§ Sir D. Eccles
I beg to move, in page 4, line 2, to leave out "the age of twenty-five years" and to insert:such age as may be so prescribed".The reason I move an Amendment of this nature, instead of another hon. Member, is that the drafting of my Amendment is more suitable to achieve the object which certain hon. Members opposite asked us to achieve. I do not think I need take very long. This provision refers to the mature State students scheme. This is a small but useful scheme which started in 1947. It provides a group of specially selected candidates who were not able to go to university at the normal time but have pursued their education since then on their own initiative and as opportunity offered. Most of us know some of these candidates. They have done extremely well. It is a good scheme. We want to keep it going.
576 It was pointed out to us that the present limitation of the age of 25 perhaps did not meet every case in modern times. It was argued that there might be a young man or young woman a year or two younger than that who was a good candidate, and it would be a pity to exclude them just because their birthday fell on a certain day. Therefore, we want to take out the limitation of the age of 25. We will prescribe a more flexible age range. I think this precisely covers what the hon. Members for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) asked us to put into the Bill.
§ 12 m.
§ Dr. King
I want briefly to thank the Minister for the Amendment. It is along the lines which some of us suggested in Committee. We are dealing with some of the salt of the earth, some of the people who discovered after leaving school that they had academic ability. The Minister has done good work among mature students, but we objected to the age of maturity being fixed at 25. I thank the Minister for his Amendment, which I am certain that my hon. Friends will support.
§ Mrs. White
As we have indicated by our Amendment, we are entirely in favour of the Minister's Amendment. We should make clear why we said, after earlier discussion, that we thought this desirable. For a long time we have been treating people over 25 as mature students but, as the Minister pointed out, social habits are changing, the age of marriage is falling and we find nowadays that people can be regarded as mature persons at an earlier age than has been the case in the past.
I have a particular interest in this group of potential students because I have had a long-standing interest in adult education, and we find increasingly that we have people who have not been able to go direct to university or some other form of further education on leaving school. Often they leave school because the employment opportunities in many areas appear quite good to them at school-leaving age. They go into a job, work at it for some time and then decide that they have mistaken their vocation in life and very much regret the educational opportunities which they might have had.
577 These people have missed the ordinary opportunities of getting the grants which we discussed under Clause 1—the normal way in, by two A levels and university selection. It is important that we do not keep such people waiting for some opportunity of further education until they have reached or passed the age of 25. A person may have left school at 16, with or without some O level passes, he may have gone into industry and, by the time he is 21 or 22, he may have gone through the process of realising that he ought to reorganise his life by obtaining some higher qualification. To keep such a person waiting until he is 25 before he qualifies would be unreasonable.
We are glad that the Minister has seen fit to leave himself discretion in the regulations, but has he any particular age in mind? Or does he propose to leave it wide open? The Minister's Amendment removes the specific age of 25 by using the wordssuch age as may be so prescribed.We do not wish to write a specific age into the Bill; the object of the Amendment is to remove the specific age. But it would be useful if the Minister would tell us what age he is thinking of prescribing in the first instance. He is giving himself power to vary it from time to time. What sort of conditions is he thinking of prescribing under the Amendment?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I understood the Minister to say that he desired to introduce some elasticity into the provisions of the Clause and that, accordingly, for… the age of tweny-five years …he desired to substitute a prescribed age. That introduces no elasticity whatever, unless it is intended to allow the Minister to avail himself of the power to change his Orders from time to time. As he said nothing about that, there might well be some misapprehension.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will confirm that the Clause, as it is proposed to amend it, will, nevertheless, oblige the Minister to fix an age for the time being. If he does not intend to have 25 for the time being he has to put in 24 or 23, or whatever other age he likes. A far tidier way would have been to put the intended age into 578 the Clause and, if the right hon. Gentleman afterwards found, in the light of experience, that he had made a mistake, he should have power to vary the prescribed age. It is most untidy to claim that one is getting elasticity by simply substituting a prescribed age for the age of 25, and there is no reason why the age now proposed should not be put into the Bill, with the provision that, if need be, it may be varied later by Order.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Thompson)
I think that, on reflection, the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that the objective of elasticity would be inhibited rather than helped by his proposal. My right hon. Friend has no immediate proposal to write in a new age different from the one at present in use, but he is in process of considering what are the new factors that should lead him to suggest a new and lower age. These things are changing all the time.
As the Clause will be if the Amendment is accepted, it will be possible for my right hon. Friend not only to have a change of age which will be commensurate with today's circumstances but to vary that age from time to time as circumstances change. I think that, on the whole, what is proposed meets the wishes of most hon. Members, and it certainly seems to me to fit in with today's circumstances.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have reflected, and I remain completely unconvinced. What the right hon. Gentleman mow desires to do is, instead of the words… the age of twenty-five years …".to put in an age prescribed by regulations. If he intends to prescribe any age, which is what I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say—he tells me I am wrong?
