HC Deb 20 July 1953 vol 518 cc165-76

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Kaberry]

10.1 p.m.

Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)

In raising the question of the re-naming of the schools in Glamorgan, I would make it clear at the start that I am citing Glamorgan because it is my native county and not because I wish to single out the Glamorgan Education Authority for special censure. As the Parliamentary Secretary will know, the Glamorgan authority has a fine educational record. I am not unmindful of its response to the Minister's policy last year and the cordiality with which it greeted her on her memorable visit to Cardiff when she opened six new schools.

Glamorgan is not the only local education authority to have made the renumbering of its schools the occasion for the re-naming of some of them. I believe some part of the education authorities in Wales have done so and it will be interesting to note the comparative figures for England, if they are available. But the question ought to be asked now, and I think should have been asked earlier, why these names should be changed at all. They are names which nearly always are as old as the schools themselves and very often as old as the hills around them.

The names should not have been changed at all without the fullest consultation with and the consent of the parish councils, certainly the district councils, and, in my view also the local branches of the N.U.T. and, where possible, the parents' associations. The procedure which has been followed quite faithfully whereby the divisional executive committees have made recommendations to the education authority who have in turn placed those recommendations before the Minister, has in my view been inadequate for two reasons.

First the divisional executive committees, though broadly representative of districts, are not representative of each parish or school. Secondly, their membership is often ill equipped for a task of this kind. It is quite true that they could, and no doubt many did, consult the Board of Celtic Studies though they were under no obligation to do so. But even when they did I would remind the hon. Gentleman with every respect to the Board of Celtic Studies and the work it does, that what is pleasing to the purist, what may be pleasing to the pedant and even more pleasing to the nationalist, may be very distasteful to the community as a whole. I do not subscribe to the theory, nor do I think would many hon. Members, that the man on the Board of Celtic Studies knows better what the people of Glamorgan want for their schools than the people know themselves.

It is in my view objectionable as a general principle to impose a change of name upon a school, or a variation of it, because a school lives not only in the present. It belongs as much to those who have taught in it and those who have been taught in the past. It has a special association for parents and for those who live nearby, whether they have been taught in the school or not. In my view it would be a terrible indictment of State schools, and an entirely false one, were it suggested that these are merely sentimental considerations, luxuries for fee-paying parents, which should have no place in a modern State sphere of education.

Most old boys of public and private schools would very much resent the loss of their school's identity and even more perhaps a pedantic variation of it. I can imagine the cry of protest that would go up from any old Etonian in this House—and I am sure that I carry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) with me here—if one morning he woke up and read in the "Daily Herald" that he was no longer an old Etonian but an old something else.

I do not think that he would be comforted by a leading article explaining that some purists had thought of a better name after full consultation with the local education authority and with the acceptance of the Minister of Education. Well might he say: …he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed. It may be that there have been no strong cries of protest yet, that only a few people in Glamorgan realise what has happened and, even less, have thought out some of its implications. The people, as I think all Oppositions will always agree, are often silent when they should protest the loudest.

Thirdly, for severely practical and administrative reasons the names of schools should not lightly be changed. I take one example, the village of Rhoose which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and which has been spelled R H O O S E for at least 100 years. It is an anglicised version of Rhos.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

Would my hon. Friend agree that also for various reasons the neighbourhood of the school is an anglicised area?

Mr. Llewellyn

Yes. It is substantially an anglicised area, but whether that is good or bad is a matter of opinion. Rhoose is an anglicised form of Rhos. It is worth bearing in mind that the version has been adopted and adapted by and not imposed upon its inhabitants—adopted or adapted when Welsh was spoken in most of its homes and not as now when unhappily Welsh is hardly ever heard in Rhoose.

