HC Deb 20 January 1944 vol 396 cc365-6
Mr. Hudson

It may be useful to the House if I amplify the reference made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to the Government's intentions about the future of agricultural education. The Government have been very greatly assisted in their consideration of the whole question by the Report and recommendations of the Committe presided over by Lord Justice Luxmoore. The House may recall that the two main recommendations of that Committee were that the advisory services which have for their object the improvement of the efficiency of those engaged in the agricultural industry should be formed into a unified national service and that agricultural education at Farm Institutes should be transferred from the county councils to the Central Government and be financed wholly by the Exchequer.

The Government have carefully considered the Luxmoore Report and have also given full weight to the subsequent representations submitted by the County Councils' Association and other interested bodies. The conclusions which the Government have reached are as follow:

First, the Provincial and County Advisory Services should be unified and combined into one National Service for the whole country directly under the Minister of Agriculture and financed wholly by the Exchequer. The permanent establishment of such a service means in fact a continuation and development of the large measure of unified direction and co-ordination of this advisory work which has been so successfully exercised in connection with the food production campaign during the war.

Secondly, while recognising the administrative and other advantages of placing agricultural education at farm institutes under the same central control as the National Advisory Service, the Government have decided that having regard to the importance, not least in the interests of agriculture itself, of integrating agricultural education with the general educational structure of the country as proposed in the Bill now before this House, the provision of agricultural education at the farm institute level and below should remain a function of the local authority, but in its capacity as a local education authority, and on a mandatory basis instead of permissive as at present. At the same time, in view of the close relationship which must subsist between agricultural education and the National Advisory Service, agricultural education will call for some special treatment within the general framework and for the same reason will continue to be grant-aided through the Ministry of Agriculture. As a piece of permanent machinery a Joint Advisory Committee will be set up by my Department and the Board of Education to advise on general educational policy and methods of training at farm institutes. The education offered at the institute will be inspected by His Majesty's Inspector of the Board so far as concerns all subjects other than the actual theory and practice of agriculture, which will be the province of the officers of my Department. The institutes will be inspected by inspectors of the Board of Education, as well as by inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Government recognise that there is a growing unsatisfied demand throughout the country for education of the kind provided by farm institutes. Many more institutes than exist at present will have to be provided as circumstances permit. This keenness and enthusiasm must not be wasted and I propose to consult with county councils to see how far it may be possible without detriment to the food production campaign to meet immediate needs of providing such training at existing institutes or at centres which would have to be improvised. I hope to introduce legislation at an early date to give effect to these proposals where necessary.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is only the farm institutes which are to be financed by the Minister of Agriculture?

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Could I ask the Minister if he will also explain the relationship of the farm labourers' sons to the agricultural colleges and what opportunities they will have under the new proposals of going to the colleges and being able to maintain themselves or receive subsidies to maintain them while receiving tuition at the colleges?

Mr. Hudson

Perhaps my hon. Friends would await the publication of the Bill. These are points we have very much in mind, but I will explain the whole thing when I make the Second Reading speech.