§ Mr. Mitchison
With great respect to the Parliamentary Secretary, I was listening to every word, good, bad or indifferent, that fell from his esteemed lips in the course of a comparatively short speech, and I have not forgotten anything so precious as the words with which he favoured us. I assure him that what he said was, "My right hon. Friend's present intention"—
§ Mr. Mitchison
I find it a little difficult to deal with an hon. Gentleman who says that I am so stupid that I fail to understand what the Parliamentary Secretary says. The hon. Member's remark is as discourteous as it is irrelevant.
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that for the time being, at any rate, his right hon. Friend did not propose to depart from the age of 25. If the hon. Gentleman did not mean that, what did he mean?
§ Mr. K. Thompson
I said that my right hon. Friend has no age in mind different from the present one which he intends to write into regulations, but that he is now considering the basis on which those regulations should be framed, taking account of all the changing circumstances.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I still do not understand. To bestow awards on… persons who, at such time as may be prescribed by the regulations, have attained the age …the subsection states. Just where are we getting to? If it is intended to keep to what I understand is the present age of 25, then that is one thing. But is that for the time being? Surely a far more simple thing would have been to provide for varying the age by regulation? To take out the present age and deliberately put in… the prescribed age …and then announce the Minister's intention of not prescribing any age at all seems nonsense, and I cannot understand why the Amendment takes that form.
I have made a serious protest and I trust that before the Bill takes its final form—whether here or in another place—the right hon. Gentleman will consider the language used and whether it is appropriate for what he intends to do. I do not propose to take up any more time. It still seems most odd that it should have been done in this way.
§ Dr. King
The form of the discussion has troubled me a little and I should like some assurances from the Parliamentary Secretary. Some of my hon. Friends understood that the Minister had accepted the case we made in Committee 580 that the rigidity of fixing maturity at the age of 25 and over was wrong. The Minister has now taken 25 out and intends, by regulation, to prescribe a more flexible age. I hope that that is the position.
§ Mrs. White
Are consultations being pursued, or are they proposed, with the people most concerned with students in this category? I refer, for example, to the association of the residential colleges. This sort of organisation is closely concerned with students in this age group. Ruskin, Fircroft, Hillcroft and Coleg Harlech have people coming to them who have been in employment; people with ability who do not come direct from schools but who have been in employment in the meantime. These establishments deal with many people between the ages of 20 and 25 who may wish to qualify for an award under this subsection.
It is not satisfactory for the Minister to say, "I listened to the arguments in Committee and, in the light of them, I am prepared to move this Amendment, but I am not going to do much about it". If we are to have an Amendment such as this we should be enlightened as to whether it will mean anything at all or whether it is just giving some sort of permission for some time or other in the future. The Minister claims that he requires this power to meet the arguments that were adduced in Committee and, in the next sentence, says that he does not intend to exercise it for a long time to come.
If the sort of consultations I mentioned earlier are being held—or even if they are to be initiated—my hon. Friends would feel much better satisfied. The problem, a very real one, exists now. Something requires to be done now and not in the remote future. The establishments to which I have referred, and with which I have some connection, would like to know the Minister's attitude on this subject. Is he, for example, considering with them the possibility of lowering the age to, say, 23?
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
It is a little ungenerous to put that interpretation upon what I said. The Minister is in the 581 process of preparing his regulations and finding out exactly what requirement he has to meet. That process takes some time We cannot state categorically what the age will be at a given time in circumstances which differ from time to time. We want the elasticity provided by this Amendment to enable us to meet the situation.
§ Mr. Thompson
I do not know about consultations with the body which the hon. Lady mentioned, but my right hon. Friend will want to get advice from those most experienced in these matters in order to keep things right. That is all we are anxious to do.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Now that the Minister has returned to the Chamber, I should like to tell him that I am puzzled by the answer which the Parliamentary Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). He said that the intention is to prescribe a much more flexible age. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary, who acceded cordially to that description of what he intended to do, would tell us just how one prescribes a flexible age. I find it a very difficult idea.
§ Mr. Willey
I intervene, because I ought to have intervened earlier, to thank the right hon. Gentleman for meeting a point which I raised in Standing Committee, but to say also that I share the concern that my hon. Friends have expressed that we have not had something more definite. I should have thought that we could have had that specific assurance from the Government, and a specific assurance about consultations. The Parliamentary Secretary has been very vague. He has assured us that there will be consultations and a change of age. As I say, we very much appreciate the Amendment that has been made in response to points that we raised in Standing Committee, but I think my hon. Friends are making a valid point when they say that, as the right hon. Gentleman is making this change, he must have in mind the reason for making the change. It would be helpful if he could say what he has in mind and what sort of consultations he 582 is to have before he finalises his point of view.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Willey
We have amended this Clause on a point which attracted quite a lot of discussion in Standing Committee. I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman himself is satisfied by the extent to which advantage is taken of this provision at present.
