HC Deb 10 July 1953 vol 517 cc1586-90

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Nutting

I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, to leave out "seven," and to insert: not less than seven nor more than ten. The Committee will recall that on Second Reading the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) proposed that the Commission should be more broadly based and that provision should be made whereby its total membership could be extended to 10 and should not be less than seven. I have considered the suggestion. I like it very much. I think that it will give a greater latitude to the Foreign Secretary in the appointments which he will have to make to the Commission.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Hamilton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, to leave out from "State," to "and," in line 12.

The Joint Under-Secretary has referred to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). In that speech my right hon. Friend said: … it is desirable that the Commission at this end should be as broadly based as possible and of as representative a character as possible, including people with different outlooks upon public affairs, so that it may have a good combined representative composition drawn from a cross-section of the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1953; Vol. 517, c. 733.] The words which this Amendment seek to delete are: … of whom not less than two shall be chosen as persons of eminence in academic matters … I think that we are all clear as to the purpose of this Commission. It is to administer the grants, to approve the selection of the scholarship holders and to place them in universities in the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that when the Secretary of State is appointing the Commission he will bear all those factors in mind, but I maintain that it would ease his burden if he was left a complete freedom of choice.

I dislike intensely the phrase: persons of eminence in academic matters. I sometimes think that such persons have a false prestige. They might be the most unsuitable people in the world to administer the scheme. The phrase smacks of intellectual snobbery. I must confess that I do not even know what it means.

What is a person of academic eminence? Who decides what or who is a person of great academic eminence? It is true that there are hundreds of men who have a long string of letters behind their names. A lot of them are great and famous specialists in their own sphere but, when taken out of that sphere, they are just like the ordinary man-in-the street—no better and very often worse. The good trade union leader, who perhaps left school at 14 or even earlier, with no eminence in academic matters, would be infinitely preferable as a member of the Commission that many people of academic eminence, and I could name some of them even in this House.

Let us take the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education. He is a gentleman of what we should call academic eminence. Compare the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education with the late George Tomlin-son, who left school at the age of 11 and was a half-timer. If the late George Tomlinson were alive now and the Foreign Secretary had to choose between him and the Parliamentary Secretary for appointment as a member of the Commission, I have no doubt who would be the most suitable although one left school at the age of 11 and the other is still of great academic eminence.

The Secretary of State ought to have complete freedom in the matter. He ought not to be compelled to select at least two people of great academic achievement. I want to broaden the basis of selection allowed to the Secretary of State in much the same way as my hon. Friends sought earlier to broaden the basis of selection of the scholars themselves.

Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)

I do not fear that it will be so, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will be under no temptation to accept the Amendment. I must intervene because the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) was the silliest that I have ever heard in this House. I have no responsibility for the precise phrase: persons of eminence in academic matters. but what I understand it to mean is not some general judgment upon character but some people who either hold or have held positions of responsibility in universities.

As what we are discussing is the question of some young gentlemen being sent to universities or university colleges it is not unreasonable that the universities should be entitled to ask that two of the ten people who make the selection should be people who in their life have had something to do with universities. That is the sole issue that we are considering. I do not think that the observations of the hon. Member deserve any further notice taken of them.

Mr. Nutting

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), who has made exactly the point which I make in asking the House to reject the Amendment. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) asked what was the definition of academic eminence. In the presence of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, I hesitate to give any definition of that term. Obviously the academic world must be represented on the Commission because they are those who are most concerned with the application of the scheme in this country. They are representative of the universities to which the scholars will go.

I do not think it unreasonable, considering that they must be represented in some form or other on the Commission, that provision for their representation should be made by statute. If we are to have persons of some experience of the academic world surely it is better that they should be eminent than that they should be obscure. That is a simple proposition.

The hon. Member for Fife, West completely ignored the other members of the Commission. There will now be up to eight other members of the Commission. I agree with him that we do not want the Commission to be dominated by dons, but at the same time it should have representatives from all sections of life and all those interests who will be concerned with the application of the scheme. I think, more especially in view of the last Amendment, that the Commission will now be able to function on the broadest possible base. I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

11.40 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I tried my best in Committee to improve the Bill because I believe that it should be regarded as a precedent, that instead of erecting statues to prominent individuals of national and international repute a far better way of perpetuating their deeds and memory is by scholarships. It would be a terrible thing if anyone proposed that a statue of General Marshall should be placed in Whitehall instead of some of the statues there already.

I entirely endorse the principle of the Bill and hope that it will contribute to a greater measure of international understanding, because it is essential at the present time that intelligent young people from the United States of America should understand the problems which are looming in front of us in this country, and for which to a certain extent they bear an international responsibility.

In this debate gratitude has been expressed to General Marshall because he was associated with Marshall Aid. Although some of us may have our doubts as to whether Marshall Aid has been applied in a far-sighted and statesmanlike way in some parts of Europe, it was a very generous gesture, and we hope that this gratitude, expressed in a tangible way, will lead to a better understanding on the part of the Americans and will result in some practical working out of plans for economic co-operation of benefit to both nations.

This scheme has been widely welcomed. I have already mentioned to the House a letter I received from a student who is interested in the Bill, and who actually hopes that Senator McCarthy will be able to get one of these scholarships, because that will mean he will be two years away from the United States of America. Although that may not be altogether altruism on the part of young people in the United States, yet I believe that these scholarships will be appreciated. My only regret is that their number will be so small and that a more generous gesture has not been displayed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.