HC Deb 18 February 1941 vol 369 cc32-6
Mr. Ammon

( by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any steps are in contemplation to enable boys from all classes of the community to enter the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

I have had this matter under consideration for some lime, and I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that, with the complete co-operation of my naval colleagues, I have had a scheme drawn up, by which the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth will, it is hoped, secure its share of the pick of the nation's youth on as wide a basis as possible. In addition to the present system of entry, which will continue unaltered, we are offering 10 scholarships to Dartmouth to candidates from grant-aided secondary schools, to be completed for at each entry— that is to say, thirty scholarships a year. The first entry to which this will apply will be that of September of this year. For this, candidates must be more than 13 years and 4 months, and not more than 13 years and 8 months, on 1st August of this year. Applications must be received by 10th May.

The intention is that the scholarships should take the form of assistance, depending on the parents' income, towards the expenses of training and maintenance. The poorest parents would be relieved of all expenses arising out of the boy's training, including cost of uniform, clothing and travelling expenses to and from his place of training; and including, if necessary, provision for the boy's maintenance during the holidays. The cadet will also be supplied with the clothing required by him as midshipman. After this, he should be able to support himself. The grant of ten scholarships on each occasion will necessarily depend upon a sufficient number of suitable candidates presenting themselves. A scholarship will not be given to a secondary school boy who does not show himself superior to the average in intellectual ability. In addition, further scholarships, to a number of not more than ten on each occasion, will be given to boys not coming from grant-aided secondary schools who show themselves to be equal or superior in ability to the boys who have been given scholarships from the grant-aided secondary schools. It is intended also to give one scholarship on each occasion to the son of a rating or ex-rating who has not got one of the open scholarships, and who takes the highest place beneath them in the examination, provided that he shows himself superior to the average in intellectual ability.

The examinations on which scholarships are to be given require very careful consideration, since the Admiralty must secure that the candidates are fully equipped for the curriculum of Dartmouth, while at the same time, it is desirable that the boys from the secondary schools should be able to take the examination without any special tuition. We are making some alteration in the syllabus of the examination, which we hope will achieve this in the majority of cases. If necessary, however, in making the awards, I will take into consideration the age at which the candidate started his secondary course. All awards will be subject to the boy being medically fit, and also being found suitable for naval service by an Interview Board, who will be guided: by examination of the boy's record at school, by the medical report as to the soundness of his constitution, by his bearing at the interview. In case of any boy being found medically unfit or being rejected after the interview, the next boy on the examination list will be considered in his place. Full details of the arrangements and of the syllabus of the examination will be issued as soon as possible.

Mr. Ammon

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on the scheme, might I ask whether steps will be taken to ensure that there shall be privacy as regards the difference in social status, and that it will not be published far and wide that some are going in as special-entry candidates?

Mr. Alexander

I am quite sure that the naval authorities will do everything possible to make the scheme successful. All questions of that kind will receive the most sympathetic consideration. But I must point out that scholarships are not to be confined to boys coming from grant-aided secondary schools, but will include boys from preparatory schools, and will be based on income as well. That means that there will be no special class of scholarship holders, and it is unlikely that there will be any distinction.

Sir Percy Harris

What is the total number of candidates admitted at Dartmouth each year?

Mr. Alexander

The number of entries at Dartmouth varies from time to time, according to the prospects of the Service and the number of ships likely to be employed during the period for which we are legislating. At the moment we contemplate 45 students for each of the three terms in each year, making a total of 135, of which we shall be giving 30 scholarships for secondary school boys, and up to 30 for other boys.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

While congratulating my right hon. Friend upon the statement he has just made, might I ask whether any arrangements exist, or will exist, whereby the son of a naval officer who has retired, shall have special consideration as regards maintenance and entry into Dartmouth, in the same way as the son of a naval rating?

Mr. Alexander

My hon. and gallant Friend knows of the existence already of the King's cadetships. That will go on as before. We are not varying that scheme in any sense. Of course, they will also be eligible for the additional scholarships.

Sir A. Southby

Does not my right hon. Friend think that, as a special arrangement is being, quite rightly, made for the son of a rating, a special arrangement could be made for the son of one naval officer?

Mr. Alexander

I will give the matter further consideration, but my present impression is that the King's cadetships and the scholarships for preparatory school entries will meet the case.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing the number of entries for boys who come from the homes of naval ratings? One does not seem a large number.

Mr. Alexander

One must have some balance in the scheme. My hon. Friend will no doubt know, as he once represented a Portsmouth constituency, that naval ratings, at great sacrifice to themselves, often send their boys to secondary schools. They will all be able to compete on that basis, while there will be another admitted with a lower place than those who have won the open scholarships.

Captain Marsden

I think the new arrangement will cause great satisfaction throughout the Service, and, as one who has been at Dartmouth, I know that it will be a success. My right hon. Friend, however, said that all financial help will terminate when the boys go to sea. A boy will want further assistance to enable him to keep up his position in the Navy until he really is in a position to stand on his own feet.

Mr. Alexander

The view of the Board of Admiralty is that it will be possible for any boy who is careful, to live upon his pay on the ship, if he is provided at the start with everything required in the way of equipment.

Captain Marsden

May I assure my right hon. Friend that it is impossible? I ask him, if he wants the scheme to be a success, to review this question.

Mr. Granville

Who will constitute the Interview Board, and where will the interview take place?

Mr. Alexander

I think the Board will be very similarly constituted to that which exists already for ordinary entrants.

Viscountess Astor

I hope that the First Lord will reconsider this matter of financial assistance, as it will be almost impossible for a candidate to live under the present arrangement.

Sir Joseph Lamb

In view of the fact that most of the secondary schools are situated in urban areas, will facilities be given also for boys from rural areas?

Mr. Alexander

I cannot add to the statement I have already made in that respect. I happen to know, having been a county education officer for many years, that there are many secondary schools in rural areas.

Mr. Leach

Has the First Lord taken account of the fact that the age at which the examinations will be held is one at which the boys will not be half-way through the secondary school course? Will he make certain that the ordinary secondary school course will be duly protected?

Mr. Alexander

I said that we are arranging that the syllabus for the examinations shall be such that, as far as possible, the boys will be able to take the examination without special facilities.