HC Deb 23 March 1944 vol 398 cc1071-94
The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)

I beg to move, in page 32, line 22, to leave out Subsection (2).

This Sub-section was originally inserted in order to retain the interest of education authorities in the blind. That was a desirable object, but we have now discovered that the training of the blind is fully covered by the Measure which the House was considering recently and which is now the Disabled Persons Employment Act, and that therefore it is not necessary to include in this Bill this Sub-section (2) relating solely to the blind. In fact, it would be rather confusing, as the blind are covered by the Disabled Persons Employment Act, and under Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 of that Act it is possible, and indeed is contemplated, that the training of the blind shall be delegated to local education authorities. I can assure the Committee that in leaving out this Sub-section they will not affect the training of the blind, because that duty is clearly established under the other Act. A further advantage of omitting this Sub-section would be that the other categories of disabled persons, the deaf, the dumb, and so forth, will not, by implication, be left out of the Statute. They will be covered by the Disabled Persons Act, and therefore, I think that it would be much wiser to leave out this Sub-section, taking the assurance which I give that the matter is covered by recent legislation providing that these powers are delegated to local education authorities.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I want to get an assurance in regard to other matters. As the Clause stands, it is clear that, when the blind are specifically mentioned, that, by implication, leaves out everybody else. I have considered very carefully what the President said, and it would appear that he is now relying on the provisions of the Disabled Persons Act. As I understand that Act, it deals in the main with vocational and technical training, but I have in mind further education. Further education swill relate, not merely to technical education or some type of vocational training, but it may be further education of an academic sort, not covered by the Blind Persons Act. I want to have an assurance in regard to that, because I can conceive the possibility of the physically handicapped child, who does not want to take advantage of the Disabled Persons Act 'because it is not vocational but academic education that he wants, not being covered. It seems to me that, unless there is some specific provison in this Bill, apart from the mere statement that education will be available, such cases might fall between this Measure and the Disabled Persons Act. We need to give it further consideration. If the President of the Board will give me an assurance on this I shall not stand in the way of the Committee in passing the Clause. I think he is wise in deleting this Sub-section, because everybody can see that there is a possibility of injustice. But I hope he will assure us that, by removing this Sub-section altogether, he is not leaving out those other categories which do not come under the 'Disabled Persons Act.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

I would like to support my hon. Friend. If he can get a form of words that includes the handicapped adult, as well as others, I think that would cover it.

Mr. Butler

I think the answer to the two hon. Members is quite clear. In so far as vocational training is concerned, of course, the definition is in Section (1) of the Disabled Persons Act. As regards further education, and education in special schools, or the continuation of education in special schools after 16, or such questions as arise under Clause 31 (3) of this Bill—in all those matters, I am advised Clause 40 enables the Minister to continue further education of such disabled persons. Therefore this sub-section is really unnecessary, because the matter is already covered.

Mr. Messer

It seems that, in effect, they are included with the other categories?

Mr. Butler

Yes, that is so.

Amendment agreed to.

Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)

I beg to move, in page 32, line 31, after "as", to insert "after consultation with the authority."

This Clause deals with the question of the approval of schemes for further education. First, the local authority has to make its scheme and put it forward to the Minister, and then, under this subsection, the Minister has to approve that scheme when put forward. Later, the scheme has to be put into operation by the local authorities in consultation with the Minister. This is the point. We desire that the Minister shall consult with the local authorities before he approves a scheme. We think that would be much better, and would lead to better working, than if the scheme were made and representations made later to the Minister.

Mr. Butler

I do not know whether the hon. Member will desire to press his Amendment. We would rather have expected his Amendment to be directed to requiring consultation with the local authority on any modification in the scheme which the Minister thought it expedient to make. I do not know whether the hon. Member would like me to consider this plan in that light, before we get to the next stage. If so, I would do that, but I do not think that it is necessary to insist on the Amendment as moved. If the hon. Member will leave the matter like that, I will do so.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I hope the Minister will be cautious about this Amendment. It is like many others, put forward by my hon. Friend on behalf of the County Councils Association. I would like to say that a number of us who represent county constituencies by no means accept as completely sound the views of the County Councils Association on this or other aspects of the Bill. Those who represent country constituencies ask the Minister to be cautious about accepting this Amendment. I think the answer the Minister has given is sufficient. We do not want to have these schemes held up while there are long consultations between the two bodies. This is not to suggest that county councils will be unreasonable, but consultations between these bodies often mean unnecessary delay, and I hope that, in this and other matters, the Minister will be a little cautious and consider every point of view.