I have before me Circular 12/61 dealing with State scholarships for mature students in 1962. We there learn that the arrangements for the award of State scholarships to mature students will be continued in 1962 and that up to thirty will be offered as in previous years.
The first point I raise is this. If we are now altering the definition of age, may we expect a far greater use to be made of this provision? Quite apart from the effect of the Amendment, which we welcome, surely this is a field in which greater initiative could be shown and greater advantage taken of this pool of especially merited ability. These people who have missed the opportunity, for one reason or another—perhaps for personal or family reasons—are prepared at some sacrifice and difficulty to qualify in order to take advantage of the opportunity later.
There are two points about this. First, from the point of view of the character of these people, they should be specially encouraged. These are the people whom we should especially attract to further education. Secondly, there is the general problem of providing education for a sufficient number of people who could benefit from it.
I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us more about the results achieved by people granted such awards, but I should have thought that within this field there was a very good return, in that these mature students who attract such awards prove themselves not only academically but subsequently. Here, after all, are people who are choosing an academic education at a mature age, and one would expect them to have, I think the word is motivation, to see them through the course. They have. 583 at this age taken an adult decision to follow an academic career.
For those reasons, not only do we welcome the Amendment and the extension of the provision made, but we hope that in the next few years far greater use will be made of this provision. I think that everyone is encouraged by such use as is being made of this provision at the moment. Here is a real opportunity not only to meet the personal needs of the people who specially merit a chance for further education, but to encourage those who intend to teach, because instead of giving up after a short time they are likely to go on teaching and to continue to take advantage of their academic qualifications. Before we agree to the Clause, I hope that we will have this assurance and encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said about the importance of encouraging mature students. I was a little surprised to hear him say that last year in England and Wales only thirty State scholarships had been awarded to mature students.
Perhaps I might take this opportunity of drawing the attention of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the special recruitment scheme which we have in Scotland for attracting mature people into the teaching profession? This scheme, which owes a great deal to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) when she was at the Scottish Office, has been an outstanding success since it was initiated in 1951.
When it was started, it was thought that it was the sort of scheme that might run for a few years and provide an opportunity for those who had lost the opportunity at an earlier stage to come into the teaching profession. It was thought that after a few years the supply would be exhausted and the scheme would the a natural death. But things have worked out differently. Instead of dropping, the numbers have kept up to a remarkably high level, and I draw the Minister's attention to the Report on the Supply of Teachers in Scotland, 584 published a few weeks ago by a Departmental Committee set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The Ministry of Education might benefit a great deal if it had reports as valuable and as detailed as this one. The Committee estimated—and it seems a modest estimate—that in Scotland in the years immediately ahead it ought to be possible to provide nearly 400 teachers through this special recruitment scheme. This figure of 400 will be made up of 100 women non-graduates, and the remainder will be either graduate teachers or teachers with special qualifications of one sort or another.
If Scotland, with its relatively small population, can provide nearly 400 teachers from mature students, I should have thought that with a bit of drive and imagination the Ministry of Education could, under the provisions of this Clause, provide a considerably larger number of people to help in its overcrowded classrooms.
I hope that the Ministry of Education will look at the excellent scheme which was started by the Scottish Office to see to what extent it can be adapted for England and Wales.
§ Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)
I support the principle of older students benefiting from these university courses. There are many courses that benefit from the older students just as there are many older students who benefit from the courses. Older students working alongside younger students in tutorial seminars can bring experience and a group contribution to learning which is very important. The suggestion in this Clause is not only important for the benefit of the older students. The whole of university or training college life is enriched by their presence.
This was certainly the experience of university and training colleges in the immediate post-war period when there was some fear that the older men and women returning from the Services would get left behind, would be difficult to deal with or would prove backward in their studies. Absolutely the reverse was true. They set a valuable example to the younger students, and the fact that they were older and had a greater sense of responsibility made them more dedicated students.
585 In many ways the problem of selection is easier for universities and training colleges when dealing with older students. The interview method is much fairer with them than with the younger students. It is difficult by interview with a boy or girl of 18, or of 17 in Scotland, to know the student's possibilities. Many of them are late developers and a person who is inarticulate and backward at 17 may be at 27 an able and sophisticated person. Therefore, these problems of selection are easier with the older people. Their performance in interviews is more closely related to their basic abilities.
Some regard should be paid to the extra responsibilities of the older students. They may have a wife and children. It might be difficult, when granting an award, to recognise the extra responsibilities undertaken by a student in the middle of his course, but those he has when he first undertakes the course should be recognised, that is, the responsibilities of having a wife and children, perhaps the extra cost of a mortgage and of keeping two homes going. The ordinary younger student generally goes to his parental home during the vacation, whereas the older student has his lodgings, adjacent to the university or training colleges, as well as the home which he has to keep going for his family. The additional stress and strain that these extra domestic obligations impose on the older student must be recognised as kinds of strained and stress that can be relieved only by financial help. If financial help is given and economic security guaranteed the older student is left completely free to devote himself to his work and to getting his degree or diploma.
