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Commons Chamber

Volume 649: debated on Monday 13 November 1961

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House Of Commons

Monday, 13th November, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Glasgow Corporation (Parking Meters) Order Confirmation Bill

Considered; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.

Petition

Leasehold Enfranchisement, Wales

I beg to ask leave to present a Petition calling for revision of the leasehold laws as they affect Wales. Although the Petition is in the name of only one man, Mr. Arthur Rappe, of 66, Mardy Street, Grangetown, it has aroused such widespread interest in South Wales that over 57,000 people have added their signatures in support. The supporting signa- tures are being taken to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, as he advises the Government on Welsh affairs.

Included in the list are the names of leading public figures in each of the political parties as well as leaders in religious, social, educational and industrial life. The Petition calls attention to the harsh injustice of the present leasehold system and appeals to this House for remedial action. The wording is as follows:
To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The Humble Petition by Arthur Rappe, 66, Mardy Street, Grangetown, Cardiff
Sheweth
That leaseholders in Wales are being held to ransom by finance corporations and ground landlords who demand excessive premiums before renewing leases, and who require unfair compensation for the purchase of the freehold.
Wherefore your Petitioner prays that legislation be introduced to ensure the right of every leaseholder who is an owner-occupier to purchase the freehold of his home at a fair and reasonable price.
And your Petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.

To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Pensions And National Insurance

Accidents

1.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what research he is conducting, under the Industrial Injuries Act, into the causes, incidence and methods of prevention of accidents.

None, Sir. Responsibility in respect of such matters lies in general with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and in respect of particular industries with my right hon. Friend concerned with that industry.

Am I wrong in assuming that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has statutory opportunities to do research in this field? Is there any reason why he is not doing it?

I think the hon. Member has in mind Section 73 of the Industrial Injuries Act. I am, in fact, operating those powers at the moment, not in respect of accidents, as mentioned in the Question, but for financing two research projects relating to diseases which might have some bearing on prescription.

In that case, is there any co-ordination with the Ministry of Labour or the Minister of Power in this matter?

Of course I keep in touch with my right hon. Friends, but no good would be done, and a great many wires would be crossed, if I were to try to enter into their responsibilities in respect of accident prevention.

As a great deal of information must come to the right hon. Gentleman's Department in connection with these claims—which run into vast numbers—is there not some advantage in direct liaison with the Ministry of Labour in regard to information collected in the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Of course there is close liaison, and, as the hon. and learned Member says, my Department collects a lot of information that is useful to other Departments as a result of dealing with these large numbers of claims.

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will state the number of successful claims in 1959 and 1960 under the National Insurance (Industrial injuries) Act, in respect of accidents causing at least three days incapacity to persons subject to the Factory Acts; and what was the number of working days lost as a result of such accidents.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mr. Richard Sharples)

In dealing with claims for injury benefit, no distinction is made between persons covered by the Factories Acts and the many other persons whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment. I regret, therefore, that the information requested is not available.

Is it not desirable to try to obtain this information if only for one reason—that many reportable accidents are not so reported and that the right hon. Gentleman's Department is paying out in many more cases than the numbers which are reported? For example, the numbers reported last year were 190,000-odd, and it may well be that the number of claims which are made are greater than this. Should we not know the actual facts?

The Factories Act, 1961, Section 80, places the responsibility for reporting accidents to the Factory Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labour on occupiers of factories. The industrial injuries scheme covers a very much wider field, and we do not collect separate statistics of the accidents covered by the Factories Act.

Is it possible to say what proportion of the persons injured are subject to the Factories Act, because a number of hon. Members on this side of the House feel that there is a large area of industrial activity which is not protected and which ought to be protected.

Perhaps the hon. and learned Member would like to put down a Question on that.

Owing to the fact that the answer is not entirely satisfactory, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Graduated Pension Scheme

5.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance approximately how many persons are paying graduated contributions; what proportion this is of the total number of persons insured in Class I; how many persons have contracted out; and what is the current flow of applications to be granted certificates of non-participating employment.

The number paying graduated contributions will not be known until employers' P.A.Y.E. returns for the year 1961–62 have been received and analysed. A total of 4,385,280 employees have been contracted out. The number of employees covered by certificates issued since 3rd April of this year is 92,832 and certificates have been issued in the last few weeks at a rate increasing this number by an average of about 1,200 per week.

6.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what difficulties he has encountered in the launching of the graduated pensions scheme; what steps he is taking to overcome them; and whether he will make a statement.

I have so far encountered no special difficulties and the arrangements seem to be working well; but it would be premature to try to make a comprehensive statement before the returns for a full year's working have been made and examined.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there appears to have been a good deal of difficulty about wrong National Insurance numbers supplied to the Inland Revenue, that thousands of them have come back for verification and correction and that the staff of the Inland Revenue have gone on overtime to do this job? Is that a local difficulty or is it more serious than some people suggest?

When a new and radically different scheme such as this starts there is always this sort of problem, but I am happy to say that the staff of the Inland Revenue, as one would expect, have been most helpful over this and that the problem is on the way to being overcome.

By what amount has the number of people who contracted out exceeded the Minister's estimate? How near is it to the danger point at which the number contracted out would make the scheme unworkable?

The figure put in the White Paper as long ago as 1958, although it could hardly at that stage, before the Bill had even been published, be called an estimate and was in fact no more than a guess, was 2½ million. The figure I have just given was 4,300,000-odd. The assumptions, financial and otherwise, on which the scheme was founded were highly conservative—with a small "c"—and contracting out of this sort does not of itself do other than indicate that there was a real demand for it and that the purpose of the Measure, to stimulate the development of good private schemes, is well on the way to fruition.

8.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the grievance of those who have been compelled to make contributions towards a graduated pension which prove to be insufficient on retirement to enable them to gain any benefit; and if he will refund the contributions to those concerned.

I do not think there is a grievance here. The basis of the scheme is that, on retirement, any odd graduated contributions which amount to a half unit or more are treated as a whole unit producing 6d. a week graduated pension; amounts of less than a half unit do not count. I think this is fair.

There is a grievance on the part of those who find themselves in the position of having made contributions of less than half a unit and being unable to get any benefit from it. Since it was known that this would happen, will the Minister review the position of those who are obviously going to retire before any benefit can be gained for them and who therefore make contributions which, as far as they are concerned, are worthless?

No. Looked at broadly, the chance of somebody getting a whole unit for contributions of less than a whole unit must work out at about the same as the chance of someone who contributes less than half a unit and gets nothing. Broadly, that is surely a sensible arrangement. In any event, the hon. Member will recall that the graduated pension is paid jointly with the flat-rate pension, in respect of which no one who retires now or for many years to come will have contributed anything like the actual cost.

Is the Minister aware that I am not talking about partial benefits or portions of benefits, but about those who get no benefit from the graduated scheme at all because their contributions have been so small that they cannot qualify in any way? It is only to those cases, in which there is a natural sense of grievance, that I have referred.

I fully understand the hon Member's point, and I understood it originally. He must bear in mind that the small, nugatory, contribution made comes in the overwhelming majority of cases from people who will get the full flat-rate pension for which they have by no means fully paid.

National Assistance (Kennington And Brixton)

9.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many allowances are on issue by the Kennington and Brixton area offices of the National Assistance Board; and what was the corresponding figure last year.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

The number of weekly National Assistance grants current at 31st October last in the area served by the Kennington and Brixton offices of the National Assistance Board was 9,466. The comparable figure a year before was 9,404.

What inference does the hon. Lady draw from those figures? Is it not clear that there seem to be more people in need now, at any rate in these areas, than there were a year ago?

I draw the inference that Brixton goes contrary to the country as a whole where nearly 9,000 fewer people are receiving National Assistance grants than a year ago. If Brixton is contrary to the country as a whole, I suggest that it is very suitably represented in the House.

Ministry Of Power

Methane

10.

asked the Minister for Power what general directions he has given to the Gas Council concerning the distribution of imported methane gas.

When this takes place, will it have any bearing on the installation of Lurgi plants, and, if so is there not danger of this leading to wasteful capital expenditure?

No, Sir. The plans for distributing this gas are to take it by trunk main across the centre of England to the North-West, and the North-Western Gas Board is one of the boards which will benefit. It will therefore pass very close to the present Lurgi plant at Coleshill near Birmingham, and no doubt if the Lurgi study group showed that the process was fully economic a plant would be built somewhere in that area where methane would be available to enrich the lean gas made by that process.

11.

asked the Minister of Power what alternative plans have been placed before him by the gas industry to ensure a safe supply of natural gas whatever might happen to supplies from North Africa.

If methane imports were interrupted, gas supplies would be maintained by increasing gas manufacture at other plants and by running the methane reforming plants on other raw materials.

Are alternative measures being put to the Minister if North Africa proves to be—as our oil importing areas have proved to be—a politically unstable area? Is the Minister not aware that when the first full year's gas imports are brought into this country they will be equivalent to the loss of 2,500 coal miners and that this plant, plus the uncontrolled import of oil, will have disastrous consequences to the mining industry?

It is difficult to say with certainty how much coal will be displaced and, therefore, how many miners' output will be affected, because much depends on the extent to which gas sales increase. If they increase substantially because of this new cheaper fuel, the coal displacement may be less than we expect at present.

Is the Minister aware that the first year's operation intends to bring into the country the equivalent of 800,000 tons of coal, which is the equivalent of the annual output of 2,500 miners? If this is coming in, displacement is bound to occur and, in addition to the oil imports, it will have a very bad effect on the mining industry.

The point which I am trying to convey is that the displacement of coal depends on the likely demand for gas in the future, and if methane had not displaced that amount of coal I would probably have been asked to agree to other imports of oil-based feed stock, so that the position would have been much the same.

13.

asked the Minister of Power what inquiries were instituted by his Department with regard the importation of supplies of natural gas from Holland rather than from the Sahara.

The extent of the natural gas deposit in Holland is, I understand, still uncertain, and the possibility of gas being available for export even more so.

Is my right bon. Friend aware that the Council of Europe, in its last report, stated that there were large reserves of natural gas in Holland and the cost of transporting gas was 80 per cent. of the cost of selling it? Surely it would be worth while thoroughly investigating the Dutch position, since, if methane has to be imported, it might be much cheaper and more reliable than importing methane from the Sahara?

Certainly, I think that all these possibilities ought to be explored very closely indeed. I am told that the possibility of gas being available from Holland in the near future for this country is not certain enough to justify me in turning down the concrete proposals I accepted last week.

If the Lurgi proposals are being proceeded with, would it not be better to leave the decision on methane for a while until we get a definite decision on Lurgi and Dutch supplies?

The decision that I took a few days ago does not in any way compromise the Lurgi development. If Lurgi is shown to be economic, it will go forward just as if the methane proposals had not been approved. The methane proposals will, I believe, help the Lurgi cases because the gas for enriching will then be readily available.

21.

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the Gas Council that, in constructing pipe-lines necessary for the transmission of methane, they should at the same time provide for the parallel construction of high pressure pipe-lines to carry Lurgi gas from the Midlands.

No, Sir. The Gas Council is keenly interested in any possible development of the proposed national gas grid.

Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Gas Council to provide the same facilities for the development of the Lurgi process as it intends to provide for the distribution of methane?

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is on the right Question here. He has another one on this subject. This Question is about pipe-lines. Perhaps I can give him the answer to his supplementary question when I answer his next Question.

