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Commons Chamber

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 26 March 1964

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 26th March, 1964

The House met at Eleven o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Questions To The Prime Minister

I must express my regret to the House that force of habit overcame the printers, who have put on the Order Paper the time of the Prime Minister's Questions as 3.15 p.m., but, as we resolved some days ago to stop Questions at 12 noon, I do not suppose that anyone has been deceived.

Petition

Traffic Congestion, Altrincham And Sale

I wish to present a Petition on behalf of some 3,000 residents of the Boroughs of Altrincham and Sale. The Petition refers to the increased volume of traffic along three highways, the A.56, B.5397 and B.5166, which run through those boroughs, and to the enormous congestion, the danger to life, and loss of amenity. It says:

Wherefore your humble Petitioners pray that the Honourable Commons of the United Kingdom of Gt. Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled urgently initiate the necessary legislation to expedite the finance and construction of the proposed western and eastern by-pass roads round the Boroughs of Altrincham and Sale in the County of Chester, or failing such legislation, and in justice to the grievances of the Petitioners, urge the Minister of Transport to publish to your Petitioners the full list of road projects to be afforded priority to the said by-pass roads, together with his considered reasons for affording such priority.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Power

Shipbuilding Industry (Steel Prices)

2.

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a direction in the national interest to the Iron and Steel Board under Section 10(1) of the Iron and Steel Act, 1953, authorising the Board to reduce the maximum price of steel to be charged by producers to the shipbuilding industry.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that British shipbuilders are paying to the British steel industry higher prices than Continental shipbuilders are paying for Continental steel, which makes the British shipbuilders' competitive position much inferior to that of the continental shipbuilding industries? Really, could he not, as he has power to do, reduce the maximum price which steel manufacturers charge for steel? Could he tell me whether individual steel companies in this country are at liberty to reduce the prices of steel or give discounts to particular customers for heavy bulk purchases, or are they bound by the price fixed by the Steel Board?

The price fixed by the Steel Board is the maximum price. The Board did reduce the maximum price to shipbuilders by about £1 a ton in December last year. It has recently carried out one of its normal reviews of steel prices and has concluded that no further reduction is necessary. I see no reason to disagree.

But surely, a £1 a ton reduction in December, 1963, while Continental steel prices are far lower than ours! Really, could not the hon. Gentleman take some action to break this monopoly ring in the steel industry and force it to be more competitive with Continental manufacturers, in order to give that help which our shipbuilding industry needs?

I would reject any suggestion that British steel prices are not competitive. Of course, prices change from time to time in relation to Continental prices.

National Fuel Policy

6.

asked the Minister of Power what steps the Government are taking towards a national fuel and energy policy; and whether he will now reconsider the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the writing down of National Coal Board assets, which have become devalued but which are still serviced at 3 per cent. per annum.

I refer the hon. Member to my replies to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) on 28th November, 1963, and my statement in the House on 29th November, 1963. On the second part of the Question, I see no need for a change of policy at present.

Was it not in February, 1961, that the present Government made statements in the House about a national fuel policy, and yet the nation, despite the statements, is still not clear where we stand with regard to a national policy? With regard to the estimated 4 per cent. increase in production by the Electricity Board arising from atomic energy, in view of the over-rosy picture painted during the ebullient time of Zeta, may we now have a reassessment of our whole fuel policy and the relationship of atomic energy to it?

No, Sir; I do not think that an exposition of fuel and power policies can really be made in answer to a question, and a supplementary question at that. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my statement on the subject in the debate on the Second Reading of the Electricity and Gas Bill on 29th November last.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that a national fuel policy should involve two elements—low cost energy available to the consumer and absolute freedom of choice of fuel? Will he also consider the difficulties of obtaining such elements in a national fuel policy if the electricity workers are not prepared to adhere to a three-year arrangement?

I should like to study the succinct definition of the policy put forward by my hon. Friend.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the magnificent effort of the publicly-owned National Coal Board? Is it not acknowledged that private industry, since public ownership of the coal mining industry, has virtually been subsidised by hundreds of millions of £s by the National Coal Board being able to provide cheap industrial coal? Is not this admitted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, whose papers are presumably read by that defender of the freedom of private enterprise, the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet)?

Petrol (Octane Rating)

8.

asked the Minister of Power whether he will take the necessary steps to oblige petrol distributors to display clearly the octane rating of the various brands of petroleum as well as the respective retail price.

No, Sir, I am not convinced that legislation for this purpose would be justified.

Surely octane rating is the valid test of every petrol. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that petrol can be sold with any sort of claim but that unless there is some standard by which the public can judge, in this as in many other things covered by the Merchandise Marks Act, it will not have the sort of protection it should have? Should not this be considered?

If general legislation were required, that would be for my right hon. Friend the secretary of State for Industry and Trade. I do not accept that only octane rating is a valid test of the standard petrol. There are such matters as volatility and absence of deleterious material.

It is octane rating that is used in the testing of engines by the manufacturers and if it were established generally as a test, would not the public be in a better position to know what it was buying?

I am aware of what the hon. Gentleman said in the first part of his supplementary question but I still maintain that this would not be a very useful guide to motorists.

Coal

Mining Subsidence

4.

asked the Minister of Power if he will introduce amending legislation to provide for comprehensive compensation for consequential damage in cases of mining subsidence.

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that the time has come to recognise that all citizens should be comprehensively covered against damage resulting from the hazards of mining subsidence? Is it not illogical and unjust that—having recognised that when dwelling houses and other structures are damaged the citizens concerned should be comprehensively compensated—where, for example, as happened in my constituency recently, a citizen's television set is completely smashed by the tilt of the house he should not also be able to claim compensation for that?

This is a very difficult problem. It was fairly recently considered by Parliament, in 1957 when the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act was passed. The difficulty would be that if one extended the amount that could be recovered to consequential damage, including personal injury, it would place an immense burden on the coal industry and the National Coal Board and would produce very great difficulties of definition.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when the Departmental Committee on Mining Subsidence, on which I was privileged to serve, some years ago investigated the problem of mining subsidence we were aware of these possibilities of consequential claims for damage, and, in order that the human relationship between the National Coal Board and people living in mining areas may be put right, is it not about time that we somehow or other evolved an answer to this admittedly very difficult problem? I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will not just turn this aside.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the way he has acknowledged the difficulties. If he wishes to make any representations to my right hon. Friend, I can assure him that they will be looked at. However, I am equally obliged to say that we have to be careful not to put a quite intolerable burden on the National Coal Board.

While I acknowledge the difficulties and appreciate the burden on the National Coal Board in this respect, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he does not think it wrong that citizens who live in mining areas should have to suffer, in addition to the discomfort anyway caused by mining subsidence, the financial loss where serious subsidence damages their property, which is not very frequent or widespread?

Dust Conditions (Research)

5.

asked the Minister of Power what research is at present being carried out into dust conditions in coal-mining; how many persons are concerned in this research; what funds are devoted annually to the purpose; and what results have been obtained so far in regard to the causes and incidence of pneumoconiosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema among mineworkers.

About 220 people are employed in the research into dust conditions in coalmining undertaken by the National Coal Board, the Medical Research Council and my Department. The cost is around £450,000 a year. Information concerning the work is published from time to time.

Can the hon. Gentleman say that a definitive report will be made to Parliament about the results of this research and, in particular, the connection between the incidence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema among mine-workers and the occupational hazards to which they are subject? Is he not aware that there is rising public opinion in mining and other areas that chronic bronchitis and emphysema ought to be recognised for National Insurance payments? Will he not issue a definitive report as a result of the research?

I should not like the hon. Gentleman to think that there was any doubt in my mind about the importance of the problem. On the other hand, research into pneumoconiosis, because of the nature of the disease itself, is necessarily very slow. Certainly as soon as any clear results are available from the research, they will be made available. As I said, information is published from time to time by the bodies which are responsible for research work, and I ought to make it clear that the research work by the different bodies is coordinated.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a growing belief in mining areas and among mineworkers in particular that men who are disabled by dust diseases and who had formerly expected to be certificated as suffering from pneumoconiosis are now being said to suffer from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and that these men and their families are convinced that the disability arises from their occupation? Is it not time some further steps were taken to give adequate compensation to men who are so badly disabled in the nation's service?

It is not yet known whether exposure to dust is a significant factor in causing the diseases of bronchitis and emphysema. The problem of diagnosis is frequently raised in the National Joint Pneumoconiosis Committee of which I am the chairman, and was raised at the last meeting. I am always prepared to look at the matter again to see if difficulties can be overcome.

National Coal Board (Interest Charges)

7.

asked the Minister of Power what is the present payment per year by the National Coal Board in standing interest charges.

The N.C.B.'s outstanding liabilities to the Exchequer fluctuate from year to year and interest payments vary accordingly. Interest payable for 1963 was about £41 million.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my estimate for the year before was £43 million? What pressure is he bringing upon that troglodyte organisation, the Treasury, to formulate a new policy towards this burden on the National Coal Board? Is it not time, with these pits closed, that assets now dead should no longer receive a 3 per cent. interest? If the coal industry is to be given the chance it deserves, there should be a new approach by the Treasury and the right hon. Gentleman's Department. Is he considering ways and means of cutting out the dead wood of worn-out assets?

The greater number of the assets on which interest is payable are alive and not dead.

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever considered a capital reconstruction of the industry?

Gas

Employees (Provident Associations)

3.

asked the Minister of Power why he will not issue a general direction to all gas boards prohibiting the practice of general managers circularising employees in their departments on behalf of provident associations, with a view to promoting the interests of private medicine.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his colleague the Minister of Health has as his policy that the National Health Service should give a service unsurpassed whether one pays for it or not, and that the circular which his Minister sent to the north-west region permitting it to organise fee-paying services is likely to undermine the whole principle of the National Health Service? Is it not his right hon. Friend's job to support the policy of the Minister of Health.

Questions relating to the National Health Service are entirely matters for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. I have no information whatever that employees of any boards are under pressure to contribute to these schemes. I agree that it would be wrong if they were under such pressure. If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence of that, I shall be glad to look at it.

Is it not wrong for one Government Department to undermine the work of another? Is not the organisation of these groups within a Government-sponsored section in the Ministry of Power an example of bad co-operation between two Departments? Is it not the job of his Department to co-ordinate with the Ministry of Health on this?

I understand that the policy of my right hon. Friend towards these schemes is one of benevolent neutrality. It is not the intention or policy of my Department to undermine the policy of the Ministry of Health.

Would not the hon. Gentleman at least go so far as to say that he considers it inappropriate for a nationalised board even to promote the interests of private medicine in this way, which is what happened in a case about which he knows?

I do not think that it would be right to interfere with the normal freedom of a nationalised board any more than with that of private industry.

Electricity

Nuclear Power Programme

10.

asked the Minister of Power what consultations he has had with the Central Electricity Generating Board on the Powell Report; and if he will make a statement.

11.

asked the Minister of Power what discussions he has had with the Central Electricity Generating Board on the kind of reactor to be used in the next series of nuclear power stations.

The Central Electricity Generating Board has been fully consulted during the consideration of the future nuclear power programme.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some mystery surrounding the Powell Report and the Government decision on the next generation of nuclear power stations? Will he give an assurance that, when the Government's decision is announced, a White Paper will be published enabling hon. Members to know the views of the Central Electricity Generating Board and the Atomic Energy Authority whereby we may judge whether the decision is right or not? Can we have the maximum information about this? At the moment, we have none.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on several occasions in reply to Questions recently, has said that a statement will be made.

This House is being continually frustrated by lack of information not only on this subject but on many others. If we have to work in the dark we are not able to criticise effectively what the Government are doing. This will be a very serious decision affecting the nation's power supplies for generations. It is, therefore, important to get the decision right. We must have the information available so that we can form our opinion of the efficacy and intelligence of the Government's eventual decision.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, but I ask him to await the statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be extremely useful to have a technical report as well as the statement? Someone will try to make a general analysis of the information and the House will be in some difficulty if such technical information is not available. We should be much better placed if it were made available to us.

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern, but I ask him also to await the statement.

Education

Schooleavers, The Hartlepools

14.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give the estimated numbers of boy and girl school leavers in The Hartlepools at Easter.

