HC Deb 19 June 1964 vol 696 cc1738-92

12.48 p.m.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the social consequences that follow when automation increases production by using a smaller labour force and when people below a minimum standard of ability and education may consequently find it hard to obtain employment, calls on Her Majesty's Government to state their policy for improving still further the educational facilities provided for less gifted children who may otherwise be excluded from an automated labour market. This is not the first time that the House has discussed automation, which, although a comparatively new topic in politics, has been around long enough to accumulate to itself a large number of bromides and platitudes. I want to try to avoid repeating any of them. It was said about President Harding that whenever he made a speech it was a procession of platitudes marching across the landscape in search of an idea. I have no desire to emulate President Harding.

I shall not dwell either on the great truth that automation presents a challenge to all of us or on the greater truth that it presents an opportunity as well. Nor do I want to repeat the facts or the arguments which have been used in the House in previous debates about the industrial consequences of automation. All of us who are interested in this question have discussed redundancy payments and the need to make labour more mobile. We have also drawn attention to resettlement grants and the need to recast the National Insurance structure to allay the fears of the dole by some kind of wage-related unemployment benefit. These matters have all been discussed and I do not think that there is any need to go over what is very well-trodden ground.

I want to look at the social consequences of automation. To see what they are we must, of course, look at what is happening in the United States. I do not propose to argue—I do not think that it would be right—that automation need necessarily produce the same results in this country as in the United States, but, nevertheless, we had better look at what the social consequences of automation are to American society.

Automation in America presents a phenomenon unique in the history of capitalism. The United States now can and does increase its wealth by reducing the number of people employed. This is, I suppose, the first time that any society has found that the way to increase wealth is not to employ more people, but fewer.

I should like to refer to a study of the American economy which was recently produced by the Swedish Professor Gunnar Myrdal, who wrote a celebrated work some years ago about the American Negro. I do not quote him in order to say that he supports the conclusions I propose to draw. I quote him to illustrate what is happening in America under the impact of automation.

I am quoting from his book recently published in this country, "Challenge to Affluence". He is writing, of course, about the position in America and he says: So far as material goods are concerned a bigger output can be produced and distributed with an ever smaller work force. Some of the major manufacturing industries in the United States are actually contracting their labour force while raising their output of products. One significant social consequence of that, in the United States at any rate, is the effect which this process is having on the bargaining power of trade unions. It has been assumed in America and most Atlantic countries since the war that rising prosperity, full employment and inflation tend to go together: a sellers' market for labour makes it possible to obtain wage increases greater than increases in the rate of production. It has been assumed hitherto that this was a process people had more or less to put up with. In America, it need not be assumed anymore.

I am not here today to criticise the unions for exploiting the sellers' market by raising the price at which they sell their labour. Not at all. I am not making any sort of judgment about it. I am simply pointing out that as a matter of fact this process of exploiting the sellers' market for labour in America has powerfully accelerated the trend towards automation. The process has, naturally, given a great incentive to employers to install labour-saving machinery. This has been the case particularly in the automobile industry.

The greatest social consequence of automation in America is the fact that it is now possible for the highly productive industry of the United States to maintain millions of people who have become unemployable because they lack either the aptitudes or the skills to make it worth while to employ them. It is possible, I suppose, that the United States might provide for this surplus of workers at a level of comfort high enough to arouse no social resentment.

It may well be that the ultimate stage of an automated society which we see forming in the United States will be a society which will have to find some method of distributing incomes other than by means of jobs, so as to generate a sufficient volume of purchasing power to keep the thing ticking over. It may well be that the United States will have to find methods of distributing the wealth produced by means of automation on a basis which is not necessarily linked to employment.

We have assumed ever since the Industrial Revolution that jobs for all was a desirable object both for social purposes and also because it was an effective method of distributing purchasing power. It has not been imagined, until now, that more wealth could be created by creating fewer jobs. But this is the process which we can see now on the other side of the Atlantic. I am not asserting for a moment that we in this country are seeing anything like this. The differences between the structure of our society and the structure of American society are very great. We are far from being like the Americans' affluent society in the Galbraith sense that they are. In this country we have come nowhere near yet to the point where people's wants are satisfied, let alone satiated, and where wants have to be artificially stimulated by advertising—the situation reached, according to Galbraith, at some levels of American society.