With due respect, my supplementary question was directed to this Question. I want the same facilities given for the development of the Lurgi process as will be given for the development of methane.

This is a hypothetical question at the moment. It depends or what the Study Group discovers. When the Study Group has made its report, the Gas Council will no doubt consider it. If Lurgi is competitive, the Council will no doubt decide to go forward. I think I can give the hon. Gentleman further information in a later Question.

24.

asked the Minister of Power whether he has received an assurance from the Gas Council that if the Lurgi study shows that a large plant would be competitive with imported methane, they will proceed immediately to erect such a plant.

No Sir: but if an additional Lurgi plant appears to be the best means of providing a cheap, clean and reliable gas, the Council will certainly go forward with it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread disquiet in the coal mining industry that the Gas Council intends to dispose of the Lurgi process and concentrate on importing methane gas? Can he give a definite assurance this afternoon that that is not so and that the Gas Council will proceed with the Lurgi process?

I cannot give that definite assurance without knowing the facts which the Lurgi Study Group will disclose. I do not think that any of us would want the Gas Council to go forward with a Lurgi plant if the plant were not competitive. However, if the Lurgi plant is shown to be competitive by the Study Group and fulfils the conditions of my Answer, I am certain that the Gas Council will want to go forward.

When is the Study Group, which has been broody for so long now, likely to submit its report?

It has not been broody for all that long, but I imagine that it will not sit for a great deal longer. On the other hand, I do not think that it will report quite as early as some people seem to expect because it still has a great deal of work to do.

As the report is expected in two or three months' time, why did the Minister take the decision to assist the Gas Council now? Could he not have waited for two or three months longer to see if the economics of gasifying coal through the Lurgi process were even better than this importation plan?

The hon. Gentleman is continually making the mistake of thinking that these two projects are alternatives. I do not see them as alternatives. I believe they supplement one another.

Oeec (Report)

14.

asked the Minister of Power, to what extent the recommendations of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation's Report, entitled Towards a New Energy Pattern in Europe, have been adopted by Her Majesty's Government.

This valuable report by experts was intended to give to member Governments general guidance rather than specific recommendations for action. I think the policy of Her Majesty's Government is fully consistent with the views expressed in it.

Is the Minister aware that the report very much under-estimates the social responsibilities of the fuel industry and is also very weak on the side of conserving energy and coal for future use, and is this to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

In so far as the report deals with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, we are in line with it. It recommended that the paramount consideration should be a plentiful supply of low cost energy with freedom of choice for the consumer, and it also said about coal:

"The future market will depend primarily on the possibility of producing coal at a competitive price."

New Power Stations (Sites)

19.

asked the Minister of Power what recent consultations he has had with the Central Electricity Generating Board regarding the building of a power station, or power stations, on or near the Durham coalfield.

As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to the hon. Member's Question on 1st May, the choice of sites for new power stations is a matter for the Central Electricity Generating Board. The Board tells me it has the question of a new station in the Durham area under review.

This is of supreme importance to the Durham coalfield particularly in view of the decision which has been taken to import liquid methane into the country. Would the Parliamentary Secretary advise his right hon. Friend to do everything he can with the C.E.G.B. to speed up this matter and see if we can have a new power station in the County of Durham.

The C.E.G.B. plans its power station commissioning programme five years ahead, and even if it were decided to build a station it would be some years before construction could begin.

Coal

Pit Closures

12.

asked the Minister of Power whether he has completed his revision of the general programme for coal mine closures; to what extent he anticipates a speeding up of closures of uneconomic mines; and if he will make a statement.

My Department is in close contact with the National Coal Board about colliery closures. Decisions on closures are a matter for the Board, which is trying to improve the efficiency of the industry by letting new and reconstructed collieries take the place of old capacity. The amount of old capacity to be replaced in 1962 is in line with what was anticipated in the Revised Plan for Coal.

Would it not be possible to interpret the words "in contact with the National Coal Board" as implying pressure on the Coal Board in view of the comments of his hon. Friend, during the National Coal Board debate a fortnight ago, when he referred to carrying dead weight of high cost areas? Why is the Minister being so ruthless with the National Coal Board—first allowing uncontrolled imports of oil and gas, and, secondly, proceeding to close far faster than is necessary many of these mines? It is like sending the coal mining industry to Coventry.

I cannot accept any of the hon. Gentleman's imputations. The Revised Plan for Coal, of which the hon. Gentleman has been aware for two years, talked about the closure of 205 to 240 collieries up to 1965. The closures, including concentrations, last year were 44 and this year 32. That is rather below the figure that appeared in the Revised Plan for Coal. Therefore, there has been no pressure by the Government on the Coal Board.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every time he closes an uneconomic mine, as it is called, and transfers the men elsewhere, there is a loss of manpower of 10 to 20 per cent., and that this is becoming very serious? Is he also aware that this loss on transfer from old to new pits is likely to become much greater and very serious unless the Government revise their policy, particularly with regard to methane and the rest, because if the men think there is no future in the industry that will be very disastrous for the country?

I am aware of the problem brought about by closing pits and the loss of manpower concerned, but there does not seem any possible sense in keeping men underground in pits producing uneconomically and leaving under-manned other pits which could produce more economically.

I can understand that. The men and the Union have co-operated with the Coal Board, but if the prospects of the industry are felt generally to be bad, because of Government policy, the men will feel that this is the time when they wish to get out rather than be transferred to another pit.

I think that the prospects of the industry are in the industry's own hands, and if productivity increases in the industry then the prospects will be very bright.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman rely exclusively on the decision of the National Coal Board in respect of closing? What about the social consequences? Are the social consequences a matter for the National Coal Board, or ought the social consequences to be considered by the Government, and, if so, why does not the right hon. Gentleman issue directives to the National Coal Board in view of the possible consequences?

The right hon. Gentleman has great experience of these matters. I do not think that he will argue that it was really a sensible course to keep men underground in a pit where the economic reserves had been exhausted. It seems to me to be only sensible that any social consequences should be faced; in fact, in the past, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the National Coal Board has been extremely successful in re-employing displaced miners in other pits.

15.

asked the Minister of Power what additional plans he has for capital development in the gas and electricity industries, with a view to providing work for the men who will be unemployed as a result of pit closures.

None, Sir. The capital development programmes of the gas and electricity industries must be determined by the prospective demand for these fuels.

Does that mean that the Minister has absolutely no plans for dealing with a problem of probably 5,000 unemployed miners in Scotland? What is the position?

On the contrary, the National Coal Board has, as my right hon. Friend has just said, always been extremely careful to deal with the social consequences. It has always been very successful, and it will be none the less successful this time. In addition, prior to closures taking place and after they take place, continuous discussion goes on between my right hon. Friend and his colleague the Minister of Labour.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of what the National Coal Board achieved, there have been serious detrimental social consequences as a result of previous closures in Scotland? Is he also aware that the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, representing all the workers in Scotland, and hon. Members on this side of the House are asking for a public inquiry? Is he aware that we are asking for it because his right hon. Friend said that jobs will be found in new and reconstructed collieries, and that it is in some of those that we are running into difficulty? What is the Minister going to do about this position?

With regard to the last part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I think that will be dealt with in answer to a later Question. It raises a matter quite different from the one raised in this Question. I can only repeat that the greatest possible care is taken to avoid hardship. Some hardship is inevitable when one closes collieries—isolated collieries in particular.

18.

asked the Minister of Power to what extent he was consulted by the National Coal Board about the closure of pits in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

22.

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on the recently announced pit closures in Scotland; and whether, in view of criticism of the management of the industry, he will institute an independent inquiry into these closures.

Exceptionally difficult geological conditions have led to disappointments in the results obtained from some of the Board's major capital development projects in Scotland and the output at a number of other collieries has been substantially less than was expected. I do not under-estimate the serious nature of these setbacks, but I do not consider that an inquiry would serve a useful purpose.

Nearly all closures planned in Scotland are of old capacity where reserves have been exhausted or where the output can be obtained more economically at neighbouring pits. The closures are being discussed in detail with the unions concerned and the Board has advised me that alternative work will be available within travelling distance of their homes for the great majority of the men affected.

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing opinion in Scotland that the Government and the National Coal Board regard Scotland as an expendable area? Will he give us an assurance that Scotland will not be wiped off as redundant but that every effort will be made to find alternative work for the 5,000 men who are likely to lose their jobs?

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. In fact, that has been the objective of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade for quite a long time, and with considerable success. They will continue to do it. The National Coal Board is also actively concerned in trying to place in other mining employment those who have been displaced by these closures.

The Minister said that he did not think that there was any great point in holding an inquiry. Is he aware that he will find few people in Scotland who will agree with him? Will he reconsider his point of view, if only to reassure the people of Scotland that they have been dealt with fairly and also to reassure the miners in Scotland that they have been dealt with fairly in the extent of the closures announced?

I never see much point in an inquiry when there is nothing to find out. [Interruption.] If I may just be allowed to finish, there was a very careful inquiry by Lord Robens before he decided on these closures. Lord Robens has himself said on several occasions, and certainly would be happy for me to say, that he is perfectly prepared to discuss with any hon. Member the reasons for the closures which have just been announced. For that reason, I do not think that an inquiry could possibly disclose anything which has not been disclosed already.

Is it not remarkable that the closing of these two modern collieries, which were reconstructed at great expense, was advised by the Board? Does not that indicate that its technical advisers were at fault? Does it not begin to dawn on the Minister that his own technical advisers, as in the case of his predecessors, should be consulted before a decision of this kind is taken?

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience not only of his constituency but of my office in the past, will be well aware of the highly speculative nature of mining and the complete impossibility of being absolutely certain when a shaft is sunk that conditions below will be exactly as they are expected to be before the shaft is sunk.

I do not see any point in holding an inquiry. The facts have been disclosed by the workings underground and an inquiry would serve no purpose of any kind.

Are we to understand from the Minister that the sole reason for the closing of these pits was geological and that no other reason entered into it?

Certainly. I think we are mainly talking about the pit at Glenochil, which was one of the closures discussed the other day. There the sole reason was the very disappointing geology and results since mining began there, which have led the Board to the inevitable conclusion that the pit must be closed.

Is it not important to realise that two of the pits concerned are Glenochil and Rothes? It also involves another mine in Ayrshire which was just at the point of reconstruction but where not one ton of coal had been produced. Does not the Minister realise that people in Scotland who will suffer as a result of these mistakes want a public inquiry? It would be for the good of the whole industry and for the Government if a public inquiry were held in order to give us all the facts of what seems to us to be a very great lack of judgment on the part of somebody in the National Coal Board. Has the Minister had consultation with the other Ministers concerned to ensure that something will be done about all these jobs which we in Scotland are losing, because we are indeed losing them?

I can assure the hon. Lady that I am in constant touch with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade, because I know of their responsibilities in this matter. As regards an inquiry, I do not quite understand who it is particularly that the hon. Lady has in mind who will suffer. If it is the mineworkers, Lord Robens has already given the undertaking that he will explain either to any hon. Member or to the National Union of Mineworkers the exact reasons which led him and the Board to this decision. Therefore, I cannot see what other facts would be disclosed to the public or to the mineworkers by a public inquiry.

Due to the wholly unsatisfactory nature of these replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

25.

asked the Minister of Power what information he has received from the National Coal Board regarding its intention to close down pits; how many it intends to close in the next five years; and what consideration is being given to the social consequences of any future plan.

