HC Deb 09 March 1961 vol 636 cc656-7
8. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Minister of Education whether he will take steps to empower local authorities to award adventure scholarships to enable young people to participate in the work of organisations which assist volunteers for service in overseas territories.

12. Mr. Leather

asked the Minister of Education what support his Department gives to voluntary service overseas.

Sir D. Eccles

This work is of great value and Voluntary Service Overseas has already received a grant from my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, through the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. If further assistance is to be made available from public funds it would be quicker and more direct to do this through the medium of the overseas Departments rather than by means of the legislation which The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) suggests.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Minister aware that that is a disappointing reply? Has not his attention been drawn to President Kennedy's proposal for a peace corps to do on a much larger scale the kind of work which is being done on such a limited scale by voluntary service? Is it not rather humiliating and silly that against that background the Minister should be erecting these legalistic obstacles against local patriotism identifying itself with this very useful work overseas?

Sir D. Eccles

I am not erecting a legal obstacle when I tell the House that I have not been given powers to do what the hon. Gentleman wants. It is quicker and better for this type of service to be aided directly through overseas Departments, which have such powers, than for us to bring in a new Bill.

Mr. Leather

Whilst accepting my right hon. Friend's point, may I ask him to give us an assurance that he, too, recognises the great importance of the work which this small organisation is trying to do and that it is at present hopelessly handicapped because of shortage of funds? Its funds are microscopic. Will he discuss the matter with his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary with a view to seeing if more money can be usefully used in this very important way?

Sir D. Eccles

I accept that.

Mr. Willey

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not be handicapped by bureaucratic difficulties but will match the American initiative in this regard and ensure that we do something quite dramatic?

Sir D. Eccles

It is not a question of bureaucratic difficulties. I am bound to act within the law, and the law does not allow my Department to do what the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) would like me to do.

Sir Richard Pilkington

Has not our Colonial Service been doing this work for many centuries?