I do not believe that anyone can assert that it has been reached at any level of our society. Nor do we look like reaching it, in the foreseeable future at any rate. What we face here, as our technological revolution gets under way, is a prospect very different in many ways from that we see across the Atlantic and it is our prospect that I want to discuss.

Here I bypass another bromide. We hear it often said that we need the greatest possible expansion in educational opportunity and that our most valuable raw material is the brains of our population. Of course we must have educational opportunity. Nobody disputes that. I propose to take it as said. The Tory Party has brought about the biggest educational expansion which has ever taken place in all our history. We have widened the educational escalator and made it easier of access than ever before.

This process of expanding educational opportunity is one which we all welcome. It is defended not only by arguments about fairness and rightness—arguments which I accept, like everyone else—but also by the arguments arising from automation—that we must develop our children's brains so that we can expand to the full the potentialities of our technological revolution. Again, I will take all that as said.

I want to look, instead, at the social consequences of this expansion. We are now creating a society where educational opportunity provides openings of all kinds to talent. This is very agreeable for the talented, and it is very agreeable also to us as a nation, because we get the cash benefits of their abilities in terms of more goods, more services, more profits they produce, and a bigger and bigger bonus for the taxes from all this wealth. But in hailing the talented we had better not forget about the less talented. There are a good many of them.

I know that the measurement of intelligence is not yet an exact science, but it is not wholly inexact, all the same. It can tell us something. I want to quote some statistics about the distribution of mental ability in this country. They come from Sir Cyril Burt, for many years Professor of Education in the University of London. He was also for many years the psychologist to the education department of the London County Council and he was able to study the distribution of intelligence among school children in London.

I want to quote from the latest edition, the 1955 edition, of his standard work "The Subnormal Mind". In it, Sir Cyril Burt said that mental ability in any society is distributed in a symmetrical fashion. In the middle there are people with intelligence quotients of round about about 100. They are the great majority. Burt calculates that about 75 per cent. of the adult population have I.Q.s ranging from 85 to 115 distributed symmetrically around the 100 norm. Also, about 10 per cent. have I.Q.s above 115 and about 10 per cent. have I.Q.s below 85. Only about 2 per cent. have I.Q.s above 130, and only about two per thousand have I.Q.s above 150. There are comparable parallel percentages at the lower end of the scale. Ten per cent. have I.Q.s between 85 and 70. These people, says Burt, are generally regarded as dull and backward. People with I.Q.s below 70 are in a lower category still.

I do not know whether I can incite the Secretary of State for Education and Science to promote a fresh study into this to find out exactly how intelligence is distributed among our present population. But no matter what the exact figures may be, there is no doubt that some children are brighter than others. It is about the others that I want to talk. They are the children of the Newsom Report—a most valuable and revealing document. It was a great pity that it should have been published almost simultaneously with the Robbins Report. This meant that it did not receive from the public the care and attention it undoubtedly deserved. It gives us a great deal of information not available anywhere else about the children whom it defines as of average or less than average ability.

Here, I must utter a few platitudes, but they will be few. In all previous centuries of English history the less talented have been able to console themselves with the reflection that their failure to rise very high was not their fault, but the fault of a bad social system in that it denied them opportunity. By expanding educational facilities we are robbing them of that consolation. Nowadays, some people who fail to reach the upper slopes of our social pyramid by means of the education escalator find it very difficult to blame the system for their failure. They are forced to blame themselves, or perhaps their parents.

It makes no difference essentially whether, when we select the people to go on the escalator, we select them inside the comprehensive school or outside the gates of the grammar school. The fact is that selection for some means rejection for others, and the others are about half our child population—half our future, as Newsom calls them.

The question of what kind of education we provide for them in our secondary modern schools is of great importance, not only for them but for our whole society. If we provide them with an education which is unsatisfactory—I say "unsatisfactory" in a sense which I will define in a moment; it is in a much wider sense than simply "inadequate in terms of the instruction received"—we are in danger of creating a great mass of alienated and embittered men and women, people who feel that they have been rejected by the talent-spotting mechanisms which lift the more gifted on to the escalator and up the higher slopes of our social pyramid.

