HC Deb 17 February 1948 vol 447 cc968-9
11. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the standard of education of recruits for the Army indicates that a percentage is not qualified for normal instruction, being unable to read or write; whether he can give any figures that will show in what subjects recruits seem backward; and whether he is taking any steps to remedy this condition.

Mr. Shinwell

On average, rather less than 1 per cent. of recent intakes has been unable to read or write. There are no records of their proficiency or backwardness in subjects other than reading, writing and elementary calculation. The men who lack these fundamental skills receive an intensive full-time course, of six weeks' duration, in reading, writing and elementary calculation at a Preliminary Education Centre before they begin their military training. Provision is also made for "follow-up" instruction after the man has left the Preliminary Education Centre. In addition, other backward men who require courses of instruction attend Preliminary Education Centres The total percentage of the intake proceeding to Preliminary Education Centres is about 2 per cent. at present.

Sir R. Glyn

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why a report was current that in one command the percentage of illiterates was very much higher?

Mr. Shinwell

It is possible to apply a certain percentage to a particular unit, but that does not indicate its generality.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The Minister did not mention history in his answer. In his opinion, would the history of the period between the last two wars be likely to encourage recruits?

Mrs. Leah Manning

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his statement will give great pleasure to people who were much pained by the recent irresponsible statements in this House as to the degree of illiteracy in the Army?

Mr. Shinwell

Those statements, responsible or otherwise, were not made by us.

Mr. Amory

Will the right hon. Gentleman take full advantage of the opportunity offered by the National Service Act of checking up on the results of national education on young men; and will he confer with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education on how best that can be done?

Mr. Shinwell

That is a much wider question.