HC Deb 23 July 1962 vol 663 cc1213-35

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation, for the year ending on 31st March. 1963, which was laid before this House on 24th May, be approved.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]

4.46 a.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

Although it is almost five o'clock in the morning, it is only fitting that this year, when the Royal Hospital School commemorates the 250th anniversary of its foundation, we should spend a little time discussing the accounts that are before us. I am only sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) is not present with us tonight to take part in this debate. I am sure that he would not have been inhibited by the hour and that his speech would not have been curtailed because of the hour. Unfortunately, my hon. and gallant Friend is not well. I am sure that everybody wishes him a speedy recovery and looks forward to hearing him again in our naval debates.

Before coming to the question of the Royal Hospital School itself, there are one or two questions and matters that I should like to raise on the accounts. On the expenditure side, the biggest increase is in connection with the Royal Hospital School itself, the estimated increase for this year being over £15,000. That is an interesting comment on the policies of the Government, because these increases are due to the increased cost of heating, lighting, provisions, clothing, bedding, stores, stationery, books and things of that kind.

A large part of the increase, however, is due to increases in salaries and wages. I do not know whether there is any increase in the number of teachers, but the increase is almost 10 per cent., which seems to me to be a peculiar commentary on the Government's policy of fixing or, at least, of pointing out that the percentage increase this year should be 2½ per cent. I am not against this increase for teachers at the Greenwich Hospital School, but it certainly does not appear to be in accordance with the Government's policy. Perhaps the Minister might say something about that.

There is one new expenditure, and that is for machinery replacement. I do not quite understand what machinery replacement means, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman could say something about that.

There is also an increase in the hospital pensions to seamen and marines, and in connection with this I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could say something about the kind of pension which is being paid now. The basis of the payment of pension was altered some few years ago. It would be interesting to know what the amounts are, because prior to that some of the pensions were really quite ridiculous. One wonders what the justification is for them, whether it really is worth while carrying on in this way.

I have a case here of an old shipmate of mine who had twenty-six years' pensionable service, twenty-three years of which were as a chief petty officer. His Greenwich pension from age 55 is the very princely sum of 2s. 11d. per week. I am bound to say that pensions of that kind cause one to ask what, in fact, is happening now. This pension was payable under the old codes. I think that other Members besides myself would like to have some knowledge of the kind of pensions which are paid at present.

On the income side, there is a considerable drop in the income on loans. I do not quite understand that. It is a very considerable drop, almost £9,000. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could say something about that. The other items, in the main, show increases. In so far as they are the result of good administration we should like to congratulate the Governors upon them. There is the increase, too, in the fees, which I shall have something to say about later. Fees were introduced in 1957, and ever since they have been increasing, until this year the estimated income from fees is £61,000, which is a very considerable sum.

During our last debate, which was two years ago, we asked the hon. Gentleman, if I remember correctly, to make another approach to the Minister of Education to see whether the grant from the Ministry of Education could be increased, and I think that I suggested during that debate—I have not checked this—that the hon. Gentleman ought also to approach the Secretary of State for Scotland as there were Scottish boys in the school and I thought that some grant ought to be paid by the Secretary of State. In any case, the sum still remains at £4,000, and this does seem very small in view of the very generous treatment the Government afforded to private fee-paying schools, at least in Scotland, when they were affected as a result of the change-over to the general grant system. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman did approach the Minister of Education or the Secretary of State for Scotland about this. If he did, he does not appear to have had much success, because the sum is still very much the same.

Two years ago the hon. Gentleman told us that the estimated income from the sale of timber—this was from 1960 —would be during the next thirty-five years, about £600,000, as a result of which I certainly expected that this figure would be increasing fairly rapidly towards £15,000, £16,000, £17,000, £18,000, £19,000, or £20,000. It does not seem to have gone up very much since the time the hon. Gentleman informed us that this was what was expected. Maybe the hon. Gentleman could say something about that. Perhaps he could say on what it is expected to spend the increased income—extra pensions for the ex-Service men or the hospital itself.

I now want to say something about the school. Since the introduction of fee-paying and since the school was opened to sons of officers. we have repeatedly expressed fear that it would become a fee-paying public school used mainly by sons of officers. We have asked a number of Questions to discover what is happening. It seems that our fears are slowly being realised. The number of sons of officers entering has increased. Two years ago the hon. Gentleman was pleased to be able to tell us that the number had fallen to 29 and compared it with 43 in the previous year. The figure for 1959 was very low indeed. This year we have had the highest number ever—53.

