§ Colonel Wigg
I beg to move, in page 7, line 2, to leave out, "so far as may be practicable," and to insert:as may be determined in consultation with the Minister of Education and in association with national organisations interested in adult education.I am not the author of this Amendment. It has its origin in the report that was presented to Lord Addison, when he was Minister of Reconstruction at the end of the 1914–18 war. The committee that submitted that report was a very distinguished one. It included among its members the present Foreign Secretary and one of its joint secretaries was my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood). The committee took cognisance of the experiments which had been attempted both in our own Army and in the Dominion Forces, and, as a result, recommended that it was necessary for education in the Army to stand in relation to the universities in the same way as the B.M.A. stands in relation to the Royal Army Medical Corps. The committee stressed that the Army was not an instrument to make men good, but to make them fight, and that if education in the Army was to be worth while it had to be linked with the universities, local education authorities, the Board of Education, and voluntary organisations, so that it should have content and be wholly worth while.
In August, 1919, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who was then Secretary of State for War, made a most important declaration. He said that education in the Army should be an integral part of a soldier's training, but, unfortunately, the experiments carried out in the 1914–18 war, and the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, did not bear fruit. As a result it became evident by 1939 that education in the Army was anything but worth while. When the Militia Bill was introduced in 1939 an Amendment similar to the one I am moving was put down. Indeed, as far as possible I have copied the exact words which were moved by my right hon. Friend who is now the Colonial Secretary. I do not think I am 711 very far wrong in claiming that this Amendment has distinguished parentage, and certainly it should find a ready acceptance on these benches.
The then Secretary of State for War said that he could not accept the Amendment, but he gave an assurance that what my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary was then moving would, in fact, be done. As a result, he entered into consultations with the education authorities and with the universities, and he asked them to set up regional committees to consider this whole question, which they did. Because of the war it was several months before anything else was done, but in December, 1939, there was a meeting of the university vice-chancellors, representatives from education authorities and certain voluntary organisations, and as a result there was set up a Central Advisory Council to encourage education in His Majesty's Forces. The work done by that original committee is a most magnificent work, and it is still continuing to do fine work in the Army.
About a year ago the Secretary of State for War in his wisdom rather tended to draw away from that organisation, and he set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Philip Morris, who had been Director General of Education in the Army. That committee met a number of times. It was very much an advisory committee; it certainly did not function in an executive capacity. The committee has been reorganised and we have a continuance of the wartime advisory council still in existence. It has to be noted that there is no comparable organisation in the Royal Navy or in the Royal Air Force, and it is important to note that the Army is much better off in regard to education than the other two Services. I think that is largely due to the inspiration of the Adjutant-General, Sir Robert Adams, to whom the Army owes a great debt, as it does to the Universities.
Yesterday afternoon I was charged by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) with believing that conscription was a good thing. That is untrue. What I said was that while conscription was unfortunate and alien to our way of life, if we had to have it, it need not necessarily be a bad thing. It does give us the opportunity of doing for these young men what we started before 712 the war. We have to note that Clause 10 relieves the local education authority of the duty of providing further education for adults. It transfers to the Service authority, with the qualification "as far as may be practicable," with the result that the Service authorities are laws unto themselves. I think I have said enough to show that the Services have only done what they have been urged to do, what in some cases they have been coerced to do. Therefore, it is quite wrong to take these men into the Armed Forces and then to leave the Service authorities, as judges in their own cause, to decide whether they will or will not provide education for them.