Then there was no clamour for a change of name, still less a demand for a change of name to Rhws. Nor is there any clamour now but the Glamorgan Education Authority, with the Minister's acceptance, have decided in effect that the history books are wrong, that the maps should be rolled up and that the anglicised form which spring from Tudor times should be rubbed out and henceforth the name should be Rhws for the first time in history. I should have thought that that would be an offence to any of the nationalist persuasion, still more so to those of a traditionalist persuasion.

On the school walls the name Rhoose is inscribed in stone. So now we are to have two spellings, one on stone and one on paper. We are to have two spellings administratively. The Rhoose airport, the post office, the police station, the telephone exchange and indeed all the agencies and service of Government are all to be out of step with the school. In the Ministry itself it seems that we are to have two spellings.

I am sure that most hon. Members will have read with interest the publication "The Place of Welsh and English in the Schools of Wales," which was published in March of this year, and in which there is a most interesting map or series of maps which show the incidence of the number of Welsh-speaking children in the schools of each of the counties. In this publication, the spelling is Rhoose, and yet, in the same month the Minister indicated to the local authority her approval of the spelling of Rhws. I am perfectly well aware of the time-lag between the presentation and the publication of this Report. Time-lags seem to affect reports on Wales in a manner that does not command support on any side of the House, but this was one example.

I really must ask my hon. Friend when he replies tonight whether he can tell me which spelling is to prevail in future in the Ministry of Education. Is there to be one spelling or are there to be two? If there is to be one, which is it to be? I must also ask if the Minister will now consult with her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs, the Postmaster-General, and, indeed, with most of her colleagues, to decide whether it is sensible that the school's name should be spelled differently from that of the village which it serves, the postal district in which it lies, the polling station which it provides, the telephone exchange to which it is connected, and from the ordnance survey map.

This proposal should not be allowed to go through without further examination, for it would be quite mistaken to think that Rhoose is an isolated example. Llanharry sheds "ry" for "i," although, according to the Rev. Thomas Morgan's book on place-names, which I have read with great interest, the correct spelling should be Llanarai. I recommend this book to hon. Members; it is a very learned and respectable book.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

When was it published?

Mr. Llewellyn

It was published in 1887, so it must be good.

Mr. G. Thomas

It is out of date.

Mr. Llewellyn

Perhaps it is out of date, but the case that I am trying to make is that the attempts of the local authority to get into date are even more unsatisfactory. Still, if it is said that this book may be out of date, it is still a very good book and there are plenty of good books that are out of date. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had better be careful, in view of their need of Liberal votes in Wales, because the book was dedicated to Mr. Gladstone.

I have said that Rhoose is not an isolated example. I have shown that Llanarai is another, and Pentyrch—lucky Pentyrch—has acquired a hyphen, whereas Llantwit Major has acquired a name more intimately associated with its original denomination—Llanilltud Fawr. Even from the strong nationalist point of view, the changes have very little to recommend them, for whatever may be said against the proposals of the Glamorgan Education Committee, the County Council could hardly be accused of being doctrinaire. The Glamorgan Education Authority itself remains Anglicised, and what is sauce for the Rhws goose is not to be sauce for Morganwg. Yet Barry—and here I am treading on very delicate ground, because no one agrees about the root of the word Barry; it may be Norse for Bare Island, a not altogether unsuitable name—is left in all its Scandinavian splendour alone and untouched. Or again, Barry could be derived from Baruch. It is the same with Sully, which remains "Sully" although the name is a corruption of the Welsh "Sili." If Sully is spared, why not Rhoose? The new names can please neither the Nationalists nor the Traditionalists. On that ground alone they should be looked at afresh.

I want Welsh to survive as a living and natural expression of the national traditions of Wales. So, I am convinced, does the Minister, whose act of administrative devolution was an important step in the right direction. The quickest way to stamp out Welsh in the few homes in the Vale of Glamorgan where it survives is to make it appear affected or even ridiculous. I beg Welshmen in all parts of the House, and particularly those from the Welsh speaking areas, to bear this in mind. To destroy the pattern and the poetry of place-names long held in affectionate esteem, long recognised by the people of Glamorgan, and long sanctioned by custom, is to make Welsh appear not only ridiculous but disruptive. I hope that the people of Glamorgan are too conservative to tolerate that.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the original Welsh place-names are ridiculous?