Sir J. Lamb

It is quite true that the association does not speak for every individual or section, but it speaks for the majority. We are not dealing however with the County Councils Association, which my right hon. Friend seems to attack in some form or other, but with the local education authorities, and we are asking that these local authorities should be given an opportunity of putting their views to the Minister before he makes a modification, which he is entitled to do, and is expected to do, if necessary, under the Bill, rather than that these modifications should be made without some sort of consultation and thus, possibly, cause friction later in working. It does not take away any of the Minister's powers. We are asking only that we shall have an opportunity of doing all we possibly can to facilitate the smooth working of the Bill.

Mr. Messer

I do not see why the Minister cannot accept the Amendment. Local education authorities will submit to the Minister, and if the Minister may make such modifications as he considers fit, there may be special points in regard to particular counties, and if the Minister consulted the local education authorities on them, his modification might undergo some change. Would it not be better if, before he approved a scheme, he consulted the local education authority? Would this not make for efficiency in administration? The Minister, with his advisers, sitting in Whitehall, will have a magnificent paper plan, but we are not dealing with paper, but essentially with human beings who are better known to the local education authority than to the Minister and his advisers. In these circumstances, it seems to me that, while the Minister, looking at this thing theoretically, may consider some modifications justified, it would be wrong for him to put them into operation if, when put into operation, they are found to be against the best interests of the scheme. I think the Minister might accept the Amendment without damaging the Clause.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

The Minister has given an assurance that he will look into this matter. He does not want to consult local authorities, if he already agrees with them.

Mr. Butler

I would suggest that we should insert these words, because there is popular support for the case. If I want that to be revised, I will do so when this question arises for consideration again. We will accept these words.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 33, line 5, after "include," to insert: provisions for the establishment and maintenance of, or the giving of assistance to, institutions for further education, the giving of assistance to universities, and, This Amendment is moved with the object of making it clear that, in schemes for further education, local authorities are entirely free to give assistance to voluntary organisations and universities, or to run establishments themselves. If my right hon. Friend is going to say, as he has done on so many occasions, that the words are already covered, I should be greatly obliged. Will he give me that assurance?

Mr. Butler

I can give the assurance which the hon. Member desires in regard to the word "institutions." I am advised that assistance to the universities also is covered, but we are examining that point. It may be necessary to insert something further in the Bill, at the next stage, to cover assistance to the universities. If the hon. Member will accept that assurance, I think we can deal with the matter when we come to it again.

Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)

The words do not cover, legally, the whole position. The phrase should be "universities and university colleges."

Mr. Butler

I will bear that in mind.

Mr. Woods (Finsbury)

I am glad that the Minister has given consideration to this question. Later on, there is an Amendment on Clause 51, which deals specifically with physical training and social recreation and so forth. This deals specifically with education, but I am looking forward to the day when community centres will be very closely linked up with the Minister's young people's colleges. My experience is that people do not take up education if it is labelled education. When it is associated with their corporate life, it is more likely to arouse popular interest, which I think we all desire. If we look back over the past, we find that voluntary organisations have played an enormous part in the development of education. The mechanics' institutes carried on for years without any assistance, beyond the subscriptions of the men and women concerned about education. They made a great contribution, and I am looking forward, after this century, to the days when, in the movement to get popular interest in social well-being and education, these things will be part of the community sense. Just as there is a misgiving on the part of my hon. Friend, there is a general feeling that this aspect is not sufficiently covered in the Bill, and I hope that, by some such modification as is suggested, we shall give an opportunity for participating in experimentation in community centres and youth movements generally, so I hope there will be a free margin for experimentation and development, not in isolation, but responded to by education authorities and encouraged in every way possible.

Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)

I am very glad that the President of the Board of Education has given the assurance which we have had from him. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to give the widest scope in the terms that he is considering for insertion in the Bill, because he will always have the check of approval of the scheme. If the words in the Bill are wide enough to enable local authorities to give assistance to voluntary educational societies, community centres, university colleges and all other kinds of educational activity as I say the Minister would always retain the check of approving the scheme and there is therefore no danger that there will be squandering of money. I do hope that, along with the other work which has been alluded to by hon. Members, it will be possible for such work as is being done in the educational settlements, in a number of centres, to be assisted directly by the local authority, otherwise than by a mere grant in respect of certain authorised classes or courses. I hope that similar work in educational civic centres will develop all over the country under the aegis of the local education authorities, and that the Minister will give the fullest facilities for such development.

Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)

Following the explanation of the Minister, and the promise he has made, may I ask him further to consider this point? There are certain educational societies which now have a direct grant from the Board of Education and have direct access to the Board on matters affecting their operations. Will the Minister bear in mind the importance of maintaining this position in whatever alterations he proposes to make? What I am thinking of is, that it might be left to the local education authority to deal with the local branches of a national educational association. What I am anxious to secure is, that the Minister should not allow any alteration to interfere with the present privilege held by these associations, in the first place, of a direct grant from the Board of Education, and, in the second, the right of access to the Board in relation to the curriculum and other matters. It is important that they should preserve the national aspect of their operations.