One realises very readily of course that one of the things that will suffer as a result of the reduction from 18 months to 12 is education. As much has to be done in less time, and therefore it will be very difficult indeed—it was always difficult, but it will become more difficult—to provide educational facilities for the young men called up, but although the difficulties will now be very great I am sure every Member of the Committee is anxious to see that they are not made the excuse for doing nothing. Therefore I ask the Committee to accept this Amendment to put a definite statutory obligation upon the Service authorities to consult with the Minister of Education and with the voluntary organisations, with a view to implementing the decision reached a generation ago with the approval of so many distinguished Members of the Government. To do so will be wholly in line with the Government's policy, and it will, I am sure, be in accordance with the wishes of every Member of the Committee to see that this period of one year is turned to the utmost advantage in the interest not only of the individuals but of the nation as a whole.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I should like to support very briefly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg). I have in my hand the report by Lord Sorell on education after the last war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] Having worked here for a good many hours, I think it would be as well if we all woke up a bit. I would like to quote from the final report of the Adult Education Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction in 1919, because I do not want this side of the Committee to claim all 713 the credit for Army education. I think that on all sides of the House the merit of this work has been recognised. I would like to read this:When sufficient time has elapsed to enable the events of the war to be seen in their true perspective the rise and development of the educational movement among the Armed Forces will stand out as one of the most striking and unpredictable.That was in 1919, when the origins of the movement were to be found amongst the men in all parts of this country and abroad. After great efforts we began to canalise the movement and, cutting out the inter-war period, when we came to this war, once again, through the efforts of the adult education bodies and the universities, we restablished a belief in Forces' education. It was Milton who truly said that education makes a generous soldier in peace and in war. If we want our Forces to he ambassadors of British civilisation, I urge the Secretary of State to note this Amendment which has been put down in the name of several hon. Members on this side of the Committee. I really and truly believe that through Forces' education we have one of the most potent possibilities of expounding the British way and purpose in this transition period through which society is moving.
We have asked that the education authorities shall be placed in the same position to Army, Navy and Air Force education as the relative bodies in medicine are placed. I believe that we must have an integration between the Ministry of Education and the various arms of the Forces for education to serve its real purpose. I also believe that other adult organisations interested in adult education, such as the Y.M.C.A. and the T.U.C., which helped during the war to organise these classes, should be consulted when we form a real policy for Army education. For the first time we are really putting this principle of education into a Bill. Although a writer in the "Daily Telegraph" some days ago, said that two of the chief hobby horses of this Government were Army welfare and education, I was not quite able to find out whether he was paying a compliment, or whether it was one of those slight brushes aside, such as we had in the early hours of this morning, when tempers were a little frayed. But on no account must we miss this opportunity. In future, we shall have our county colleges, technical colleges and uni- 714 versities, and we are taking our young men and women into the forces at an important period. I believe, therefore, as citizens they have rights. Those educational rights must be recognised by the Committee, and, therefore, I ask that we make a reality of educational training for peace-time soldiers whose careers have been forcibly interrupted by inserting this Amendment in the Bill.
§ 8.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
We have listened to a very interesting speech on Army education, but I must confess that it appears to me to have been rather academic in its nature, and rather wide of the mark, having regard to the Amendments that have now been made in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be under the impression that, under the Bill, there would be some women who would be engaged in national service undertakings. That is incorrect. Quite apart from that, these men are to learn their work in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in the short period of one year, and so fit themselves to be of some value in the defence of this country. I must confess it does not seem to me possible, even with all the concertinaing that the Minister of Defence has suggested—and appreciating his efforts to drive through and make people work hard—that there will be much room in that short space of time for much in the way of Army education, however, desirable it may be.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I do not ask any more than is implied in Clause 10, but we ask that whatever, is implied in that Clause shall be implemented through well-known recognised authorities in education, namely, the Ministry of Education and adult organisations already in existence, and the T.U.C., to which hon. Members opposite agreed during the war, since there were T.U.C. representatives on the Advisory Councils.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am in considerable sympathy, and indeed almost in complete harmony, with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), who moved the Amendment. I regret to say that I shall not be able to accept the Amendment, and I hope he will agree with the reasons which I shall give him. I agree with what he said about the purpose he had in mind, and the purpose which so many others also 715 have in mind. Indeed, I think it will be agreed that the Army have given a leadership in this matter to soldiers, under the inspiration and guidance of the ex-Adjutant-General, Sir Ronald Adams. But I think my hon. and gallant Friend put his finger on a very important spot when he said that, owing to the reduction of the period of compulsory service from 18 to 12 months, there would be limitations in different directions in regard to what hon. Members put forward from different sides of the Committee yesterday afternoon. There is no doubt about it—my hon. and gallant Friend realises it—if training is to be effective during that 12 months, it has to be more intensive.