Mr. Llewellyn

No, I do not. What is utterly ridiculous is to invent, as in the case of "Rhws," a Welsh name which is not the root Welsh name of the place. That is grotesque, and it becomes still more so when you implant it in an area in isolation, on one unit in the area. Then it becomes a sort of Welsh Aunt Sally in an English domain. If we do one, we must do the lot and do them all at once.

Mr. C. Hughes

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the original Welsh place-names were far more attractive than the later corruption?

Mr. Llewellyn

That is a matter of taste and of one's sense of poetry. I may be deficient in that respect, but I trust not. In my judgment "Llantwit Major" is a beautiful name, as beautiful as "Llanilltud Fawr."

Mr. C. Hughes

Llanilltud Fawr has greater beauty.

Mr. Llewellyn

It may have for some parts of Wales, but we are in England now. Perhaps the other name has greater beauty here. I do not intend to haggle over this name or that. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary, and through him the Minister, to review the implications of these changes and to consult their colleagues whose Departments are affected. Let them talk things over in a friendly way with the local education authorities in Wales. I trust that, as the outcome of such talks, the old names will be restored which some of us have loved long since, and lost awhile.

10.19 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

When I saw that the Adjournment debate had been secured by the hon. Member who has the honour to share the representation of the City of Cardiff with my colleague the Member of Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and myself, I wondered what he was going to raise. He has given us a very interesting talk about some of the place-names in the Principality, though I fear he destroyed his case from his own point of view when he preferred the anglicised "Llantwit Major" to the Welsh name, which is "Llanilltud Fawr." He has taken exception in particular to the place-name "Rhws." I am not rushing in to defend the county council on the contraption that they have put forward. I do not think that Welsh people would, by and large, rush in to defend a name of that sort.

Nevertheless, I am surprised at the hon. Member wondering why the Minister gave her sanction. The Minister gives her sanction to anything which does not cost anything. The Minister interfered with the Glamorgan authority on a much bigger subject than this: she stopped them building a school for handicapped children which they wanted to build. The hon. Member was not on his feet for the Adjournment of the House on that occasion.

Mr. Llewellyn

On that occasion I had the fortune or misfortune to be Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will therefore forgive me for not speaking on that occasion.

Mr. Thomas

It was not only the hon. Gentleman's misfortune. I do not want to be unkind to him, however. I think he realises that I had overlooked the fact that he was otherwise occupied on that occasion. As he has said, the schools for Glamorgan rank amongst the finest schools in the country. There is a tendency throughout the Principality to bring Welsh names more to the fore. It is for no other purpose than to create a Welsh atmosphere, because it is believed that the local education authorities ought to foster a Welsh atmosphere.

The hon. Member, I trust, shares the same concern with all of us at the decline of the Welsh language, and any gesture which a local authority can make to encourage the spreading of Welsh sentiment is to be applauded. As he knows, in the City of Cardiff the local authority have given Welsh names to all the new streets in the housing estates—that is, where they have not named the streets after themselves. In all other instances, where they have not sought this immortality in the city, they have given hard sounding Welsh names and, by and large, the people are pleased. Some object, of course, 'but most people much prefer the word "heol" to "street." I think that is not a bad thing at all, and I hope the hon. Member does not object to these Welsh names being introduced where English names once prevailed.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

As the two schools mentioned are situated in my constituency, I want to say that while I believe the motive behind this re-naming is a good motive, nevertheless, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) has established a very strong case that the names chosen are most inappropriate and not only out of touch with the logical growth and development of names naturally but, as I feel from approaches made to me by many constituents, out of touch with local feeling.