Sir George Schuster (Walsall)

I want, if I am in Order in doing so, to raise a point in connection with this Clause. It is difficult on this Bill to get an opportunity to talk generally on the question of adult education, and I am not going to attempt it now, though I should very much like to do so. The point I want to raise is this: Under this Clause and, indeed, under the whole provisions of this Bill, all schemes which may come up, have to come up through the local education authorities. I take one particular aspect of adult education—that of residential colleges. It is only one aspect, but it is of very great importance—

The Chairman (Major Milner)

That does not appear to be in Order on this Amendment. I am afraid I must call the hon. Member to order.

Mr. Silkin

In view of the undertaking of my right hon. Friend, I have pleasure in withdrawing the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Sir G. Schuster

Perhaps I might raise my point now. I think we are agreed, in all quarters of the Committee, that the provision of adult education is one of the most important questions before the country. What a number of us want to be assured about is that, when this Bill is passed, we shall not only leave the Minister and the local education authorities with certain powers, but that we shall have expressed most strongly to the Minister the view that we desire to have those powers exercised in a certain way and to see public money expended on certain purposes. As I see it, schemes under Clause 40 have to come up to the Minister from the local education authorities. If we take one important aspect of adult education—education in residential colleges—we may feel that the time has come for a great national experiment in starting residential colleges all over the country. We may have ex-expressed the view in this Committee that we do not expect to see everything done at once, but that we do want to see say twelve first-class residential colleges set up in different parts of the country. It may so happen that, when the Minister receives his schemes from the local authorities, he may find proposals for these residential colleges. The aggregate of the local schemes may not add up to the total which either the Minister or hon. Members think necessary in the national interest.

I want to know what is going to be the position in that case. Are we to have an opportunity of expressing a view on this matter, and of saying that we would gladly, as taxpayers, provide educational facilities of this kind? Are we not to be satisfied that, after this Bill is passed, there will be a really comprehensive move forward on that particular line of the residential colleges, and perhaps other lines as well? I think I have made my point clear, and I hope the Minister can give me some assurance on this matter. He told us the other day that he has powers and that his wings are not clipped. I venture to say that we were satisfied on that, but we want to know if he is going to fly in a certain direction. I also want to know if his wings are to be the wings of an angel and not those of some bird of prey. I want to know if he is to exercise a benevolent interest, and I should like to see the Committee express a very strong view that we want to spend money on adult education in the widest sense.

Mr. Lindsay

I rise to support the view expressed by my hon. Friend, and by many other hon. Members who have discussed this subject during the last month. The position I would like to put is this. Before the war, there were three partners—the local education authorities, the voluntary societies, like the W.E.A., and the universities. This trinity was responsible for the bulk of the so-called adult education work—some of it by lectures and some by class work. There are already half-a-dozen residential colleges, such as Ruskin College. There is the Women's Institute, which is a very big force in the country and is now thinking of setting up its own residential college. There are also discussion groups throughout the Civil Defence services, in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and, to a limited extent, they are growing up in factories. There are also refresher courses in Colonial administration and a score of other subjects are being demanded. The Oxford and Cambridge colleges could not meet the requests coming in from a variety of sources immediately before the war. I speak with some knowledge of the Oxford colleges but not quite in the same way, of course, of colleges at Cambridge.

We appreciate what my right hon. Friend said, that Clause 93 gives the Minister powers to assist bodies which are engaged in these enterprises. Hitherto, under the adult education regulations—and this is the point which my hon. Friend was making—it was impossible to assist anything, except specific classes with so many people meeting so many times a week. This was the difficulty which faced us at the beginning of the war when we started C.E.M.A., and the only way to meet it was to get the Pilgrim Society to put up the money, and the Government went fifty-fifty. I think the money is provided on the Board of Education Vote. Concerts, drama and picture exhibitions are being assisted in a very indirect way at very little cost—100,000—and most of it is guaranteed. The money circulates. The guarantors are very rarely called on and an enormous stimulus has been given in the mining villages of South Wales and Lancashire and elsewhere, where Dame Sybil Thorndike and dramatic groups have gone.