Nevertheless, I am glad to assure the Committee and my hon. and gallant Friend—who takes such a great interest in this matter and who, indeed, himself played such a prominent part in Army education during and after the war—that the Service Departments are determined to fulfil their responsibilities under the Education Act. However, in some respects it will be difficult to do that overseas. My hon. and gallant Friend knows the reason why. There are no local education authorities overseas, and therefore it will be impossible for us to consult them in the same way that we are to consult the local education authorities here. It is our hope that the Ministry of Education, particularly the local education authorities, will be of great assistance to the Services, in providing that continued education to which individuals are entitled under the Education Act, by affording almost similar facilities to soldiers, sailors and airmen in this country who will be in close proximity to institutions where their educational instruction can be given.
I would only mention in passing that under the Education Act continued education ceases to be compulsory after the last term in which the individual reaches the age of 18. Nevertheless, the Army and, indeed, the other two Services, are to institute—we have already instituted—a certain amount of compulsory education for different types of individuals needing it in the Services. We shall be presented with the Regular soldier and the National Service man, for whom we are legislating in this Bill. The two types will be somewhat different and will require different treatment in the educa- 716 tional instruction which they get. I think it is quite fair for the Services to lay down, at any rate in the time that they pay for, that men shall undergo a certain amount of compulsory education. Particularly does that apply in the case of the illiterates—and there are a certain number coming into the Services—and the semi-illiterates. As I outlined in my speech on the Army Estimates a few weeks ago, we have a rather ambitious plan in the Army which, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, it will be difficult for us to implement fully. We have to get specialist instructors. As I said in my Army Estimates speech, we are now busily engaged in recruiting—
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
Could the Minister say at this point whether this education will be permeated by Socialist propaganda as it was during the war?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I think that is an un-jusified question to put to me. The Committee knows my views about the manner in which educational knowledge should be imparted. All I can say, if the noble Lord really wants an answer to that question, is that we shall endeavour to give the broadest, widest and soundest education—
§ Mr. Bellenger
—academic and practical, that we can possibly do with the instructors who will be available to us. We shall look for very high educational qualifications in those administering the scheme, and officers will have to have very high educational qualifications before they can hold a Commission in the Army Education Corps. Overseas, we shall have to depend for this further education on the colleges and educational centres set up by the Army itself in the form of formation colleges, which, I must point out, are running down at present. Therefore, it will not be easy to get the co-operation of the Ministry of Education in these matters, although I hope we shall have the assistance of the national organisations interested in adult education.
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend will recognise that it is unnecessary for his Amendment to be incorporated in this Clause when I tell him the reason. it is undesirable to include these words because it is unnecessary to provide by 717 legislation for the consultation by one Minister of the Crown with another because it is inconsistent with the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility. I do not know if that is entirely understood, but the more realistic and practical objections to the inclusion of this Amendment are that we shall not be able fully to carry this out overseas, and for some time these national service men will be training overseas. The Service departments are in close consultation with the Ministry of Education in the preparation of the plans which we are making, and, indeed, speaking for my own Department, plans which we have prepared have received the approval of the Ministry of Education. I mentioned something about these plans rather fully in my speech on the Army Estimates, and I do not propose to say more at this hour in the morning. The Service departments, under the co-ordinating guidance of the Minister for Defence, are taking very seriously this matter of education in the narrow period of one year which the National Service men will undertake. My hon. and gallant Friend knows about the education scheme in the Army, for he himself took part in the development of it when he was an education officer in the Army during the war years. I hope that he will find it convenient to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
Education is part of military training. The Army now does not consist of a lot of Guardsmen on sentry duty, and in order to be an efficient soldier today, a man must be an educated soldier. I will just conclude by saying this: we all hope that this Debate will be completed as rapidly as possible, but, if I may snatch one of those fleeting and mixed metaphors with which the Secretary of State so much enlivened the Debate earlier, I would say that we on this side of the Committee, if we smell a rat, will nip it in the bud.
§ 8.30 a.m.
§ Lord John Hope
Before the hon. Member sits down, will he not agree that the Guardsmen to whom he referred were not a lot of uneducated, stupid men, but were fine, loyal, and most intelligent? I do not think the sort of remark is worthy of him.