I know that, in the opinion of many people, secondary modern schools ought to concentrate on vocational training and technical training, that they should be places of lathes and spanners, with woodwork for the boys and kitchens with all "mod. cons," for the girls. We must not speak disrespectful about vocational training or technical education. We must all learn to speak with respect about scientists and technicians, especially when we shall presently have to go out in search of their votes. So I make no criticisms of any of those subjects, or of those groups, valuable, important and indispensable as technical and vocational education are, and admirable, important and indispensable as are the people who provide it.

Nevertheless I do not believe that all this is enough. I do not believe that we can afford to run the secondary modern schools on the basis that the first thing to do with the pupils is to give them technical skills and technical training. I believe that if we attempt to limit their education to technical instruction we take a very grave risk. We may produce from the schools a great many people who will feel alienated and embittered.

After all, what is the principal handicap suffered by a good many of the less talented children? Newsom discusses this very vividly. He sums it up by saying that their handicap is lack of literacy and a lack of ability to communicate in words. He says: These children do not have a sufficient command of words to be able to listen and discuss rationally, to express ideas and feelings clearly or even to have any ideas at all. The forms of speech that are all they ever require for daily use in their homes and the neighbourhood in which they live are restricted. Consequently, Newsom goes on: Some boys and girls may never acquire the means of learning and their intellectual potential is masked.

Newsom does not say, and neither do I, that these assertions are true of all the children in our secondary modern schools. But they are true for some of them. We have to keep these children in mind when we are considering what pattern of education we shall provide in secondary modern schools. We must exert ourselves to break down this linguistic and cultural barrier which at present insulates so many children from the world around them. This lack of literacy and of ability to communicate is likely to be a far more severe and enduring handicap to these children than any lack of acquired skill. After all, in this technological revolution a man may well have to learn several kinds of skills during his working life. He may find his original skill saleable in the labour market for x years and then it will become unsaleable and he will have to learn another.

This process of readaptation, which may be inevitable for very large numbers of the children now coming out of our schools, will be powerfully stimulated and made a great deal easier if the children are given a greater degree of linguistic fluency. I am arguing that this is something which is desirable for severely economic reasons as well as for what, in my opinion, are far more important reasons—the necessity to produce a literate and cultured population.

I do not want to see—none of us does—a large mass of people in this country with great difficulties in communication. It is very undesirable politically to have an electorate with a sizeable part of it outside the reach of any arguments except the crudest and most simplified assertions. It seems to me to be socially necessary as well as necessary in terms of economics that we should do a great deal more than we are doing in some parts of the country to provide for children in secondary modern schools a kind of education which is not basically vocational, not basically practical, but is—I will not run away from the word—academic.

Let me try to convey to the House one of the consequences of not providing this kind of education for the kind of children about whom we are talking. I want to quote an expert whose name is famous not only here, but throughout the world. He is perhaps almost the most celebrated living Englishman. His name is John Lennon and he is one of the Beatles. I have never seen or heard the Beatles, but I have been very interested indeed to read a book by John Lennon, published in America and, I believe, in this country. It is called "In His Own Write".

The book contains a number of poems and fairy stories written by Lennon. These tell a great deal about the education he received in Liverpool. He explains that he was born there in 1940 and attended various schools, where he could not pass examinations. I would like to quote one of the poems. It is one that the Ministry of Education and Science might well distribute to every member of its staff concerned with the kind of children we are discussing. It is called "Deaf Ted, Danoota and Me".

I will quote three verses from it: Never shall we partly stray, Fast stirrup all we three Fight the battle mighty sword Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me. Thorg Billy grows and Burnley ten, And Aston Villa three We clobber ever gallup Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me. So if you hear a wondrous sight, Am blutter or at sea, Remember whom the mighty say Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.'

I quote that poem not because of its literary merit, but because one can see from it, as from other poems and stories in the book, two things about John Lennon: he has a feeling for words and story telling and he is in a state of pathetic near-literacy. He seems to have picked up bits of Tennyson, Browning and Robert Louis Stevenson while listening with one ear to the football results on the wireless.

The book suggests to me a boy who, on the evidence of these writings, should have been given an education which would have enabled him to develop the literary talent that he appears to have. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State can tell us anything about what kind of school this Beatle went to. The volume from which I have quoted strikes me as singularly pathetic and touching.