Information provided by the local education authorities concerned suggests that the number may be about 500, divided roughly equally between boys and girls.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that these figures are higher from time to time and that the number of school leavers is about to increase? Will he consult his right hon. Friends with a view to attracting further industry to the area to take up the slack in employment? We never seem to catch up. We still have 6·3 per cent. unemployment.

I am not responsible for industry. I recently visited the North-East to discuss the contribution which the education service could make to solving the problem of unemployment among young people. As my hon. and gallant Friend will recall, I included in last year's building programme a technical college for The Hartlepools. I hope that might provide greater opportunities for school leavers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the arrangements for advising school leavers in areas of this kind, where the normal prospects of employment are not good and where particularly careful advice may be needed to make sure that we do not waste ability?

I am obliged to the hon. Lady for saying that. This was one of the matters I ventured to discuss on my visit two months ago. I agree that this is a subject which my Department should always be bringing to the attention of the local authorities.

What work is done by voluntary bodies or the churches to help my right hon. Friend's Department in relation to school leavers?

I cannot answer that without notice, but my hon. Friend is quite right in suggesting that the churches and voluntary bodies are taking a very great interest in this matter.

Research Projects

15.

asked the Minister of Education if he will sponsor through the Ministry of Education research fund a number of small research projects in co-operation with Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, local education authorities, institutes of education with constituent training colleges, and with practising teachers, whoshould be consulted at an early stage.

I am currently supporting a wide variety of projects from my research fund, and will send the hon. Member a list. I am ready to consider any proposals put to me, or where necessary, to initiate projects.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am grateful for the document, 'Provision for Research ", which he has sent to me? Is it not important that the classroom teacher should be able to initiate research and not just be restricted to carrying it out because it has been brought from above by an inspector? Will he consider the means of bringing to the notice of classroom teachers the results of research already taking place? Unless it gets to them it is wasted.

I would not rule out the possibility of classroom teachers initiating research. Many of them are now associated with much of the research going on. For example, one line of research is into streaming in primary schools and whether it is necessary or even desirable. I agree that it is most important to make sure that the classroom teachers know of the research carried out, and we ensure this through bulletins and other means.

Teachers (Degree Courses)

17.

asked the Minister of Education how many students who have been to, a teachers' training college have been admitted to read for a university degree during the last three academic years; and what steps he will take to facilitate application by certificated teachers for internal and external degree courses.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. It is for the universities to determine the conditions upon which they will admit students for degree courses. They will no doubt be aware of the suggestion of the Robbins Committee that universities should allow students who transfer from a training college certificate course some remission of their normal requirements.

As one who, as a practising teacher, read for an external degree, may I assure the right hon. Gentleman that a great many impediments are put in the way of certificated teachers who try to do this? Is he satisfied with his Answer? Does not he think that a positive policy by the Ministry and suggestions to the universities of ways in which they might facilitate this development would be a good thing? Does not he think that a certain amount of research on the subject might be feasible?

It may well be that some research would be feasible but this is part of a larger question concerning the whole future of the training colleges and the system of full-time higher education. If the hon. Gentleman would care to discuss this with me some time, I should be pleased to do so. This is too big a subject to deal with fully at Question Time.

There is the further important matter of the extent to which teachers, during their teaching careers, tend to become out of date. There is a strong case for further degree study.

It also raises the question of in-service training, which we are considering carefully.

St Paul's School, Coven

21.

asked the Minister of Education when the proposed new school at School Lane, Coven, Staffordshire, will be begun; when completion can be expected; how many additional places will be provided; and whether he is aware that the expansion of population in recent years has created an urgent problem of overcrowding in the existing schools.

No project to provide new premises has been requested by the Staffordshire local education authority for its 1965–68 major building programme. I understand that it is keeping the position under review but does not regard present or expected numbers at St. Paul's School as justifying a high priority.

May I take it from that that if there is any lag in the provision of essential school places in this area, it is coming from the county authority and not the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry.

The hon. Lady is quite right. It has not been included in the proposals put to me by the local authority. The programmes for 1965–66 and 1966–67 are about to be announced. Perhaps I may say that the Friarswood project, about which the hon. Lady's hon. Friend has so often asked me, will be included and it will be open to the authority to put additional proposals for 1967–68 if it so wishes; but at the moment, no proposal for the project mentioned in the Question has been made.

Local Sound Broadcasting

23.

asked the Minister of Education if he will make a statement on the educational possibilities of local sound broadcasting.

26.

asked the Minister of Education, in the light of the experiments in local broadcasting two years ago which showed the potential of this medium in the field of education, if he will consult the Postmaster-General concerning the early setting up of a number of local broadcasting stations for educational purposes.

27.

asked the Minister of Education what co-operation is being offered by his Department in experiments in local sound broadcasting for educational purposes.

I would refer the hon. Members to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) on Thursday, 19th March.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are not asking him for the views of the Postmaster-General on local sound broadcasting as such, but for a statement on what he believes his Ministry's attitude ought to be to the educational aspect of local sound broadcasting? As it would be possible to set up these stations for a capital cost of less than £20,000 each, does he not think that this could make a big contribution? After three years since the B.B.C. first put up the suggestion, surely he has some view about whether he supports it.

As the hon. Gentleman's own supplementary question makes plain, technical considerations are involved and I cannot make a statement until my discussions with my right hon. Friend on the technical aspects are complete. We are considering a variety of proposals for experiments in educational broadcasting which, I agree, have important educational implications, but we must get the technical matters thrashed out first.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there are certain experiments which could be carried out with existing stations without technical changes and that it is most desirable that, while he is carrying on with what may be lengthy discussions on new forms of local sound broadcasting, he should at least encourage the B.B.C. to proceed with what we are given to understand is now possible without making any technical changes whatsoever?

I was considering the technical implications of what is under discussion. I am very keen that we should make rapid progress in this matter and I hope that I or my successor will be able to make a statement on this subject before too long.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the B.B.C. is willing and able—it claims—to go ahead now with the formation of at least six local stations, which would be primarily concerned with educational activity, and even with schemes to provide extramural classes complementary to the actual broadcasting?

I cannot go further than I have this morning, but I take note of the feeling in the House and hope that it will be possible to make a statement on these matters before long.

Technical College, Sunderland

24.

asked the Minister of Education when Sunderland's technical college will be recognised as a college of advanced technology.

I am fully aware of the progress made by the Sunderland Technical College, but in the light of the Robbins Report the designation of another C.A.T. would not be possible, since this would imply, in effect, the designation of a new university.

The possible establishment of a new university in the North-East or elsewhere is a matter for consideration in due course by the University Grants Committee.

Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that this is still altogether unsatisfactory? The North-East has one college of advanced technology. Sunderland has the largest college of such a type in the country, nearly four times as big as one of the universities, and is providing courses of a very high standard. Is not this a decision which cannot go on being postponed, for postponement destroys the moral fibre of those who are teaching and working, in these colleges? Is not this something which needs urgent attention?

When I was last in the North-East, I explained fully, by all the media available to me, why, in the light of the Robbins Report, the designation of another C.A.T. would not be possible, and I was also careful to emphasise the large amount of first degree work being carried out at Sunderland and Rutherford College; and the Constantine College at Middlesbrough. The fact remains that at this moment it is not possible to designate another C.A.T.

Teachers (Saudi Arabia)

25.

asked the Minister of Education what conversations he has had with the Saudi Arabian Government about the possible supply of English teachers to Saudi Arabia.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people able to teach English are needed in Saudi Arabia? As that country is now looking to this country for friendship and support, is not this something in which my right hon. Friend's Ministry should take an initiative?

I refer my hon. Friend to an answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 23rd March.

Adult Education

28.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the fact that recommendation 104 of the Robbins Committee stated that the work for adult education undertaken by extra-mural departments and the Workers Educational Association should be encouraged, if he is aware that his grant arrangements for 1964–65 are acting as a discouragement to the responsible bodies; and if he will take action to remedy this situation.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) on 19th March.

When the right hon. Gentleman goes around the country and meets responsible bodies and takes public meetings, he always says that this is an activity which it is very important to develop. Has he changed his mind, or is it just that his deeds do not match his words?

I have not changed my mind and there will not be a standstill on grants to responsible bodies next year. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, I regard the highest priority in this respect the building programme for long-term residential colleges, to which the hon. Gentleman rightly referred me last year. I made no apology for continuing to make that the first priority for the future. But we certainly cannot judge this over one single year. There was a definite step forward in the grants to the responsible bodies last year, and I hope that those concerned will not be too easily discouraged because they have not had a further increase in the number of tutors for the very next year.

But surely the sum of money required to allow responsible bodies to go on naturally developing is very small, and there is now a check. As the Robbins Report makes a very strong recommendation that this work should be encouraged, surely the right hon. Gentleman should struggle a bit harder to get some more money.

I thought that the increase in money which I was proposing for this year was reasonable and a further increase in the number of tutors in the very next year was perhaps not something this year to which I should give the highest priority. I must ask the House on this matter to look at this over a term of years. During the whole of this Parliament, the total grants for adult education have risen considerably.

On a point of order. Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

School Places, Middlesbrough

29.

asked the Minister of Education what steps he is taking to ensure that all five-year-old children in Middlesbrough will be able to start school in the term beginning at Easter.

The Middlesbrough local education authority assures me that all children who reach the age of five before the beginning of the summer term will be able to start school in that term.

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that Middlesbrough Corporation is a progressive authority and that the education committee is anxious that the rising-fives should also have an opportunity of going to school, and that if he would cooperate, this could be done?

One must recognise that there is bound to be very great pressure on staffing standards in infant schools. It may be that a number of authorities who have hitherto done so would not find it possible to admit all the rising-fives. Middlesbrough will be able to meet its responsibilities for children of statutory school age and I hope that it will also be reasonably satisfied with the school building programme which will reach it shortly.

French-Speaking Teachers

30.

asked the Minister of Education how many French-speaking assistants are currently teaching in English schools; how many are French, Belgian and Swiss, respectively; and how these numbers compare with those of the previous year.

1,003 French speaking assistants are currently teaching in English and Welsh schools of whom three are Swiss and the rest French. In 1962–63, there were 937, of whom six were Swiss, three Belgians and 928 French.

No progress has been made in increasing the number of Belgian, French and Swiss assistants. Has the right hon. Gentleman done nothing to deal with the difficulties which I raised with his predecessor more than a couple of years ago? Is that why there has not been an increase in the number of Belgian and Swiss assistants?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have made it known to both the Belgian and Swiss authorities that we would welcome candidates from their universities, but Belgian and Swiss universities apparently neither expect nor encourage undergraduates to spend a year in this country. There are difficulties and I have done my best about them.

Anti-Litter Campaign

31.

asked the Minister of Education what steps he is taking to see that the anti-litter campaign is supported in schools and colleges.

Schools and colleges are already aware of the importance of this matter, and I do not think that any special action is needed on my part.

Could not the Ministry keep in touch rather more with the Keep Britain Tidy campaign to see if more could be done? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a walk down any high street would convince him or anybody else that most of our schoolchildren are set an appalling example by their parents in these matters? Would he not agree that schools could do more to make a major impact on the standard of cleanliness and tidiness both in our towns and countryside?

This is a matter which is best left to the schools and colleges and local education authorities. I was glad to see a recent article in The Times which said that there were now nearly 2,000 Keep Britain Tidy school committees, but this would not be a satisfactory subject for an educational circular.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all the education in the world will be of very little value unless local authorities provide receptacles for litter? Litter is to be seen lying all over the place, and particularly in stations, where people leave their tickets on the ground—but there are hardly any receptacles in which they can be placed, anyway. Will he consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government on the matter?

It is not the responsibility of the Minister of Education to put litter bins in stations.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that perhaps the best thing to do would be to persuade Giles, the cartoonist, to lead a campaign?

I think that the best thing that we can do is to move on to the next Question.

Teachers

32.

asked the Minister of Education what arrangements are made to grant recognition to a teacher who is fully qualified, but who has obtained these qualifications by means of part-time study.

Generally speaking, university degrees and specialist qualifications acceptable for the award of qualified teacher status are so accepted whether taken through full-time or part-time study, but teacher-training qualifications are only accepted for this purpose if attained through full-time training. If the hon. Lady has any particular case in mind I shall be glad to discuss it with her. I am reviewing the justification for this limitation.