If we group the last three years, including that very low year, and compare them with the previous three years, we find that there has been an increase in the number of sons of officers entering. The percentage increase is much greater than that shown by the actual increase in numbers. The increase in 1959–61 is 299 per cent., and for the previous three years it was 23.9 per cent. From this it looks very much as if the school is becoming increasingly one for sons of officers. That is not what the school was started for 250 years ago.

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

I hope to speak in a few moments and I may be able to answer that point.

Mr. Willis

The answer will be that on the foundation of the school there were no restrictions, that it was for sons of ratings and officers; but the fact is that for well over a century the sons of officers did not go there.

The number of orphans at the school has fallen since our last debate in 1960, and since then the number of children for whom the fees are paid wholly by their parents has increased. In other words, the number of orphans—for whom this school was primarily intended—has declined in the last two years.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

That is understandable. With the end of a period following a war in which there were many casualties, obviously there will be fewer children at this or any other school whose parents are dead as a result of the war.

Mr. Willis

I agree, but there are still quite a number of children whose mothers die. Mothers die whether there is a war or not. In an institution like the Navy, there are casualties in peacetime as well. I know that there is a tendency for orphans not to require the same attention as they did in the past because of the growth of the Welfare State. I have had experience of that myself in dealing with orphaned children. In spite of this, I still believe that there are probably far more orphaned children of naval men who could be accommodated at this school than are there now.

There are fewer orphaned children and more sons of officers and more children for whom the fees are being wholly paid by parents themselves. That seems to indicate that there is a growing away from the original purpose of the school, and it is a very serious matter.

Two years ago, the Civil Lord promised us that he would publish a fuller statement this year. I do not know whether this publication is supposed to fulfil that promise, but we are all pleased to have read it, although it is a little tendentious.

It says that in 1957, rising costs made it necessary to introduce modest fees, payable according to the means of the parents. Bust £100 a year is not a modest fee to a seaman. I doubt whether any lower deck rating would consider it modest.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Any lower deck raiting would get it paid entirely by education allowances from the Navy.

Mr. Willis

That may well be, but he certainly would not consider it a modest sum. To talk about it as such is to look at it from the point of view of someone to whom £100 per year is modest, and not from the point of view of one to whom it is probably quite a large amount. After add, quite a number of first-class schools in Scotland have fees below that.

From the evidence gathered from numerous questions asked of the hon. Gentleman in the past few weeks, it would appear that this school is becoming what we feared that it would become, a fee-paying school increasingly devoted to serving or meeting the needs of officers. If that is happening, it is deplorable. It might be argued, of course, that the increase in this figure is very slight. Of course, these things do not happen in a year or two; they happen over a period of, say, forty, fifty, or sixty years.

In fact, almost all the so-called public schools—not all, but a great number— started off as charitable organisations for the children of the poor, while today very few of the children of the poor ever have the opportunity of seeing inside them. It would be a great tragedy if this school developed along those lines; but the tendency is there and anyone examining the facts of the past few years must be concerned about this tendency. My hon. Friends and I will continue to watch this and we shall want a much fuller debate than is possible this morning and a much more clear undertaking about What is to happen to the school itself if this tendency does continue to develop.

Having said that, I do not wish to detract in any way from the value of the work which has been done at the school. By and large, with a few rather doubtful periods, the school has done a good job of work. The staff has done a very good job and we express our appreciation of that work; but we ought to be given a firm undertaking about the future of this school before we finish our debate today.

5.7 a.m.

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

Even although it is early in the morning, I would tell the House of my reason for being interested in this school. For the last fifteen years I have been a member of its management committee, appointed by this House, and of all the odd jobs which Parliament throws up, I can say that this particular work gives me more pleasure than any other I have had to do.

I have tried to set one principle before me in doing this work and that is, that whatever school one is concerned with— and particularly if it is a charitable school—one has no right to have a school which does not offer as good or better service and opportunities than any other school. It is an out-of-date, old-fashioned, and deplorable idea that one can run any school on lines which are not equal to those which a child can get in any other form of school.

