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Volume 462: debated on Thursday 3 March 1949

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asked the Minister of Education how many chairmen of committees or sub-committees of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation were British subjects in December, 1947, and December, 1948, respectively.


asked the Minister of Education on how many days in 1947, 1948 and 1949, respectively, senior officials of his Department were absent from this country on duties connected with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

One or more administrative officers of my Department of the rank of Assistant Secretary or above were abroad on such duties on 80 days in 1947, 82 days in 1948, and eight days so far this year.

Is it not a fact that the Permanent Secretary and these other important officials have been absent for a considerable time? Is it not very bad for education in this country, which is going through a very difficult period, that these very important officials should have been absent all this time?

It is true that the Permanent Secretary was there, as he happens to be a member of the Executive Board. Time and again in this House we have heard criticism of U.N.E.S.C.O., and if we are to make a contribution which is worth while it is essential that someone of standing should be there from this country.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that he is satisfied that the absence of this official was justified by the results obtained, and when shall we have an opportunity of hearing about them in this House?

It is always difficult to say whether the absence of an individual is justified. I would say that the contribution made by the officials from my Department has been second to none so far as U.N.E.S.C.O. is concerned. If there is any credit to be awarded to U.N.E.S.C.O. I think it belongs to this country.

Will the Minister say whether the Permanent Secretary was there in his capacity as a representative of the right hon. Gentleman's Department or in a personal capacity, as no civil servant is allowed to be a member of the Executive Board of U.N.E.S.C.O.?

The figures I have given account for the days that official was there both in his personal capacity and his other capacity. Although he may not be there as an official when he is attending the Executive Board, he is still an official of my Department when he is there.