I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is reviewing his matter. Does not he agree that, as the Kelsall Report stresses so strongly, many women wish to take part-time work only in the teaching profession, and that it is quite illogical to put up an insuperable barrier by insisting on full-time training?

The hon. Lady is correct in saying that it was the Kelsall Report in particular that made me think that we should look at this matter again.

Home Department

Vehicles, London Area (Licensing And Insurance)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that, after a five-week campaign, the police in West Ham ascertained that in the Forest Gate area alone there were 430 vehicles without licences or insurance or both; and whether, as the practice of using unlicensed vehicles and leaving them on the roads is growing, he will advise the Commissioner of Police in the Metropolitan area to initiate a London campaign similar to that just carried out in West Ham.

The cases which the hon. Member refers to came to light as a result of a review of standing vehicles which was considered necessary in the Forest Gate area. The Commissioner does not consider that a general review of this kind is necessary for the Metropolitan Police District as a whole, but special action is taken in particular areas when local circumstances make it necessary.

The Commissioner has suggested to local taxation authorities changes in the procedure for reporting unlicensed vehicles which he hopes will enable the police to increase the help they afford them.

I congratulate the Forest Gate Police on the excellence of their activities, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are literally thousands of these derelict cars, vans and other vehicles, which have not only become eyesores but which are uninsured and untaxed? Is he further aware that children play about in them, and that there was recently a case of a child being killed in this way? Does not he think that if the law provides that these vehicles should be taxed and insured if they are on the road, the police ought to enforce the law? Will not he ask the police to consider this matter again in other areas, so that they can be as progressive as the police of West Ham?

The police review in the Forest Gate area arose because of the large and recently much-increased num- ber of vehicles left parked and unused. It was not primarily concerned with taxation and insurance matters I think that this is best left to the police. The Commissioner can, if he thinks fit, issue general directions to the forces, or he can leave it to local officers to take special action locally. I am grateful to the hon. Member for the congratulations that he has expressed to the police in the Forest Gate area.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the police have to waste many hundreds, if not thousands, of valuable man-hours trying to trace the owners of these vehicles before they will authorise local authorities to take them away? In those circumstances, will he alter the present arrangements so that the necessary steps can be taken within a much shorter time to tow these vehicles off the streets?

This is a large question As I said in my original Answer, the Commissioner has suggested to local taxation authorities certain changes in procedure for reporting unlicensed vehicles which will enable the police to give greater assistance to local authorities.

Members

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister whether, to aid the deliberations of the Committee on Members' pay, he will institute an actuarial inquiry as to the expectation of life of Members of the House of Commons at ages 50, 55, 60 and 65 as compared with the average expectation at these several ages.

I think this is a matter for the Committee in the first instance.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the 10 deaths of hon. Members which occurred recently, up to the time immediately before my putting down this Queston, were at the average age of 59? Is he further aware that five of those were Conservatives, and that they died at the average age of 57? Is he yet further aware that considerable pressure is put upon hon. Members and right hon. Members as a result of which, I believe, many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are compelled to retire from this House at an early age—and that if that were not the case neither the right hon. Gentleman himself nor my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) would be leading their respective parties at the forthcoming General Election? Finally, is he aware that all the indications are that it is the compulsion which is put upon most hon. Members to have to earn a living by doing two jobs which results in this unsatisfactory situation, and that they should at least all be paid a living wage?

I am aware of all these facts, and that we probably all work too hard. The hon. Member seems to have all the statistics for which he has asked me. Perhaps he will supply them to the Committee, instead of asking me to do so.

On a point of order. I know that the question of time-keeping is a very difficult one. I did not raise this point at the time, because I wanted to hear Big Ben strike—but you asked for Questions to the Prime Minister just before a quarter to twelve, Mr. Speaker. A very important Question, No. 38, would have been called otherwise. As we have now missed it, is it possible to do anything about it?

It would not have been called, because the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) is not here.

In that case, I apologise. But do not let us waste time about it. If I misread the clock it is usually to the general advantage that I should be allowed to do so.

On the original Question, has it occurred to the right hon Gentleman and to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would live a simple and natural life they would live longer?

The right hon. Gentleman is a most splendid advertisement for what he is saying.

Will my right hon. Friend consider recommending to the Committee this rather simple actuarial survey, because it touches the question of the modernisation of Parliament? Undoubtedly the peculiar hours of work here have an effect on the lives of hon. Members in their fifties, as evidenced by the unfortunate illness of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

If there are any statistics which the Committee wants and the Government can help, they will supply them.

United Nations (Peace- Keeping Force)

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister, in view of his willingness to consider the matter with the allies, and of the recent official joint announcement by the three Scandinavian countries, if he will instruct the appropriate departments to prepare a plan for an allied force, not to be permanently under United Nations control, but to be available as needed to the United Nations for peace-keeping purposes.

As I explained to the House on 3rd March, it has not so far been considered appropriate for the permanent members of the Security Council to earmark forces for United Nations service and any departure on our part from this view would need to be discussed with our allies in the light of our existing commitments. An allied force for the United Nations is another matter, and I am doubtful whether it would be a suitable means of giving support.

However, we are giving further study to all these possibilities.

Has not the Cyprus situation shown the danger caused by the vacuum that exists while the United Nations peace-keeping force is being organised? Is not there an overwhelming case for the creation of a United Nations stand-by force pending the creation of a permanent force? Will the Prime Minister indicate that, in principle, Her Majesty's Government are in agreement with the action taken by the Canadian and Scandinavian Governments, which have already undertaken to establish such stand-by forces?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question illustrates one of the difficulties. He asks whether we have prepared plans for an allied force. In the case of Cyprus, we were unable to collect an allied force, but even if we had been able it would not have been acceptable to a number of members of the United Nations. As for our own contribution, we would always be willing, provided we approved of the situation and of the United Nations resolution concerned, to provide forces to help, and we could do so expeditiously. We want to find the best means of doing this.

I agree with what the Prime Minister has said, including the necessary proviso that we agree with the particular project and the situation, but does not he think that we might now go further in preparation and agree, in consultation with our allies, to earmark perhaps 2,000 or more of our troops at present in Germany for use for such peace-keeping purposes and to see that they get the necessary training—for example, by way of preparation in tropical hygiene and logistics, and so on, because in the case of the really serious problem that might arise at any time, we have a great deal to offer, including mobility, and we also have something in the nature of a command structure, which is usually the thing most deficient in United Nations operations.

I will certainly consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Of course, it is more difficult for a country like ours with worldwide commitments than for other countries to earmark specific battalions in particular places. We might want them in those places at the time when the United Nations wanted them, I think there will be no difficulty at all in finding necessary troops and getting them to the right places at the right time. I shall consider what he has said.

While welcoming very strongly what my right hon. Friend has said, may I ask that we should use some word not quite so strong as "earmark", which might apply to bases and facilities for such a force were it at any time to be required? What hon. Members on both sides of the House are asking for is that preparatory thinking should go on about this. We do not necessarily want so many bodies put in a particular place as a requirement to do a great deal of initial thinking on what ought to be done.

Yes, Sir. I am in agreement with my hon. Friend and I think I am largely in agreement with the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). It is a question of how to devise the best way of providing troops when necessary without tying ourselves down too closely to providing troops from a particular place at a particular time.

We have many times in a more controversial atmosphere argued about the question of what we have sometimes called a "stage army". Does not the Prime Minister think that the particular proposal I have put to him related to Germany, provided our allies will agree, might be a more helpful way of doing it than by having to rely on a very small, almost non-existent, strategic reserve kept in this country?

It could be, but I do not think I should like to commit myself today to saying that we should earmark particular troops in a particular place for a particular purpose. I should like to give this further consideration because, in the event, it might prove embarrassing to this country.

Minister Of Public Building And Works (Speech)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Minister of Public Building and Works in London on 10th March on the subject of the National Economic Development Council represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend's remarks at a Press conference on 10th March dealing with other matters related to a report on the Construction Industry presented to the National Economic Development Council by its Director-General. My right hon. Friend developed his views in a speech representing Government policy in the debate on the building industry on 17th March.

Is not this a very odd situation? A very important body, of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is chairman, approves and publishes a carefully prepared report making strong criticisms of the building industry. The Minister of Public Building and Works says that most of the criticisms are a lot of nonsense. Does the Prime Minister realise that if he agrees with the Minister of Public Building and Works he repudiates the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Should he not try to find out about it and which of his right hon. Friends is talking through his hat?

I have found out everything about it. I read my right hon. Friend's speech on that occasion and also his speech to this House at a later time. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works was simply saying that he did not agree with every aspect of the report. In particular, he said that the extent to which industrialised building systems were already being used for local authority housing and school building had not been taken sufficiently into account because he thought the report had been made too early.

Will the Prime Minister say whether the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in presiding over this body and issuing the document represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

The document was a commentary. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows this. It was a report by the Director-General to N.E.D.C. In this report there were certain criticisms made of the building construction industry. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works was perfectly entitled to say, if he thought certain facts were not available to the Council, that he thought it ought to have had those facts before it reported.

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was there when this report was approved and there was a junior Minister from the Ministry of Public Building and Works there who did not disagree? The report was published and later repudiated by the Minister of Public Building and Works. The Prime Minister seems to be on his side. He will have to make his peace with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What is he going to do about that?

My peace is already made with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no trouble there.

Common Wealth Immigrants

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements he has made to co-ordinate the work of the Ministers of Housing and Labour and of the Secretary for State for the Home Department on integrating Commonwealth immigrants into the economic and social life of the country.

There is regular consultation between the Ministers concerned with the administration of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act and with the welfare of Commonwealth immigrants.

Am I to understand that, at any rate, the Government accept the principle of integration? I understand that to be the position. It so, does the Prime Minister realise that he can make a very considerable contribution to the question? Will he publicly condemn those local bodies and parties which oppose integration and seek to use racial tension for political purposes? Since he has been challenged on television by the Leader of the Opposition and since the Conservative Party's Parliamentary West Indies Committee made its position plain, will he state clearly, as I am sure he would wish to do, what is his attitude to campaigns like those waged by the Conservatives in Smethwick?

I think I should ignore the last part of that supplementary question—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It is making an accusation which is quite unwarranted. In response to the first part of the question, of course we have never condoned but absolutely condemn any racial discrimination by any public body or private individual.

Is the Prime Minister aware that all of us applaud the statement issued by the Conservative leaders of the West Indies Committee, but he must face the fact that certain very damaging and degrading statements remain on record in the columns of The Times? Does he recognise his responsibility to repudiate statements made in the name of his party which will do the greatest disservice to the public life of this country?

I speak on behalf of the whole party when I say that there is no question that we condemn racial discrimination in any form.

Will the Prime Minister consider joining my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party in issuing a joint statement from all parties deprecating bringing racial problems into the General Election?

We all deprecate it, I think separately and all together. We all deprecate this matter, I hope.

South-East England

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister what co-ordination he proposes between the Ministers concerned to provide the housing, schools, hospitals and transport required by the findings of the report on the future of South-East England and to prevent the rise of land values due to the proposed community development.

Q12.

asked the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to coordinate the plans of the ministers concerned with providing the additional housing, transport and social services that will be required to meet the needs of the large increase in the population of South-East England forecast by the recent Report.

Q13.

asked the Prime Minister to what extent he is coordinating the plans of the Ministers concerned with the further housing, schools, hospitals and other services that will be needed when the Report on South-East England is carried out.

The Ministers concerned will co-ordinate these matters through the existing machinery of Government.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that to be enough? Are not five Ministries very intimately concerned? Is he aware of the housing shortage, the condemned schools in rural areas, waiting lists for hospitals, suffocation in trains, queues for buses and soaring land prices? Will not this become intensified by the South-East Plan unless there is effective integration of the Ministries?

My Answer was that there is the necessary integration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already announced the setting up of a steering group to advise Ministers on this. When necessary the Ministers may see that action is coordinated.

Will the Prime Minister say why the Government have accepted the defeatist assumption that all the problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) referred are to be further aggravated by a further migration of over 1 million people to the South-East before 1981? The Government have rightly accepted the idea that London itself should have growth restraint, and there must be growth elsewhere and big public investment. Why cannot it take place in areas such as Scotland and the North-East where it is needed instead of in areas like Newbury where people do not want it?

Our regional policies are designed just for this purpose, to help people to stay and work in those areas, but we cannot stop people coming to these areas if they want to do so.