A little special thought should be given to the question of post-graduate training and further degrees. We have got a little out of balance in the ease with which we give grants for further or second degrees in some subject and are very stingy with others. In the Scottish universities, and the same may apply in England, it is comparatively easy to go on and get another classics degree, but it is extremely difficult to go on for another medical degree. It is true that there are circumstances in which a student can interrupt a medical course and take a 586 degree in biochemistry in the middle of it and then go back to take a medical degree. It is comparatively easy for the student who does it that way round. Students who want to become academic doctors take advantage of that arrangement.
If, on the other hand, a student finishes his medical degree first, it is often extraordinarily difficult for him to get a grant for a further degree, the idea apparently being that he has already had a grant, he has had a good deal out of the taxpayer, and he ought to go out and work either in general practice or as a house officer in a hospital. It is very difficult to persuade anyone to grant money for the purpose of taking a further degree on the specialist academic side of medicine or psychiatry, for instance.
If the Minister does some research into the ease with which people can have grants for different kinds of degrees and diplomas, he will find that in medicine, psychiatry and psychology the position is very difficult. It is often at the advanced stage in medicine that we are so short of people. If the day comes when Pakistan, India and the West Indies have their own post-graduate schools instead of sending their students to post-graduate schools in this country, we shall find our hospitals half starved because we depend very heavily now on post-graduate students coming here from various parts of the Commonwealth. It is vital to build up our own corps of people who have taken degrees in medicine and acquired further academic qualifications, and the existing practice, as I have explained, makes this very difficult.
Not long ago, there came to see me a young doctor who had done very well academically and had then tried every possible source—he had tried the State and he had tried the Carnegie Fund—to obtain a grant to enable him to pursue his medical studies. He could have got it if he had wanted to do Latin or Greek or certain other things, but he could not get it for medicine.
The same applies to engineering. It is very often in technology or engineering that the older student is attracted to go on to further studies. Having taken one degree, he may well be interested 587 in pursuing his qualifications further. It is a mistake to say to an older student that he has had money for one degree, he is lucky to have had it, and he should go out and earn a living. There are some students who would benefit considerably by going on to further study, and the country would benefit too. In science and technology, as the subjects become more advanced year by year, research training and advanced training become more than ever important.
I suggest that the Minister considers those matters in an effort to meet the difficulty I have raised. It applies particularly in medicine, technology and engineering. Many students have the utmost difficulty in getting awards of the kind covered by paragraph (b) of the Clause.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The point I wish to raise has some affinity with what my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) has just raised. Circular No. 12/61, referring to State scholarships for mature students, which I assume is what we are discussing now, says that the scholarships were primarily designed for men and womenwho intended to follow university honours degree courses in liberal studies of the kind normally pursued in classes conducted by responsible bodies rather than for those wishing to pursue studies of a technical or vocational character".About an hour ago, I heard the Minister say that we all appreciate the need for more scientists and technicians, or words to that effect. I was very glad to hear it, and it is in the light of that that I wish to put a question to him and to raise one other matter.
In December last year, the Zuckerman Committee reported to the Minister for Science on the demand for and supply of scientific manpower. That Report necessarily dealt with several matters besides the use of scientists and technicians in education, but it did include scientists and technicians following that kind of course. The broad conclusion of the Report was that the supply and demand—like the demand for and supply of houses in London, as it was once stated by the present Minister of Health—would equate in a comparatively short period.
588 This conclusion was reached on a number of hypotheses and after a number of assumptions which, I think, were extremely doubtful. But it caused a very great deal of disturbance among those engaged in this kind of work, and it had to be explained—I do not say explained away—until there was not very much of it left. At the same time, in another connection, a body called the Overseas Migration Committee appeared to demand, as did the Minister about an hour ago, a bigger supply of scientists and technicians, in this case for the purpose of exporting them overseas to meet the needs of countries towards which we have some responsibility.
If, in fact, the Minister meant what he said and if the Overseas Migration Committee meant what it said, it appears to be the case that scientists and technicians, notwithstanding the Zuckerman Report, as I will call it, are at present in really short supply. If that is the position, and I am referring particularly to the technicians in this case, is it wise that there should be the discrimination that appears to be intended in favour of those who are following courses in liberal studies and against the technicians who, presumably, are included in the description of wishing to pursue studies of a technical or vocational character—if not technicians let us call them scientists; I do not mind which phrase we use, and in this case like the Minister himself I group the two bodies together.