The National Coal Board keeps me fully informed about prospective colliery closures and my Department co-operates closely with the Board of Trade and Ministry of Labour in trying to mitigate any adverse effects. The Revised Plan for Coal estimated that during the period 1960–65 between 205 and 240 collieries would be closed. The actual number will depend upon the circumstances of individual collieries and the fluctuations in the demand for different types of coal.

Is it not desirable, on the basis of its technical advice, that the National Coal Board should make a clear and definite declaration of the number of pits that are to be closed in the period, and where those pits are now situated, so as to remove the suspense that now exists among members of the mining community in various parts of the coalfield? Why cannot the Board undertake that task and inform not just the right hon. Gentleman but the miners also, through their organisation? Lastly, would the Minister reply to the latter part of my Question about the social consequences—who is to be responsible for dealing with that aspect?

The Revised Plan for Coal, which was published about two years ago, did give a general indication of the number of pits that would be closed over this period. It also, therefore, painted some picture of the social consequences that would result. My right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour are aware of the kind of problems in the various areas in Britain with which they will have to deal over the next five years, but it really would be quite impossible to give any accurate specification quite so far ahead of exactly which pits will close, because that clearly depends on the working results and trading results that take place from day to day. It also depends on what the demand for certain coals is likely to be, and that is extremely difficult to foresee more than a very short time ahead.

Arising from that reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), is the Minister aware that what is happening is that an extension of hours is being imposed indirectly upon the miners who have been transferred from one district to another while still living in their former district? It means that in many instances they have to travel about two hours a day which, indirectly, is an increase in their time factor.

I think that the benefit conferred on those miners is in knowing that, although they have further to travel, they are working in a pit which is producing coal very economically instead of in one that is producing it uneconomically.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a danger of our reverting to the old days when the miner had to spend the greater part of his working life in darkness, either at the coal face or when he got back home at night? In those days he had little opportunity of seeing daylight. Is that where we are now drifting?

There is a choice in front of each miner: whether he wants to travel to new work in the coal mines, whether he wants other work, or whether he wants to be unemployed.

Ministry Of Aviation

Bahamas Airways

26.

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he is aware that British Overseas Airways Corporation associated companies sold and then within two years bought back their interest in Bahamas Airways; why he approved this action; and what was the loss they incurred in the following years acounts.

Yes, Sir. The repurchase of these shares was primarily a matter for British Overseas Airways Corporations commercial judgment. The considerations affecting its decision are set out in its annual report and my right hon. Friend accepts both the validity of its arguments and responsibility for the action taken.

Is it not the case that the Minister of Aviation has and has had for some time a special report on this matter, and does he propose to publish that report with full details for the information of this House? Is it not also the case that Bahamas Airways paid £200 an hour to Skyways for the aircraft engaged; and that that went on for two years and resulted in a total payment of between £700,000 and £800,000 which B.O.A.C. now has to pay?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is that all the necessary information has already been published in B.O.A.C.'s annual report. The answer to the second part is that the trading loss that B.O.A.C. had to bear for the year 1960–61 was not as high as the figure the hon. Gentleman gave. It was £405,728.

Provincial Airports

27.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will give financial assistance to local authorities in control of provincial airports.

Yes, Sir, but only to those local authorities whose applications meet the criteria described in the White Paper on Civil Aerodromes and Air Navigational Services.

When giving financial consideration to the revised list of airfields, will the Minister consider the north Midland and north-eastern areas, where we are almost without an air service at all? We think that they have a right to some serious consideration.

My right hon. Friend will certainly consider any application that is made to him within the terms of the White Paper, which also lays down the criteria which he will apply to any such application.

Is the Minister aware that there was recently a conference in Goole to consider the establishment of a new airport at Pollington; which would serve the north-eastern area very well? Is he giving financial encouragement to that scheme?

Under the terms of the White Paper, any municipal aerodrome is entitled to apply for financial help. Whether it will get that help or not depends on whether it satisfies the criteria in the White Paper.

Hospitals

Medical Staffing (Report)

29.

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in establishing the review machinery to advise on hospital medical staffing.

49.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has completed his discussions with the medical profession on the Report of tile Platt Working Party on Hospital Medical Staffing; whether he has yet asked hospital authorities to review their consultant establishments, as recommended by the Report; when he will announce his decisions on the Report; and if he will make a statement.

Following the acceptance of the Platt Report announced in my reply to my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) on 9th November, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will shortly be issuing circulars to boards for the purpose of establishing the review machinery and implementing the Working Party's other recommendations.

Whilst thanking the Minister for at last getting on with the job after twelve months' delay since the publication of the Platt Report, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is a considerable amount of anxiety among time-expired registrars and S.H.M.O.s about this, and will he do all he can to put them out of their present anxiety?

I am anxious to get on with this as fast as possible, but I have only just received the profession's agreement to the Report.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say another word about the nature of the review machinery? is it to be entirely within the regional boards themselves, or is it to be done by a national body imposed from outside on the regional boards? In short, are the boards to do their own reviewing, or are they to have it done for them?

There is a regional board stage, although there will be a national review of the results of the regional boards review. I will give the hon. Gentleman particulars as soon as the machinery is settled, which I hope it shortly will be, with the profession.

In order to speed up the machinery, are boards of governors to be asked to submit their reports sectionally according to individual occupations, or are they to await a general review before submitting their reports to the regional boards?

Regional Appeals Committee

31.

asked the Minister of Health to what extent, under his regulations, a decision of a regional appeals committee can be reversed by a recommendation subsequently submitted by staff inspectors to a group hospital committee.

Not at all.

Is the hon. Lady aware that some staff inspectors have recommended the down-grading of posts after up-grading has been passed by the regional appeals committee? Is this not a grave interference with the ordinary arbitration machinery, and does it not amount to an undermining of the competence of staffs in the Ministry's machinery?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is not correct in saying that down-grading was recommended. The inspectors may have recommended, in a particular case, that there should be no change while the present holder has that post but that the question of grading should be reconsidered when a new appointment has to be made.

Is that not tantamount to the same thing—if a recommendation has been passed by the regional appeals committee and a staff inspector considers that at the end of the incumbency of that occupant this post should be down-graded, is not this overriding the opinion of the regional appeals committee?

No, Sir. An appeal relates to that man and the work he is doing. While he occupies that post he enjoys what grading has been agreed by the appeals committee.

Maternity Beds, Middlesex

32.

asked the Minister of Health what immediate action he proposes to take with regard to the shortage of maternity beds in hospitals in Middlesex.

Arrangements have been made for better selection of hospital cases and reciprocal help between hospitals.

Is the hon. Lady aware that it is still impossible for many mothers having their first babies—some of them with bad home conditions or on medical grounds—to get into hospital and that at Perivale hospital, if admitted, they are liable to be sent home after 48 hours?

I am aware that there is great pressure for maternity beds in Middlesex, but 74 per cent. of the confinements take place in hospital, which is well above the Cranbrook recommendations. We hope that with better selection of cases for admission to hospital, some of the pressure will be relieved.

New Hospital, Huddersfield

33.

asked the Minister of Health when he expects the building of the new hospital at Lindley, Huddersfield, to be completed.

Is the hon. Lady aware that Huddersfield has been waiting a long time for this hospital and that there is a real need for it? Can she give an assurance that the recent restrictive measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not in any way affect the completion of this building?

Work is proceeding on this hospital and, if all goes well, we hope that the first phase will be completed by the end of 1962. It is our intention that the second and final phase shall be started before the first phase is finished; in other words, that it shall go on continuously.

Broadcasts (Football Matches)

35.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the present system of broadcasting football matches to patients in hospitals may be discontinued; and if he will consult with the Postmaster-General to ensure that this service to patients is continued.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answers given by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General on 6th and 7th November.

Is the hon. Lady satisfied with the ridiculous reply that was given? Is she not prepared in the Ministry of Health at least to push the Postmaster-General into providing something which is beneficial for the health of those in hospital? Why on earth does not her Ministry wake up to the fact that if she accepts without protest what the other Ministries are saying she will be in trouble?

It is a service which is essentially for voluntary effort, and, in fact, a great contribution has been made, as I well know, by the Leagues of Friends and the free moneys of hospitals. My right hon. Friend has already said that the increased charges will be reduced by about one-half.

Is the hon. Lady not aware that this matter, which some of us raised several weeks ago, has only had the result that the Ministers concerned have fixed a figure far above that which pertained last July, and that all they have done is to stop squeezing the service quite as badly as they were going to do?

The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to comment on the work of another Department. I know something about this service because I had a hand myself in establishing the pioneer venture in Birmingham. I know it is a good service, and I am satisfied that it can continue, particularly with the voluntary help that is forthcoming.

Ministry Of Health

Homeless Families

30.

asked the Minister of Health if he will arrange for an urgent and comprehensive report from county welfare authorities on the numbers and conditions of homeless families in their care.

Figures are published annually; individual authorities make special reports where necessary.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there is grave public concern about families with children being turned out of their homes and being bandied about between hard-pressed housing authorities and welfare authorities, the luckier ones getting into institutions that are bleak and barrack-like, and sometimes insanitary, and the very unlucky ones having to sleep where they can, like a family in my constituency which is sleeping in a lorry? If the hon. Lady is suggesting that a report is not necessary because all the facts are known, when is the Minister to get together with the Minister of Housing to take emergency action in this matter?

Temporary accommodation is inspected by my Ministry's officers, but I think that the question in the hon. Lady's mind is almost entirely confined to London—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The situation in London is unique, I think—and there I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government received a deputation from the L.C.C. on the 1st of this month.

Salk Vaccine Supplies, Blackburn

34.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to remedy the shortage of Salk vaccine in Blackburn.

I understand that Blackburn has recently received all the vaccine that was asked for.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that anxieties have been expressed in the Lancet about the safety of the Sabin vaccine and that these doubts are shared by some medical officers of health and others? Will he see that at least 70 per cent. of the eligible groups receive two doses of Salk vaccine before the new Sabin live vaccine is introduced into the community as a whole? While appreciating that steps have been taken to help Blackburn in the current month, may I ask the Minister to give an assurance that supplies of Salk vaccine in Blackburn and elsewhere will be maintained in future at a level to enable two doses to be given to at least 70 per cent. of the eligible groups?

The hon. Lady's supplementary question relates largely to an entirely different question. What she said is different from the advice my right hon. Friend and I have received from our advisory committee on this subject, but I will certainly do my best to ensure that no local authority is short of Salk.

Is the Minister aware that this is not only a problem for Blackburn but for the whole of the North-West? Is he aware, for instance, that the position in Warrington is that the new inoculations were virtually brought to a standstill? Will he deal with this more urgently, as I mentioned when I requested additional supplies and pointed out that only a quarter of the amount required for Warrington had been sent there? How urgently is he dealing with this, and will he make sure that supplies are sent to areas where there are polio epidemics?

I understand that since the hon. Gentleman wrote to me about Warrington a further supply has been sent.

Bone Tumours And Leukaemia

37 and 42.

asked the Minister of Health (1) how many children between the ages of two and four, inclusive, have died in the last two years with bone tumours and leukaemia; and what were the similar figures for 1937–38;

(2) how many adults aged 21 years or over have died in the last two years from bone tumours and leukaemia; and what were the similar figures for 1937–38.

In view of the great importance of this subject, cannot the hon. Lady at least give the figures for Question No. 37? People in Britain want to know the facts, and the information should be given so that it can be known, for instance, in Russia and America.