In view of the thousands of homeless and the rocketing land prices in London and the South-East, will the Prime Minister do something to encourage emigration from the South-Eastern to the under-developed. Under-populated and backward areas to be found in many parts of the country, such as Perthshire and Kinross? Let us have some emigration from the South-East to the Prime Minister's constituency.

Yesterday we sent the Post Office to Glasgow. That is the beginning. I will consider what I might do about Kinross and West Perthshire, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman himself will stay away.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us from the North-East Coast of England welcome the wisdom of the Government in planning for the next 20 years' development in the South-East? Will he give publicity to the statements of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and the ex-citizen of Sunderland, the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), in advising the nation of the squalor of the South-East and the advantages of the North-East?

Universities And Colleges Of Advanced Technology (Staff Remuneration)

12.1 p.m.

With permission, I wish to make a statement about the Report of the National Incomes Commission on the remuneration of Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges of Advanced Technology, which was published yesterday.

I do so in view of the importance which the Government attach to progress with university expansion and the recommendation of the Commission that the salary rates it proposes should come into operation from 1st April next. Certain points in the Report will need to be pursued in detail, which will take time, but the Government wish to make their attitude to the main issues clear at once.

The Commission reaffirms that the fundamental principle of an incomes policy is to keep the rate of increase in aggregate money incomes within the long-term rate of increase of national production. It recognises, however, that, within this principle, particular cases may be established where a long-term change in the relativities of remuneration is desirable on economic grounds. It is satisfied that over the years there has been a decline in the relative position of university salaries, and that this decline is having undesirable consequences and should be corrected. The Commission has accordingly recom- mended new salary rates for non-medical and pre-clinical staff to take effect from 1st April this year.

The Government, for their part, accept in principle the findings of the Commission. In particular, after consultation with the University Grants Committee, they accept the recommendations in respect of salary rates and allowances. They agree with the Commission that this is a genuine case for special treatment in terms of income policy. For the reasons given in the Report, therefore, this decision should not be regarded as having any bearing on other occupations.

So far as universities are concerned, the implementation of the recommendations on salaries and allowances is a matter for the institutions in consultation with the University Grants Committee. For colleges of advanced technology, assimilation to the university grading structure and salary rates will be the subject of early discussions between the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Committee, the colleges and their staffs, within the broad principles recommended by the Commission.

The Government will ask Parliament to provide additions to the recurrent grants for universities for the rest of the quinquennium and to the grants to colleges of advanced technology to enable the new rates to operate from 1st April, 1964. Supplementary funds provisionally estimated at £7 million will be required for the coming financial year.

The Government and, I am sure, the whole House, are grateful to the Commission for the work it has done and for its lucid and authoritative Report.

We welcome the Government's decision to accept the Commission's findings and gladly join the right hon. and learned Gentleman in congratulating the Commission on its lucid Report. May I put two questions to the Minister? First, will he tell us how the new amounts conceded compare with what was turned down in 1962 when the Government turned down the requirements of the University Grants Committee? Secondly, will he amplify his statement that the decision should not be regarded as having any bearing on other occupations? Would he include among those other occupations, for instance, the teaching profession?

Would it not be slightly unrealistic to do that, unless he regards this as restoring a proper differential between university staffs and teachers? Would he let us know whether he thinks that is true, or does he think that the teachers could legitimately consider this in preparing their claim which they are now doing?

I could not, without notice, say what relationship the findings of the Commission have to the 1962 figures. I am not even sure that the 1962 figures have ever been published.

As regards the teaching profession, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to go behind the Burnham machinery.

I very much welcome the announcement that my right hon. and learned Friend has made. Would he say whether the aim now is that the institutions should try to aim at uniform increases or at uniform total amounts? Does he visualise there being a clear distinction between the increases to colleges of advanced technology and those to universities?

I must apologise to my hon. Friend. I am not absolutely sure that I caught the bearing of his question. I think that the point about colleges of advanced technology is covered by my statement and by the proposals in the Robbins Report. I do not think that I sufficiently understood what my hon. Friend was referring to to enable me to answer the first part of his question.

May I try again? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aiming at uniform increases or at a uniform amount for each type of increase?

I think that the new rates are published at the end of the Report, but within them there is a certain element of flexibility.

Is the Minister aware that the whole country will welcome not only the announcement he has made, but his recognition of the importance of education in the national economy? In view of what he has said, may I suggest that it would be a very good thing if he followed this announcement by restoring to the Burnham Committee's negotiated salaries for teachers the cuts which his right hon. Friend the Minister recently made?

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for the first part of his question. Questions regarding the Burnham Committee are still for my right hon. Friend.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that these new grades compare very favourably with those in operation in many other democratic countries?

I am sure that nobody in the House would wish to deprive those associated with university education of reasonable salaries and improved remuneration, but does not this proposal make a farce of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has described as a national incomes policy if there is to be a reservation which provides for a differential which is applicable to only one section of society? What about all those differentials that exist among other classes in the community—teachers, nurses, and the general body of workers? Are we to understand that this is to be the new conception of a national incomes policy?

If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Report he will see that that kind of argument is very fully dealt with, but I must remind the House that one of the main purposes of the National Incomes Commission—as the Commission recalls in the Report—was to deal with cases of revaluation where a particular occupation required it.

Order. We must not too much compact our programme of Adjournment debates.

Cases Of Halloran And Cox; Tisdall, Kingston And Burton

With permission, I would like to make a statement about the cases of Halloran and Cox; and Tisdall, Kingston and Burton.

During the proceedings in Standing Committee on the Police Bill on 13th February the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) referred to a case in which two constituents of his named Halloran and Cox had alleged that they had been ill-treated after they had been taken into custody by the Metropolitan Police. The hon. Member referred to a police investigation of these allegations ordered by my predecessor, and stated that certain evidence had been suppressed and not sent to the Home Secretary.

In subsequent correspondence with me the hon. Member has referred to statements made to him by present and former senior officers of the Metropolitan Police asserting that in the course of inquiries which have been made, for the information of the Home Secretary, in this and in another case which occurred at Hornsey involving three men named Tisdall, Kingston and Burton, action has been taken designed deliberately to mislead the Home Secretary by suppressing information and by directing the preparation of "whitewashing" reports.

While I am not to be taken as accepting the statements that have been made, these are matters of such gravity that, in my view, they must be the subject of an impartial investigation. Until the Police Bill becomes law I have no power to set up a statutory inquiry in which there would be power to summon witnesses and take evidence on oath.

I have, therefore, decided to set up a non-statutory inquiry by an independent person—as in the recent Woolf case—into the question whether there has been a breach of duty on the part of anyone concerned in any of the inquiries which have been made into these two cases for the information of the Secretary of State.

I have invited Mr. W. L. Mars-Jones, Q.C., to conduct the inquiry, and he has agreed to do so. The secretary will be Mr. J. Nursaw, of the Home Office Legal Adviser's Department.

An inquiry of this character conducted without statutory powers must be held in private, but it is my intention to publish the report.

Although there will be no statutory power to summon witnesses, the Commissioner of Police is satisfied that all the serving police officers who took any part in the matters under inquiry will give evidence, and any of my own officers who were concerned will, of course, do so.

In these circumstances, I hope and trust that the senior police officers and former senior police officers who have made the statements I have referred to, and who claim to have personal knowledge of these matters, will also consider that it is their duty to come forward and give evidence at the inquiry.

I need hardly say that I welcome, the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made. Indeed, I think that he had no alternative but to order an impartial investigation. I only regret that this step was not taken when I first raised this matter with his predecessor as long as five years ago.

There are a few questions I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman arising out of his statement. First, I share his wish that although this is to be an extra-statutory inquiry, the senior police officers who hitherto have given me confidential information will be prepared to give evidence at this inquiry. However, I must ask the Home Secretary for an assurance that if they do so, as it is my hope, none of them will be in any way victimised or penalised for giving information which may reflect on some of their superiors in the force.

Secondly, will he confirm that the terms of reference of the inquiry will be sufficiently wide to enable the distinguished Queen's Counsel to examine not only the handling of the matter, but the actual occurrence?

Thirdly, I must repeat the request I have made to the Home Secretary; to let me see copies of the two conflicting reports which were made to his predecessor. I think that the House would also wish to have an assurance that all the documents in the possession of the Home Office will be produced and that there will be no question of any claim for Crown privilege being raised by the Home Secretary.

Fourthly, I am wondering whether it is wise for Mr. Nursaw, whom I do not know but who, I have no doubt, is an admirable civil servant, to be the secretary of the inquiry, bearing in mind that it may be rather embarrassing to him since the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and members of the staff of the Home Office may be involved.

In reply to the hon. Gentleman's fourth point, I do not think that the conduct of my predecessor is in question here. Certainly, the conduct of certain people in the Home Office may be in question, and I had considered the point that the hon. Member has raised, It seemed to me that the appropriate action would be that somebody in the Legal Adviser's Department of the Home Office should act as secretary of the inquiry. It will be Mr. Mars-Jones, who will be in full control of the proceedings.

I can assure the hon. Member, in answer to his question about information, that all the relevant Home Office and Metropolitan Police papers will be made available to the inquiry. There is no question of Crown privilege here, because it is not a court of law. It would not be proper for me to make those two reports available either to the hon. Member or anyone else. They should be made available to Mr. Mars-Jones and he will then consider the proper procedure.

As to the terms of reference, the inquiry is into the handling of the investigation and whether there was a breach of duty on the part of anybody concerned, rather than into the actual occurrences. I should have thought that it would be impossible to rule out all references to the actual occurrences being investigated, but it will be for the distinguished silk conducting the inquiry to say what in his view is relevant and what is not.

I have received assurances from the Commissioner of Police that disciplinary action will not be taken against any serving officer who gives evidence and that no action will be proposed against any retired officer on that ground, or on the ground that he has supplied information to the hon. Member or any other hon. Member.

What arrangements are being made for the legal representation of the complainants, that is, those who are criticising the position which is taken, and what funds will be made available for them to present their case?

There are no complainants in the ordinary sense and I would not think that this was a case where legal representation would be needful. However, it would be for Mr. Mars-Jones to reach decisions on that if he is asked.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that it will be within the discretion of Mr. Mars-Jones, if he thinks that it is necessary, to enable persons attending the inquiry to see and comment on the two conflicting reports which are very much involved in this case?

Bill Presented

Drugs (Prevention Of Misuse)

Bill to penalize the possession, and restrict the importation, of drugs of certain kinds, presented by Mr. Brooke; supported by Mr. Noble, Mr. Anthony Barber, Mr. Woodhouse, and Miss Mervyn Pike; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Tuesday, 7th April and to be printed. [Bill. 122.]

Adjournment

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Hughes-Young.]

Initial Teaching Alphabet

12.19 p.m.

This is a sad occasion in as much as it is the last time that the Minister of Education will be addressing us in that capacity. It is very happy that his swansong is about education and not about the administration of education and that it is on the subject of learning to read which—I am tempted to go much further—is the most important foundation of the whole of our education and social structure.

My right hon. Friend has been, I think, an outstanding Minister of Education, and one of the ways in which he has been so outstanding is in making it quite clear where his heart lies and in which direction he wishes to channel the great gifts which he has had from a brilliant university record. He has rightly enjoyed a corresponding affection from, I believe, both sides of the House.

That channel has been the lower rungs, and in wishing him well in his move to his new responsibilities for the higher rungs, may we commend to him the London University Institute of Education and the National Foundation for Educational Research. In a Question the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. M. Rees) raised some very pertinent points. We may ask my right hon. Friend to bring to his new job a consideration of how exetremely fruitful, in this field of education, such a research can be.

In another way it is sad that Dr. Mont Follick is not alive to be with us today. If ever there were justification for Private Members' Bills and for the initiative of private Members in the House, it centres around him and what we discuss today. On 22nd August, 1945, within nine days of becoming a Member of Parliament, he had made his maiden speech on this subject. On 11th March, 1949, he introduced the first of his spelling Bills. On 6th March, 1952, he found it within the terms of order to discuss this subject in connection with the Navy Estimates. On 27th February, 1953, he introduced a Bill which was directed exactly and precisely to everything which has happened since then.