The boy appears to be a sort of throwback to H. G. Wells's "Mr. Polly", who was brought up in much the same fashion and who was also a boy with a love for and ability with words which he was unable to get developed in school so that, when he was grown up, he talked about "Sesquipedarian verbijooce." "Mr. Polly" went to school nearly 100 years ago, but it seems that the kind of education that made him talk like that was still being supplied in Liverpool when John Lennon was at school in the 1950s. I would like my hon. Friend to tell us what the secondary modern schools of Liverpool are like now. What sort of education is being provided for that sort of boy at present?

I appreciate that there is danger here in appearing to be unfair and to be generalising too much about secondary modern schools. I know that they have risen a great deal in prestige over the past decade and it is fair to say that successive Tory Ministers of Education have been successful in raising very considerably the esteem in which secondary modern schools are held. But this is a patchy process. It is true in some parts of the country, but not in others.

I have no complaint about it as a Middlesex Member. The secondary modern schools in my constituency have flourished in the last decade. They are certainly far better than they were in 1950, when I first went to the constituency as a politician. One can measure their progress in many ways. One way is by the increase in the number staying on voluntarily after the age of 15. But this staying-on is also a patchy process. It is no doubt true in Middlesex and other parts of the London area and the prosperous south of England. How far is it true in the North?

To judge from figures we have been given about the pattern, there are very wide regional variations in the numbers of children staying at school after the age of 15. It looks as though, if we had left staying on at school after that age to be settled voluntarily, we should have soon created two nations—the South, where the children stayed on, and the North, where they did not—with all the obvious disagreeable social implications. That is one reason why I welcomed the decision to raise the school-leaving age nationally and compulsorily.

I am not concerned, however, with the situation as it will be, but as it is now. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell us something about the ideas his Department has for the further development and expansion of secondary modern schools in the direction of giving children such as the boy from whom I have quoted the sort of non-practical education I am sure a great many of them want to get.

I believe that we need a far more imaginative approach to teaching—all the more so when the school-leaving age is raised to 16. It will be idle to keep boys and girls of 15 plus in school for an extra year and simply treat them as if they were children. It may well be that we shall have to treat them less like children and more like undergraduates. It may well be that we shall have to provide them in their last year with educational disciplines different from what we have hitherto had in secondary schools. I want my hon. Friend to give us some idea of the way his Department is thinking about this. I have no doubt that he is well satisfied, as we all are, by the fact that more and more children are voluntarily staying on in the South. But we cannot judge England simply in terms of the South.

We must not assume that what we see around us in London, Middlesex and the South, a prosperous area, necessarily holds good for the provinces. It does not follow that what we see here is equally visible in Durham or Lancashire. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give us some information about the pattern of school leaving in the North, in the old industrial areas, and tell us what ideas the Department is shaping for the further expansion of the sort of education for which I am asking.

After all, there is no particular trouble about teaching a talented boy who goes to school from a civilised, cultivated home where there are plenty of books and where the cultural climate is such that his talents can flourish and thrive. Nobody in the teaching profession will have the slightest objection or difficulty about teaching him. But when one is dealing with children of average or less than average ability one is handicapped by their lack of literacy and by the illiterate uncultivated homes from which they may come.

This is a problem with which it is difficult to cope and which is much more difficult than that presented by the talented children. I do not believe we can cope with it simply by keeping these average children on at school another year, valuable and necessary though that extra year may be. We must carefully review the pattern of education which we are providing for such children, remembering, as we must, that half of them are girls. It is necessary that they should be given the sort of education which will make them civilised and cultivated citizens. Valuable as it is, it may be that the work of the Newsom Committee will have to be continued. Perhaps we should have a further report, a progress report, about what we are doing with the secondary moderns.

I said that I wanted to avoid platitudes. I do not want either to utter any or to invite any. I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to give us some facts and some hopes.

1.32 p.m.

Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

We have had a very interesting opening to this debate, a stimulating new view about automation. I should like to follow some of the views which have been thrown out this morning by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran).