I take a great interest in these matters and I should very much like to know the meaning of this circular, and whether I am right in supposing that it applies to the Clause which we are now discussing and to the scholarships which are to be given under it, and whether those awards are to be given in favour of liberal studies—if that means arts faculties and so on—as against the scientists and technicians, and, if so, what the Minister had in mind when he admitted an hour ago that we needed more scientists and technicians.
I should have thought that there was a very strong case indeed at the moment for weighting them slightly the other way, not because I have any objection to courses in liberal studies—indeed, I pursued them myself when much younger—but because I think that the 589 difficulties in getting scientists and technicians are very considerable and that we need a supply drawn, to some considerable extent, from people of rather more than the usual age for beginning studies, that is, from the mature students who are subject matter of the Clause.
I trust that though the hour is late the Minister will recognise that this question is really one of considerable importance and, whether I have got the statement on it completely right or only partially right, that he will be able to assure us that there will be no discrimination against scientists and technicians, but that, on the contrary and as far as it is proper so to do, he will regard them as people of primary importance for the national development.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I have been asked a number of questions about this Clause. First of all, about the mature students scheme. I agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that this is a valuable little scheme. It is intended only for people who intend to pursue an honours degree course in liberal studies. I should explain to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—he is not, I think, familiar with higher education—that scientists and technologists are taken care of by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Science. I will come back to that in a moment.
It is a fact that we are offering thirty places a year and they are not all taken up now. I wish they were, because I think it is a very valuable offer to make to an interesting kind of person, who has been well described here tonight. If I were to see the demand rising for this particular small scheme beyond the thirty which we offer now, I should be willing to consider at some future date an increased number for this little scheme. One of the reasons why it is not very easy, without having consultations, to say what age we shall put in is the fact that these candidates are nearly all over 30. It is not our experience that there are younger candidates, but if we get from those who receive applications—and we will consult them—good evidence that it is worth putting in an earlier age we will then determine what the lower age should be, but it is 590 a fact that the candidates tend to be in their early thirties.
I was asked how these people did. They do very well, they are getting honours degrees, and they make one realise that this is a very worth-while scheme.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) is quite right. In the present circumstances of the teacher shortage, which I think are going to last, we have to look for mature students, older students, to train as teachers. We do not do it through this scheme. In England we have at the present time 1,600 places for older students in special day colleges and some 3,000 other places for day students in the ordinary teacher training colleges. I do not now how that compares with Scotland. I know that I should like still more places in England if I could get them, because I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member that this is a new source of teachers and we must pin our hopes on it. It is possible that one may get more graduate teachers through mature students, but I do not at present see the people coming forward to go to the university in order to teach at the older age. If we were to see a demand for that, I am quite sure it would be something we ought to look at.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Would the right hon. Gentleman have a look at our experience in Scotland on this point, because three-quarters of those who come under the special graduate scheme have to be graduates under the teaching requirements? However, what I wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman was whether he would be kind enough to tell us, on the question of State scholarships for mature students—and I was fascinated to hear the information he gave us—whether there is difficulty in getting the right candidates for the thirty places or does he mean that fewer than thirty candidates are coming forward?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I would have to have notice of that question, but my impression is that we do not get a great many applications. These are for first degree courses. They are not for postgraduate courses which produce the scientists and technologists the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering was asking about. They come 591 under the earlier part of this Clause, and there, as the Committee knows, we have divided responsibilities for the selection of students for that kind of post-graduate course where one is training a future university teacher, a doctor, and so on, who want the extra degree. We have the Minister for Science, through the D.S.I.R., selecting those for postgraduate courses in science and technology and all the allied subjects. That is why they did not appear in my circular. The Ministry of Education has responsibility for the courses in the liberal arts.
It is true that the competition there is very hot, but the universities—we consult them all the time—are most anxious that a very high standard should be maintained with these postgraduate students. I assure the Committee that the work which these postgraduate students do under paragraph (b) is very remarkable, and we might need an increase in this direction in future.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Will the right hon. Gentleman enlighten me a little more? I was not referring to post-graduate courses. I was referring to what are called first-degree courses, which seemed to me to be as useful and as necessary for some people at any rate in the scientist and technologist classes as for others. I do not quite follow the position.
I emphasise that I was not talking about post-graduate courses at all. There are a very great many people who go to a university and take a first degree in science. I do not know whether the words are used in some magical sense, but in ordinary language it is a first degree. They may take a first degree in, for instance, forestry. The science may be—and in a great many cases is—some particular science, or it may be a rather more general one.
What puzzles me about this is that here is a circular which discriminates, so far as I can see, in favour of those who are taking an arts degree as against those who are taking a first-degree course in science or technology. One uses these words and they cover a very large variety of people, but undoubtedly 592 there are very many who require a first-degree education, if I may use the phrase in that way. So far as I know, the D.S.I.R. has nothing whatever to do with those people at that stage. It is, of course, concerned with postgraduate courses, but that is an entirely different matter.