In addition, Parliament as a whole has played a very important part in what has been discovered. The status of a Member of Parliament is very important in this matter. This is a subject in which people either listen to and scoff or just scoff so much that they do not even listen. I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) for his help in eliminating the scatterbrain, wild-man idea on this subject which, had it continued, would have meant that the new medium was doomed to disaster. The honour of being a Member of Parliament has added that degree of respectability to the idea which was necessary to command attention and consideration and [n the end a willingness no longer to argue interminably but to make trial.

The House has in other respects, too, played a great part in what has come about. So have individuals. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) in his place for it allows me to draw attention to the individual effort and most valuable contribution of the Director of Education for Oldham, Mr. Maurice Harrison. Many people outside the House, including other directors of education, head teachers, class teachers and members of the inspectorate at the Ministry of Education, have all played an essential part. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) present; in his authority, in Staffordshire, and in Harrow, and in many other places people have played their parts as private individuals also.

May I show what has been achieved by this pioneering? In the first place, the initial teaching alphabet has become now sufficiently established that it is recognised that it is not fair on the really young child to confront him with the full difficulties of our traditional orthography, when he first goes to school. In consequence, the onus of proof has changed. It is no longer upon the hon. Member for Itchen and myself to show that it is better to have a new medium than to continue with the old medium for the beginning child. May I emphasise that it is not a new method of teaching; it is a new medium of teaching. Everything which has been good about teaching methods at any time continues to be good now. Indeed, it is better now, because there is no longer conflict between the look-and-say method and the phonic method. Each is stronger and each supplements the other.

In this, we have established that, unfortunately, three major millstones are placed around the neck of the child when he begins to learn to read. The first millstone concerns the variety of the word patterns which we require him to learn. Let us take the simple, indefinite article "A". At the beginning of the sentence it is like a wigwam with a lintel across the top. In the middle of a sentence the child has to cope with quite a different form, "a" something like a serpent with a very big tummy underneath.

Suddenly, however, when the teacher writes it on the board, or the child writes it in his own book, he is expected to write something like an "O" with a fishhook hanging down on the right-hand side namely, "a". There are thus three quite different forms and not one stable form. In every word in the English language the child is confronted with a different form for what in his own speech is only one form. I know only one word—and that is "O", and only then if we spell it without an "h"—in which there is not more than one form for every word.

I have looked carefully through Book I of a very popular beginning series. At that stage there are only 49 words. But it is peppered with changes in form. For instance, there are four forms for the word "and". Admittedly, one is the ampersand on the title page. There are two forms for the word "the", one at the beginning of the sentence and the other later in the sentence and so on, for many of these words, making them far more than 49 different visual patterns. The onus of proof surely is on those expert in education to justify why there should be such flagrant violation of one of the main teaching principles in any subject, particularly in a skill subject, such as reading. They need now to show why such fundamental teaching principles can be thus violated with impunity.

The second millstone round their little necks is that in so far as we have an alphabet—and are not as unfortunate as the Chinese—we need at the very outset to confront the child with up to six values for a single character. Let us take the letter "A" as we should normally describe it. In "canyon" it has one value; but we do not say "anny" and "many" but "any" and "many". In "pants" it represents the standard value but in "wants" another. In "Janet" it represents the standard sound but in "Jane" it has yet a third value. In "shall" it has the normal value but in "pall" it has another and fourth value. In "Halma" and "palm" it has yet another and fifth value additional to its most normal value. How should we manage teaching a small child mathematics if the figure 6 did not stand always for 6 but sometimes for 7, sometimes for 8, and possibly now and again for 3 and 1?

The third millstone is the number of variants which we have in our spelling. There are 22 or, if we count capital letters, over 100 spellings for the sound "ie" in "die" and in the book which I mentioned four of these different 22 spellings are presented to the child amongst the first 20 words which are brought in. There is a capital "I" for the "I" which the child has to read. There is the "i"—consonant—"e" of "ride". My is "my" but we spell "goodbye" with a final "e" and it is not long before "high" is introduced. Would numbers be very easy for the child if six were represented not only by "6" and "VI" but by 20 other symbols?

Of the 49 words in Book I, only 17 do not violate the two main principles of good teaching; 32 present great difficulty to the beginning child. Are we not entitled to ask those who would wish to confront the beginning child with these unnecessary difficulties to propound reasons why these difficulties should not be postponed and should not rather be presented only when the child has become proficient with the most simple—that is to say with only one form for each word, only one value for each character, and enough characters to represent the 40 sounds of English, so that all these three mill-stones may be removed? It is not only that the onus of proof has been reversed in respect of these three milestones, but that there is now a large amount of fact to support these a fortiori expectations.

There are, in particular, three apparent miracles. The first is that we have found that children do learn to read extraordinarily quickly. People did not believe it at the beginning, but it seems to be as easy as rolling off a log for the very young child who is sufficiently linguistic in speech. Very early in their school careers very young children thus derive real joy from reading.

The second apparent miracle is that the transition is literally a matter of minutes. Once they have learned to read fluently the children can put down an I.T.A. book and take up another book, printed in the ordinary way, and read it just as fast and with just as much comprehension. It may sound incredible, but those are the facts.

The third great apparent miracle is that the medium chosen is not dependent on the speech habits of any particular region. The spellings and alphabet have been tried in England, Scotland, and Wales, and in Ireland. It is now being tried with many young children in America and, if with small numbers, also in Canada and Australia. It amazes me every time I go into a school at, say, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to recognise with what perfect American accents these little six-year old children read their I.T.A. reading books, which, of course, children in Scotland and Wales read with a Scotch and Welsh accent; because, of course, they recognise from the print the words which they would use in their ordinary speech and thus give them all their own regional and indeed individual pronunciations.

These three a priori considerations and these three apparent miracles have combined to bring about certain facts. First, we have undoubtedly 200 per cent. better results in classes at the end of the two years of schooling. That is to say, at the end of the infants school and the beginning of the junior school. We have 61·4 per cent. of the original starters who get into the top two categories as distinct from only 20·5 in the control classes. That is a very big improvement—as much as 40 per cent. of those learning to read. If we compare it with the results in Kent, a corresponding figure of 75·8 per cent. for the I.T.A. in top three categories is matched by only 54·4 per cent., even in Kent an improvement of 21·4 per cent. There is thus a large proportion, some 21 per cent. of all the children beginning to learn, who are brought into the top three categories of reading ability. The improvement over Kent is even better than 21 per cent., because 30·4 per cent. of these little children and 57·6 per cent, of them had been in the top category of all and in the three top categories respectively, and thus reading fluently, for half a year before the end of that second year.

What is the meaning of these figures in terms of human lives? If we take 30 per cent. which is a good mean between 40 per cent. and 21 per cent., particular y when we know that the standards at any such stage are so much higher in comprehension, we find that it means hat out of 800,000 children a year beginning to learn to read, 240,000, nearly a quarter of a million, young children more every year will be able to get real joy from reading at least a year earlier and will proceed up the educational ladder with fluent reading and comprehension and considerable linguistic attainment. There are 6 million children in the English-speaking world which means that about 1,800,000 children every year will be enabled to go forward socially and educationally with this wonderful gift of communication. The remedial aspect is very important, too. It is very warming to the heart to go into a remedial teaching group. The lost sheep is very warming to the heart of the shepherd. Spread over the 10-year intake we have in this country about 2 million of our children in schools who will benefit, no doubt greatly, from remedial teaching in reading. That figure goes up probably to about 20 million for the English-speaking world. Here is a further field of magnificent promise.

I urge the Minister to ask his successor to go into the classrooms and have a look at these children both in initial teaching and in remedial classes. That is very much like asking the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—if there is some land which is starved of lime and phosphates—to go to see it where an experiment has been conducted, in which there are parallel pieces of ground, upon half of which the fertilisers have been applied and upon the adjoining ha lf have not. One has only to go into a class and look at the children to see the immense difference, and the reality of facts which appear so colourless when they are presented as figures.

Of course, the research is not yet completed and will not be until 1974 when the final intake has been through to puberty and all the final assessments of emotion and of other personal characteristics can be made. But the question arises: at what point does one accept the results of these researches and act upon them administratively? I urge the Minister to follow the good example of the 36 authorities which are accepting the facts as they see them in their own areas. They, after all, have the opportunity to see what has been done and have experienced the benefits to their children—and teachers.

Dr. Mont Follick had the foreigner in mind even more than the small English child. That is a further tremendously important point, the question of English as a foreign language. I hope that the Minister will urge upon his colleagues—I believe that, primarily, it is his responsibility—the need for something to happen about this at the Commonwealth Education Conference in Ottawa in August; and, also, he should enter into conversations with America, Ireland and South Africa, where the English language is as much indigenous as in Canada and Australia and where the teaching of English is also a practical problem. This urging of the Minister is to recognise that here is an issue of world leadership.

This is a medium, too, through which the deaf may be assisted. Already, in Oldham, most promising results are being achieved and there is a possibility of amending Braille to make easier the teaching of reading to the blind.

All this has, inevitably, in the circumstances, been done by private enterprise, not by Government. Ministers could not "go out on a limb" and be seen to be as "crackpot" as the hon. Member for Itchen and I have allowed ourselves to be considered. I have a copyright in this which I have given to the world as a whole, on condition that there shall be a standard which shall be conformed to both in the characters and in alphabet. Nothing could be worse for a child's education than that, if its parents moved to another area there were, to be found as in Heinz soups a different one of "57 different varieties" with which the child would suddenly have to familiarise himself. I suggest that here is a matter of national significance, and I urge the Minister to take up the point that a national and world convention is a matter for this country's Government, not for an individual.

My right hon. Friend should, I suggest, also deal with the Home Office in relation to prisons, borstals and remand homes where remedial teaching will prove most beneficial. The Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Office, and the British Council are interested in English as a second language. Even the Army is involved in respect of the Army's School of Preliminary Education. The Ministry of Labour, in retraining, ought to he involved. I urge the Minister with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to consider, whether it is not right that some national machinery should be set up to take over, where private enterprise ought no longer be required to operate alone.

12.38 p.m.

The House has already warmly congratulated the hon. Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) on his successful achievement. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to declare his indebtedness to those who have worked in the field—eminent phoneticians like Dr. Daniel Jones, and education administrators, like Sir Graham Savage, and Maurice Harrison, Director of Education at Oldham, who have played such a great part—and to those who have worked before him, men like his own grandfather and William Archer.

I wish to say a word or two about the principles behind what we are debating. One of the most important discoveries made by man was the alphabet. Man found that though he had learned to articulate many words they actually consisted of very few sounds. So he invented signs for the sounds and thereupon both reading and writing became easy. Once a person had mastered the handful of signs and could say a word he could write it, and as soon as he could read a word he could say it.

English is the richest language in the world. It has robbed other languages to create its enormous vocabulary of nearly half a million words. Its grammar has become, as we say, almost noiseless for inflectional endings have almost disappeared. It is the unique history of the British people which has done all this. That unique history, however, has also removed English spelling and the English alphabet miles away from that simple purpose of the alphabet which I have just mentioned.

I have no time to explain in detail why our spelling is so crazy, but I should like to make two important points. The conquest of the Anglo-Saxons by the Normans, on the one hand, and the fact that speech goes on changing while the printed word remains fixed account for the fact that much of the divergence between English spelling and English speech occurs not in the hard words, but in the easy ones—the words which the simple Saxons spoke and the equally simple Norman scribes tried to write down when they could not even say them. These words are so commonly used that they have changed constantly in pronunciation ion while the writing has remained fixed.

It is against that background that throughout the years reformers have been led to certain a priori conclusions, especially concerning children. One was that it seemed that if children were taught to read by means of an alphabet which conformed to the original purpose of all alphabets, and if they were not faced with all the difficulties and illogicalities of traditional spelling, a number of benefits might flow. First, and obviously, they might learn more easily and swiftly. I am not making a plea for easiness or laziness. Education is a tough process. I believe in hard work and discipline. But there is no virtue in mere difficulty as such. If, however, reading were easier to learn, the energy devoted to its former difficulties would be released to be used for something else. I hope to show later how this has been proved true by experimental research.

Moreover, some children find it difficult to get over the hurdle of learning to read at all. Some fail entirely. Certainly, many fail to achieve less than a com- potence, and fail to achieve that reading with the ease and fluency which will make them eager to continue to read after they have left school. Some of us therefore thought that if reading were made easier to learn, we might help many backward readers and even some of the hard core who at present leave school unable to read, a hart core, incidentally—the Minister and I are both proud of this—which is steadily being reduced each year by the skill of teachers.