I am not sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. I am prepared to circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to know the figures, I can tell him that leukaemia shows an increase over the decades, and I can go back further than the period 1937–38, which is asked for in the Question. 1927–28 compared with 1917–18 still shows an increase. Part of this is probably accounted for by improved diagnosis. But, in the case of cancer of the bone, the 1938 figures are higher than those for 1959–60.

Can the hon. Lady say whether the situation is worse for children than for adults; for the group mentioned in Question No. 37?

Following are the figures:

Leukaemia and aleukaemiaCancer of the bone
YearAged 2–4(1) Aged 20 and over(3) Aged 1–4(1) Aged 20 and over
193755(2)725(2)(4)(4)
193857(2)821(2)8761
19591172,0941523
19601102,2701523

Notes

(1) Figures for 21 and over not available.

(2) Excludes deaths assigned to Hodgkin's disease, included under this title in the published Tables until 1939 inclusive.

(3) Figures for aged 2–4 not available

(4) Comparable figures not available before 1938

Overseas Treatment (Medical Costs)

38.

asked the Minister of Health what attention his department has given to the introduction of legislation to authorise the provision of additional assistance against medical costs for persons taken ill abroad; and what the estimated cost of such assistance would be.

Would not the Minister agree that a large number of people go abroad without making provision against the possibility of illness? If the Minister is not proposing to introduce legislation on this matter, will he not at least see that when passport information is given or other information is supplied by travel agencies and so on people should be informed of the dangers and given opportunities of knowing what provision they can make for insuring themselves against this? This is a real burden, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

I do not think that the lion. Gentleman's suggestion is primarily for me, but I shall be glad if the publicity given to this Question and answer emphasises the desirability of getting insurance cover for this purpose.

Professional Staff (Pay)

41.

asked the Minister of Health if he will set up a committee to consider the remuneration of qualified professional staff, other than doctors and dentists, in the National Health Service, and, having regard to the staffing needs of the service, to recommend what relationship the salary scales of the various professions should bear to each other and to the remuneration of doctors.

Why not? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these groups include such people as physiotherapists and radiographers who are in such short supply in the Service and are bringing it grinding to a halt, to quote The Times? This proposal is in line with the kind of wage policy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to be yearning for and, in those circum- stances, how can the right hon. Gentleman resist this proposal?

No, Sir. To do this would be inconsistent with the working of the normal wage negotiation machinery. It would be quite impossible for that to be worked if there were to be special inquiries, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

But has the right hon. Gentleman not already intervened in the wage machinery by imposing the wage pause and interfering with the arbitration arrangements?

No, Sir. The machinery continues in existence and is being worked at this moment.

London Airport (Industrial Dispute)

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement about the industrial dispute at London Airport.

Ministry of Aviation loaders, numbering 360, are striking in protest against an offer of deferred introduction of a responsibility allowance for certain of their number, and a number of their colleagues in other sections have come out in sympathy. While the situation varies from shift to shift, about 1,100 staff in all, spread over three shifts, are now out.

An unofficial stoppage began on Monday, 6th November, when loaders refused to continue work without either additional supervision or the responsibility allowance claimed. On Thursday, 9th November, the Transport and General Workers' Union declared the strike official.

The strike affects only those services in the central area provided by the Ministry. The long haul operators are not affected. Freight services were halted in the central area from the start. While the strike was unofficial, passenger services were kept going by volunteers from the non-industrial grades of Ministry staff and from the operators. Since the strike was declared official, passenger services to and from the central area have been very substantially reduced and only light hand-luggage can be taken on flights still operating.

My Ministry is in touch with national officers of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and the House will appreciate that in the circumstances it would be unwise for me to enter into further detail at present.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that in this case the strike leader is none other than the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Is it not the fact that early in the year men working for B.O.A.C. were awarded an extra 2½d. per hour and that we now have the position that, because of the pay pause, men doing similar work and employed by the Ministry of Aviation were told that they must wait for their 2½d. an hour until the end of the pay pause and that even then it will not be back-dated?

The union tried in a very statesmanlike way to get this problem solved, but it is quite insoluble so long as we have this fatuous idea that we can have men doing comparable work and, whilst conceding that they all deserve an advance, we refuse point blank to allow one-third of them to get it. Will not the Government, having seen the ridiculous position that they have got into, now agree that this money should be paid at once?

There are a few factors involved here of which, no doubt, the pay pause is one, but there are a number of others. It is a complex matter. There is no national negotiated rate here for which comparability could be adhered to. It is true that B.O.A.C. negotiated a rate as long ago as February, 1960. Nothing happened after that for twelve months or more, and then this claim was put in; but it is being negotiated at present and I would, therefore, rather not add anything.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many flights into and out of London Airport have been stopped, and how the matter so far has affected B.E.A. from a financial point of view?

I could not give the precise number because it has varied considerably during the progress of this dispute. But I can say that there is very serious interference with the programmed flights of B.E.A. at present. It would not be possible to calculate the loss at this stage, because it depends upon assumptions as to what the loadings of the flights would be and other matters.

Would my right hon. Friend be clear and tell the House whether the refusal to give these increases breaks or maintains the principle that increases made before the announcement of the pay pause are allowed?

The situation is consistent with the Government's general policy of wage restraint, but there are a number of matters here which are separate from the pay pause.

Do these loaders, employed by B.O.A.C., get 2½d. an hour extra for doing the very job which is done by loaders who operate for the Ministry of Aviation and to whom the Minister has refused it? When the right hon. Gentleman said just now that the matter is now being negotiated did he mean that it is now being freely negotiated and that he is in a position to come to an agreement about it?

All men are free to come to agreements within the general ambit of the policy dealing with these matters. With regard to the question of the comparability, I can only repeat what I said, that there is not a national negotiated rate here. This is important. As the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience, will know, it is relevant whether there is a national negotiated rate or not, because there is a question of comparability there. There was a separate negotiated rate, negotiated in February, 1960, by B.O.A.C., to give to those responsible responsibility money. Some of the jobs that are done are comparable with that and some are not.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the best thing he can do in the interests of the airport and of the country is to bring this 2½d. dispute to an end as quickly as possible by paying the agreed rate for the job?

With respect, I am inclined to think that the best thing we could all do would be to let the discussions proceed in the ordinary way.

Is there not a national council which has agreed to the increase of 2½d. an hour? Is not the position made even more absurd by the fact that, in any event, next April these same men will go from the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman to the jurisdiction of B.E.A.? Therefore, as we do not know whether the pay pause is to end before April, it is surely quite absurd to force these men into strike action—for it is nothing short of that—whilst they know perfectly well that by April they will be out of the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman.

I think that the hon. Gentleman is under a slight misapprehension. There is not a National Joint Council negotiated rate here. I would repeat that, on the whole, it would be better to let these discussions proceed. I doubt whether they are assisted by these statements.

Business Of The House

Last Thursday I undertook to reconsider the arrangements for the Committee stage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.

In doing this, I have had to bear in mind the frequently expressed anxiety of many hon. Members that the House should find opportunities for more general debates, and in this respect due regard must be had to the views of the Select Committee on Procedure, that if the House wishes seriously to provide time for other purposes, Bills must be committed to Standing Committees.

On the other hand, I felt bound, as Leader of the House, to take account of the representations on this particular Bill which have been made strongly to me from both sides of the House.

Having thought carefully about these conflicting considerations, I am now able to tell the House that I have decided to propose that the Committee stage of this Bill should be taken on the Floor of the House.

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that statement.

While thanking my right hon. Friend very much for that decision, which, I think, will be acceptable to both sides of the House, may I ask him why, if he has days to spare, we cannot have a debate on shipping and ship building?

We cannot, on this business statement, discuss a large number of topics.

Orders Of The Day

Education Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

3.39 p.m.

I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill has two purposes. The first is to provide statutory authority for the reforms in the system of grants to students which were announced following the Report of the Anderson Committee. The second is to reduce the number of school-leaving dates in the year as recommended by the Central Advisory Council for England and Wales in the Crowther Report. The Bill covers Scotland. I shall touch upon the Scottish aspects only briefly, since my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State hopes to intervene at the end of the debate.

I am sure that the House will join in thanking Sir Colin Anderson and his Committee for their Report. For most people, the Anderson Report has one overriding interest, and that, of course, is the means test for students' awards; but, as hon. Members know, the Committee gave us for the first time a most useful and comprehensive review of the whole grant system. This is a system which, over the years, has grown into a very complicated animal.

The Anderson Committee deserved great sympathy in the task of sorting out the issues. Its difficulties—I think it well to acknowledge this—were greatly increased by the marked conflict of views expressed by those who gave evidence. The Committee did not expect the students and the local authorities always to see eye to eye, but what struck it particularly was the cleavage of opinion, strongly held and strongly expressed, within groups of witnesses who might have been expected to have a common view.

I had just this experience when I discussed the Report with the universities, local authorities and other interested bodies. The Bill is, therefore, not likely to satisfy everyone, but the two fundamental principles which will determine the new system—automatic awards and uniformity of treatment—are, I believe, very generally acceptable.

At present, although the applicant for a grant may have high academic qualifications and may have been offered a place at a university, the local authority concerned may, in the exercise of its own discretion, refuse to make an award. In fact, the authorities make their awards in accordance with schemes approved by my Department, but the generosity with which they have applied the schemes and the details of their practice have varied considerably from one authority to another.

Recently, I am glad to say, most authorities have come into line and acted uniformly, but no duty is laid upon them so to do. Perhaps nothing in the practice of past years has caused more discontent among students than the feeling that one local authority gave an award more easily than another.

The authorities themselves, with which I have fully discussed the provisions of the Bill, readily accepted that the time had come to make the awards automatic when the student had both the qualifications and the place at a university. Clause 1 lays this duty on the authorities as from September, 1962, and it gives the Minister power to define the extent of the duty.

Authorities must know which courses are comparable to university degree courses and what exceptions they should make to automatic awards for students taking such courses. For example, it would not be right to ask authorities to give awards to students who had already taken a degree at a university. Were that a legitimate pastime, I could envisage a very pleasant life, going from one university to another, always at public expense, always learning and never earning. It is necessary also to provide for authorities to stop a student's award in cases of bad behaviour, gross idleness, or irredeemable failure.

The qualifications for an award which the Anderson Committee recommended, and which I have accepted, are two A level passes in G.C.E. Most authorities adopt this as their minimum standard already. On the other hand, university entrance requirements vary considerably and are often a good deal higher than the two A level passes. At the same time, a university is absolutely free to admit a student who has not two A level passes, and a local authority may decide to make an award to such a student, though it is under no obligation to do so. Students with different qualifications would also be entitled to an award provided that the qualifications are recognised as equivalent to the two A level passes. It is necessary, in addition, to provide for further qualifications which students gain as they climb the ladder in technical colleges. I hope that this will become a means of entry to the universities, producing even more students than it does now.

We do not expect the new system significantly to increase the proportion of students at universities in receipt of awards. The real benefit will be in the certainty that, once a student has been accepted for a degree course and he has the qualifications, the award will be his by right. Under the Bill, future Governments will be committed to seeing that public funds for awards keep pace with the increase in the number of university students. This is an important and expensive obligation to establish by Statute at a time when a very large expansion of higher education is in progress and when we are waiting for the Robbins report.

Clause 2 ensures that local authorities will have full discretion to make awards for further education courses below the standard comparable to first degree courses. These less advanced courses fell outside the scope of the Anderson Committee. They vary in length, in standard and in entrance qualifications, and I think that the House will agree that the relevant awards are better left with the local authorities which provide the courses.