What I am asking the right hon. Gentleman—he must excuse me if I have not got the technique of the matter quite right; so far as I can see there appears to be substance in the point—is whether, if a large supply of scientists and technologists is needed, they are precluded from assistance in first-degree courses under these provisions whatever may happen to them afterwards.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Such people can, of course, go to their local authorities, and there are many other places besides universities where they can get scientific training. I will look into the question and let the hon. and learned Gentleman know, but it is my belief that it is probably more through the advanced colleges or the regional colleges—the technical colleges—that that sort of student is catered for. It is usually in association with some employment, and then, of course, it is a good deal easier.
§ Mr. Mitchison
With great respect, I do not want to make the Minister rise again if he is going to communicate with me, but let us at least get the question right. I know, of course, that there are provisions in technical colleges and the like, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about scientists and, to some extent, technicians who take a first-degree course at a university—and require it—many of whom, if they could do it, would wish to do it at a later age than that of the usual undergraduate who comes up from school.
It is in respect of those people that I am asking why it is necessary to send round a circular and so to administer the provisions that we are now discussing as to indicate that one does not wish to provide for them and that one wishes to provide only for those who are going to follow a course in liberal studies. I am not talking about the man who may have been a skilled craftsman at his work and then wants further education. He is a quite definite person; we all know the type of man that one has in 593 mind in that connection. I am talking about a rather different type of person who wants to take a university course in science or technology—and a first-degree course.
I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman to reply now, but I say this in order to make it quite clear that there is a point here, and I am most grateful to him offering to let me know about it
§ Mr. Lawson
I apologise to the Minister and to the Committee that I did not hear the early discussion on the Clause. I was unavoidably detained outside. From what I have heard and read of the Clause, however, it strikes me as exceedingly interesting and I feel strongly disposed towards it. This is an excellent feature if it is new in the English provisions.
I am astonished if what I have been informed is correct. The Minister has said that only about thirty people have been found to take advantage of this type of provision. I regard it as the type of provision that we should have in our educational system for teachers, not merely when there is a scarcity of them. It has always seemed to me that the ordinary run of teachers—and I say this in the presence of quite a number of ex-teachers on this side of the Committee—suffer a disability in that they go to school, then to university and training college, and then they go on to their classes. There are exceptions, but for many their mode of life has been with children all the time until they become old people. Teachers are supposed to inculcate forward thinking among our children, but many teachers are among the least forward-looking. After university and training college, they go back, as it were, to school and remain all their lives at school in the sense that they deal with children and have little chance of matching their ideas against those of adults in other walks of life.
The Clause contains a good feature, which should not merely be adopted from the standpoint of a scarcity of teachers, but which might be regarded as a regular way of recruiting teachers. It might be seen as a means which should be developed and encouraged sensibly. We might come to think eventually that all teachers should spend 594 part of their life working among adults in the normal way and then, perhaps, return to school.
In that way, we might find that teachers overcome many of the old-maidish difficulties that were characteristic in the past. I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) looking at me. I sincerely beg her pardon.
§ Mr. Lawson
It is much less so than it used to be. In the past, there was great rigidity. If a teacher dared to think of getting married, she was out on her neck. That was fantastic.
Here we have a means of mixing up the teachers with the ordinary run of the people. This could be a valuable service, on which I compliment the Minister. It is something that we could widely adopt in Scotland. In the years immediately after the war, there was a substantial recruitment of teachers on this basis. Some of my best friends were recruited. One was a shoemaker. He was recruited and spent some time in Aberdeen. He is now an excellent teacher.
This system could be adopted in other walks of life. Our society suffers from a lack of mobility, not in the sense of an inability to travel from one place to another, but of transferring from one method of earning a living to another. There are all sorts of vested interests and rules in crafts which have grown up for good reasons. Rules have been formulated to protect certain skills. If people could be assured that there would be no fear of unemployment, mature men and women in the crafts could easily move from one form of earning a living to another. If this is adopted in education, a lead will be given to the rest of society.
I am sure that my hon. Friends will think this is an excellent scheme which we should encourage. It is a pity that such an interesting subject is being discussed at five to one in the morning. I 595 am sure my hon. Friends will want to say a great deal on this subject. This foreshadows a transformation of society such as we have envisaged for years. I compliment the Minister on bringing this about.
I am astonished that only 30 men aged about 30 have taken advantage of this scheme. What has been the difficulty? Is it known that these facilities are available? If this opportunity had been offered to me when I was 30, I should have welcomed the opportunity to equip myself in this manner. The Minister should give us a fuller explanation. He may have given us a fairly full one. I have already apologised for not having heard all the proceedings. Has the scheme been publicised? If so, what are the difficulties? Such excellent provisions should be widely publicised. Perhaps my hon. Friends, in doing what they can to encourage the scheme, can help to make its existence more widely known. In this way perhaps we can help an English Minister. He is an excellent Minister doing a valuable work, but perhaps my hon. Friends can help him to make this provision much more widely known. I hope that my hon. Friends will seek further elucidation and develop the point still further.