There is a correlation—not absolute, but certainly present—between illiteracy and delinquency. Every educator will confirm that a child needs to succeed. Every good teacher sets a child a goal which is within his grasp. Failure is frustrating and frustration itself does immense harm to a child. If then we could remove the frustration caused by the complexities of our alphabet, we might solve the difficulty of some of our problem children.

Even accepting those arguments, however, we were worried about the problem of transition—whether a child, having been taught to read in an alphabet without pitfalls and irregularities, might be confused when he came to tackle traditional spelling. If this were true, then all the gains which I have just mentioned might late be thrown away at the transition stage and we should be back where we started. All this we had to investigate.

The signal contribution of the hon. Member for Bath was to devise what he called an augmented alphabet—one using all the letters of the present alphabet plus a number of created signs or sounds which could not be represented by the alphabet, so that each sign meant one sound and one sound meant one sign. When devising what is now called I.T.A.—the Initial Teaching Alphabet—he always h id in mind two goals—one making it easier for a child to learn to read, aid the other, once reading had been acquired, the inevitable transition from I.T.A. to the complexities of ordinary English spelling. This was ingeniously done in his alphabet although I have no time now to explain just how.

It is worth underlining what the hon. Member has just said, namely, that he generously gave this alphabet to the world—to the universities first—and, indeed, his only financial interest in the scheme has been purely negative. It has cost him money rather than made him money. That fact is worth emphasising and is a tribute to the selflessness of his labours.

Behind this research has been a vast labour of scholarship and scientific assessment, of gaining the support of the teaching profession, local education authorities and parents—not of the children, for they were enthusiastic from the start. It was necessary to convince local education authorities that this was not a gimmick or a stunt; to convince parents that they were risking nothing and that the basis of this experiment was sound; and to enlist the good will and co-operation of the skilled teachers in the infants' schools. All these things have been done.

I would here pay tribute to the local authorities of Oldham, Stoke, Walsall, Harrow and Burton, to mention just a few, for their fine co-operation, and especially to the primary teachers who have been the pivot of this experiment. It was necessary that we should not just launch the scheme haphazardly, with massive attempts by enthusiasists all over the country to teach children by I.T.A. The research had to be scientifically planned. Groups had to be matched, of children of similar abilities and similar circumstances, one to be taught using the new instrument and one with the old. Teachers had to be similarly matched, as far as possible, so that one was comparing like with like. If, as a television critic suggested last week, I.T.A. teachers were enthusiastic, so were those teachers of traditional orthography who were defending skills of which they were very proud indeed.

It would be foolish to say that we need I.T.A. because teachers have failed to teach reading. Everybody in this Chamber is living evidence of the fact that some years ago some skilled infants' teacher introduced us to the wonder of reading, in spite of the complexities. Year by year, even with traditional spelling, our triumphs over illiteracy increase. It would be foolish for the universities or for the Minister to attempt to dictate a method to teachers. This is no method. It is an instrument. Every successful infants' teacher is an eclectic. Any good infants' teacher selects her own method from the various schemes, takes bits of each and adds to them her own genius and personality. But whatever the teacher's method, this method can be applied to the new instrument, I.T.A., or to the old alphabet.

The experiment has now continued for three years. I should now like to give the bare facts of its results, as found statistically, by scientific method. Children make faster progress when taught to read by I.T.A. The transition presents no problem. Children who have learnt by I.T.A., when they move over to ordinary reading, show "very superior accuracy and comprehension and speed in reading." I would add, from my own observation and from reports from teachers and education officers, that the by-products of I.T.A. seem to be a release of energy and a hunger for reading. Children read many more books. They enjoy reading more; and already—and this is something we had not thought of before—they display an earlier creative activity in writing essays and the like.

Teachers who use I.T.A. are convinced that it does what we believed it would do. The best judges of any teaching experiment are the experienced teachers. From Walsall, we also have evidence of its beneficial effect in remedial teaching of children, to help older children of 12 and 13 who have failed to read at earlier ages.

The Minister was right last Thursday when he said that it would be wrong to claim too much from this limited experiment, but only prejudiced persons would now say that substantial evidence has not been produced of the supreme educational value of the initial teaching alphabet.

I congratulate the Minister on the support which he is now giving to the project. This, as has been said, is the right hon. Gentleman's last debate in his present responsibility. He and I have crossed swords frequently in the House, but he has from me, as from every hon. and right hon. Member, tremendous esteem and respect. I do not think that he is translated to a higher sphere when he goes to the university side of education. I believe that it is a great pity that he has left the schools of England for the universities, because, however noble the superstructure, it depends upon the work in our primary schools.

The right hon. Gentleman's contribution in that field has been outstanding. I think that when he looks back he that he helped, by official recognition, will remember with some satisfaction to give to primary education an instrument which may be of inestimable value in opening doors for some children to this great boon of reading, and which may for many more make the acquiring of this precious gift less irksome than it has been hitherto. There is nothing now to stop local education authorities, or interested teachers, from making full use of what research has shown can be of tremendous value in the teaching of reading.

12.51 p.m.

It is a great privilege to be allowed to intervene briefly in this short debate on the 40 sounds of English and the 43 symbols, or "Faces of Jim". It is also a great privilege to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), who has been associated so long and so tirelessly with my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) in this great experiment.

I am sure that the controlled experiments of the last few years have given those who had faith in my hon. Friend the Member for Bath a taste of the substance of what they had hoped for, and I have no doubt that this initial training medium will spread throughout the English-speaking world. I certainly hope that it will be a subject very much to the fore in the forthcoming Common-wealth education conferences in August. I am sure that it will spread sooner or later, and I hope that it will be soon. I feel like the Yorkshireman who was taken to see Niagra Falls. When he was told by his proud host how many millions of gallons of water per second were going over the falls, he replied, "I can see nowt to stop it."

Assuming my belief to be well-founded, I should like to mention just two of the results as they appear to me, as one not privileged to have been involved for many years in this work as have my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Itchen. First, I think that this is a major break-through in the productivity of teaching. Productivity is a matter to which we all now give lip-service. If it be the case that in general terms the average child can save about a year in surmounting the hurdle of learning to read and in gaining access to the world of books and the knowledge and experience which that entails, this is equivalent to adding a year to the average child's school life.

When we remember that 6 million children in the English-speaking world are born and reared each year and that in rough terms the cost of a year's schooling is about £100, we are left with a crude estimate in hard cash of the value of this increased productivity at something like £600 million a year. Staggering, as this figure may be, I do not think that it is the most important result that will flow from this new medium.

The hon. Member for Itchen mentioned the effect which he believed this new system could have on delinquency. This, to me, is the most exciting and important result which I believe this method will have. It is roughly true that nine out of every 10 children who are delinquent or maladjusted or inadequate, call them what we will, either cannot or do not read. I can think of nothing more frustrating to a child than to spend 10 years of his school life failing to learn to read and failing to join his fellows in a literate world, in the realm of ideas and experience to which the written word is the key.

We know the effect on a left-handed child of being forced, as such children used to be forced, to use the right hand. We know that the frustration which this set up often resulted in such manifestations as stammering. How much greater the frustration of a child who, in the first two fears of his life, has accomplished the linguistic miracle of speech only to find that he fails in what should be the much simpler task of using the visual representations of speech.

These children enter adult life as children shut off in a literate world from their literate fellows, shut out from the experience of things which the written word brings, deprived not merely of access to great thoughts but, in a more mundane way, shut off from sharing vicariously in the lurid adventures of James Bond and of romance in all its forms, and living in a world with one dimension missing. They are thrown back on their own limited physical experience of life with results which are often crude and ugly and which are damaging to a community which should never have allowed them to be isolated. It is the effect which I believe this medium will have on these deprived and lonely members of society that I find most exciting.

The rescue which it will bring to them, these Cinderellas of society, will be seen in years to come as the biggest thing that has happened for generations. It seems to me that this Pitman reading medium will cut through a barrier. It will be a short-cut for most children, and for some of those now deprived of contact with the written word it will provide the only access to a fuller life.

The barrier of learning to read is like a dam across the stream of a child's life. Children surmount it slowly and with more or less difficulty before flowing on to the fertile plains of learning and experience. Behind this barrier is the pool of those who are still illiterate. This pool is far too large. It is a pool which spreads out into many creeks and marshes and some of it becomes stagnant and sour. The great achievement of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath is to have found a way of cutting through this barrier and letting first a trickle and then a flood of learning go bubbling and chuckling on its way to the rich life beyond.

Behind the barrier now cut through, instead of a swampy morass of illiterate frustration I believe that we shall see the sweet water-meadows of childhood. This at least is the vision, and seeing the substance now of the things for which we have hoped I pay tribute to the Minister, as have other speakers, for commending the further development of this method and for backing his commendation with hard cash.

Above all, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath who has pursued his object with great industry over long years, enduring many disappointments and ridicule—yes, much ridicule. Today, we salute him and those who have been associated with him. When he leaves this House, as, unhappily, he has decided to do at the end of this Parliament, he will leave in the result of his work a lasting mark on the history of the English-speaking world.

1.0 p.m.

I align myself completely and enthusiastically with the references which have been made to the Minister. I do so without reservation. Equally, I pay my respects to the pioneers of this new form of teaching. I say at once that I was not numbered among these pioneers. Indeed, I was not converted until very recently.

My position is, I think, very much the same as that of the Minister himself in that I held quite a detached view about the new method. During the Christmas Recess, however, in a critical state of mind—I say that advisedly—I decided that I would make a full inquiry into what was happening in our Oldham schools. I went to the director of education and I told him of the programme which I wished to follow. I did not ask for the programme which he might have in mind for me.

Accordingly, I chose three schools to visit, one on a new housing estate, one in the centre of the town where conditions are not promising and where there is a backward class, and one in a residential area where there is quite a sprinkling of middle-class boys and girls.

I went, first, to the new school on the housing estate, a school of 240 pupils. I say at once that I found myself in the midst of dedicated teachers. I saw immediately their dedication and enthusiasm for the new method. It is fair to say, also, that they were teachers of probably above average standard, full of enthusiasm for their work. I decided which books I should like to see, which classrooms I wished to visit and which children I wanted to talk to, and during my visit to this school, I began to form very favourable impressions.

About midday, I went to the school in the middle of the town. What I say now is coloured by my experience as a father of three girls, now grown up, and as a juvenile court magistrate. I began to ask myself whether the impression which was constantly occurring to my mind about the children—emphasised at this school—could be right or not. I went to the backward class. I soon realised that there was something more in that class than just a new instru- ment for teaching. I had to admit that the boys and girls, at 7 and 8 years of age, were two or two-and-a-half years—not one year—in advance of where they would otherwise have been and where my own and other children were at a similar age.

Not only was this an educational achievement of the greatest importance. It was something else. My mind moved immediately to what happened in the courts. I thought of all the boys and girls of 12 to 16 who go out on to the streets, for lack of other things to occupy their minds, to get adventure and run into mischief. But these boys and girls to whom I was talking had new personalities. They were in command of themselves. They were two or three years in advance of the normal development of boys and girls of 7 and 8.

Later, I went to the third school. I should explain that at each school I questioned the teachers very closely to ascertain whether they had opposed the original idea, whether they were against it when it was first introduced, or whether they had welcomed it. It was very clear to me that at the third school the teachers had not been very happy about welcoming the new system and that it had been introduced, to some extent, against their will, or, perhaps I should say, they had not been so enthusiastic about it. However, at the time when I visited them, two or three years after the first introduction of the scheme, those teachers who had been a little un-enthusiastic or critical had become the hottest enthusiasts of the lot.

At the third school, I decided not to question the boys and girls so much but, rather, to look at their intelligence level tests. I asked to see the evidence on this side of the matter, and I found that the results were phenomenal.

I pay my respects now to the pioneers who have developed and put this idea across, to the two illustrious hon. Members of this House, in particular, and to all the others in the world of education. I say, also, that, had it not been for the backing of local education committees in Walsall and our other towns, we should not, perhaps, have been able so readily to record the progress which has been made.