The principle is conceded. It is no longer necessary to assist six people sitting in a class with so many lectures. We now do the thing on a bigger basis. I do not want to say a word against local authority and voluntary work, but, with assistance on a national basis, much can be done by my right hon. Friend by enlightened day-to-day administration. I ask the President of the Board of Education to take steps to set up a department within the Board worthy of this subject. I ask him to obtain the best counsel—that is why I put down an Amendment—by appointing a small standing committee and not an advisory committee, one like the committee on secondary school examinations, as part of the executive of the Board. I ask him to set up something in the nature of a trust. I give as an example the Camps Corporation, which owns 31 camps; these are leased to local education authorities and to the camps themselves. This stimulus can be given to help to run residential colleges. At the same time, there is the need for new polytechnics and institutes of technology, with regard to which we are woefully behind. In most cases, local education authorities can supply the need, but more should be done on a regional and national basis.

If the President of the Board can give us an assurance on these points, we shall be satisfied for the moment. Now, and in the coming months, is the moment in history to seize the opportunity. Anybody who has been in and out among the troops in the last two or three years and has seen what is happening there, must feel that it is unique in our history. If we do not carry this sort of thing over into civil life, we shall be losing one of the most fruitful things learnt from the war. On those grounds, I heartily support my hon. Friend, and I hope for an assurance from the Minister.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

I was one of the far from few who were privileged late in life, after many years at work, through the generosity of my trade union, to enjoy two years at a residential college. It so happens that there are about six of my term at that residential college who are in this House of Commons, and I hope I may be permitted to say that, collectively, we have tried to make a contribution to the House which probably we should never have been able to make had it not been that our trade union took us out of the pits and sent us to a college for two years. To the end of my life I shall always be grateful to my trade union for that, among many other things, because it was a wonderful experience. I hope, therefore, that the President will listen to the plea to which I want to add my voice. Here is a field of education and of service to the nation which, quite frankly, cannot be met by any of the orthodox institutions of the country. I believe what the Minister is doing in this Bill for the establishment of these young people's colleges—I very nearly used the phrase I suggested the other day—is going to make still more urgent the need for these residential colleges. These boys and girls will go to young people's colleges until they are 18 years of age. In many cases, when they are 17 or 18, they will begin to mature and they will desire and need colleges of this type. Therefore, I see a great new demand for residential colleges and I hope they will be made available.

Some few years ago a college of this kind was started in Wales, Harlech College, which the Minister and the Board of Education know very well, and it is doing extraordinary work. One of the greatest needs of democracy is to train leaders, and here is a great opportunity, which the University and other colleges cannot provide, to get hold of men and women who have already proved their mettle in the hard school of life. They have shown qualities of leadership which are very often not shown by young people in the colleges. But a young man or woman of. 18 or 20 in trade union or in local life shows qualities of leadership which can render great service to their people and to this nation. It would, indeed, be a tragedy if we do not, as a nation, provide opportunities for them, perhaps at 25 or 30 years of age, to train them for this work. I hope, therefore, that the plea made to-day will be listened to by the Minister, and that provision will be made for the Board to assist directly these institutions Which have a niche to fill in our educational life which no other institution can do. I know that from my own experience, and I add my voice very sincerely to the plea put forward.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

I only want to say a few words, as time is precious, in support of the speeches opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). What has been done in the war is to a large extent pioneer work, although an hon. Member has suggested that something similar has been done in certain limited parts of the country. I am going to suggest that when the soldiers come pouring back into civil life and civil occupations thousands of them will wish to go, not to ordinary schools or evening institutes provided by local authorities, but to something of the character so well pictured by the last speaker. If that is frustrated because the sole initiative has to come from local authorities, then there will be a great feeling of disappointment. I would like to hold up the hands of the President of the Board in anything he can do in this direction. I am in favour of working through the local authorities in a great town like London, where they are able to do this kind of work, and I could tell the Committee of one or two remarkable experiments done in London by the great County Council. It is, however, quite different in the provinces, and I suggest it would be a good thing if the President could make a sympathetic announcement as a result of this discussion.

Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)

I sympathise with the point of view of the last few speakers, and I want to direct my attention for a few moments to the question more particularly of technical education. There is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Sir H. Webbe) and myself and others which, I think, was not taken because it was out of Order, but it raises on this Clause a most important question. I would like to draw attention to the fact that we were considering technologists of the highest grade. One of the facts that has to be faced very frankly about technical education in this country is that, taking it by and large, it is not of a very high grade, and actually in many cases the students have extremely disappointing experiences when they come to apply for posts in the particular trade or profession for which they have taken their technical training.

