§ 11. Mr. Mikardo
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air why special preference is given by officers' selection boards to former pupils of schools included within the Headmasters' Conference.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I had evidence from a clerk 448 to one of these boards who records the results of interviews and is instructed by the board to check the school of every candidate against a list of Headmasters' Conference schools and to mark "H.C.S." against every candidate who went to such a school so that he can automatically get a second interview, however badly he failed the first? Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into this matter and see why this discrimination is operating?
If the hon. Gentleman cares to send me details of any case he has in mind, I shall be glad to investigate anything, but such limited study as I have been able to make in the time available has shown that more than half of the officers selected in recent years have not attended Headmasters' Conference schools.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that even though rather less than half attended Headmasters' Conference schools, that is a much higher proportion of candidates coming from those schools than in the case of the other schools? If the figure is anything like half, it would suggest, all things being equal, that preference is given to those who attended Headmasters' Conference schools.
Why should all other things be equal? If they are selected on their merits, as they are, why should it not happen that those coming from Headmasters' Conference schools have, on balance, rather more merit?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Irrespective of any details which my hon. Friend may send to the Under-Secretary, will he look into the point that the fact that people come from a particular school is drawn to the attention of the selection board, and will the hon. Gentleman ascertain why this should be, and discontinue it, so that everyone can be sure of getting a fair chance?
I will certainly look into that. But I should have thought that if anyone is interviewing a candidate for a commission, one of the things he wants to know is the sort of education the candidate has had.
§ Mr. H. Nicholls
Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether the procedure followed at these boards is in any way different today from the procedure followed in 1950 and 1951?