I entirely agree with him that the most important aspect of the future of this problem is the social consequences to the country and to the whole system and status of society in England. So often the problem is related to the present difficulties in the United States of America. I differ from my hon. Friend's view about the United States, although he, too, recognises that what is happening there is unlikely to happen here in this country. There are some things we should bear in mind.

Figures about the problem of automation in the United States are given regularly. They are familiar to hon. Members and they are familiar in the periodicals which one reads and in common debate in the country on this subject. We know perfectly well that since 1953 the United States has increased production by 50 per cent., and yet throughout that period has never managed to get unemployment below 5 per cent.

It is suggested on the one hand that it is automation which causes this and equally vehemently suggested by others that it is not automation but insufficient demand. This is the view which was taken by the late President Kennedy, which is why he fought with such determination to get the tax cuts which he felt to be necessary and which have now gone through Congress. It may well be that it is lack of demand rather than increasing automation which is causing the present difficulties in the United States.

We all know that the United States also has racial problems causing pockets of difficulty, and educational problems which we do not have. It is difficult to say—and I am sure that this is recognised by my hon. Friend—that the problems occurring in the United States will necessarily occur here.

Some of the solutions we will have to face ourselves. The United States is trying in some measure to find a solution in shorter hours, longer holidays and earlier retirement, but this is only a partial solution. I am sure that we are all agreed that everyone has to have a job and a job that satisfies him. There is no way out of this problem by eliminating certain jobs for certain people. We cannot say that at present society provides jobs for all those with I.Q.s above a certain level while those below it are unemployable, and we cannot say in future that we will simply have to provide for a greater measure of unemployability, so that someone not of the highest level of intelligence has to be supplied by the State with the wherewithal to live. That would be simply taking out the bottom end of society which finds it most difficult to earn a living and providing it with a living by the State. This would be an undignified way out of the problem and, indeed, no solution at all.

The problem which is besetting the United States will certainly come to this country, but it is likely to come very much more slowly than seems to be appreciated. Certainly over the next 10 years—

Mr. Ray Gunter (Southwark) indicated dissent.

Mr. Miscampbell

The hon. Member is shaking his head. This is something which will come faster if we go into the new age of change and automation more quickly than at present.

Mr. Gunter

I shook my head because the hon. Member had been dealing with certain sections of America—what for this purpose we might term the illiterate. The great emphasis in this country over the next decade will be on the unskilled workers.

Mr. Miscampbell

I am very grateful for that intervention, because I agree that that could be a problem, although I am sure "hat many will agree that it will not necessarily be those among the unskilled workers who will be first affected. I will come to that later.

We in this country have an opportunity to solve our problems within reasonable bounds. We have a population expanding only slowly compared with that of the United States. We have a very much more even educational system than the United States. I was grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the whole subject of education, because this is the crux of the matter.

As he said, education has to provide not just skills for those who are to work in industry, but skills which can help to occupy the leisure time which will come from automation. It is no use our concentrating entirely on providing a person with an education which simply allows him to earn a living in the mechanised industry of today, when he might find difficulty later on holding down a job, or holding down a job which is interesting. I have no doubt—this is a digression—that many of the troubles which we have seen over the last few months and which have been so highly publicised in the newspapers have simply been the first signs of this type of boredom in society. People who cannot cope with the money and leisure which is now available to them, because they have not been given the educational opportunities so to do, are just as deprived as if they had been prevented from holding down a satisfactory job.

I was interested in my hon. Friend's mention of the Beatles. It is unfair to say that Lennon of the Beatles was not well educated. I cannot say which, but three of the four went to grammar school and as a group are highly intelligent, highly articulate and highly engaging.

I think that we would draw the wrong conclusions if we thought that the success which they are having came from anything other than great skill. They provide an outlet for many people who find it difficult to integrate themselves into society when they move into adolescence. The Beatles, and groups like them, are giving such people an outlet, and are taking up the slack which ought to have been provided by a deeper education.

Liverpool was my home town. The arrival of the various groups there has had a remarkable effect. As those who practised in the courts in Liverpool in the early part of the 1950s know, deep-seated crime, which was becoming all too prevalent, has to a large extent disappeared. The crime rate is still high there, as it is everywhere else, but the gangs which were causing such trouble have largely disappeared. I agree, of course, that it may be rather facile to assume that the groups who go out at night and play this music have occupied all who might otherwise be ill-occupied, but undoubtedly they do fulfil a greatly felt need among many young people. That is a digression, but it is true that we have to educate, and educate in a different way. Education, though it will change and help, is only part of our problem.