It has been my duty to see candidates for employment of the very highest type in technical matters, particularly chemistry, and always we have the same disappointing experience. The highest type invariably come from practically three universities, Oxford, Cambridge and London, and scores of students who have been to technical institutions are "half-baked" and fit to be, as chemistry is practised to-day, little more than what we call "lab. boys," that is, laboratory assistants. The need, therefore, in these schemes of further education is to see that the technical students have further opportunities really to complete their technical education, and be able to equip themselves for the very highest posts that may be available to them in that profession. It was for that reason that we particularly mentioned the possibility of the Minister making grants for the enlargement, equipment and maintenance of existing institutions because, owing to the development of modem applied science, the equipment of the technical school or laboratory to-day is an extremely expensive matter indeed. Many local authorities have not the resources, and could not possibly have resources at the present time, to provide the equipment and training which are needed now. Therefore, I urge the President, in connection with Clause 40 providing for schemes of further education, to have in mind the necessity both for the students themselves, and for that industry on which we are going to place and are placing such heavy burdens, to provide for the schemes in which we are also interested. I hope he will see that schemes are initiated and promoted, and assisted and developed, so that we may turn out in adequate numbers those who are fully equipped to take the fullest share and the highest posts that may be available in all the different techical departments of industry, which are rapidly growing, and are the basis upon which the whole future progress of industry in this country depends.

Mr. Butler

To-day is one of those days on which we have a great deal of ground to cover, and this opening Debate is on a subject which has been mentioned before but never quite in the same atmosphere in which we are considering it to-day. Perhaps at this stage I might indicate the entire agreement of the Government with the observations that have been made, and make one or two statements which I hope will be reassuring. I would not wish, of course, to prevent anybody else from stating their view, but I would remind the Committee that there is a great deal of territory to cover to-day and, therefore, we must be as modest as we can in our observations.

Subject to what anybody else may say after I sit down, I would like to make it quite clear that the necessary powers are in this Bill to obtain a system of adult education suitable to the needs of a great and victorious democracy such as we shall be at the end of this war. That is quite clear to my mind. Not all the powers are included in Clause 40, but they are included in other parts of the Bill—the Grant Clauses and in Clause 1.

In answer to the specific request made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) who has taken such an interest in this matter, it would be possible, even in the case where the initiative did not come from the districts and areas of England, for the Minister himself to take the initiative and see that there was that string of colleges necessary in order to carry out the great work which the hon. Member has in mind. I must add to that general observation that it would be our desire that adult education should spring up to meet the needs of areas. The advantage of Sub-section (5) is that it enables those bodies interested in areas to get together. Reference has been made to local education authorities. It may well be that the area of adult education is wider than the area of a specific local education authority, and, therefore, for the first time, there are adequate powers in the Bill for the purpose of correlating the work of local education authorities. May I say here that I hope local education authorities will come more into this sphere than they have done hitherto. The universities have, in many cases, done their best, and I hope they will be brought in as well as other great voluntary organisations and bodies, which I will not specify in detail because I might pick out some and leave others out, but some of which have been mentioned already in the course of the Debate to-day.

One hopes, therefore, that the development will be a partnership, but what a vista there is before the Committee, what immense opportunity. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) is quite right in drawing attention to the fact that education very often comes best when one has grown up. It does not end then but begins. That is the feeling of many of us who have taken part in lecturing or dealing with students. We know perfectly well that very often the perception of the child, the knowledge, the test of day-to-day life, the knowledge it has of the history and circumstances of its own time, is not sufficiently developed until it is grown up and is able to imbibe the full value of education in its broadest sense. Therefore, this Bill does not hesitate simply at the brink of the grown-up circle, but goes right on to the growing man and growing woman, enabling them to grow even better towards opportunities for service for that great democracy in which they are going to live. Therefore, I can assure the Committee that the Government are watching with the closest attention the development of the adult education experiments in the Forces at the present time. I have them perpetually before me, and I am watching with the greatest interest the steps being taken by my right hon. Friends the Ministers of the Service Departments and those who are working so ably with them.

There is no doubt that there is something new brewing in this country, something of which we are not all fully aware, something great and noble and worthy of our history. It seems to me vital that those of us who are in responsible positions should use these great times to the advantage of our country, and not misinterpret them or misuse them. There is always great danger if we interfere now that we may misuse them. What do the Government suggest therefore? The Government suggest that we should not at once adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), because we feel that we must see how this leaven is going to work a little more, see how these experiments in the Forces develop before we decide finally on the lines of national advance. Therefore, while I could not undertake in the actual Debate to-day that we should have any particular form of Committee, or any particular form of advisory body, I can say that this is a matter which is right in the front of the mind of the Government as a whole, and many of our colleagues are assisting me in examining it. I trust that, as the policy develops, we may be able in the course of our experiments to say more, but I can say this, that the Advisory Council which is set up in the first part of the Bill should certainly be seized of this vital transformation. It is a matter which I think we should have in mind when selecting the membership of the Advisory Council. It is one point on which I do not see why they should not animadvert at the earliest stage. I can give the undertaking that from the top we shall supplement local initiative, where it is insufficient.

