HC Deb 22 January 1942 vol 377 cc404-6
28. Sir Percy Hurd

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in view of the new national recognition of agriculture as a vital industry, he will take steps to enable teachers and scholars in primary and secondary schools in rural areas to acquire a rural mentality; to become better acquainted with the methods of local representative government by refresher courses and by visits to rural district council and parish council meetings and by other means; and to become better acquainted also with the processes of agriculture by visits to agricultural institutes and farms?

Mr. Butler

I am glad to say that it is the policy of my Department to encourage among teachers and pupils an understanding of agriculture and all it means to the nation. Evacuation alone has brought a realisation of the country way of life to thousands of children. Facilities such as the hon. Member advocates are, to a greater or lesser degree, available, according to local circumstances and war conditions, and I have constantly in mind the needs for broadening and improving these.

Sir P. Hurd

Is it sufficient for the Ministry to say that they are available? Can my right hon. Friend take steps to see that they are made use of by teachers and pupils in rural primary and secondary schools?

Mr. Lindsay

Would my right hon. Friend consider setting up hostels to try and retain some of the children, evacuated from the towns, in the countryside?

Mr. Butler

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd), these facilities are available, and we do what we can to encourage them. I am in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to see whether we can improve this type of appreciation of things agricultural, and we shall certainly bear in mind what has been said. With regard to the Supplementary Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) on the subject of hostels, I have that matter also in mind.

Mr. de Rothschild

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the point as to whether any steps are being taken to instruct youths in local government. Now that the country is divided into regions, this is particularly important.

Mr. Butler

I should hesitate myself to intervene in the question of whether children should attend actual meetings of rural district councils, but I think it is very important that children should understand how the countryside is governed. Therefore, if I see any opportunity of encouraging local initiative on this matter, I shall certainly do so.

Mr. T. Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that what we want to try and do is to remove some of the old rural mentality, and will he also keep in mind that agricultural workers say that they are a little dissatisfied because they are not kept more in touch with these matters?