HC Deb 19 December 1963 vol 686 cc1428-30
27. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Education if he is aware that Conservative Party pamphlets have been used for teaching at primary and secondary schools in many parts of the country; and what steps he has taken to stop this practice.

Sir E. Boyle

I have received no complaint that political pamphlets have been used for teaching purposes.

Mr. Hamilton

Is it not the case that the National Union of Teachers has made an official protest to the Conservative Party, following complaints from head teachers in various parts of the country that Conservative pamphlets have been sent to them at their school addresses, and that only today we have had a report from Canterbury that a grammar school is being used by the Tory Party for its own political purposes?

Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that this follows the use of school children in the Prime Minister's own by-election in Kinross, also for political purposes? Whilst we know that the morale of the Tory Party is desperately low, surely it is not as low as all that.

Sir E. Boyle

I may be very simple but it seems to me that the question of teachers receiving party literature is rather different from a Question on political pamphlets being used for teaching purposes.

I wish to apologise at this point to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). I have been somewhat discourteous to him in not replying sooner on this point but the letter has gone off to him today.

Mr. F. Harris

Since there is to be a General Election next year, is there not a good case for sending these pamphlets to all right hon. and hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Willey

In view of what happened at the Simon Langton Grammar School yesterday—perhaps the incident explains the absence today of the Parliamentary Secretary, since I understand that he was involved—will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement about the undesirability of political intrusion into schools? Will he give proper advice to ensure that what happened yesterday does not happen again?

Sir E. Boyle

I am not sure that this arises from the Question on the Order Paper. What the hon. Gentleman calls "political intrusion" for the making of films seems to me to be a matter for the local authorities and for the schools themselves, using commonsense. I understand that the London County Council has no objection to political films being made both outside and inside schools provided that the children are not themselves asked to speak in them.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is it not possible to take this whole question a little too seriously? I have had complaints of Labour Party pamphlets being distributed in schools but, as far as I am concerned, the more there are the better, since they defeat their own object.

Sir E. Boyle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is a mistake for too many people to be "holier than thou" on this subject.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking, in view of the official protest from the N.U.T., that the Conservative Central Office will stop sending these pamphlets to the teachers at school? Will he ensure that, if the Conservative Party must send them, it sends them to home addresses?

Sir E. Boyle

I agree that it is best if they are sent to private addresses and not to the schools. But, in fairness, I would add that I had a complaint earlier this year of pamphlets being sent by the Labour Party to head boys and head girls. In my letters to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) I have tried to set out a method on which we could all agree.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think that we had better get on with educational topics.