I would like to refer to one or two points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate). This Bill gives absolutely new and definite powers, in Sub-section (3) of this Clause, to deal with technical education. It gives powers to the Minister to direct that measures should be taken to give effect to a scheme. It is very wrong that in so many parts of England, particularly in industrial areas, which I have visited myself, that decades have been allowed to elapse before the technical development necessary for education in those areas has come to anything at all. There are many towns and cities I have been to in which the technical college has always been the mirage in the distance across the other side of the desert. We cannot allow that state of affairs to go on, and that is why we insist that there should be a proper development of technical education. The hon. Gentleman referred to the need for a supply of expert technologists. Compared to our competitors, friends and enemies, we shall be a small country when this war is over and we shall depend more than anything else on the skill of our people. I therefore welcome this opportunity to say that we must concentrate upon producing the most highly-skilled technologists the world can show. I hope the Minister will use his powers to achieve that end.

It is my intention that the whole question of the relationship of the universities and technical colleges shall be more closely examined, and it is also my intention that a Departmental Committee shall be set up to examine this question at the earliest possible date. Looking at this matter from the point of view of the students, I have been impressed when they have spoken to me of their feelings towards their technical college, which have differed very little from the feelings which students may have towards their university college or university. I think it is important from the point of view of the students that this matter should be further investigated, and before long I hope to be announcing to the House or the Committee a further investigation which I hope myself to initiate into this important matter. I hope the Committee will now let us have this Clause, realising that the Government are not only fired with the ambition to develop adult education but have the powers to do so, are not frightened of central direction but wish to proceed by examining what is going on, and wish to encourage local effort and partnership between those principally concerned.

Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)

I do not wish to detain the Committee for more than a few moments, but on the question of adult education there are two points I wish to make. In Denmark you have the finest possible example of adult education in the people's colleges there. These colleges were founded by two progressive-thinking individuals and they made a most interesting experiment. They first had young people of 16 in these colleges and they then raised the age to 18 and discovered that they got infinitely more value from the people of that age than from the people of 16. That is a tremendous fact which we must realise, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give an assurance that the Danish system will be studied and that, possibly, representatives of his Advisory Councils will make a thorough investigation into that system. My second point is that these things will take years to get completely going. After the war we shall be left with a number of magnificent aerodromes and buildings which could be used for living accommodation. I fear that they may be used for all sorts of purposes or scrapped, and I would like some of them to be earmarked for future developments in connection with adult education. I think that is of immense importance, because these buildings are admirably equipped for such a purpose.

Mr. Harvey

The Committee has listened with great satisfaction to the President's statement and to the spirit in which he made it, revealing his deep interest in the development not only of technical education but of adult education. But I hope that before we part with this Clause he may be able to go a little further. This Clause allows local education authorities great freedom in assisting educational developments and such adult education as that given in residential colleges. It enjoins co-operation and consultation with local authorities adjoining an education authority. But this local action is not sufficient as a basis. The residential colleges we want to see developed ought to be able to draw their students from a wide area, far beyond that of the local educa- tion authority and the adjoining authorities. It is desirable to have these smaller institutions inside the area of the various authorities, but even that is not enough. We ought to have colleges which will bring students from all over the country. Some twenty years ago, I had the opportunity of acting for a short time as principal of one of these colleges, during which there were students from Wales and from Northern and Central England, one or two from Denmark and from Germany, and another from Austria. It is the wide area from which these students come that will help to make the life of the college and build up the widening interest of the students. I am sure the President wants to encourage this development. To do that we must not wait for local authorities to act.

The powers this Clause gives only begin to come into operation in 18 months' time at the earliest. We need to be acting now, if we are deal with the immense numbers of people who will be released from the Forces, let us hope many of them long before that time. Even to-day, young men who have been wounded and who are unable to take part in industry are longing to have the chance of education in some of the simple colleges such as those described so movingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). We want the President to give such an opportunity for a large number in the immediate future and that can only be done if he himself will act. I want him to encourage local authorities to act; we must not wait until they have felt their way tentatively one after another. If the Minister would promise that he would start a few of these pioneer colleges, or help to start a few, it would give the greatest encouragement to the whole adult educational movement.