In a personal sense, the examination I made of the backward class was very enlightening. No one who has for years been chairman of a juvenile court can dismiss the association between what happens in the backward classes of our schools and what happens in the courts. I tell the House frankly that, on my way home that evening, I thought what a golden opportunity it would be if, in a few years, I could have before me 10 boys and girls of 16 years of age for the purpose of recruitment to staff. If half of them had gone through schools with the new form of teaching and half had not, I am quite certain that I should, in the ordinary way, be able to detect the more developed personalities in the boys and girls who had experienced the new teaching method.

It is char to me that children who are taught by the new method, instead of having, to some extent, a vacant life, have the whole world of literature open to them, and this has an enormous influence. Instead of wanting always to be out in the fields or the streets, they know the joy of reading.

In conclusion, I have a request to put to the Minister. I have, of course, discussed with our local director of education how much financial sacrifice for a town like Oldham and, doubtless, other towns is involved in ushering in and continuing this experiment. Incidentally, 36 out of 38 schools in Oldham are in the experiment and Oldham is, perhaps, the town with the longest experience of it. Oldham has no difficulty whatever in being able to demonstrate the results. I was delighted to learn last week that the Minister has agreed to make a contribution of £4,000 in 1963–64 to the appropriate body and another £5,000 in 1964–65. However, I ask him to consider something else.

This request is in no way an indication that the local education authority is any less enthusiastic about going through with the experiment. Oldham will go through with it in any event, because it knows that it is well rewarding to the boys and girls. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the average official allowance per infant per year for stationery and books is 25s. 2d. We do not complain about this, but the appetite now created for books and for the continuance of the new scheme is such that, on a modest estimate, so the director of education tells me, the additional cost per new pupil—not per pupil per year—is about 30s.

We are approaching the time when we shall have almost 2,000 new scholars a year in Oldham. If Oldham were a rich authority in the southern part of the country, possibly I should not be raising this matter. I say immediately that we shall go on with this experiment. Indeed, to us, it is not now an experiment; it is an established fact. I ask the Minister to consider whether the recommendations which he has made might include consideration of the financial problems of the local authorities concerned.

1.10 p.m.

We are running a little late, partly due to circumstances not within our control, and, therefore, I will not say more than a few words. However, I should not like the debate to pass without something being said from this Box about how much we appreciate the work which has been done by the hon. Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), in supporting him, and about how much we welcome the support which the Minister has given.

I should like to echo what has been said about the Minister. While we are very happy that, owing to his personal qualities, he should have a seat in the Cabinet, it is a little unfortunate that it should coincide with his translation to the job of dealing with the universities, as it gives an impression that this is regarded as a more important matter than the schools. I am sure that none of us here today holds that view, and I am sure that the Minister does not. We all expect great things from him in his new capacity, and that in itself will be of help in other aspects of education.

It seems to me that the experiments so far carried out are extremely encouraging. However, it would be a great pity if we were to claim too much. To suggest that this alphabet will save a year's schooling is very dangerous, because, important though reading is, it is not the whole of education or development. I have been interested in reading articles which have been appearing in the Teacher pointing out that although this may be the best scheme so far devised for the purpose, there have been others.

There were experiments many years ago which were inspired by the grandfather of the hon. Member for Bath. Later, just about the beginning of the First World War, there was an outburst of interest in this matter. But, although the reports of those early days read in terms very similar to the terms of some of the reports which we are having now—for example, it was suggested that not only better study, but better conduct and better standards in all subjects could be achieved—these experiments came to an end. The important thing is that this experiment should not peter out as earlier experiments did.

While we wish to assess the experiments properly and to recognise that this is still a matter of investigation and research, we must ensure that the means are provided for the continuation of this work. It was particularly interesting to read in one article the suggestion that one of the reasons why previous experiments petered out was a lack of books on the reformed orthography. The hon. Member for Bath is a publisher and, therefore, he is able to help in this matter. I understand that other publishers also wish to take part. I hope that this time we shall not have a repetition of what has happened before, namely, that after a few years' enthusiasm, and after this generation of teachers has passed on, nothing more is heard of this matter. This time we have a far better chance than ever before, and I wish the experiements great success.

As a Welsh woman, I am interested in this matter. Although the Welsh language is daunting to the outsider, it is completely phonetic, with one exception; the letter Y can be used in two ways. Otherwise, all the Welsh orthography carries out the precise principles adopted by the hon. Member for Bath.

1.15 p.m.

I should like, first, to join in all that has been said in tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) and to say what very special pleasure it gave me to answer Oral Questions Nos. 53 and 54 last Thursday.

I wish to emphasise what has been said very properly this morning by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), namely, that my hon. Friend has given this initial teaching alphabet to the world and that he has no financial interest in it—just the opposite. The warmth with which the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath was greeted last Thursday was a very deserved tribute to what my hon. Friend has done.

I greatly welcome the fact that we have with us the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), whose borough has been in the van of this experiment. Listening to him, I could not help reflecting that it is, perhaps, only on occasions like this that we can get down to discussing education in the House.

I should like to say how much I agreed with the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) when she emphasised what is unique about the present experiment. My Department is making a grant to this experiment totalling £9,000 over two years as proof, not just of our interest, but of our desire that this experiment should be fully carried through to the end. The hon. Lady was right to emphasise that aspect.

It is my aim to sit down at half-past one, or very shortly thereafter, but I hope that the House will forgive me if I begin by saying a word about improvements which have been made in the standards of reading since the war. I deplore the recurrent tendency to speak as though illiteracy were on the increase in this country, as though spelling and reading standards had not improved and as though, in some sense, therefore, the money spent on the education service had not been yielding dividends. I am sure that no aspect of public expenditure has yielded greater dividends in terms of human welfare than the expenditure on education.

During the period from 1948 to 1956, there was an improvement in the ability of school children to read with understanding. This improvement was particularly marked in the primary schools, where the age group born in 1945 were, in 1956, on average, nine months more advanced than their predecessors, born in 1937, were in 1948. The corresponding increase at the secondary stage among boys and girls aged 15 was about five months.

To take the period 1948–1956, the proportion of really good readers in primary schools virtually doubled; it increased from 9 per cent. to 17 per cent. The proportion of children of 11 years in the two lowest categories—the illiterate and the semi-literate—shrank from 5 per cent. to 1 per cent. and the corresponding shrinkage at the age of 15 was from 6 per cent. to 4 per cent. Those figures come from a survey made at that time.

The next survey was made in 1961, as a part of the investigations of the Newsom Committee, and the result was a further success story. Fourteen-year-old pupils in secondary-modern schools had advanced by 17 months in the five years from 1956 to 1961.

The House may be interested to know that the Plowden Committee, which is looking into the primary schools, is planning to mount a similar study of the reading attainments of 11-year-old children. That inquiry will take place this summer and will report in two years' time, I have been in touch with the chairman of the Plowden Committee. Lady Plowden is very pleased that I should make this announcement to the House.

I want to return to the initial teaching alphabet and to deal with two issues: first, its efficiency as a medium or technique; and, secondly, to say something about its use. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bath emphasised that this is not a new method of teaching reading. It is a new medium or a new technique. I told the House last Thursday that the initial teaching alphabet had been used with remarkable success in a number of schools during the early stages of learning. If the promise of the results obtained so far is fulfilled, I have no doubt that its use will spread and that its significance will become, more widely understood.

This is an alphabet, and its consistency makes it easier to recognise and use than the traditional one. My hon. Friend explained to us the difficulties of the traditional orthography for many boys and girls, such as the variations in the written and printed characters—as between upper case and lower case, letters, for instance—the inadequacy of an alphabet of 26 letters for the representation of some 40 speech sounds occurring in English, and, finally, and perhaps most important, the ambiguity with which letters are used to represent many different sounds.

There is no hint or sniff of what is sometimes called "spelling reform" in the initial teaching alphabet. It is intended as a teaching medium for use until children are able to read traditional orthography. In this alphabet my hon. Friend has used 24 of the 26 letters of the ordinary alphabet and has devised 20 additional characters to secure that each sound has one symbol to represent it. The characters in I.T.A. each stand for one sound only. But the alphabet is much less phonetic than other experimental alphabets, including experimental alphabets of the past, precisely because my hon. Friend is concerned to help children to read conventional spelling. I emphasise the point that the I.T.A. is devised specifically to minimise the difficulties about transferring to conventional spelling later.

We can surely see the a priori advantages of this for children coming to it fresh, without the barriers created for us by previously established word patterns and associations. There is much evidence, though I will not attempt to summarise it in detail, that most children learn to read it more quickly and transfer to traditional orthography easily and drop the I.T.A. when the time comes as readily as they learnt it. I think there may be every reason for expecting, on the basis of what we now know, that the I.T.A. will be invaluable for many children who would otherwise find learning to read very difficult.

There are two comments to be made on that subject. First, there is some good reason to think that it will be slow starters and average children who will benefit most from the I.T.A. Secondly, I emphasise to the House that, on all the evidence we now have, the anxieties which were felt earlier about transferring from the I.T.A. to reading and writing in traditional orthography seem to have been unnecessary. Children in general appear to transfer easily to traditional orthography and quickly from the I.T.A. symbols when the time comes. I.T.A. is a ladder or scaffolding on which they climb, but which they can easily dispense with and throw away later.

There are two cautionary remarks that I want to make at this point. First, there is what I mentioned last week, what is known as the Hawthorn effect, the motivation which is said to be produced in human beings by the knowledge that their work or behaviour is being studied in research. We must bear in mind the possibility that the Hawthorn effect has been at work here in this task I merely say that this point should be borne in mind.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would apply to the control group, which was under the same challenge?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question. From what I have been able to see, there is some reason to believe—I should not want to make a positive statement—that it might be true that this does not apply so much in the case of the control group as in the case of the experimental group.

Secondly, we have as yet insufficient knowledge about the use of the I.T.A. for the ablest boys and girls. As yet we simply do not know as much as we might about that, partly because relatively few schools in the vanguard of general infant education are participating in the experiment. The objective tests so far used on a large scale have been more of single word recognition rather than comprehension. Also, we have not yet completed the experiments. Those are merely cautionary points which I make today as I made last week, and are not intended in any way to cast doubts on the remarkable results which have so far been achieved.

I want also to say something about the use made of this technique. We must remember that all educational media and all techniques are there to be used in the context of education as a whole. We have, first, to consider the following. Is it necessarily a good thing that boys and girls should learn to read earlier and earlier? About this one can say something on each side. Certainly, reading can open fresh worlds to children. I agree with all that has been said about the frustration of the boy or girl who can never easily learn to read.

At the same time, we must remember that there is another current trend in infant education, namely, towards using in school the materials and equipment of the outside world rather than purely what one might call didactic apparatus. This is not to contradict the value of the initial teaching alphabet, but is solely to point out that at any given moment there are a number of trends in education. Children need not only book learning, but also first-hand experience to give meaning to what they read.

There is another very important consideration. Communication takes place largely by means of words, but not only by means of words. Emotional development in young children is important as well as book learning.

The question of the age at which reading is taught is a policy matter.

In America it is 6; here it is 5. This medium is quite independent of that policy. All we would say is that when the child begins to be taught—whether it is at the age of 4, 5, 6 or 7—he should have early success and not frustration.

That is why I was making a distinction between technique and use. Because we have this technique, there may be a tendency to use it as a means of starting reading earlier. I was pointing out that that is something which should be considered on its own merits as an educational issue.

There is also the point that mechanical mastery of reading can run ahead of incentive to read. There would be danger if a child learnt to read very early and suffered disappointment and a slackening of interest as he got older.

The third point is that we want to make sure that those who learn to read more quickly not only read more effectively:it eight or nine, but are as competent in other fields as they are now. All these matters are not about the technique itself, but about the importance of using it seriously, bearing in mind that it has to fit in with all our educational discoveries and thought in other fields.

On the point of the reading appetite, would the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that one of the problems of the Oldham local autho- rity is the obtaining of books to cope with the additional appetite which is being sustained after three or four years of experiment?

I accept that. However, I was thinking about an appreciably older age. We have been told that the experiments will not be completed until 1974. We must look at the effects over a wide period of a child's life.

As I said last week, I believe, on all the evidence that we now have, that this is an experiment of very great significance, which will become more and more widely appreciated as time goes by. At the same time, I myself have some doubts whether we shall ever reach a situation in which all teachers and all schools use this technique. It seems to me likely that there will be many first-class teachers who will continue to present techniques, however strong the evidence for the initial teaching alphabet remains at the end of the experimental period. I merely plead that we must avoid, it seems to me, two equal and opposite errors.