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Dempsey
The Clause deals among other things with State grants for the training of teachers. Will the grants be adequate to train teachers? Is the training adequate for the grants? Whatever training teachers receive in England and Wales, it does not measure up to the standards required in Scotland.
It may be that the Scottish training system offers an extraordinary type of training. Scottish hon. Members are perhaps extraordinary Members because they are debating an English Clause—and up to the moment it has been a very good debate. More than once we have had experience in Scotland of teachers from England, trained under the provisions of the English Education Act, having to serve a probationary period in Scotland before they were recognised as adequately qualified to teach in Scottish schools. The Secretary of State for Scotland still insists on that.
Perhaps one reason why the Minister is unable to induce more people to take 596 advantage of this provision is not only inferior publicity but a feeling among many of these people that they are not being adequately equipped for the profession. Surely there is something radically wrong with the system when, after receiving a State award and training, one must serve a probationary period in the teaching profession in Scotland before being recognised by the Secretary of State. I know of a few occasions on which that has happened.
Under paragraph (a) the Minister is authorisedto pay grants to or in respect of persons undergoing training as teachers;".In this context, the Minister should consider the point of view expressed in the debate. The Secretary of State will confirm what I have said. There may be several reasons for the lack of students in England and Wales, but in all probability one reason is that which I have given.
Under paragraph (b) the Minister maybestow awards on persons in respect of their attendance at such courses at universities, colleges or other institutions (whether in Great Britain or elsewhere)….This is a radical departure from earlier proposals, which restricted university students to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and we therefore welcome this provision. In many parts of Europe there are institutions and colleges which could be available for students from England and Wales who wished to extend their proficiency in certain types of study.
In the last line of paragraph (b) we readpost-graduate courses or comparable to postgraduate courses",and I want to deal with the question of comparability, for one of the failures of the system in England and Wales—this has been admitted by Ministers at Question Time—is our inability to encourage comparable courses in industrial design.
The United Kingdom has fallen down very badly in its provision of industrial design engineers—so badly, indeed, that in the average printing firm the Minister will find imported German machines. Our inability to design such machines results from a lack of industrial design engineers. We have the material, the skill and the equipment, but not the 597 specialised labour, because we have not been able to provide courses comparable to a post-graduate course of instruction.
The Minister should give this his very special attention, because it is very important to us now. As I found it difficult to accept that such a state of affairs existed, I visited some printing factories. I discovered that they are now introducing American machines, which means that we have German machines being supplemented by American machines—but not a single British machine. I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary for Science that that is mainly due to a lack of industrial design engineers who have been able to take a course regarded as comparable with a post-graduate course. When this provision is adopted, I hope that the Minister will see that very special steps are taken to improve that situation.
I know that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has been doing its utmost to recruit an adequate supply of these designers, but even the D.S.I.R. has failed. A Herculean effort is needed on the part of the specialised agencies in co-operation with the Minister of Education. It is rather discouraging to find that the workshop of the world is unable to design a simple printing machine. It is a blow at the prestige of our industrial education, which is one reason why the Minister should do his utmost to ensure adequate courses—and adequate grants—to encourage students to study that aspect of technical engineering. If this provision ensures that, it will be one of the must successful provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ross
I had hoped that the Minister of Education would have intervened at this point but, apparently, he does not intend to. I have been surprised at the information we have got out of this discussion in respect of the numbers who have been able to take advantage of the benefits provided. On the face of it, they are worth-while benefits, and that makes me wonder whether we should not search for some hidden defects. I must confess that anyone who might be covered by the Clause, and who read it, might be a little put off, because there is a terribly tentative approach to the whole subject. We start off withProvision may be made by regulations …598 The Minister is not sure whether or not he will do anything about this. Thus it is only a question that, perhaps, he may make provision and there is nothing mandatory about it. Is it that the Committee is not seized of the problem sufficiently to say to the Minister "You must do it"? The right hon. Gentleman does not say "This is important. Let me do it. It is important to the whole country. Do not fetter me by tying me down. Let me go forward." Instead of that he says, in a rather apologetic mood, "I want this, but I am not going to promise that I will use it. In fact, I may not use it at all—but there is a chance that I may."
The Clause begins with the words:Provision may be made by regulations …and when we start asking questions and begin to learn of the small number of people who can be helped by this provision we find that the difficulty lies in the regulations. The words… may be made by regulations …seem to indicate that nobody can get any benefit from it all. We simply cannot judge whether or not this is a good instrument for this purpose until we know the details of the regulations.