The second fundamental principle of the new system is uniformity of treatment. This covers the amount of the grant, how it is calculated, and what expenses the grant is intended to meet. Local education authorities now generally accept for the main element of grant, that is, the student's own maintenance during term, the standard figures reviewed at intervals by their representatives and my Department. I am grateful that this should be so, but, as I think hon. Members know from their constituencies, there is still room for many variations among authorities in the other elements of a student's grant, for instance, grants for additional periods of study during vacations or grants for the dependants of older students.

These extras may seem of comparatively small importance in relation to the student's maintenance grant, but they give rise to some odious comparisons and understandable irritation among both students and their parents. In future, there will be nationally prescribed rates and conditions of grant binding upon all authorities. These will ensure uniformity over the whol country for all items of a student's grant which can be dealt with in this way.

In England and Wales the grant system will continue to be administered locally. The County Councils Association was rather against this, but the other local authority associations were firmly for it.

Is that strictly correct? I had not thought that the County Councils Association was against local administration, or against acting as agents for the Ministry, but was rather against acting principal. That is totally different from not being willing to administer the scheme.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. What I meant was that they were against administering the scheme as principals.

Even on our present system, no matter where the student lives, he will in future know for certain how he can qualify for an award and how the amount of the award will be calculated. He will have a certainty which he has not had before.

I now come to the means test. The majority of the Anderson Committee recommended its abolition for reasons which, in principle, I find convincing. The minority asked us to relax the criteria, but to retain the test. The Committee divided about three in favour of abolition and one against, and almost exactly this division of opinion was reflected in the advice which I received from bodies which I consulted or which offered me their advice.

This is an issue on which it is difficult to say that one party is clearly right and the other party clearly wrong. However much we may argue about the principle of abolition, I am sure that at this time the cost of abolition ought to persuade us to retain the test in a relaxed form, as we now propose.

It is hard to deny that, if education is free for the school child, it should be free for the whole-time student. That is logical. However, we are all very well aware that there are scores of improvements which can be made at other points in the education system which are just as right in principle and which, in greater or lesser degree, would benefit the young people of this country. No Government could make these improvements all at once, because they would not command the resources.

The Anderson Committee was not asked to give a judgment on priorities. It was not asked to compare the extra £20 million a year which, on the present scale of provision, its recommendations would cost, with £20 million spent in any other direction, although one member of the Committee, in my view quite rightly, drew attention to the relative merits of maintenance grants for children staying on at school and the total abolition of the means test for students' awards. That example shows how real is the clash of priorities.

On our present policies, the total cost of education is rising at about 5 per cent. a year, which is a good deal faster than the rate of growth in the national income. Therefore, year by year, our service is taking an increasing proportion of the total of the national income, and this rising share gives my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself the opportunity to make many and substantial advances every year in our service. But we still cannot do anything like all that we should wish to do.

Speaking for England and Wales, I have to hold back nursery schools and to ration minor works. I have to retain old and unsatisfactory buildings. I have to go slow on the development of adult education and sport. I must wait to make the operative decisions about raising the school-leaving age and the introduction of county college education. These are some of my priorities; and I have not mentioned over-sized classes. I know that Ministers of Education are not alone in wishing to do more than they can do. All the other spend- ing Departments have their waiting lists of highly desirable improvements.

Whatever views hon. Members may have about the urgency of these rival claims, one conclusion is clear: in any particular service the Minister must take the greatest care to use his limited resources to the best advantage of those for whom he is responsible. The hard facts of finance cannot be dismissed from policy making. The question is: at a time when so many things which would benefit children of parents who cannot pay fees must be left undone, could it be right to press for the remission of all contributions from parents, the great majority of whom, on the relaxed means test, must be well up in the top half of the income bracket?

I should like to give the figures on which the answer to that question depends. Awards to students now cost £35 million a year. What we propose to do under the Bill would add another £10 million, more or less, in the first year. If we abolished the means test altogether, yet another £10 million would be added to the Bill. Therefore, instead of awards costing £35 million, they would cost £55 million on the present provision, which is always increasing. I am bound to tell the House that if the Secretary of State for Scotland and I were allowed another £10 million, we could spend it to better advantage in other parts of the service, and for that reason alone we fully accept half a loaf as the right compromise at present.

The effect of the relaxation of the means test is that 40 per cent. of students will now receive the maximum grant against 25 per cent. on the old criteria. About 10,000 more families will be relieved from all contributions and those in the middle range of income will pay substantially less. This is achieved by reducing the income scale for parental contributions and by increasing the allowances which may be deducted from the parents' gross income to arrive at the scale income on which the contributions are assessed. I am sure that hon. Members will have been glad to see that the allowances for children other than students at university, and for the educational expenses of other children, have been substantially increased.

Grants for students in teacher-training colleges will be calculated in the same way as for students in university. That also holds good for students in technical colleges taking full-time courses comparable with degree courses. The standard vacation grant has been revised and now applies throughout the income range of parents. The conditions for dependants' grants have been revised and broadened. These are now available for students taking the three-year course at training colleges. Students may keep up to £100 of private income, including income from scholarships and prizes, without deduction from their grant. All students, however well off their parents may be, will receive a minimum grant of £50 a year.

From time to time questions are bound to arise on the size of the grant, on its constituent parts and on the definition of "comparable courses". My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have appointed a Standing Advisory Committee to advise us on all these matters. We have been very fortunate to secure the services of Sir Francis Hill, who was a member of the Anderson Committee, to be the Chairman. The Committee has been asked to recommend revised rates of grant early in the new year, so that any changes can be announced in good time before the next university year starts in September, 1962. The Committee's review will also cover the prickly question of differential rates for different groups of universities.

Now a word about Scotland. The main thing for me to say here is that all the changes I have just described—the automatic awards, uniformity of treatment, a revised income scale and other improvements in the grant system—apply as much to Scotland as to England and Wales. The only significant difference is in administration. The Anderson Committee did not give us a firm recommendation about the way in which the making of the awards should be handled. The Committee set out various possibilities and recommended that these should be considered by the Government in consultation with the universities and the local authorities. This is what we have done.

There was general agreement that the Scottish Education Department should itself make the awards to students in universities and similar institutions of higher education. The Scottish education authorities will help the Department in several important ways and they will still make further education awards for part-time and less advanced courses.

The Minister said that there was general agreement. Did the education authorities in Scotland willingly give up what they now do—the granting of those awards?

My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland tells me that they gave it up willingly. It is true, I think, that, in practice, they have always accepted what the universities wanted already. I am, however, subject to correction and my hon. Friend hopes to speak later in the debate.

One Scottish problem has been the disparity between Scottish levels of grant and those of England and Wales. The Government have asked the Standing Committee to consider this question as part of its current review of grants. This is the first time that such a review will cover universities and colleges throughout Great Britain. It will enable us to fix standard allowances that do justice all round. I am sure that all hon. Members will be pleased about this.

I must say a word about State scholarships. When they were first introduced in 1920, they provided opportunities for a few of the cleverest boys and girls from the maintained secondary schools to reach the universities. Times have changed, however, and the growth of the number of awards, especially those given by local authorities, has steadily broadened the opportunities for university education; and now all students with two A level passes who are offered a place—not just a handful of scholars—will get a grant.

In that situation, there is no longer a need for a separate class of State scholarships, and, under Clause 3 of the Bill, they will disappear next year I intend, however, to retain the scheme for mature State scholars, because it is a small scheme and is better administered centrally. My powers to operate the State studentship scheme of awards for postgraduate students in arts subjects are also continued.

Before I come to the school-leaving dates, I should refer to Clauses 7 and 8, dealing with general grant. In England and Wales the new arrangements for making awards are already imposing additional expenditure on local education authorities. Clause 7 provides for an appropriate adjustment in the general grant for the current period—that is, the financial years 1961–1962 and 1962–63. My Department is in consultation with the local authority associations about the sums involved, which may be about £4 million for the current year and about £6 million for 1962–63. In later years, this additional expenditure will be taken into account in the regular general grant negotiations.

Clause 8 provides for the making of an order reducing the amount of general grant to Scottish local authorities. Their grant was fixed last November on the assumption that the Scottish education authorities would spend £9½ million on awards during these two years. The transfer of responsibility for certain awards from the education authorities to the Scottish Education Department will reduce the authorities' expenditure during these two years by £7 million and the amount of general grant must be adjusted accordingly.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that when he makes the new regulations, the position of families of men serving in Her Majesty's Forces will be safeguarded?

I certainly intend that they should be treated, as, I believe, they are now, with great sympathy and consideration. Of course, if they do not have a local authority in this country in whose area they are domiciled, we make arrangements to cover them. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that we must look after the children of the serving men.

I turn now to school-leaving dates. This part of the Bill follows from the recommendation of the Crowther Report that the number of dates in the school year at which a 15-year old may leave should be reduced from three to two. In England and Wales, as the law stands, a child can leave at the end of the term in which he reaches the age of 15. Under the Bill, if he reaches 15 in the five months from September to January, he must stay to the end of the Easter term; and if he reaches 15 after the end of January he must stay to the end of the summer term.

The object of the change is to help the schools to make a better job of the fourth year of the secondary course. With large numbers of children leaving at Christmas, it has been found difficult to plan the fourth year. I could, perhaps, illustrate that by saying that if the children are grouped according to their abilities and attainments, the loss of part of the group unsettles the others. If, on the other hand, they are grouped according to the dates they are likely to leave school, the teacher has to deal in the same class with children of widely different capacity, and that is no easy matter.

Indeed, from the viewpoint of school organisation, the best plan would be to have one leaving date in the year, but that would mean that practically a whole age group was looking for jobs at the same time. Industry—both employers and the T.U.C.—have told us that they might not find it easy to absorb all these children quickly. If that were the case, it would bear hardly on those children who are most difficult to place. We shall have to look at this again when we come to take the operative decisions on raising the school-leaving age to 16. Clause 9 will not affect children who have stayed on beyond the limit of compulsory education. They will be free to leave at Christmas if they wish to do so.

The inquiry by the Crowther Committee did not cover Scotland, but its recommendations have been considered by the interested bodies there. After consultation with them, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has concluded that changes in the arrangements for school leaving should be made north of the Border. At present, Scottish education authorities are required to fix for their areas three or more leaving dates each year, and the arrangements made by the different education authorities vary considerably. For example, the number of leaving dates varies from three to seven.

It follows, I think, that a reduction to two dates would be a more drastic alteration of present practice than it is in the South. In particular, there is a strong feeling in some areas which are subject to special economic difficulties that there should be a fair spread of the times at which pupils leave school, so as to make it easier for them to find suitable employment. Therefore, while the Bill provides for two leaving dates to be the normal arrangement in Scotland after 1963 it enables the Secretary of State to allow an education authority to have three leaving dates in any part of its area if exceptional circumstances warrant it.

I should like just to make one further observation about school leaving. Two out of three children in England and Wales still leave school as early as they can after their fifteenth birthday. This is not right in the second half of the twentieth century. Educationists and social workers are insistent and unanimous that the very great majority of early leavers would gain more from another year in full-time education than from their first year at this young age in a job. This view should command the full support of the House.