§ Brigadier Peto
Having spent some time trying to educate men in the Army, particularly during intensive training periods, and found it difficult, I am glad that this Amendment has been resisted. The cutting down of the period of national service from 18 to 12 months will require, during that shorter period, intensive training which will not allow any great space of time in the daily work for education. I would like also to refer to a quotation used by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). I am not sure that I have got it right. I understood him to say that in 1919 it was stated that as the results of education gradually unfolded themselves, they would be seen to be both surprising and unpredictable.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I was quoting Colonel Lord Gorell when he said—and he did much for education, as the hon. Member knows—When sufficient time has elapsed to enable the events of the war to be seen in their true perspective, the rise and development of the educational movement among the Armed Forces will stand out as one of the most striking and unpredictable.
§ Brigadier Peto
That was very nearly what I said. I said, "surprising and unpredictable." I think that the noble Lord the Member for North Midlothian (Lord John Hope) was right, and that we found one of those most striking and unpredictable results in the last election. It was entirely due to that Socialist education, inculcated by A.B.C.A. and other welfare societies, in the Army throughout the war that a large number of the Forces voted as they did in the last election.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I hope I shall not make myself unpopular if I ask the Committee to stop considering the general question of education, and to start considering the Amendment, because it seems to me that most of the arguments have been quite irrelevant to the Amendment. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not mind if I suggest that as a matter of fact he gave a lead to the irrelevance which the Debate has taken. He resisted the Amendment, after saying he was very sympathetic to it. He is developing to a fine art the business of 719 being sympathetic to things which he subsequently turns down. He resisted it by putting forward three separate arguments. The first, to which he was led by hon. Members opposite, was that the quantity of Army education cannot be very important. The quantity is not in question.
If the hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) and his friends want to get rid of education, their course is not to resist the Amendment, but to resist Clause 10 altogether, because that is the Clause, not the Amendment, which provides for education. The question is not how much education one can get in 12 months' service, or how much of the time should be devoted to education, or what the content of education should be. The question is simply whether the Service Departments shall run such education as is provided under Clause 10 on their own initiative, or whether there shall be a statutory obligation on them to consult the Minister of Education in a more formal way than the general consultation provided on constitutional lines, as described by my right hon. Friend. The question is not related to the fact that there is only 12 months or that there will not be much of it. If there is to be less of it, it is all the more important that what there is should be good. If it is the view of hon. Members that the Ministry of Education know something about education, and, therefore, can continue to make education good, they ought on those grounds to support the Amendment.
The second argument is that in any event all local education authorities can' not be consulted. But the point about local education authorities is covered in Subsection (1) of Clause 10. We are considering an Amendment to Subsection (2), which does not mention local education authorities. The question is not whether they should be consulted or not at home or abroad which is already dealt with by a Subsection we have passed, but whether, in defining the form and content of education, the Ministry of Eduction and voluntary bodies shall be consulted, or not.
Finally, the argument was used that constitutionally Ministers automatically consult with one another. In the first place, that only covers half the Amendment, which calls for consultation with 720 voluntary bodies interested in education. In the second place, it is common form in Acts to provide specifically, where there is a clear and specific case as there is here, for consultation between one Minister and another. Clearly there is nothing wrong with that. Whatever form of education, as provided for in Clause 10 of the Bill, ought to be worked in consultation with the Minister of Education and I cannot see that any reason has been adduced against that.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am so anxious for breakfast that I do not feel I can deal with this subject as it deserves, because it is an immensely large subject. I largely agree with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), perhaps not with everything he said, and particularly with his strictures on the Secretary of State for War. The Secretary of State for War opened the constitutional question and the whole question of compulsory education. There are many hon. Members of this Committee, of whom apparently the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is one—as there are many people outside—who are always willing to put their names to the bottom of any bit of paper so long as it contains one of certain words at the top. "Youth" is one pf those words; "peace" used to be one, but has rather gone out of fashion now; and "education" has always been one of those words. There are people who are always prepared, as long as anything contains the word "education," to think it must be a jolly good thing, and that they had better have their name on the bottom of it. There really is a great new principle involved here, and I am not at all sure which side I am on—[Interruption]—and I am sure hon. Members opposite are not sure which side they are on in this matter, because I am sure most of them have not yet perceived it. When I point it out to them I hope they will tell me on which side they are, because that will help me to make up my mind.