It would be wrong for a parent to feel that because of the discoveries made as a result of this new technique his child was not getting fair treatment because the I.T.A. was not used in its school. We are a very long way now from reaching an absolutely final conclusion, and I do not believe myself that it would ever be right to insist on total conformity in this matter. That is to say, I believe that there will always be teachers who will achieve success with the old orthography.

Equally, however, and just as important, I hope that we shall not be subjected to what I would call the militantly anti I.T.A. platform. That would be ridiculous. What I say now is offensive, and I am sorry that it is, but I say it deliberately. Those who remember the gyrations by one or two learned people—one, in particular—in order to discredit the discovery by Michael Ventris, who used to be in my Department and deciphered Linear B, gyrations attempting to prove that this was one more example of Piltdown Man, will realise that distressing things can happen when people take it into their heads to discredit a particular discovery. I hope that we shall discourage such gyrations in this case.

I should like to thank the House for the kind personal remarks to me this morning. I am especially pleased that the last speech made by somebody holding my present office and title should be made on a subject affecting the primary schools. If anyone feels that the primary schools are being in any way denigrated by the new arrangements all I can say is that I cannot believe that it can be in any way derogatory to the primary schools that as soon as we return from the Easter Recess Questions will be put on the Order Paper to the same Minister about I.T.A. as the one who answers Questions on research and science at the universities.

On the purely personal side, I would say that when I myself move to the other side of the new Department's work I shall regard it as my own chief job to ensure that this new federal Department is, indeed, a unity and realises its responsibility as one single Department covering the whole field. Finally, I should like simply to say how much I have enjoyed the debates during my time as Minister of Education, and to pay a sincere tribute to the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East and to her hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for the fact that, however sharp our controversies may have been, the usual channels—if I may so call them in this connection—have been completely unclogged during the whole of the last year and a half.

Railway Workshops

1.32 p.m.

The subject I want to raise today is the refusal of the Minister of Transport to permit British Railways workshops to tender for the manufacture of any privately-owned railway equipment for use on the railways. We have only an hour and a half in which to discuss this decision, which has outraged all railway men and angered everyone from top to bottom in the railway workshops' organisation. As many of us on this side want to speak, some with direct union or constituency interests, we have agreed to do so as briefly as possible.

I must, however, express my amazement that, in view of the seriousness of the indictment against the Minister of Transport, which impugns not only his good sense, but his good faith, he has not considered it necessary to answer the debate himself, but has decided to "pass the buck" to a Parliamentary Secretary who has been only a short time in the Ministry. That will not prevent us, however, from saying what we think about the Minister's behaviour.

The facts are not in dispute. The Minister has turned down Dr. Beeching's request that the railway workshops should be permitted to tender for privately-owned equipment which is to be used exclusively on British Railways lines, and specifically, oil wagons, where the value of the possible orders may run into many millions of pounds and provide employment in one or more of the workshops over many years to come. He has turned down this request on three grounds, which he stated in reply, on 3rd March, to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell).

The first is:
"The primary task of the British Railways Board is to provide railway services…"
That is obvious, and irrelevant. It is nonsense to suggest that the manufacture of equipment by the railway workshops could in any way inhibit the Board from running the railways efficiently. Dr. Beeching obviously thinks that it is nonsense. Otherwise, he would not have made his request. The Minister's second argument is:
"This proposal would not have been in accordance with the Government's policy, which was made clear on several occasions when the Transport Act, 1962, was before Parliament."
We challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to quote a single sentence in support of this statement. The Act, which is the only thing that matters, specifically permits the railway workshops to manufacture equipment for use by the Railways Board, and the equipment we are discussing will be used exclusively by the Railways Board.

The Minister's third reason is that
"there is at present no justification for the nationalised transport undertakings entering the field of manufacture for outside customers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1964; Vol. 690. c. 212.]
That is a pronunciamento, not an argument. Surely, in this case, there is every justification.

If the railway workshops are efficient enough in fair competition, properly allowing in the tendered prices for overheads and a reasonable margin of profit, to make wagons cheaper than private manufacture can do, it is highly desirable, on every ground, that they should be permitted to do so. Is it not in the interests of the purchasers of the wagons? Is it not in the interests of the railway workshops staffs, many of them elderly, with long years of service, who are under the threat of becoming redundant and having to seek work in other towns? Is it not in the interests of the workshop managements and technicians who have succeeded in making those railway workshops efficient and competitive? And is it not in the national interest that national resources should not be wasted?

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary: what has become of the Government's much-vaunted beliefs in the virtues of competition, about which we have been hearing so much, particularly recently in connection with the Resale Prices Bill? Is this all my eye and Betty Martin? Will he tell us, perhaps, whether, in the view of the Government, competition is a good thing only when it is between two privately-owned companies, and is a bad thing when it is between a publicly-owned company and a privately-owned one?

What about the pledge to the unions, when they expressed to the Railways Board the deep concern and resentment of the workshops employees at the decision to make progressive and substantial curtailment in orders? They were then told that if those employed in the workshops co-operated in the modernisation plan to maximise efficiency every effort would be made to keep the workshops as busy as possible. To violate that pledge, as the Minister is now forcing the Board to do, is not only to betray the workers concerned, but to discourage rationalisation and efficiency.

How does the Minister reconcile this decision with the directive to Dr. Beeching to do everything possible to make the railways pay? In pursuit of that objective Dr. Beeching has proposed railway closures on a large scale which are bound to make life harder for very many people. But, at the same time, Dr. Beeching is prevented by the Minister from being allowed to increase the railways' revenue by tendering for large and profitable contracts. This makes nonsense of the whole closure objective, and will add to the resentment of those who have to suffer by its implementation.

There can be only one possible explanation of the Minister's behaviour. His concern for the private wagon builders is greater than his concern for the profitability of the railways, the interests of the taxpayer, the railway workers, and the public welfare. His policy is utterly indefensible, and that is probably why he is not here today to defend it himself.

I can give this pledge. It will be one of the first acts of any new Labour Government to reverse this decision; and the sooner the better.

1.40 p.m.

In view of the large number of hon. Members who wish to contribute to the debate. I intend, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), to be brief. I want to add to my right hon. Friend's protest. Here we have the Minister's decision which prevents the Railways Board from increasing its efficiency and reducing its loss. The Minister's political decision is responsible and it is a shocking state of affairs that he is not present to defend it today. We admire his Parliamentary Secretary, but this is a top-rank Ministerial decision and it is disgraceful that the Minister himself is not here to defend it.

As far as we can gather, according to a reply which I have received from Dr. Beeching, between 5,000 and 6,000 of the special oil tank wagons which will be required for use on the "liner" trains are likely to be built during the next four or five years. We are told that the cost is between £2,000 and £3,000 for each wagon. When we analyse the accounts of the Transport Commission—and the Minister has shown with pride that Dr. Beeching has reduced the loss by £32 million—we find that this reduction in the loss has been brought about, not by increased efficiency, but by the dismissal of railwaymen. Compared with two years ago, the figure of ton-miles per wagon shows a considerable decrease in efficiency of operation.

With that picture in mind, it is indefensible that the railway workshops are not being allowed to tender for the production of these wagons. That is all that is asked. The railway management, which is keen and desirous of doing it, is disturbed. The unions are raging mad about the whole thing, which will have dire consequences. Let us make no mistake about it.

Up to now, the unions and the Railways Board have faced closure of about 12 of these railway workshops. They have seen a reduction of about 20,000 in manpower when, according to railway management, in the person of the then Sir Brian Robertson before the Select Committee of 1959–60, the railway workshops were well equipped to produce this special type of wagon. Now, the Minister refuses to permit their production.

The Minister will be aware of the tremendous discussion that is going on about whether the "liner" trains will ever be allowed to run. The 15 routes which have been suggested for the "liner" trains are held very much in jeopardy and the Minister's decision is one of the causes. The Railways Board is trying to enforce upon the unions the use of the free terminals for all kinds of road hauliers. The unions do not mind the C-licence holders, British Road Services or the railway C and D delivery vehicles, but they object to the long-distance private road haulier being invited to use the free terminal points.

If the Minister wants good will and wishes to get this proposal across to the unions, to accept a further reduction in railway staff by allowing outside private enterprise firms to use railway equipment and to make railwaymen redundant is not the way to go about it. By refusing to allow the railway workshops to produce these wagons, he is increasing redundancy. It is no wonder, therefore, that there is strong feeling on the part of all the men engaged in railways.

This is all part of a campaign. We have seen hon. Members opposite conducting a smear campaign against publicly-owned undertakings, preventing them from having the ordinary commercial freedom of which they have spoken so much from time to time. They want ordinary commercial freedom for private enterprise, but when it comes to publicly-owned undertakings they prevent these ordinary rules of commercial freedom from operating.

This is a matter that will not end with this short debate. An important principle is involved. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware of Motion No. 75 which is on the Order Paper, and which has been signed by a large number of hon. Members on this side of the House. The number of those signatures is likely to increase considerably.

[That this House deplores the refusal of the Minister of Transport to allow British Railways to tender for the manufacture of wagons and containers for private rail users which has thus prevented free competition between the public and private sectors of the railway manufacturing industry.]

I assure the Minister that he will hear a lot more about this matter. I whole-heartedly endorse the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, that after the election, when we on this side come back to power, as we shall, we will reverse the Minister's decision and give British Railways workshops the utmost freedom to compete on ordinary commercial terms in the same way as any private enterprise undertaking.

1.46 p.m.

We are discussing this afternoon a decision by the Minister which is the most brazen example we have yet had of his built-in anti-railway bias. He has created, once again, a situation in which the railway trade unions are side by side with the railway management in opposing and resisting him.

The railways have always desired to manufacture their own equipment. Notwithstanding that, the work has always been offered to contract, both within the railway industry and to outside firms. Three-quarters of the value of existing new locomotive orders is placed with outside private industry. Now, however, when it comes to the manufacturing of privately-owned equipment for use on the Board's railway network, the British Railways workshops are not to be allowed to tender for its construction and the contracts are to be confined to private firms. In other words, there is to be one law for the public industry and another for the private sector. The former is to be subject to restriction, but the latter is to have complete freedom.

The Minister's decision prevents free competition between public and private sectors of the railway manufacturing industry. Could anything be more doctrinaire? How far does the Minister want to take his hatred of nationalisation? I remind him of his party's declaration in the 1950 election manifesto that they would do everything possible to improve the commercial standards in nationalised industries. What kind of contribution is this to that aspiration? It makes a complete mockery of the Minister's instruction to Dr. Beaching to run the railways as he would run a business. It may have far more serious consequences.

I recall vividly the meeting on 19th September, 1962, when the appropriate railway unions were suddenly summoned to a meeting to discuss the new workshop modernisation plan, when Sir Steuart Mitchell, in unfolding that plan before the unions—without any prior consultation—told us that it was the Board's intention to rationalise its workshops, which would involve redundancies amounting to nearly 20,000 men. Sir Steuart Mitchell told us on that occasion that it was the Board's intention
"to re-equip, re-plan and re-layout the continuing works so that they can compete successfully with private industry and maintain steady employment."
As to the allocation of work between railway workshops and outside industry, Sir Steuart Mitchell told us that it was the Commission's policy.
"in principle to utilise the cheapest source."
The report of his remarks goes on to state:
"However he had no doubts at all that the railway workshsops could always be the cheapest source given three things:
  • (a) A heavy and steady work load—planning was aimed at this:
  • (b) The best equipment available—this would be acquired; and
  • (c) The co-operation of the staff."
  • Does the Minister think that he has contributed to the stall's confidence in the future, from which these operations must stem? Notwithstanding the workshop redundancy involved in the plan outlined two years ago, the unions accepted the plan. Today, the unions in the railways and outside are often accused of thwarting the modernisation of industry and are taunted accordingly. But the railway unions and the others associated with the workshops accepted repeated assurances that there would be full opportunity in the future to tender over the whole range of railway requirements.

    The management is playing its part and I am sure that the statements made to the unions two years ago by the management were in good faith. The management hopes to spend £10 million in the next few years on modernisation of the workshops and, indeed, £1million has already been spent for that purpose.

    Now, the Minister strike