Mr. Woods

I think the Committee will appreciate the statement made by the Minister, but the very fact that it was necessary to make such a statement indicates that the aspirations to which he gave expression are not so clear in the Bill. After all, we are here as legislators. Maybe the day will come when there will be bitter controversy about these matters again, with the result that it will be difficult to implement some of these aspirations. I would like to see some of these aspirations put into a form of words in the Bill, so that not only the Minister's successors but local authorities would know that they formed part of the laws of the land and that obligations were upon them. There are many voluntary organisations which are operated nationally and which have to deal with innumerable local authorities. In some areas they get a warm welcome, but in others they get the cold shoulder. Words must be put into the Bill to ensure that they must shoulder the responsibilities. The fermentation which the Minister mentioned must be solidified otherwise, like Vesuvius at the moment, it will erupt and—

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)

I am placed in a difficulty, because I have heard so many expressions of opinion that we ought to get on with this Amendment. If there are many more speeches like the hon. Member's speech then, like Vesuvius, they will be floating over the bounds of Order. I would ask hon. Members to try to keep their speeches brief.

Mr. Woods

Some of us are very keen about this matter. We have been good boys; we have not taken up much time of the Committee.

The Deputy-Chairman

I made a mistake. I said "Amendment," when I should have said, "Clause," but I am still of the opinion that it would be as well to keep strictly to what is in the Clause itself.

Mr. Woods

Sub-section (5) of this Clause states: … shall consult with any such bodies as aforesaid"— That means organisations and voluntary organisations and so on. The development which will be most helpful and practical is the development of the community centres which, while primarily concerned with recreation and physical training, will, in the future, do substantial educational work. Again, experience up and down the country is very diverse. In some areas—for example, the Middlesex County Council—which also deals with finance, there is 100 per cent. encouragement, but in many other areas, often rural areas, where the need is far greater, especially because of changes of population during the last decade or so, new areas have become populated where there are no amenities or facilities. Very often the local authorities in those areas are the most backward in providing, or assisting in providing, such facilities. I should like to see in the implementation of the Minister's ideals something really concrete dealing with this aspect of the problem.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

I hope my right hon. Friend by now has realised two things with regard to the Clause. The first is that it raises a matter about which the Committee are vitally interested. They believe that this question of adult education is one of the most important matters with which a Bill can deal. Secondly, they are perfectly happy about the statement that he has made, but what is' concerning them is the practical steps that will be taken to implement those aspirations. My right hon. Friend always makes admirable statements—he has made a very large number on the Bill—but many of us are passionately anxious that some positive results should come, therefore we should like to be told how Parliament is going to be kept informed as to the practical steps that are to be taken to make the very great advance in residential colleges or adult education which we ought to make. We have much leeway to make up and this, we feel, is the right time. One determining factor in the progress of setting up these residential colleges will be, Who is going to find the money? If you leave it to the local authorities, with their many other claims, I am afraid progress will be slow

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)

I want to make an appeal to the Minister not to dissipate his resources. Appeals have been made to him to support almost all kinds of voluntary and partly voluntary educational bodies. Those bodies have come into existence in the past simply because of the vast imperfections that existed in our educational system. I hope that when the Bill becomes law the Minister will regard it as one complete whole, having sufficient powers within itself, and sufficient drive within the Board of Education, to give us a complete, coherent educational system, so that these many isolated and unrelated voluntary and partly voluntary bodies will have no cause for their work within a scheme of this kind. My fear is that the Minister may perhaps give too much latitude to bodies of that kind. The Clause gives him immense powers in correlating and co-ordinating the whole of our educational system, because he starts with nurseries and goes right up to adult education, university colleges and so on and, if he succeeds in evolving one complete, co-ordinated scheme, there will be no room for most of these voluntary bodies and it will not be necessary for him to pay attention-to them. The more of such bodies that exist the greater the evidence that the scheme will be imperfect. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be drawn overmuch by these appeals to give education to people on charitable grounds. I have heard him say that education is to be the. inalienable right of every child and young man and woman who has the capacity to profit by it.

Mr. Linstead (Putney)

I have felt that the best service one could perform to the Bill is to listen rather than to speak.

Mr. Butler

To vote, too.

Mr. Linstead

I agree with my right hon. Friend. But before we part with the Clause there are one or two remarks that ought to be made, in particular on Subsection (5), and the effect it may have upon the educational policies of some qualifying bodies. I am thinking of such bodies as the Royal Institution of British Architects or the Mechanical or Electrical Engineers, who conduct national examinations but who apparently are left out of consultation in respect of schemes to be prepared under the Clause. I hope my right hon. Friend will find it possible to give some reassurance to these organisations that schemes of further education, in so far as they affect their examinations, can be brought into relation with the national policies which those qualifying bodies adopt. At present it looks as though courses may be started in preparation for the examinations of those Institutions without the Institutions themselves necessarily being brought into consultation.