When I first went on this committee I found it to be a most curious school, the most curious I had ever seen. It was, frankly, a low-grade school. I say that deliberately, because it is difficult to explain what it was, but, perhaps, I think, it was because it was a London school transported into the country. It had devoted men working there, but they were London teachers, transported into the country. It was decided to accept my proposition that we should allow officers' sons to qualify if, in all other respects, they were suitable.

I think that that was the right thing to do. I believe in equality of opportunity, and if we have something to offer, it should be offered to all and sundry. I believe that, socially, it is extremely good to mix people from different homes, and that is why the inclusion of officers' sons in such a school is a good thing. It would not have been a good thing had it excluded other boys who, under the terms of our charter, should have been entitled to places. If there is a boy in need of care and suffering hardship who ought to come to us at the school, then he should not be excluded by any other boy, whether an officer's son or not. Those are the lines on which we have worked.

I remind the ban. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) that the school was not started as a charity school. For 130 years it was largely an officers' school, described rather snobbishly as for the sons of gentlemen and officers. It was not the sort of school which it has become since and is now—for the sons of ail. About a third of the officers in the Navy have come from the lower deck, which is a good thing, and many of them were boys at the school. Have they not a right to send their sons to the school? Why should they be excluded?

Mr. Willis

I do not suggest the exclusion of officers' children, but if they keep on increasing in number there will be fewer lower-deck children, and I do not think that that would be right.

Sir J. Maitland

I take the point, but I am sure that the hon. Member agrees that if the places are not taken up, it is wrong to exclude officers' sons.

Mr. Willis

Why are they not taken up?

Sir J. Maitland

Because since the war we have so improved the country's educational facilities that many mothers and fathers send their children to other schools instead of to this school.

Mr. Willis

Why do not officers send their children to those schools if the conditions have been so much improved?

Sir J. Maitland

Some of them do, but others send them to this school, sometimes for sentimental reasons and also because one of the school's objects is to train boys for the Navy. The school is quite different from when I first went there. We have grammar school streams, and I am proud of the school's record. The Minister knows that at the time I was opposed to the introduction of fees. I think that the decision to introduce them was a pity. It changes the position of a school, and I deplore it. But if we are to give these children a first-class education—and we are doing so—it costs a lot of money. If that money is taken out of the fund, it reduces the amount available for the other functions. There is a difficult choice. I understand the difficulty which the committee faced; they had to stick to the principle which I stated of ensuring that the school was the best school possible and to have fee-paying arrangements or they had to reduce the standard—and I think that they should not reduce it.

As for approaching the Ministry of Education, handly a meeting of the committee passes without us thinking of a new and ingenious method of trying to get extra money from that Department. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we miss no opportunity to try to improve our position from any source. We think of all sorts of ways of doing this, and we have been able to raise money from outside to help us carry out the work of providing these boys with the best education that we can possibly give them.

5.15 a.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

The hon. Member for Horn-castle (Sir J. Maitland) and I have taken part in many education debates, and we both have a warm affection for the Navy. When he was talking about equal opportunities for the sons of officers, I thought of the words of the Gilbert and Sullivan song: scorn not the nobly born, the well-connected and the passionate plea that was made to remember that we may get as true hearts in Belgrave Square as in the lowly air of Seven Dials.

I share the hon. Gentleman's view that we do not want to distinguish between children of different social groups. All children are children, and some day we shall in this country 'have an educational system which recognises that all children have a right to equality of opportunity and the best kind of education for which they are fitted.

The Royal Hospital School at Holbrook is the only school in England which has to face the ordeal of an annual Parliamentary debate. It is the only school in the country that has to face an annual public inspection. As an old headmaster, I feel some regret that this should be so. There are, however, historic reasons for it, and, indeed, there will be political reasons until we have solved the problem with which we are dealing tonight.

I begin by congratulating the school on what it has done for poor children since it was founded in 1820, and particularly on the quality and character of the work that it has been doing since the war in a building and setting which I think are unequalled by any other school in the country. Certainly, most of the illustrious public schools would exchange buildings with the school that we are discussing tonight. It is set in spacious grounds almost beyond imagination—vaster than most school grounds.

If then we have critical debates, they are not critical either of the headmaster or of his staff, and certainly not of the boys at the school. I am a governor of many schools and I ask the hon. Member for Horncastle to convey to his fellow-governors of the schools the satisfaction and esteem in which both sides of the House hold it.