I think that automation will come more slowly in this country than some people think. Certainly the rate of progress towards automation here can be described only as disappointingly slow. The United States, which is regarded as the home of automation, uses 10 times as many computers per head as we do.

There are various stages in automation. First, one gets what we have seen in the early stages in the Ford line. It is mechanisation of production rather than genuine automation. Then there is the next stage when the computer takes over the running of a machine. It is after that that one comes to true and genuine automation—but we are a long way from that—where the whole factory is taken over and the crucial decisions are made by machines or computers.

This change, which is coming all too slowly in a nation which must at all costs keep its efficiency if it is to live at all, does not immediately put out the unskilled man. When a computer takes over, the man who quite often is put out is the skilled man, and when, finally, whole factories are taken over, it is those at managerial level who find that the competition is most severe.

It appears to me that we have to face two problems: first, automation will cause difficulties of employment in the spheres where men mind machines. Often such men are highly skilled. They are certainly not those who would be employed in sweeping the factory floor. They are men who have held down a dignified job, which is much more important than just doing a job. They are likely to be the first to be affected.

Those who at present control airways, who work in transport offices, or who work in any kind of office, may well find that they are the next to be in difficulties, because it is in the air, on the railways, on the roads if we go on at our present rate, and in the chemical industry, that the real crunch will come. We therefore have a problem to provide an educational system which will allow people to enjoy the greater leisure that is coming to them. We have a problem which is analogous to that in the United States, because I am sure that automation, when it comes, will come only in selected industries. The oil and steel industries are likely to be affected first.

We know that computers are being used in increasing numbers in the steel industry, the chemical industry, the oil industry, and in the cement and paper industries, but, surprisingly enough, one of the last industries which will be completely automated is the car industry. A great deal can be done at present to help what I describe as mechanical production rather than automated production. It looks to me as though automation will come in isolated pockets. We shall have to look to the State to ensure that towns which depend mainly on steel and chemical plants are not adversely affected. We shall have to make sure that automation does not really hurt such areas.

One of the phenomena of an industrial society—we can see this in the United States, and we know that it is true here, too—is that as prosperity increases it creates a number of ancillary jobs. We, of course, have a long way to go, because if we make enough for ourselves we have a number of commitments round the world which could be met by a prosperous England. Nobody who has lived in Liverpool can doubt the commitments for slum clearance and rejuvenation. These commitments may well be met in time, but the problem which we face is to provide a niche in life for the semi-skilled and the near-skilled.

I think that the unskilled have the best hope, because, as I have said, one of the phenomena of an industrial society is that it creates ancillary jobs, and one gets a demand for services which at the moment are treated as luxuries. I am thinking of the holiday industry which is so prosperous in my constituency. I am thinking, too, of the service industries which an affluent society demands. It may well be that we shall find it easiest to solve the problem of those who are prepared to take up careers in these expanding industries.

Mr. Gunter

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the service industries are unskilled? Surely he is not suggesting that in respect of the railway men?

Mr. Miscampbell

I am not suggesting that they are unskilled, but they do numerous jobs which cannot be automated. One has only to think of the hotel industry and holiday camps to realise that that is so. One can think also of restaurants and other related services which an affluent society is beginning to demand in increasing numbers. Such industries provide the best chance—

Mr. Gunter

The hon. Gentleman is presenting a fascinating argument, but the service industries to which he has referred represent only a minute portion of our society. Some of our service industries employ highly skilled people.

Mr. Miscampbell

I of course must agree entirely with the hon. Member. If I use the word "services" again I shall be picked up for referring to service industries. The affluent society demands more and more people who will provide what I think has been rudely described as the "candyfloss" of society, the hotels, restaurants and all the accoutrements of holidays. All this is an increasing factor in our industrial life. One has only to look at the statistics to see that one of the only areas in which we are rapidly increasing the number of employed is in the ancillary industries, those which provide luxuries. It may be that this will provide an avenue for those who are less skilled than others.

Mr. Gunter

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but at this stage of the argument would it not be better if he defined what he means by a service industry?