But it does make an assumption that we know what to teach the average and below-average children up to the age of 16, and these are boys and girls who are physically mature, know the facts of life, and have the tempting prospect of earning good money in juvenile employment. We shall not bring all these children to reailse the benefits of staying on at school unless we are able to hold their interest in their last terms. This is not easy to do. Much thought is now being given to what we should teach, and how we should treat, the 13 to 16 year-olds in secondary modern schools and in the comparable streams in comprehensive schools. One thing is clear, and accepted by all teachers: a planned fourth-year course from 11 to 15 is the basic requirement: and that is why it is so valuable to stop leaving at Christmas for children who may have had only three years and one term in a secondary school.

I hope very much that parents will understand this and will help the schools to make the extra term well worth while. I hear of some parents already saying that their chidren will resent staying on another term. Resentment is not the right frame of mind, and it is up to the parents to see that their children understand the value of this extra term.

This double Bill provides for modest advances in two directions of considerable importance, and I commend it to the House.

4.14 p.m.

The Minister is so full of platitudes that I sometimes marvel that he has the rigidity to stand up to deliver them. In education we are facing very serious issues which the right hon. Gentleman has hardly touched upon. I remember what he said only a few days ago, when he referred to the Bill we are now discussing. He said that—

"on the appropriate occasion"—
which we have now reached—
"I will explain why we must accept half a loaf as being better than none. I think it is foolish not to take the first half that one is offered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 504.]
We recognise this and welcome the Bill as a minor Bill. What we should have preferred would have been that the Bill should have formed the minor Clauses in a major Measure.

Having said that—and this is not a platitude—I should like, first, to pay a tribute to the chairmen and members of the two Committees, the Anderson and the Crowther Committees, who have produced excellent Reports.

I think that most people nowadays, in the light of the consideration we have given to the Anderson Committee Report, accept the majority view that we should make awards to the students without a contribution from the parents, that we should make these awards without a means test. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman reversed the argument as it has so far been conducted. It is generally agreed that cost is not the essence of the argument. This is quite clearly set out in the Report itself, that in fact cost is very small. It had been regarded as one of principle, but, surprisingly enough, the right hon. Gentleman does not stand up on principle; he stands up on cost. It is, as I say, an argument which has already been shot down.

I should have thought that, on broad grounds, we should, recognising the needs of the nation, accept the right of the student to university education. Of course, we are concerned—the right hon. Gentleman did not touch on this—with distributive justice, but, as the majority Report says on this matter, it should be left to ordinary taxation. As the right hon. Gentleman is standing upon the minority Report, I think that he ought to face the implications—and he has not even mentioned this—of the stand he has taken. The most impressive support for the minority Report is that of Professor Brinley Thomas, who supported the action now being taken by the Government on condition—I quote his reservation—
"… that, at the same time, substantial sixth form bursaries are introduced in the maintained schools."
This is the crux of the issue. After all, both the majority and the minority members of the Anderson Committee emphasised the waste of talent today in our maintained grammar schools. It was the view of all the members of the Committee that an improved system of school maintenance grants would help to reduce the wastage among the children of the skilled and semi-skilled workers. When, a few months ago, we anticipated this debate, all the right hon. Gentleman said was:
"I have no doubt that in time we shall have to have another look—we had one not so long ago—at maintenance allowances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 514.]
This is not good enough. It is not facing the issue upon which the Anderson Committee was divided. As I have said, Professor Brinley Thomas powerfully argued, as many people interested in education feel, that here there are two priorities. There is the priority of removing the dependence on parents so far as students' awards are concerned because we know we are thereby losing talent. At the same time, there is another high priority, and that is that the maintained schools are not making the best use of the talent which is there because we are not attracting sufficiently those children who ought to remain at school after school-leaving age.

Professor Brinley Thomas said, in conclusion:
"To remove or reduce drastically the cost of university education for middle-class families while doing nothing to stop the real leakage of talent among children at the age of 15 in the lower income groups would be an unwise and unjust use of public funds."
It is because we recognise both these priorities that, particularly as the cost involved is so small, we say that we should clearly accept the majority recommendation of the Anderson Committee.

At the same time, as I emphasised in our recent debate, we should recognise family allowances—or, in one way or another, see to it that the maintenance allowances provided for talented children in our schools are sufficiently large to ensure that those children who ought to have further education do, in fact, receive it. We think that the time has come when both these priorities should be fully recognised. The Minister has recognised neither.

On the other broad issue which emerges from the Anderson Report, that is, the method of selection, I think that there is general agreement that we should have a uniform standard in the system of selection and that it should depend upon two A levels together with admission to a university. This was anticipated by the Crowther Committee. But I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel it necessary to pay attention to this consequence. In fact, the improved selection procedures will make matters patently more difficult than they are now. They will not provide the solution to the essential problem shortly facing us. They will only make that problem more obvious. Shortly, probably by the mid-1960s, we shall be adding another neurosis to our educational system. Apart from and in addition to the 11-plus, we shall have the 18-plus.

The Minister will be aware of these words by his Senior Chief Inspector of Schools, because he wrote the preface to the book. The words are:
"The Minister could find himself sailing a ship whose bridge and engine room were in other people's hands. And the British public, which, in rates and taxes, will be providing the money, could find its boys and girls, in their later adolescence, tossed about more intolerably than they were in their middle childhood, at what is usually called the Eleven Plus stage."
It is fair to add that the Senior Chief Inspector went on to say that he thought that something would happen before long. It is a great pity that we have no evidence of that from what the Minister has said this afternoon.

I want to deal with three important aspects of the problem. The first is the bulge, about which the right hon. Gentleman said nothing. This will hit the universities forcibly by the mid-1960s. It will be aggravated by what we now call "the trend", the tendency of boys and girls to stay in the sixth form in schools. I will not say that no steps are being taken in anticipation, but not sufficient steps are being taken. We have the right hon. Gentleman's Department regarding this as a liability rather than a great opportunity. We ought to have applied more vigour and resources to anticipate what will happen about university entrance within the next few years.

The second point is that if we accept, as I think we probably all do, the test of admission to university, we are concerned with an enormous field of patronage and we must necessarily concern ourselves about the conditions which affect university entrance. Many studies of university entrance have been made in the past few years. They all confirm that there is a striking relationship between the pattern of university entrance and the status hierarchy of British society. I will give one or two illustrations. One in ten of Cambridge undergraduates come from working-class families. Three-quarters of the undergraduates at Cambridge come from public schools and direct grant schools, but one in three of the Redbrick undergraduates come from working-class homes and two-thirds of them come from maintained schools.

Inevitably, we have to accept that Oxford and Cambridge are now part of the national system of higher education, and we cannot afford to allow this distortion to affect the allocation within university education of those talented enough to merit that education. Worse than that. It is not only a question of the allocation of the successful entrants into university education. It is a question whether we get fair representation within university education of those who ought to receive that education.

I was shocked by a conclusion which I came across the other day reached by Mrs. Floud, of the University of London Education Institute, who said:
"… while the proportion of … working-class boys passing into the grammar schools has increased by 50 per cent. since the war, the figure is still very low—rather less than one in six as compared with nearly one in two of children from non-manual homes. At the university level, the chances of working-class boys are virtually unchanged, although those of boys from other families have doubled. Only one working-class boy in fifty proceeded to the universities in the post-war period, as compared with one in five of boys from other families."
As we are now concerned with State patronage, we cannot afford to continue to allow this pattern to impose itself on university education.

But, overriding this intolerable wasteful unfairness, we are confronted with a national under-supply of university places. We are now reaping the parsimony of a hundred years ago. We are faced with a situation in which the Government's plans for university expansion are dismissed by Sir Geoffrey Crowther as a "formula for national decline", because they will do no more than sustain the present proportion of young persons able to attend university.
"We have in this country the lowest proportion of our population in universities than any highly developed country."
The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that, because I am quoting his own reported words.

This shortcoming and this problem which is facing us will be revealed all the more starkly now because, very properly, we are providing a uniform standard qualification for student awards. We shall now have young persons patently qualifying for a university education, but failing to obtain admission. There is no question here of debasing standards. We already have a substantial proportion of those who are going to training colleges who, before the war, would have qualified for university entrance. It is for this reason, that during the past few days, in the submissions to the Robbins Committee from the Association of Education Committees, the National Union of Teachers and the Headmasters' Conference, we have had, in each case, an insistent demand for a larger and an urgent increase in the provision of places at universities. Unless something is done, we shall face an unmanageable log jam of the best qualified young persons in the country before the 1960s are out. We shall have people who will be patently under-developed intellectually and well aware of the opportunities being denied them.

Let me illustrate this in two or three ways. By 1970, according to some authorities, we shall have a shortfall of 70,000 young people who will have earned the right to a university education, but will not be able to obtain admission. To put it another way, by 1970, according to other authorities, even if we succeed in doubling the present provision for higher education, one young person in three will fail to obtain higher education.

The submission of the National Union of Teachers to the Robbins Committee says that it is likely that, in spite of the expansion, there will soon be about four suitable persons for every available place in higher education and that at least half of these will be eager to follow some form of higher education. This is a crisis in higher education which is facing us and will break upon us in the 1960s.

I do not know what research the right hon. Gentleman has devoted to this subject. We know the miserable effort that he devotes to research. It is remarkable that a Minister who used to be the spokesman for science should be answerable for a Department which spends not 1 per cent., not 0·1 per cent. but 0·014 per cent. on research. It shows a lack of gravitas about the problems facing him.

It does not need any research to convince us of the deplorable effect which this will have upon talented young people who have carried their education so far—this great mass of talent which will have been revealed and will then be left undeveloped—and will be denied the opportunity to complete their education and the pressure, which is just as bad, that this intense competition will impose upon the schools and the appalling effect that it will have. The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing about this, except, as we might have expected, that he is awaiting the Robbins Report. We cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to have self-complacent marginal improvements given by the right hon. Gentleman as a justification for not doing more.

When I was looking through some international statistics this weekend in preparation for the debate I came across the following, which vividly illustrates the world in which we are living. It is that the number of scientists alive today is equal to 90 per cent. of all the scientists and research workers who have existed since the beginning of history. That shows the situation that we are facing. It is no good talking about marginal improvements in the rate of progress. We are living in a new, rapidly changing world, and cannot afford to move as leisurely—and as elegantly, perhaps—as the right hon. Gentleman would have us do.

I believe that it was Mark Abrams who said that the growth of status of the graduate today compared with the growth of status of the gentry in the sixteenth century. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman has more in common with the gentry of the sixteenth century than he has with the needs of today. In any case, if the right hon. Gentleman is waiting for the Robbins Report, we are still waiting for implementation of the Crowther Report.

Before I deal with the Crowther Report, I should like to touch upon some of the other important matters which were raised in the Anderson Committee Report. I welcome the appointment of the Standing Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Francis Hill, but I hope that, even though it be from a Scotsman, we shall be told later in the debate about the timetable to which that Committee is working. We have to recognise, in regard to the scales of the awards given, that the students have been unfortunate enough to miss even a triennial review. When will there be an up-to-date review of the scales? Now that we have this permanent Committee, can we be assured that there will be a regular, perhaps annual, review?

There are several points outstanding from the Report. There is the question of National Insurance. It is true that the Minister has replied on this subject in the House, but will it be referred to the Committee? There is some dissatisfaction, particularly in the light of the Anderson Committee Report itself, about vacation grants. Will this matter be dealt with by the Committee? There is some concern about adult residential colleges, and representations have been made on this. Will this go before the Standing Committee? In what form will the reports of the Standing Committee be made? Will they be freely made available so that we shall know what advice has been given to the Minister?