§ Mr. Bing rose—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
No, I am going to finish this paragraph. Under the law at present, education is compulsory by Statute up to the age of 15, and continued up to the age of 18. Beyond that, presumably, people are free from compulsory education, but they become subject to compulsory military service. Now, under this 721 Clause, they will get compulsory education under that compulsory military service. It may be that that is a good thing, but it is an extension of compulsory education, which has not, I think, been previously considered. I will be quite honest with hon. Members opposite. If I, myself, were back at the age of 21 or 22, when I went into the Army I should have resented far more than I resented the other things that happened to me, compulsory education—
§ Colonel Wigg
I do not think the hon. Member falls in the class of those who are being compulsorily educated in the Army, because they are total illiterates. I do not think the hon. Member falls into that class.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am not sure whether that is the sort of thing which is thought to be witty in the upper ranks of the Army Education Corps. A point which has not previously come to the attention of the public or of this Committee is that apparently by a side wind in this Bill there is to be compulsory education at a higher age level than before.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
No, there has not. This is the beginning of systematic conscription in this country which we are now discussing, so the thing is new. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It does not really matter how much noise hon. Members opposite make, the facts and arguments remain the same. For the first time we are having compulsory military service in this country in time of peace and on a semi-permanent basis; and by a side wind there is to be compulsory education at a higher age level than it has ever been before. I think that is a very important decision, and I am surprised we have not had it discussed more fully and at greater length.
The right hon. Gentleman said the organisations were mentioned in the Bill. It does not mention by specifying organisations at all. It only indicates the sort of organisation which is required to be consulted. I, myself, find that very dangerous. It was suggested that the T.U.C. ought to be one.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I did not say they had not been. I am not sure that was a very good thing; nor am I sure it was a very bad thing. I have not said it is a good or a bad thing. Ought the Communist Party to be consulted? Ought the Primrose League to be consulted? Ought the Church of England Education Society to be consulted?
§ 8.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not know that it would come in under this form of words. It exists, but it does not follow that it would come in under the form of words used in the Amendment.
§ Colonel Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
No, I cannot give way again; it is breakfast time. If the Amendment were that the Ministry of Education ought to be consulted I should think that they ought to be consulted. On this point of consulting the Ministry of Education, I should like to give a word of advice to the Secretary of State for War. I think there is a small circulating library in superior constitutional arguments, which must be a kind of club among upper civil servants or Ministerial private secretaries. The theory that there is something unconstitutional, contrary to the doctrine of Cabinet homogeneity, or joint responsibility, in provision for consultation between two Ministers, by statutory direction from the King and Parliament, has been used more than once before. I think that is absolutely nonsense. It has been used by various Ministers, who have read it out, rather surprisedly, as the right hon. Gentleman did, from their briefs. Ministers should "vet" arguments that are put to them, and the circulating library might be told that this one might be allowed to go out of use.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I would like to express my astonishment at the speech that the Committee has just heard from a representative of one of our leading educational institutions. It was not worth sitting up all night to hear that speech. So far as I followed him, the hon. Member said, 723 correctly—at any rate, in the end—that we were now having compulsory military service for the first time in peacetime on a semi-permanent basis. Then he said, as though it was an additional evil—
§ Mr. Pickthorn rose—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
No, I will not give way. I heard what the hon. Member said, and I am entitled to draw my inferences from it. If I draw the wrong ones perhaps he will have a chance to correct me during another all night Sitting, if he wishes to do so. The hon. Member said, "First of all, you do one unpleasant thing by compelling people to have military training." The rest of us regard the education which would follow on compulsory enlistment as one of the alleviations of the dreadful necessity under which most Members of the Committee seem to find themselves at the moment, but the hon. Member regarded it as an additional evil, to be approached with great suspicion. He said that it was quite wrong that there should come in on a side wind, as he described it, an extension of the principle of compulsory education. I should have thought he would have been wholly in favour of extending education either by side wind, front wind, back wind or any other wind where it could be done. Most other people would have been, and I think it is most astonishing and alarming that Cambridge University, with its long traditions of culture and civilisation and general development of human culture, should send in these days as a representative to the House of Commons, one who has such a reactionary, antediluvian view of education as that.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I do not think that hon. Gentlemen are likely to advance education by insulting the universities or by making rather foolish zoo noises. I find myself largely in agreement with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), who seemed to me to address himself to the Amendment, and with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) he was the only one to do so. What astonished -me was that some hon. Members opposite seemed to think that some very valuable services would be performed by this Amendment. I think it would have been much better if they had taken a little more trouble with it. Even if they felt that it was necessary to insert these words, 724 I do not think that it was necessary to strike out the words, "so far as may be practicable." It seems to me most questionable to leave those words out of the Bill. I think there is something to be said for those words remaining.