The 250-year old charity on which the Greenwich Hospital Foundation—its pensions to seamen and its school for seamen's children—is based came chiefly from the confiscated property of the Roman Catholic rebel Earl Derwent-water, executed after the 1715 Rebellion, and I am sometimes surprised that the Catholics have not staked a claim for education at this school. The foundation goes back even a few years previous to that, to William and Mary, and I want to read from the charter the aim of the foundation. It was for the relief and support of seamen … who, by reason of age, wounds or other disabilities shall be incapable of further service at sea, and be unable to maintain themselves, and for the sustentation of the widows and the maintenance and education of the children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled in such service, and also for the further relief and encouragement of seamen and improvement of navigation. If the hon. Member is right—I doubt it— that for a century the school was reserved for officers' children, it was a betrayal of the charter for a hundred years.

I said that most of the money came from the estate of the Earl of Derwent-water, after the corrupt jobbers of Walpole's régime had had their own pickings. It is that property which provides roughly £300,000 out of the £400,000 which we are now discussing. Even in this brief historical reference it would be ungenerous not to call the attention of the House to the generosity of the late Mr. G. S. Reade, whose life was saved by the Royal Navy in the First World War, who bequeathed the magnificent site of 850 acres to the school. Indeed, it is true to say that without this gift of land the foundation itself could not carry on the school to the degree to which it is being carried on today. I pay tribute to what it is doing for 1,000 seamen who deserve well of their country and who are receiving pensions from roughly one-third of the foundation's annual income.

The school itself is an excellent boarding school. As I have pointed out in an earlier debate, for a number of years it was the only truly public public school in the country. Incidentally, as the Admiralty spokesman stated in 1956, it is a comprehensive school, like Eton and Harrow. Back in 1956 the present Government—if we can call the present changed personnel the Government of that day—took a retrograde step. It is ironic to think that while some of us were nibbling away at class entry into Dartmouth, Cranwell and Sandhurst, and whilst the Minister himself, in one capacity, was broadening the method of entry into Dartmouth, at the same time the Admiralty was taking away from this school its finest feature—the fact that it was a free secondary school.

It introduced fee-paying in 1956 and fixed the fee at £72 a year—now £100 a year. The income last year from fees was £60,000 and the number of boys 650 so that the average fee paid by a boy at school was £90. The Civil Lord was quite right to intervene in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) to say that poor boys are still helped. Ninety-five boys have their full fees paid by the local education authorities and 291 have their full fees met by the Royal Navy, but only after a means test.

Mr, Orr-Ewing

No, there is not a means test for the second category which the hon. Member mentioned. The education allowance is not subject to means test. If a child is at a boarding school he receives the allowance.

Dr. King

This again illustrates the paradoxical position of the Minister. In one capacity he has introduced a means test into the school. In another, he sees that Royal Navy parents do not undergo it. The Royal Navy does not impose a means test, but the local authorities do. The local authorities pay only part of the fees of 96 of the boys and their parents pay the rest. For 93 boys of the school, however, the parents have to pay full fees.

It is true, in spite of what my hon. Friend said about school fees in Scotland being less than £100 a year, that the £100 a year that anybody pays, even if he pays the full fees, is less than one-third of the cost of educating any boy at this school each year. Even those who are paying £100 a year are being subsidised by the foundation to the extent of £244 a year. The cost of educating a boy last year was £344.

I am glad that my hon. Friend referred to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey). It was rather sad that when we debated this matter in July, 1956, he was ill and was unable to speak. I know that he has been storing up a mass of explosive material for tonight's debate and that he had fully intended to scuttle the Government, but we have learned with regret today that he is in hospital again. We miss his vigour and eloquence in this debate. No other hon. Member serves his old school and the Royal Navy more faithfully.

When the debate took place in July, 1956, my hon. Friends the Members for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) and for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who was then leading for us on education, and the rest of us protested at what we rightly regarded as the thin end of a very bad wedge. My hon. Friend who opened the debate tonight expressed the same anxieties in a similar debate in 1960. The facts and figures that I have given, that nearly 100 boys there pay their full fees, or what we regard as their full fees, with another 60 boys paying a portion of their fees, suggest that the character of the school is changing from what it was in 1956. If this process is not checked, the school will ultimately become a school in which the dominant element will be fee paying. Up to 1956 it was a school where poor boys had the advantage of a boarding school education and where all attended a free school. It is now a school where over a quarter of the school population are paying fees.