As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is also the question of finance. I will mention just two points about finance. I think that from what the Minister said here is a fairly good illustration of how wrong the block grant is for education. Quite apart from that, as the right hon. Gentleman said, he is aware that the local authority associations are somewhat concerned about how they will fare. Can we have an assurance tonight that the financial position of authorities will not be worsened as a result of this Bill? We are entitled to a specific and explicit assurance on that point.

I turn now from the Anderson Committee Report to the school-leaving dates. Of course, we recognise the right hon. Gentleman's proposal as a considerable improvement, but, again, I must complain that the action taken is inadequate and that the attitude of the Minister is hardly satisfactory. After all, this recommendation in the Crowther Report followed and depended upon the Crowther Committee's major recommendation. It depended on the assumption that the Government would implement the recommendation that the school-leaving age should be raised to 16. Although this is not expressed, it is clear that one of the matters which affected the Crowther Committee in coming to the conclusion that it should recommend two dates was the effect this would have when the school-leaving age was increased. I think that the Minister conceded—the Committee obviously took the same view—that from a purely educational point of view one date is obviously better than two dates.

There are difficulties about providing employment, which we recognise, but we have to determine the educational priorities in their own right. There are two things about which we must be particularly concerned. One is the invidious position in which secondary modern schools find themselves when they are the only secondary schools which are really affected by different school-leaving dates. The other factor is that we should not merely allow the express interests of industry to override Educational requirements. Many employers in some fields have been able to arrange their employment to accord with a single fixed leaving date. The right hon. Gentleman should at least pursue this matter more vigorously with industry.

My main point, however, is that the Crowther Committee reported in July, 1959, and recommended that the two school-leaving dates should come into effect as soon as possible. It also recommended—and this seems to be overlooked—that the announcement of raising the age should be made then—two years ago. We have had no such announcement, and I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, particularly in view of the absence of a statement in his speech today about school leaving, to look seriously at the possibility of reducing school leaving to a single date in the year.

I believe that I would be speaking for most hon. Members in saying that the right hon. Gentleman has been very disappointing in what he has not said about the main recommendation of the Crowther Report. We are all bound to recognise the overwhelming case put by the Report, whether we approach this matter from the interests of the children or of the nation as a whole. The Committee put it simply and I remind the right hon. Gentleman of that passage:
"If it be regarded as a social service, as part of the 'condition of the people,' there seems to us to be no social injustice in our community at the present time more loudly crying out for reform than the condition in which scores of thousands of our children are released into the labour market. If it be regarded as an investment in national efficiency, we find it difficult to conceive that there could be any other application of money giving a larger or more certain return in the quickening of enterprise, in the stimulation of investment or in the general sharpening of those wits by which alone a trading nation in a crowded island can hope to make its living."
That is true today, as it was then.

I know that the Government have retreated in the face of the difficulty of teacher supply. I am bitterly disappointed, because although we have raised this matter time and time again, we cannot get a constructive and positive approach from the right hon. Gentleman to this crisis in teacher supply. Moreover, raising the school-leaving age is a relatively small part of the overall problem of the shortage of teachers. As I have pointed out before, according to the Crowther Report, to raise the school-leaving age would require between 15,000 and 21,000 new teachers. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, one-third of the children already stay on at school after the statutory leaving age, and it is estimated that by 1970 about three-quarters of the children will be staying on, and that for this alone we shall need 14,000 new teachers.

I should have liked to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman, because it was a specific recommendation to him, what steps he has taken, in consultation with those who advise him, on the question of teacher supply. Because children are staying on at school is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not announce the implementation of the Crowther Committee's recommendation for raising the school-leaving age some time between the optimum years of 1966 and 1969.

The right hon. Gentleman touched upon the crux of the issue. We want an announcement of a decision on the Crowther Committee's recommendation because we want an earnest from the Government that they intend to do something to transform secondary education. We want "Secondary education for all" to be not only a slogan, but a reality.

If the Government announced now, as they were recommended to do by the Committee, that they intended to proceed with the raising of the school-leaving age at the appropriate time, then they would also have to announce, as the Committee also recommended, a programme of action to ensure that the necessary conditions were being prepared. That, however, is what we are not getting from the Minister. What he said today was more disappointing than if he had not referred to this at all.

It is bad enough for a Minister of Education, though not unprecedented, to tell the House, patronisingly, that half a loaf is better than none, even if we are discussing recommendations of such bodies as the Anderson and Crowther Committees, but what is far worse is for the right hon. Gentleman to offer half a loaf and reveal that he has not been giving thought to the essential problems vexing education. Not very long ago I heard a colleague of the right hon. Gentlman say this, in speaking of his own responsibility:
"… if we get our educational pattern right, we shall, in the end, get everything right, and until we get our educational pattern right we shall, even in the short run, get nothing right."
It is regrettable and disappointing that today, while the right hon. Gentleman has introduced this Bill, to which we afford a modest welcome, he has shown no indication that he is giving any serious, effective thought to the essential problem of getting the pattern right.

4.46 p.m.

The theme of the speech by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was, "We want all this and heaven, too"—"this" being the Bill and "heaven" being all the other things one would like to see on the educational horizon, but which are not in the Bill. I shall confine my speech shortly and mainly to the provisions of Clause 9, which refer to the school-leaving age.

The Bill is the product of two Reports which have already been referred to—the Crowther Report, dealing with the school-leaving age, and the Anderson Report, dealing with grants to students. The hon. Member's main contention, as I understand it, is that the Government have not announced specifically their intention yet of going the whole way with the major recommendation of the Anderson Committee on the abolition of the means test for parental contributions to student grants.

My right hon. Friend was also criticised because he has not announced, in advance of the Robbins Committee, further plans for the expansion of university provision beyond what has been done so far by the establishment of five new universities within the last year or so. The Government are also criticised for not yet announcing a decision on the recommendation of the Crowther Committee that the school-leaving age be raised to 16, remembering that the Crowther recommendation was that the higher age should come into effect in 1967 or 1968, or thereabouts.

Allowing for the need to spend time on teacher recruitment, for the provision of buildings, and for the preparation of ideas and on how the five-year course is to be conducted, I do not believe that there is justification for saying that because no decision has been made about the school-leaving age it is to be assumed that the Government have no intention of implementing the recommendation. I hope that we shall be able to do that in 1967, or thereabouts.

Meanwhile, we should freely welcome the Bill, which takes some fairly substantial steps in the direction which hon. Members on both sides of the House want to go in both secondary and university education. As my right hon. Friend said, in secondary education we have the problem that two out of every three children leave school as early as they can, and we probably all agree that the vast majority of those children leave too early.

By the elimination of the Christmas leaving date, we are making provision for a gradual raising of the school leaving age for some of the 15-year-olds. As is mentioned in the Crowther Report, it is technically possible, if one's birthday falls in August, to leave school at less than 15—say 14 years and 11 months. By one term's worth, for some but not all of the children in that age group, we are gradually raising the school-leaving age.

That has some important advantages. As has been said, it is especially important for the secondary modern schools, for those schools are faced with the problem of organising the 15-year-olds, some of whom will be staying on for their fourth year and some of whom will not. Do the schools now cope with those children group by group, with those who will be staying until Christmas and those who will not, with those who will be staying to Easter and those who will not, and with those who will be staying to the end of the year and those who will not? Do they deal with them according to their varying abilities?

The schools have to arrive at different solutions as best they can. All the teachers to whom I have spoken—and I think that this will have been the experience of other hon. Members—are of the opinion that their problems will be simplified if the Christmas leaving date is eliminated so that they can know that at least they can plan for two terms ahead. That will be an advantage in the organisation of the secondary modern schools and to the pupils concerned.

It may be asked whether this change will lead to indignation among children who want to get out of school and into the first money-earning job they can find as quickly as they can. There will be some discontent when the new system is operated for the first time, but I think that it will be limited to comparatively few children. Secondly, the parents themselves can and should do much to mitigate that indignation. Thirdly, I think that it will be a one-year wonder. There will always be some children who want to leave school as soon as possible, but as soon as the new terminal dates become established the new system will quickly become recognised as part of the normal school pattern. It need not cause concern for much longer than its year of introduction.

What we have to consider is the extent to which the schools can cope with the less able children and to which the pattern of the schools and their ability to deal with the more able children may be damaged by the longer presence in their midst of some of the less able. This is a problem which has to be faced in the schools at some time, and the sooner we tackle it the better. If, by tackling it gradually, as the Bill does, we help teachers in the secondary modern schools, that is an advantage of the Bill and can help us towards the next step, which is acceptance of the Crowther Committee's recommendation, when and if that comes along.

It has always been said against the reduction of the number of school-leaving dates from thrice to twice, or even once a year, that that is too much for employers and difficult for the Youth Employment Service. The way that this change has been introduced is probably right from the employment point of view, because we are moving, again gradually, from three dates to two and not taking the sudden plunge from three to one. There is warning for both the Youth Employment Service and the employers, for this provision is due to take effect in a year's time. There is, therefore, time within which the employers can look ahead and think about some of the problems which are involved.

I welcome the Bill's proposals about university provisions. Uniformity of treatment is right and something which nearly everyone has wanted. The improvement in the scales will be a great help, regardless of whether people want to go further towards total abolition of the parental means test. The new scales will be a great help. I am glad that enough room has been left for the individual student to retain possession of an income of his own up to £100. That leaves him with an incentive of some material value to earning open award scholarships, which are a good prize. I do not see why a student and the parents should not be allowed to get some benefit for work well done in that respect.

4.57 p.m.

While we agree with the Minister's trend of thought, we on this side of the House had looked for action rather than the sentiment which comes from the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby). Those of us who have served on education committees know that the administration of education is continually calling for more and more expansion.

In this mouse of a Bill, of 14 pages, two minor issues are dealt with. It is somewhat singular that the Bill should be the first Bill to be introduced this new Session. I wonder whether that is because the Leader of the House thought that it was a non-controversial Bill, which would have an easy passage at the beginning of the Session. In our discussions of the Bill we have to consider the social pattern set for it in local government administration.

Many of us strongly resented the abolition of the percentage grant system and the introduction of block grants which were an economy measure and which represented an economy in the expanding education service. Now that the former Minister of Housing and Local Government has become Chief Secretary to the Treasury one wonders how far he has had dealings with the financial implications of this Bill. In my opinion, this Measure is a retrograde step for the Ministry of Education. The grants will come from the Treasury, through the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, and, therefore, the standard of the Ministry of Education is reduced and the expansion of the service, which should be a matter for local authorities, is curtailed.

I wonder whether some influence has been brought to bear because of the interesting speech made to the Tory Party Conference, at Brighton, by the Minister of Education. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would implement his proposals. I think that the result would be a greater encouragement for hon. Members opposite, especially if the Minister's proposals regarding primary education were implemented. The social services would be assisted and children of ability and aptitude would find their rightful place. I believe that the curriculum of State schools would be improved. There would be a greater urge to extend the building programme and to provide equipment. Certainly, it would speed up the provision of training colleges and swell the number of people coming into the teaching profession.