The other remark that I wish to make relates in particular to the provision for additional technological facilities for teaching and research. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) said that many of the products of our technical schools are "half-baked." I am sure he will agree that the miracle is that they are baked at all, because the circumstances in which so many people, after a heavy day's work, go night after night to technical colleges is a matter for admiration rather than anything else. The research facilities in our technical schools are poor. When one compares what is done in Germany with what is done in this country, one sees how much more there is to be done. I am sure we shall have welcomed the remarks my right hon. Friend made, and particularly his proposal to set up some form of inquiry into the relations between the technical colleges and the Universities. It is not merely a question of bringing the standing of the technical colleges near to the standing of the Universities, it is also co-ordinating the work between the two types of institution, because then.; are technical colleges doing university work and universities doing technical college work and the two things want ironing out.

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

I am entirely opposed to what my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) has said. I do not know where he has got it from. I am going to ask the Minister to give a full opportunity to the Workers' Educational Association to give him the value of their experience during the years in which they have been propounding education. I am one of the "half-baked" that the last speaker referred to. I attended the W.E.A. for a number of years, and I am glad I went there. I left school at 11½ and went to work in the pit. I had no chance of education. When I came out of the pit I was too tired for anything of the kind. I took up W.E.A. education when about 20 years of age. There were nights when I fell asleep there. I am ashamed to say so, but it was because of the work that I had done. For that reason I did not derive the value from it that I should otherwise have done. I ask the Minister to give the W.E.A. an opportunity of giving their experience all over the country.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

One thing has occurred to me in connection with the assurance the Minister has given. Any of us are happy to accept any assurance that he gives us, but it is not quite the same thing when one has perhaps to argue on his behalf in one's constituency. When this point is raised and we say it is perfectly all right because the President of the Board of Education has given an assurance on the point, the answer is apt to be put to us "Why is it not in the Bill?" If the President could see any way in which to incorporate the gist of his assurance, even in the briefest way, I am sure it would be a very great relief to vast numbers of people and bodies who are intensely interested in this question of further education. The next point is with regard to the inspiration that is necessary to get this thing going. I share the view that it is essential for that inspiration to come from the Minister. It is going to be very difficult indeed for local education authorities to derive the necessary inspiration. It will be sufficient to quote one reason alone. I represent a very large agricultural and rural area. I will not emulate the activity of Vesuvius and overflow beyond the limit of endurance, but in the agricultural industry we want to attract more people to be educated in colleges such as those to be provided under the Clause. We are not likely to attract to agriculture the children of industrial people who have been bred in towns and industries if they are required to go to colleges which have been set up in their own locality by their own local education authority. On the other hand, the local education authorities of rural areas can hardly be expected to set up colleges for persons from the industrial areas. Therefore, if the scheme is to be worked out to its full advantage and to the best effect for both town and country districts, it has to be inspired from the Minister himself.

Major Woolley (Spen Valley)

The Minister has been helpful to the Committee in making his statement, but may I ask him to help the Committee a little further? It is the view of the Committee that something concrete should be put into the Bill. It is not enough that good intentions should be expressed or that the Minister should merely keep Parliament informed. It is the desire of the Committee that something should be put into the Bill, and it would meet the wishes of the Committee if the Minister would say where in the Bill our desires may be realised.

Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)

I intervene to protest against what the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) said.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

It has already been protested against.

Mr. Muff

The hon. Member described the output of secondary schools and evening institutes as "half-baked."

Mr. Linstead

The hon. Gentleman is doing me much less than justice. If he had listened to what I said, he would have heard me say it was a mistake on the part of another hon. Member to describe these people as half-baked. I was standing up for them.

Mr. Muff

I withdraw unreservedly. In the North of England, by which I mean South of the Tweed and North of the Trent, we did something for evening institutes and from my experience I know that we did it well. In the system of evening classes we have something of which we have nothing to be ashamed—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is full of verbosity, and I wish he would allow me to speak for two minutes; this is the first time I have intervened in the Committee stage of this Bill. It is highly important that we should have, from both the centre and the local authorities, every encouragement given to evening continuation classes and to these new colleges. Some of the Yorkshire M.P.'s were able to visit industrial concerns like Messrs. Newton, Chambers and Company, at Chapel-ton, Sheffield. That firm gives every encouragement to young people in their employ to do something to develop their personalities and to understand just what the firm is doing. That concern is performing a great public service, and I hope that we shall encourage such activities. I would remind the hon. Member for Putney that the Bradford Technical College was the first municipal technical college of its kind in the country, and it was the first to encourage preparation for the diploma in pharmaceutical chemistry. We are proud of that. The Scientific Committee of this House has paid a great tribute to it and pointed out that it is a pattern for a real type of university for the masses. I want to encourage the Minister to do everything he can to spread this evening institute work on the broadest possible lines.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.