May I say at once that that makes no difference to boys inside the school. There are no social differences inside a school. There are no snobberies, social or intellectual, inside any good school. But to me there is only one criterion for admission to a school, and that is the fitness of the pupils to profit by the kind of education that is given there. In this school we must, of necessity, add another criterion for the foundation's sake. The pupils must be children of seamen who died, or are disabled, or are old, or need help in other ways, with priority for the sons of sailors who have died. That priority was established as far back as 1865. It is referred to in the debates of that year, and if there is any doubt as to which of two children shall attend, the priority goes to the child of the seaman who has died. I should imagine —in fact, I am certain—that that priority is still maintained.

But once those two criteria are met I see no reason why we should impose a means test on the parents of the boys. The officers have rights the same as the lower deck hands have rights, and a means test is a disincentive to some in each category. My hon. Friend is right when he pokes fun at the expression "the modest fee of £100." For the bulk of people living in this country to have to face an annual charge of £100 would prevent a parent—and especially a widow—from sending his or her child to the school.

The Government's case has always been that they want the money. It was expected in 1956 that the fees would bring in £7,500 annually; they now bring in £60,000 a year—but at least half of that money is provided by local education authorities and by the Royal Navy. I put it to the Government that the rest could easily be found, and morally rightly claimed, by the governors from the Government. For 130 years, all our seamen were docked 6d. a month to make a forced contribution to Greenwich Hospital—I think that it is the earliest contributory pension in British history.

Then, in 1865 Parliament abolished What it called the "merchant seaman's sixpence" and replaced it with an annual grant of £4,000 from the Consolidated Fund. Hon. Members will see from the financial statement that the sum is still £4,000. That is the only contribution that Her Majesty's Government make through Parliament, if we exclude the Royal Navy's subvention of fees, to the charity, and it is that small grant which enables the House to debate the subject each year.

The £4,000 has never been increased. If raised to today's value it would, in my opinion, be enough to pay the difference between—

Sir J. Maitland

We have tried that one.

Dr. King

I am putting the moral claim, and if the Government do not respond to the moral argument I share the hon. and gallant Gentleman's disappointment.

Sir J. Maitland

We tried it with the Labour Government.

Dr. King

Then we two must try again When we get another Labour Government.

At today's value, that sum of £4,000 would at any rate be the equivalent of the difference between what the local authorities and the Royal Navy pay in fees and the amount that the parents have to pay. But I am also worried about the means test scale itself. In 1956, we were told by the Admiralty spokesman that a man with a net income of £6 after the deduction of rent and rates would have to pay £20, and that a widow earning that amount and had one child would pay £10.

I hope that the Minister can tell us that 'those scales have at least been stepped up to match the rising cost of living. A man getting £6 a week net income cannot afford to pay £20 a year, and certainly would be disinclined to send his child to the school, although I note from the Report that special hardship cases will be looked into. But I want to see this means test abolished, just as I want to see many other educational means tests abolished.

I know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East is proud of his old school— even if he shows that pride in characteristically strange ways. He is proud that in his day there was no means test. The hon. Member for Horncastle rightly reminds us that poor boys went to the school and, as a result of their education there, finished with Her Majesty's commission in the Royal Navy. Some have risen very high indeed. My hon. and gallant Friend, whom we so much miss from this debate, is a striking example of one poor boy who really owed a lot to his school, and who carried Her Majesty's commission, and served the Royal Navy with great distinction.

I do not believe that we have yet grappled with the egregious anomalies of the class structure of education. There are still different and unequal paths towards the rank of officer for people of two social groups, but we are narrowing the gap every day. It is because we are narrowing it every day that I regret that in 1956 we took a step which may gradually widen the gap in this particular school where no gap existed in 1956. At any rate, I believe that the Royal Hospital School was on fundamentally right lines until the Government switched it off in 1956. We cannot hope to persuade the Government to change that policy tonight, but I hope that the next Government will and that when they do they will have the support of the hon. Member for Horncastle.

5.35 a.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am very glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words in this debate, even at this very late hour. It is interesting to recall that last year this went through on the nod, but this year hon. Members have been willing to sit up till after 5.30 to discuss what I think is a very important subject and one to which we should devote great attention.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, first, on still being in his present position. We are very glad to see him here. He has always given us a very sympathetic hearing and taken a great interest in all naval matters, especially in answering Questions, which is very important in view of the number of Questions recently asked by some hon. Members opposite.