Let us examine our education service. In the statement on the economic situation by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 25th July, we learned that in consultation with the Minister of Education he was informing both sides of the Burnham Committee of his views. That is a case of the Treasury imposing conditions on the Minister of Education. Not only that, but—I think this even more revealing—during the debate on the following day we learned that
"In the field of education, there will be reductions in authorisations for minor works, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is considering a rearrangement of priorities in favour of scientific and technical education."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1961; Vol. 645, c. 437.]
We recognise the need for this, but what about the humanities? What about the liberal side of education? What about the arts? Are we to be so impressed by the need for scientific development that we ignore other aspects of education? Are we to be panicked by the need of the age in which we live? In my opinion, we are now suffering from the misdeeds in the education service committed during ten years of Tory rule.

In some respects we must regard the Bill in the light of the Crowther Report, but before doing so let us examine the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. In the top line it is stated that
"The purpose of this Bill is to impose. …"
During the Committee proceedings on the Local Government Act the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was then Minister of Housing and Local Government, advocating the block grant system, said that the trend was for more freedom for local authorities. But here we are faced with the reverse, an imposition upon local authorities from the central authority.

No.

During the Committee stage of that Act the Minister impressed upon hon. Members that it sought to give greater freedom to local authorities. I served for many years on the education committee in my county, and I can say without fear of contradiction that that local authority, after consultation with the Ministry, made grants which were more generous than the State grants which we receive from the Ministry. The grants which we made increased from year to year. The State grants have remained static over a number of years. As the education authorities have not been so liberal in their awards, is this to be a cutting down of the number of awards to be made? Is the amount to be earmarked for grant purposes in addition to the general grant?

Are the State awards to be made known in the issue of grants for educational purposes? Are grants to particular students to be made known? Where is the freedom for the local authority? How is a local authority to issue these awards? Has the student a choice between one university and another? Are we seeking to fit local authority grants and the number of students into the available university places? The number of students will be reduced because of the limited number of places. Will the grants for students be in keeping with the general grant? We recall that the general grant was to be subject to economic conditions prevailing at the time when it was made. If we cut the general grant, will grants to students be cut proportionately?

In the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum mention is made of more limited powers to make awards if an increase of the number of students awards proves advisable. The financial effects of this Bill remind me of the days when I worked in a coal mine. Even before nationalisation, we had what we called a sliding scale. According to the coal which was produced the manager would say, "I am claiming a reduction because you are producing too much coal." So, financially, we were worse off. Will this Bill prove a restrictive measure so far as grants from local authorities are concerned because of the present economic position? In a world of rapid change, where all our young people's talents are so badly needed, we must direct them into useful channels. That, surely, must be our aim.

On the question of leaving dates, I readily agree, but it seems somewhat appropriate to this weekend. Many of us have been gathering around cenotaphs and war memorials. One of the hymns which has been sung is "Lead Kindly Light". Think of two lines in that hymn:
"Amid the encircling gloom …
One step enough for me."
That is what the Minister of Education is saying.

The Crowther Report recommended that we should go forward to equality in the technical, grammar and modern streams to the age of 16. Why does the Minister not say that his target is 1965, 1967 or 1970 for it to be compulsory for every boy and girl to go to school until the age of 16? If he would show courage, I am sure that he would have full support from hon. Members on this side of the House.

In the area from which I come, industrially all our eggs have been in one basket. For employment, we were tied to the coal mines. I did not want to go into the mines, but there was nothing else for me to do. The problem we are facing in an area where coal mining is declining is that of giving an opportunity in life which befits the educational talents of our young people. Many find their way into blind alley jobs. I should be loath to think that in the Christmas term many boys would be leaving warm classrooms to find outside work in the depths of winter. From the citizen's point of view, we shall be rendering a good service to these boys and girls by the abolition of the Christmas leaving.

I agree with that first step, but I ask what we are to do with them. What are they to do in the following three months? Are they to be kept at school? I know that secondary schools have one intake in the year and three periods of leaving in the year, which has caused dislocation. That is why I welcome the one leaving date, so that they can have four full years at secondary school. How is this to square, however, with the Chancellor's statement of 26th July about reductions in authorisations? We shall need additional buildings, teachers and equipment.

Those with administrative experience of education know that there is an annual increase in expenditure. We have been concerned that 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the general grant has been demanded for education and that that will go on. What is to be the alternative? Have we to look for this expenditure from a central fund, or is it to be on a local rate call, creating different standards throughout the country? I see this problem facing local authorities in the immediate future. It is a problem of our State school system. It does not apply to the public schools. We hear no complaint from that section of the community.

It is time we had integration of our educational services. It is time that boys and girls, no matter from what homes they come and not on a financial basis but on the basis of "ability and aptitude" according to the Act, were given an opportunity of fully developing their talents. Because the Minister has failed miserably in this little Bill, I think that the best service he can do to education is to tender his resignation.

5.16 p.m.

My intervention in this debate will be very brief. I had not intended to speak until I listened to the speech of a very good friend of mine, the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Ainsley). I did not like the unfair way in which he used the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill.

The hon. Member sought, by quoting from the first line, to prove that the Minister was imposing something disagreeable upon somebody. When I asked him to continue the quotation he did not do so. I should like to do the job for him, to finish it for him, to show what my right hon. Friend is imposing and upon whom he is bringing this "dreadful imposition". The finished quotation reads as follows:
"The purpose of this Bill is to impose a duty (Clause 1) on local education authorities in England and Wales to make awards to students with certain qualifications attending university first degree courses or further education courses of a comparable standard."

The word "qualifications" is the word I ask the hon. Member to look at. It means that increased awards may be made by local authorities, but restrictions are to be placed upon them by the Minister because he is making certain awards above that standard.

We never heard a word about "qualifications" when I challenged the hon. Member. The word he was flinging broadside on the House was "impose". He used that sentence to try to prove that the Minister was doing something which was not beneficial to anyone. I want to dispel that idea immediately. This is not all that we on this side of the House want, but it is more than "a mouse of a Bill", as the hon. Member described it. At least, it is half a loaf. One of the educational journals described it last Friday as two half-loaves of different colours. It is a step in the right direction.

I shall deal with the second point mentioned by the hon. Member, the question of "qualifications". We have at least, what many hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked for in the treatment of students, the abolition of the tendency for recalcitrant authorities to penalise capable and able students whereas other authorities recognise and reward them. If the Bill does nothing else, it removes that evil. We have uniformity at last in both treatment and in qualifications. The Bill lays down that the minimum qualification required is two A-level passes, and once the student is accepted for university he automatically qualifies for a grant of the same value, irrespective of where he is.

The hon. Member also tried to divert the House on the subject of the general grant. We all know its history. All my hon. Friends know the stand which I took on it. But, again, he did not correctly quote the Preamble, because if he goes halfway down the page he will read:
"Clause 7 enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make an Order …".
Here he challenged my right hon. Friend by saying that power was being taken from his hands and given to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and that this denigrated the authority of the Minister of Education. What nonsense that is.
"Clause 7 enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make an Order increasing the amount of the general grants payable in the current period because of the additional expenditure arising from the new award arrangements."
In other words, we are using the machinery of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to give more money to the general grant because of the increased expenditure arising from the new award. Surely the hon. Member will not quibble with that.

The hon. Member served in the County of Durham as a qualified teacher. As a member of the teaching profession, does he agree that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should deal with educational administration?

The hon. Member knows as well as I do that whether the grants are percentage or general grants, the money all comes from the same source via the local authorities. There is no denigration of the Minister of Education, because we are using the machinery set up to operate the block grant through the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see that the money gets to the right place, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is still the responsible Minister.

We will beg to differ.

On the last point, I feel quite strongly. I am sorry that the Bill did not accept the main conclusion of the Report on student grants in respect of the means test. Many times in the House I have advocated that, on principle, the means test should be abolished. The principle is that if a boy or girl, by merit, gains an award, then it should not matter whether he or she is the son or daughter of a duke or an earl, a professor or a middle-class individual, or a member of the so-called working class. The award depends on merit, and the boy or girl should not be treated as the son or daughter of a wealthy or a poor father, but as an individual.

I am glad that the Bill at least relaxes the means test, but it keeps it in a relaxed form. I welcome it as a step in the right direction, but I hope that when we are returned at the next General Election, or before, we shall take the next step and abolish the means test.

5.25 p.m.

I will afford the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) the opportunity of taking the next step during this Session, for I will put down Amendments to the Bill to remove from the Minister the power of enforcing a means test. I hope that I shall find the hon. Member walking with me through the Lobby after I have given him the opportunity to realise his ambition.

I am sure that the right hon. Member recognises that I have even done that on several occasions.

Then it will be no new experience for the hon. Member, and I hope that he will not be telephoned by the Whips, as one hon. Member last week assured us that he was.

This must be a sad day for the Minister because he made one of the first speeches on the first Amendment which we moved to the Education Bill in 1944 when his right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary proposed to bring education under his direction and control. The right hon. Gentleman rose and opposed it. He said:
"… I do not like the words which the Amendment proposes to leave out because they give the impression of master and servant and not of senior and junior partners."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1944; Vol. 396, c. 1655.]
As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham North-West (Mr. Ainsley) pointed out, this is a Bill to impose under that direction and control a duty on local education authorities to do something which, as I am informed, last year they managed to achieve of their own volition. In other words, they achieved a uniform system of grants for these matters over the whole country. While they have done it somewhat tardily, and while I regret that they took so long about it, nevertheless, since they have reached that state of grace, the Minister might have welcomed it and encouraged them to go on doing it of their own volition rather than under his superintendence.

We have to face the fact that the country is in a very parlous condition in respect of admissions to universities. Between the two world wars I generally spent several days, sometimes weeks, in the month of September on behalf of friends who had a child who had managed to do quite well at secondary school, as it was then called—although we now call it grammar school—and who tried, from one charitable source or another, to get sufficient money to enable him to enter a university. Money was the trouble.

Money was the trouble in my own case, which brought my university career to an untimely end. It is true that the universities have since made it up to me by giving me—no longer of any great value to me—honorary degrees which, if only I deserved them, would entitle me to be Lord Chancellor. That sort of thing always comes too late in life. What I have to do in September in these years is not to worry about money, but to help parents whose children have obtained grants to find places in a university.

One hon. Member had a son whom I knew to be a very good scholar because I was one of the governors at the school at which he was being educated. He was head boy. He applied to six universities and they all turned him down. That has been the parlous plight of a good many children during recent years who have managed to get, from one source or another, grants that will see them through a university with reasonable ease—yet they cannot find a place.

We were told by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) that five new universities have received some sort of send-off during the present year. But even if they all reach a satisfactory state of near-completion during the next two or three years, the problem that I have just mentioned will still be as great. I do not know how the Minister will be able to deal satisfactorily with this university problem until he takes a share in the admission to universities and in the establishment of a clearing house, as there is for training colleges, by which these lads and girls can be assured of getting a satisfactory result to their secondary school careers.

I ask the Minister particularly to consider the case of the boys or girls who fail at the 11-plus, but who manage to get into a secondary modern school with a grammar school stream and there get the two qualifications at Advanced level which will qualify them in future, we understand, for a grant if they can get admission to a university. I regret to say that a number of these cases have come to me from one county only, and I have a shrewd suspicion that there must be some understanding between some of the universities that a good pass from a secondary modern school with a grammar school stream is not the equivalent of the same pass from a grammar school. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I can assure the hon. Member that I would not make a statement like that without having grounds for my own suspicions. Universities are above suspicion in the minds of a good many people in this country, but not in mine.

If ever that gets to be an idea generally held, the Minister can rest assured that the row about 11-plus will be nothing to the row that will arise over 18-plus. I hope that we may have an assurance that, so far as the Minister has anyt