This is where we come up against the age-old problem we heard so much about in the years between the wars from those men who are now silent or who are putting through legislation and giving themselves powers to create laws in the back rooms of Whitehall—and bringing them into force by regulations. We in the Committee are giving the Minister a free hand to do the thing by regulation. For all we know, the regulations will be such that they will place a limitation on those who will be allowed to participate in this valuable provision.
It is a carefully worded Clause. I am wondering whether it is too carefully worded. Many hon. Members have already said that its aims are worthy. One Scots hon. Member after another has expressed enthusiasm for it, but has pointed out that it must be studied. Actually we have this quite well covered in Scotland already so, if the Minister of Education will not say anything about it, perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will say how much more successful we are in Scotland in this respect.
599 As I have said, the answer may rest in the regulations, but until we know what they contain we cannot properly judge whether or not a limitation will be placed on people receiving this benefit. So we get the words… for authorising the Minister …andProvision may be made by regulations …and when it is made by regulations it will authorise the Minister to do three things. Firstly, he pays grants… in respect of persons undergoing training as teachers;".This is not the only provision in the Bill for paying grants. There is a statutory power laid on local authorities regarding the bestowing of awards. Then, secondly, the Minister may… bestow awards on persons in respect of their attendance at such courses at universities, colleges or other institutions (whether in Great Britain or elsewhere) as may for the time being be designated by or under the regulations for the purposes of this section as being postgraduate courses or comparable to postgraduate courses;".Thirdly, most of the discussion has related to the question of people of mature age and a change has already been made; from the age of 25 to some other age. But, studying the relevant subsection, it will be extremely difficult for anyone to know whether or not it will apply to them.
Once again it isto bestow awards on persons who, at such time as may be prescribed by regulations …"—we do not know who they are—have attained the age…"—now, according to the Amendment we do not know the age—… being awards in respect of their attendance at such courses at universities …"—we do not know the courses—… whether in Great Britain or elsewhere as may for the time being be designated by or under the regulations …Every item of information that would enlighten anyone as to whether he is covered by this provision is in the hands of the Minister and it is all to be done by regulations. Little wonder that we are to get fewer than thirty.
I was discussing this point with one of my hon. Friends who has some information 600 in relation to this matter. [Interruption.] The Minister has no reason to be satisfied with what has been done under this Clause. We have been told that we are getting thirty awards a year. The Minister told us first of all that there were thirty available, and he is not getting thirty. First he made a definite statement. Then he was challenged and said that he could not answer the question on the spot. If he could not answer it on the spot, he should not have made the statement in the first place.
It may be that people do not know about the existence of this facility. I suggest that once the Minister gets his regulations approved—if they are to be approval by Parliament—he should have a greater publicity drive. I do not doubt that there is considerable scope here for people to be induced to further their education by taking first degree courses even after the more mature ages.
I want to make this last gesture of protest before I conclude. In paragraph (a) we "pay" grants in respect of people who are being trained as teachers. In paragraphs (b) and (c) we "bestow" awards. There is a delightful Victorian charitable ring about that word and one which, I am glad to say, we will not find in any Scottish Act dealing with the same subject. We pay grants. Indeed, after having bestowed awards in paragraphs (b) and (c), when we get to the last three lines we have got to "authorise" the Minister to pay the money. It is rather a silly roundabout way of saying what we mean, and I think it is time that we got the Statute Book clear of these rather archaic and charitable phrases that may embellish but do nothing to make our intentions more clear.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.Sir William, it is twenty minutes past One. We have had good humoured and interesting discussions. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) at one moment said, "If we could go home tonight we could do it in half a day" I am not sure. We have not made much progress. As I said earlier, we need 601 to make progress not for the sake of the Government only, but because I want to get this Bill on the Statute Book so that the local authorities may get on with the business, and I can lay the regulations before the House, which I desire to do as early as I can.
I cannot do this without Parliamentary authority, which means getting the Bill. I give the Committee an assurance that I will lay the regulations as soon as I can, because I want the students who are coming forward for next October to have as much time as possible to consider them. That is why there is some urgency about this. The Bill will benefit all young people, and they want to know what the conditions will be.
As we are on good terms over education and we want to get this Bill, I suggest that if we ask leave to report Progress and sit again we shall be able to complete our discussions in half a day, starting with the Scottish Amendments. The hon. Lady and the hon. Gentlemen representing Scottish constituencies will get their innings, and we shall look forward to hearing what they have to say.
§ Mr. Willey
I am sure that the Committee would like me to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement. I am sure that all hon. Members are with me when I say that I appreciate the way in which he has conducted the debate so far. If, in estimating that we can complete our deliberations in half a day, he can call in aid my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), I am sure that he is speaking with good authority.
We want this Bill. We appreciate the difficulties of the local authorities, and we do not wish to cause them any difficulties that might be avoided. We are anxious to have a thorough discussion on Amendments which are of great importance to the local authorities and to educationists.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.