My next criticism of the Amendment is that it has been assumed by nearly everybody that the Amendment made clear the persons by whom the determination was to be made. There is to be a determination of the nature of the further education, but they do not say by whom. Who is to be consulted? The Amendment does not say. If no other words were put in, it might be construed as meaning that it is the Service authorities that are to determine in consultation with the Minister of Education. I do not think that there is very much in the thing either way. It is clear that the Secretary of State in dealing with education would be in a poor position in this House if he were not in consultation with his right hon. Friend. Although I agree with regard to the constitutional question with the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, this is more a matter of draftsmanship. I think there is something to be said for the modern practice of omitting the express requirement of consultation from the Statute. Only in cases where there has been a statutory requirement in another Act for a Minister to give a certificate or something of that kind, has it been the modern practice to insert an express requirement of consultation with a particular Minister. In the absence of such a statutory requirement in another Act, it has been the modern practice, for which there is something to be said as a matter of draftsmanship, not to put in consultations. The words which refer to other organisations interested in adult education are vague. If the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) meant that Cambridge University would clearly be included in the words as they stand, I am bound to say that I think he is saying something which is arguable. The words are vague, in spite of what has been said.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Member will know that the words are:national organisations interested in adult education.Cambridge University is undoubtedly an organisation, and it is undoubtedly a national institution.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I gather I was correct in thinking that that was the hon. Member's view. With respect, I only say that it is not mine, and it is very doubtful if a court of law will ever determine the point, so it may be a very long time before we know which is right. I do not think these words are particularly valuable, and if it is pretended that they represent a very great advance, they do not. If it is a fact that these men cannot get much education in this single year, I do not think we perform a very good service by pretending that they can, but having said that, I certainly agree with the general desire that the best possibilities should he open to the men. If the right hon. Gentleman has the cause of the education of these men at heart, and I give him credit for that, I believe he would do better for the moment not to consult the Minister of Education so much as the President of the Board of Trade, to see whether he cannot obtain a more sensible allocation of paper and other raw materials for hooks. The men in the Army could get very much more education, have their lot very much alleviated and have a great deal done for their happiness and learning, if they were supplied freely with the books so many of them would like to have. I hope that these practical steps will be taken rather than some of the other steps that have been suggested.
There is one branch of Army education with which I came into contact and by which I was very much impressed, and that was an Army Formation College which I had the privilege of addressing. It was without any doubt the most thrillingly alive audience I have ever addressed. One thing about it was that those people were doing a whole-time course at their own request. I do not suppose anything on those lines is possible during that year. I hope that none of us will exaggerate the possibilities of this Clause or this Amendment. I have no great feeling about the Amendment one way or the other. The effect is much less than it might be for the reasons I have given, but I believe there are certain practical steps which might be taken. Some hon. Members opposite laugh when one mentions the question of books, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to do something in regard to them.
§ 9.0 a.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I think I quote the Home Secretary correctly when 726 I say that in a speech in the country which he made some three months ago, said that the significant thing about education is that those who have not had as much education as they would have liked for themselves are the only people who make for educational progress, because they wrest for those who are to succeed them further education which has been denied to themselves from those who have had bigger educational advantages than themselves. It seems to me that in these considerations of education, although attempts have been made to look at this Amendment objectively by hon. Members on both sides, it is clear that there is a difference of approach on the Socialist and Conservative Benches in that the resistance to this Amendment has come from those who have had probably a better education themselves—
§ Mr. Stanley
I wish to ask for information, since I have been out of the Committee for a time. I understood the Secretary of State for War was resisting this Amendment. Is he not a Socialist?