The name Rhoose is a name which has become familiar and is associated with everything else in a small village, and it seems a little absurd that the school alone should have that name with a different spelling, completely dissociating it from everything else in the village. The same comment applies to the village school at Pentyrch, where the name is quite unnatural and inappropriate. I sincerely hope that the Minister, while not making any hasty new decisions, will at least make very careful approaches to all local authorities and other authorities who use different forms of spelling for these names.

10.24 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn)

At any rate I will not take any hasty decisions tonight, which I hope will please at least one speaker. I have done my very best to prepare myself for this debate, in that 30 years ago I married a young woman, or a young woman married me, from the Gower Peninsula. I am therefore better equipped than might otherwise be expected, but I am bound to say—and I say this with all the more boldness since there will be no time for anybody to quarrel with me afterwards—that I think the extent to which this is the business of my right hon. Friend and her Ministry seems perhaps to have been exaggerated.

Always in questions of names and of the spelling of names there is a balance to be made between what historians and linguists may regard in some sense or another as correct and, on the other hand, the form either of sound or of spelling at which the word has arrived in the immediate, short, but effective past; one has to balance these two. My own prejudice, for what it is worth, is always in favour of the immediate and effective past.

But it seems to me that there could hardly be a matter which is more a local matter and that there is, in a sense, an element of paradox in the appeal to the Minister here, as against the local authority. The Minister has not attempted in any way to impose any decisions upon the county or any part of the county. I speak here rather hastily, but I think it is fair enough to say that it could hardly be the Minister's duty to decide what should be the degree of consultation and consent as between the local education authority and the small constitutive authorities inside the locality which, in the wisdom of Parliament, is the education authority—whether there should have been more or less consultation with divisional executives or parish councils.

I dare say that none of these changes is pleasing alike to the purist and the pedant and the nationalist. For all I know to the contrary, my hon. Friend's choice of one or two as displeasing to all three may be right, but on the whole it is a fair general principle that, where a man or an institution chooses to call himself or itself by this or that name and to spell that name in this or that way, it is then for the rest of the world to comply. If my hon. Friend chose to begin spelling his name with an F at the beginning, I do not know whether that would be an improvement or not: Shakespeare would have thought it was, but who am I to agree or disagree with Shakespeare? But if he chooses so to do I shall in future address him accordingly.

Mr. Llewellyn

Does that mean to say that if I were to do that it would have my hon. Friend's acceptance in the same way as the other proposals have had the Minister's acceptance?

Mr. Pickthorn

I think I may say that that is a hypothetical question, but it certainly would have my own acceptance. I should accept his choice of what is his name and what is the way to spell it. When there is one spelling for the education authority and a second spelling in the telephone directory and a third for the Post Office and a fourth for the trade association and a fifth for the town band—I forget what the other one was—and he asks me specifically what spelling prevails in the Ministry, the answer is that the spelling which prevails in the Ministry is the spelling selected by the Ministry's correspondent. That is to say, when we address a school or address a local authority about a school we shall address it by the name of the school and by the spelling of the name of the school which is that which prevails in the district, and I think that there surely cannot be very much objection to that.

It is true in some slight sense that the Ministry has responsibility, but I am sure all parties will agree, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) opposite will agree, that this is not an occasion for party fisticuffs. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to eschew that a few days ago, and I am sure this is not such a matter. The dates preclude my right hon. Friend being responsible. But I think there is Ministerial responsibility to this extent, that it was a Ministerial decision which suggested some re-naming and, later renumbering, for the purpose of easing administration and addressing letters, of the schools, and it was probably from the making of this decision that this change happened as and when it did. The first step was—I forget exactly when—in 1949, I think; but some years before the present Administration had any responsibility.

We have a little bit more responsibility I think; that is to say that there were discussions and considerations about this matter, and the Board of Celtic Studies and other authorities were consulted, and then the inspectors, amongst others, being, as it happens, largely learned individuals——

The Question, having been proposed after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-nine Minutes to Eleven o'clock.