I appreciate the excellent Report which has been issued. It is very well drawn up; it is simple and direct. I hope that it will be circulated to a great many people, because I have a feeling that many people have no knowledge of this school. Since the Report was printed I have sent it to quite a number of naval families who I Chink will be making application in the future for their boys to go to the school.

I had intended to go into a considerable amount of history, but this has been done by other hon. Members and I will not repeat what they have said. I want to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) to the fact that there are definite categories laid down for entry into the school—sons of seamen with both parents dead; sons of officers with both parents dead; sons of seamen whose fathers' deaths were attributable to Royal Naval service or lifeboat service; sons of officers whose fathers' deaths were attributable to Royal Naval service or lifeboat service, and so on. This is definitely laid down, so it cannot be said that officers' children are getting preference over other children. Boys are taken according to these categories.

I want to ask my hon. Friend whether any boys are refused and whether there is a long waiting list. If there is a long waiting list, how are the boys selected? This is one of the proofs of whether we are taking the right action in admitting these boys. There is still a very great difference of opinion amongst parents as to whether they really want to send their boy to a boarding school. Many people are perhaps not in the circles that are used to sending their children to boarding school. That is gradually changing, but there is a very great difference of opinion still between different sections of the population as to whether it is preferable to educate a child at home or send him to a boarding school. With the increased incomes of many people and the different circles in which they move this attitude may gradually change and we may find that more ratings' sons are going to boardings school.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) said. It is very beneficial that sons of officers and ratings should be mixed up in education. They will be mixed up in ships later if they join the Navy. Why should they not take their education together? The son of an officer may become a rating in the Navy. He has to make his way up in the same way as everybody else nowadays. I do not think we need be too worried about what is happening at present.

There are 65 boys whose fathers are dead and six whose mothers are dead. In view of the fact that we have not recently had a war in which many have been killed, I think those numbers are rather high.

I was interested in figures given by hon. Members opposite. In view of the fact that we have £23,135 extra money this year, I should like to hear from my hon. Friend how it is to be spent. Some time ago we discussed whether we should give more people smaller pensions or give increased pensions to existing pensioners. I ask my hon. Friend whether any policy decision has been come to on this, as he agreed to look into the question. I presume that the increased expenditure has not been only on teachers' salaries, but has gone to a whole range of staff who have had their pay improved. This would include manual workers, gardeners, and so on. As we can take it that a large range of salaries was concerned, the sum is not very large and we hope all have benefited. I was also interested in the £4,000 more spent on machinery. I should like to be told what that is for.

We have very little knowledge of the careers of boys. When he replies to the debate, perhaps my hon. Friend will say how many take the G.C.E., how many are going into the Navy and what their standard of education is. We learn that two have obtained degrees at Reading, but I should like to have further information about the standard of education and how it compares with that in other schools. Could we be told how many certificates of education they obtain? Only by comparison with other schools can we find the standard.

I have taken a little interest in what I call the humanities of this school. I wish to ask whether anything has been done to improve the rather bleak dormitories. Two years ago I suggested that there should be cubicles for senior boys. As they get older they need some privacy. If it is not possible for them to have separate cabins as there are in a number of schools, I hope wooden partitions will be provided to give some privacy for the older boys.

I was informed that the kitchens were to be improved and I believe that £32,000 was to be spent on that. I should like to know whether that work has been completed and if the kitchens are now up to modern standards. When we had a debate some time ago we felt that the amount spent per head per boy for food was not very much. I know that there is an increase in the height and weight of the boys. Can my hon. Friend assure us that the standard is being kept up? If we could have that assurance we would feel happier about the amount of money spent on food.

I gathered that the hospital was to be done away with as, with modern transport, it was easier to use another hospital. I should like to know what has happened to the equipment, whether it was sold or given to a charity such as the Red Cross.

There are many other points I had intended to raise, but they have been raised by other hon. Members. I end by paying tribute to the headmaster for the work he has done. I think the boys are particularly lucky in having such good buildings and an amazingly good swimming bath, which I am sure gives them tremendous pleasure.

None of the work, however, could have been carried on but for the very good devotion of the staff, not only in the education of the boys and their games, but in ensuring that they are equipped with general knowledge of the world and that their requirements are catered for. For these reasons, I hope that the House will agree to the Motion.

