I could have made little progress.

Amendment agreed to.