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I think the right hon. Gentleman answered his question himself when he said that he had not been present for some time. In fact, there was more resistance to the content of this Amendment from speeches of querulous Conservatives who, in fact, said that they could not make up their minds about this Amendment one way or another, than there was in the statement of the Secretary of State, who said that for technical reasons he would not be able to accept this, but that he had great sympathy with the content of the Amendment. We have to consider in this Clause and Amendment what is the purpose of Service education. The purpose of the Bill is not just to give occasional bits of stray information, occasional lectures administered, if I quote the hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) correctly, by A.B.C.A. and other welfare organisations; the purpose of Army education is to use the period when men are compelled to give military service to their country to help them to develop their own potential and to help them to become more complete citizens. That is why I say to the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that if this is a new principle of extending compulsory education, I am entirely in favour of it, because I am entirely in favour of 727 making it possible for people to have as much education as it is humanly possible for them to absorb. The purpose of education is to see that whilst these young men are under the control of the State they shall be made better citizens, better people, capable of playing a bigger part in the life of their nation when they leave the Services.
What we have in mind in the Amendment is, by what agency can these men get the best educational services whilst they are doing their period of compulsory service? The Secretary of State takes the view that he has an implicit obligation to consult with his colleague the Minister of Education, and that inside the Army they are working hard to broaden the basis of Army education and to give the best service using Army personnel. We believe that there should be in this Bill a statutory obligation upon the Minister to consult with the Minister of Education and with certain bodies which were consulted on this question during the recent war, in order to give the best possible education that it is within our power to give to these fellows during their period of compulsory service. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will see fit to withdraw his objection.
§ Mr. Stanley
I must confess that I speak in this Debate under two difficulties. The first is that I have have broken my glasses, with the unfortunate result that I can no longer see clearly the faces of hon. Members opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "Come over here."] The second is that I am afraid, owing to a short absence for cultural refreshment, I missed the answer from the Front Bench. I am not quite sure from whom it came, but the fact that a simple Amendment which was started some hour and a half ago is still running, makes me feel that the Ministry of Labour for the moment is not in charge, and that we are back to the Service Departments, unaided this time by the Law Officer. I was surprised to return to this Chamber to find that this Amendment was still running and had, apparently, been resisted by one of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because I cannot see any harm in it. I listened with great care to the speeches of both my hon. Friends, and came to the conclusion that they saw neither any harm nor any good in it, and for that reason were undecided 728 as to the best action to take, I share that point of view. I see no harm, and I see little practical good.
I cannot see that the course of Army education will be altered in the very least whether this Amendment is passed or not, but certainly the Amendment is really expressing a pious hope, with which I am in agreement. I cannot think what argument has been put up by the right hon. Gentleman to turn it down. He cannot be frightened of consultation with his colleague. I have had a long and well-spent legislative life and have passed innumerable Bills in which I was forced to consult with a colleague. It never did me any harm—and it never did the colleague any good. I think this is the last occasion of all on which to be frightened of consultation. We heard yesterday afternoon that the Minister of Defence had consulted with the Chiefs of Staff before he reduced 18 months to 12. If that is what is meant by consultation, the Secretary of State for War need have no fear that it will in any way impair his authority. Nor am I frightened of expressing on paper the necessity for some kind of association with the organisations interested in education. I do not think, perhaps, that the Amendment is very happily framed. It leaves a doubt as to what organisations might be included and what might be excluded, but I cannot imagine any form of education of people over 18 years of age being carried out except in association with, at any rate, certain of the bodies who are engaged in education.
My recollection is that when in the early days of 1940—hon. Members will remember it was in the days of the so-called "phoney war," when hundreds of thousands of troops in this country were left with really little occupation, when training was difficult owing to lack of material and when it was essential to provide something which would interest them and keep up their morale—the first thing we did was to get into touch with a number of these national organisations. We called them to our aid before we were able to build up the elaborate machinery which was subsequently recognised. Therefore, I must say that had I been the right hon. Gentleman, I should not have been frightened of this Amendment, on either of the two counts. I should not in the least mind consulting with the Minister of Education, knowing perfectly well that, having consulted him, I could do exactly the 729 opposite to his advice, and I should not mind being associated with these national organisations, knowing that if I were going to take up educational work at all, I should have to enter into it with one or other of the organisations concerned.