5.45 a.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

I should like to thank those hon. Members who have shown patience and forbearance and stayed to provide a debate which has lasted just about an hour. At this late hour, however, I hope to keep my reply down to fifteen minutes and hon. Members will, perhaps, excuse me if I reply to some of the points by letter rather than in debate. I should like to add my disappointment that the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) is not with us, although I shall enjoy my breakfast more punctually, no doubt, as a result.

The first point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) concerned salaries. I can break the figure down. It is true that we have had to lump the sum together to simplify our accounts. It breaks down into salaries and allowances. There is an increase of £11,790 due partly to the Burnham salary increase. The hon. Member will remember that the increase for the teachers was not 2½ per cent., but 14 per cent., or an average of 6.7 per cent. over the years. Most of us on this side, having received up to 100 letters, know these figures. They are inscribed on our hearts rather like Calais was on Mary's.

At the same time, we have increased the teaching staff. We have two extra teachers. This contributes to the extra amount. The figure includes wages as well, and in this connection we have budgeted for an extra P.T. instructor. This is a further reason for the increase.

I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the machinery allowance. This is a new innovation. We are having argument with the Comptroller and Auditor General about whether it can be allowed in exactly the form which appears in the accounts. We felt, however, that it was right that as we come to replace some of the major machinery in the school—for example, water pumps for the wells and machinery of all sorts— we should, perhaps, have a sinking fund so that we do not suddenly one year encounter a serious breakdown and have to saddle the accounts with a large lump sum. This provision is really in the nature of a reserve or sinking fund to meet those contingencies.

I was asked also about pensions. This is a little difficult to explain briefly. I have a detailed table, but perhaps I may say this. The pensions rate varies. We have 196 officers' pensions at varying rates from £50 to £75 a year. We have 1,016 Greenwich Hospital special pensions averaging 16s. l0d. per week. Then there are the rather strange Canada pensions which are much lower. This was a form of collection made in Canada in the First World War. They are only £7 12s. a year. That is a historical anomaly and we do not in any way pretend that this pension is related to need. What is rising is the demand for Greenwich Hospital widows' pensions. We are granting 466 of these and they are now at the rate of 15s. a week, or £39 a year. We have increased these pensions, a fact which should have the support of both sides of the House.

I was asked about loans and why the figure was lower. We have taken advice and I am grateful to the three advisers who have helped us—Mr. Peter Daniel, Mr. Ridley and Mr. Guy Macpherson, the brother of a Member of the House, who advise us on our investments. They do this voluntarily and I am grateful for the work they have done. They pointed out that we might with advantage switch from some of these corporation loans to fixed Government loan stock, receiving 5½ per cent., which was a better percentage. We got a very substantial quantity at 84 which now stands at 94. So we have made a substantial increase in capital value and, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, in the income we receive as a result of that switch.

A number of hon. Gentlemen opposite did ask me about the grant, and, as was said by my hon. Friend who is on the management committee of the school, together with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu), who apologised for not being present at this late hour, we have made repeated efforts in both the Labour and Conservative Governments to persuade the Ministry of Education and the Treasury to increase this grant, but they say that this is an historical anomaly, and that if they were to aid this school there would be a spate of demands from all sorts of schools which they felt would not be justified, so although we have been as persuasive as we can, we. have not been able to move them to do this.

Dr. King

But there is one difference. This is a State school, which belongs to the Navy, and whose funds are adminis- tered by Parliament. It is very different from other private schools which might seek help from the Government.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is true that it is administered by the Navy, but I do not think that that makes any difference. It is a charitable foundation deriving income from charitable sources, and the legal advisers of the Treasury have looked at this and have come to the conclusion that if the grant were provided in this case it would be very much more difficult to draw the line between this school and other schools in a similar category.

I come on to the question of fees, which seemed to worry hon. Gentlemen opposite. Here, I think, they have rather split minds, and they have got to make up their minds. If we were to take £61,000 off these fees and the school did not receive this amount, then presumably we should have to gain that money by taking it away from the money granted for pensions. We take pride in the fact that since 1950–51 we were giving additional sums for those pensions, which I have mentioned, of £58,000 a year. In the year 1962–63 we are giving as much as £95,000, an increase from £58,000 to £95,000. If we were to do away with fees as hon. Gentlemen opposite suggested we should have no alternative but to reduce the pensions, which are modest enough and which are going to very needy people. This is the dilemma, which my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) pointed out.

I should like to refute the idea that we should try to make this a lower-deck only school. I welcome the mixing we have got, and I think that it is really welcome, too. to hon. Members opposite. As to the number of officers' sons, or the number of officers applying to have their sons go there, I have had it analysed, and I find the significant fact that 78 per cent. of the officers come from the lower deck themselves, That is interesting. If we ware to ban them, we should have most ridiculous anomalies. If a lower deck rating took a commission we should have to say, "We cannot accept your son for this school." This would be really ridiculous. What would happen if a commission were granted to a man while his son was at the school? Is he to be taken away because we cannot have the sons of officers? I think that would be too ridiculous to contemplate, as one sees by posing the question.

The hon. Member went on to say 93 out of 660 parents paid fees. That is not a very large percentage out of 660 and 93 parents do pay the fees. I should like to make the point that at this school these fees provide all the clothing and all the shoes and for many outgoings which in grammar schools are paid for by the parents, so £33 6s. 8d. a term is not a very large sum. I think many parents would be willing, certainly when they have seen the school, to furnish the money in order to get the wonderful education that we provide.

We would welcome—perhaps the publicity given to the debate will help —more applications from sons of ratings. We are short of applications at this stage. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport for circulating documents and giving publicity to this matter. All this helps. It is a shame that at the moment there are many ratings who do not like to send their boys away to boarding school, because the mothers miss them, and so on, and it is traditional to have them at local schools. The greater the number of parents who come to know the benefits that boarding school education gives, the more applications we shall get, I am sure.

Mr. Willis

Is it not likely that one of the reasons is that the lower deck still looks upon the Greenwich School as it was, the kind of school that the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) described? Perhaps it is precisely because of that that there is not a keen desire to send children there.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is our object to obtain publicity and get the school known by the lower deck. Frankly, I do not think that many serving on the lower deck today are thinking of the days of 1946. After all, some of them were not born then. We have excellent pamphlets that we distribute widely. We have also succeeded in getting a number of television programmes. There are also A.F.O.s, and so on. All these things help to publicise the school. Perhaps we can awaken the lower deck to the opportunities which exist.

My hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle, who apologised for having to leave, endorsed the decisions that we have taken. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East, who apologised for having another commitment and could not stay, told me before he left that he fully endorsed all the decisions of the management committee.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) said that the fees were £7,000 in the first year and have now risen to £61,000. He should remember that they were not retrospective and were applied only as new boys came into the school. They were very modest in the first year and have since been building up. We have not been increasing them. More boys within the fee-paying category have come in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport endorsed the need for extra publicity. I agree with her completely. She asked whether we had been able to increase pensions over a wider field. That is our object. As we have slightly more money, we have devoted 34 per cent. of the total income now to pensions and 66 per cent. to the school. So it is roughly one-third to pensions. We have spread these very widely. Widows are claiming more pensions, and we have raised the amount given to them from 10s. to 15s. per week.

As to careers, I can tell the House what is happening to our boys at the moment. In 1961, 123 boys left the school, and they took up careers roughly as follows: Royal Navy 47, 38 per cent.; merchant navy 13, 10 per cent.; dockyards 10, 8 per cent.; Army and R.A.F. 13, 10 per cent.; civilian careers 32 per cent. Thus, 68 per cent. have chosen a career associated with the sea or the Services.

It is rather a proud boast that yesterday I received notice that we have had our first cadet entry to Sandhurst. We have now had cadet entries to Dartmouth, Cranwell and Sandhurst. The boys are doing well. I have no figures on the number of A-level or O-level passes. Perhaps I can write to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport about that.

We have taken up a point which she nobly made on a previous occasion about humanising the dormitories, and we are altering the house so as to provide studies for the older boys. They have to share—four to a study for the less senior and two to a study for the more senior. We are putting up curtains and partitioning the dormitories to make them less barrack-like and more in accordance with modern thought. We are also modernising the kitchens and we have gained extra classrooms from storerooms. All this has cost £30,000, but it has had a good effect. I also take my hon. Friend's point about hospital equipment. We have gained extra benefit from that.

I thank those hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, and I hope that the House will now feel able to agree to the Motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation, for the year ending on 31st March, 1963, which was laid before this House on 24th May, be approved.