Had I been replying from the Front Bench, my only possible reason for refusing this Amendment would have been that, in the circumstances, it was not only no good having it, but it was no good having the Clause at all. We must all face the fact that, whatever one might have hoped for in the way of education, either in the technical or literary sense, the reduction from 18 months to one year, and the terms in which it was defended today by the Minister of Defence, make it obvious that, in fact, during that year, there is going to be no time left for such education as hon. Members have in mind. We are told that both the recruits and those training them have got to give up all frills and luxuries, and that they have got to get down to it. There is to be no 40-hour week for them. I cannot conceive that in the atmosphere of bustle and hustle which the Minister of Defence suggested, and which alone, he said, would justify the reduction made, there will either be the time for any worth while educational attempt, or that the unfortunate recruit will have enough mental or physical energy left to prosper from it. If we are to retain in the Bill a Clause which, I am afraid, has now been made by the decision taken a dead letter, I see no objection whatsoever to adding to it this perfectly harmless, if not very practical, Amendment.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I feel that I cannot any longer carry on this unequal battle. Pressed as L am from the front and from my rear, I have to beat a retreat. Therefore, I am going to ask my hon. and gallant Friend to relieve me of my predicament by withdrawing his Amendment, on the undertaking that, between now and the Report stage, I will look into the matter very closely. My only hesitation about accepting the Amendment is that I still want to retain the words "as far as practicable," and the reason why I want to retain them is because I do not want to saddle myself with something which I know I may not be able to carry out. At the present time I am consulting with the Minister of Education, and my officials are consulting with their opposite numbers in that Ministry. We 730 are consulting with the adult educational organisations, and my hon Friend the Under-Secretary of State is chairman of a very important educational committee—an advisory committee to myself—consisting, as it does, of some of the most eminent educational authorities in this country. So that, in fact, I am really doing what my hon. and gallant Friend wants me to do. I hope, therefore, with that assurance, my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendment.
§ 9.15 a.m.
§ Colonel Wigg
The first thing I must do is to congratulate the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who has a great reputation for being a perfect after-dinner speaker, on having shown this morning that he can manage just as well after breakfast. This Debate has been wholly worth while in that we have heard the representatives of Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) confess that they know nothing whatever about adult education. For the information of the arrogant Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, there is a gentleman of the name of Hickson representing Cambridge University on the Central Advisory Council, who draws a considerable sum in expenses, and the university which he represents has a direct responsibility for this scheme. The same thing applies to every one of the English universities. It is worth while for those misguided people who returned the two hon. Members to know that those hon. Members know absolutely nothing about this very important subject.
§ Mr. H. Strauss rose—
§ Colonel Wigg
Having said that, I gladly agree to withdraw this Amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and I hope the Secretary of State will persuade his Service colleagues to do as much for their Services as he promises to do for the Army.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry to stand in the way of the amicable arrangement which was being come to, but I think the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) has tried us a little too much in making these charges and then smartly jumping to end in such a way that there could be no comment on them. I do not know what relevance his view of me, or my view of him, has to the 731 subject of this Debate. I assure him that I have taken a good deal of trouble to learn about and to help with adult education, and it is entirely untrue to say that I have confessed I know nothing about it.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
During my speech I thought the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley wished to intervene, and, therefore, I offered to sit down in order that he might do so. He then said "No, go on; I can come in afterwards." I did not know then, as I know now, and as the Committee knows, that his purpose was to make some false accusations against me and then refuse to give me an opportunity to reply. I never at any point said I knew nothing about adult education. The hon. and gallant Gentleman can take that view about me if he likes. Any insult from him can only do me honour—[Laughter]—and, despite the silly guffaws of the putative Prime Minister, the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), I believe the benches opposite contain a great many Members who sincerely desire to improve education in the Army and elsewhere. Others are constantly paying lip service to education, but insulting any ideas which do not coincide with their own. If they think they are serving the cause of learning, or education, or knowledge, or anything else, they are the victims of an illusion, and not a generous illusion, and I leave them to their folly.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.