Mr. Miscampbell

I have used the example once or twice and I use it again. I mean by service industries the kind of industries which are growing up because of affluence. The holiday industry is one with which I am most familiar because of the constituency I represent. There is the whole question of travel. There are those who provide buses, those who provide all the luxuries in hotels which are growing up. It may well be that we shall demand a higher standard of service in our bars and shops. Shops are a good example. All these things are not easily automated. I agree that in certain aspects of retail trade we may find concentrations, but with affluence there is hope that we shall demand these luxuries in growing quantities.

Mr. Curran

I hope my hon. Friend will not allow himself to be brow-beaten by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) about whether service industries are necessarily skilled. If he goes to America he will observe an enormous number of service industries which are totally unskilled. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Southwark supposes that the young ladies who supply hot dogs from garages to passing motorists are highly skilled or how he would describe their work. It is obvious that the luxury consumer society provides an enormous amount of jobs in which no particular skill is needed, except that of good temper and good nature.

Mr. Gunter

The hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) is more likely to be brow-beaten by his hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) than by me. What I was trying to find out in talking about the sellers of hot dogs and ice-cream is what you assess as the proportion they play in service industries. Transport as a whole is a service industry. If you tell me that the London bus driver is not a skilled man, you will get into trouble.

Mr. Miscampbell

I am not going to tell you any such thing.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

Perhaps hon. Members will remember to address the Chair.

Mr. Miscampbell

I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Of course I am not going to say any such thing. In a very proper way the hon. Member is using the words "service industries" and probably in a very improper and careless way I used those words. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and I have at least made ourselves clear. What we are saying is that the affluent society supports this growth of demand for luxury. It may well be that this is one of our greatest hopes of solving the problem of those who have not got the intelligence to find a job in a highly automated industry and those who are thrown out of work because automation has taken place.

The crux of the matter is in what my hon. Friend said. We need to solve the problem for those who are not going to be satisfied with automation. Above all, we need to solve the problem of educating them. Even if they are forced to go into employment in which their skills are not properly used—and it may well be that persons with higher intelligence do not want to take that type of work—we want them to take it in a way which will enable them to use the money they are making to provide a more satisfactory life. This obviously is a problem which it has become fashionable to discuss- and probably it ought to be discussed.

If not a matter of controversy, it has become a matter in which people show how modern they are by discussing the political problems involved. How much people are interested in it at the moment I do not know, but it is being talked about on political platforms and it is right that it should be. In this country it is not a problem on a great scale, but that will come. We have a type of society in which it will probably come more easily than anywhere else. We have not got the structural difficulties which many countries have. Although I am sorry to say this, I think that it is a problem which will come on us slowly—far too slowly for the well-being of this country.

1.57 p.m.

Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)

When I came to the House this morning I did not expect to be taking part in this debate, but I think that many of us, when we see that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) is to move a Motion, like to hear him speak. Perhaps we do not hear him enough, but we at least have the opportunity of reading many of the words of wisdom and advice which he gives us in the national Press.

I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend on moving this Motion and on drawing a place in the Ballot for Private Members' Motions on a Friday. Where his skill has been so great is that he managed to come second in the Friday Ballot on a day when the first Motion was disposed of in two hours and he was able to make his speech in full. How many drawers of second Motions on Fridays have come here, as I have done, with a full speech prepared and then been called at one minute to four o'clock!

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend, in the last part of his speech, pay tribute to what has been done particularly in secondary modern education. I thought, when reading his Motion, that possibly he was a little hard on what the House has done to help education authorities and education as a whole during this decade, or nearly two decades since the war. In particular, I draw attention to this in my part of East Suffolk, where we have a large number of new secondary modern schools, but the growth has gone on throughout the country. Here is a great advance in which we get away from the all-purpose village school for the ages 5 to 14 and on to the secondary modern school in which children get better education. What is more important is the big advance which has been made in civic colleges throughout the country. I pay tribute to a former Prime Minister, Lord Avon, who was the first to give greater impetus to this by seeing that an extra£100 million was devoted to the civic colleges over 10 years ago, and now they have been built. I have been round my county civic college in Ipswich and found it a most gratifying experience to find 1,500 boys and girls there because they want to be there.

What pleases me more is when I go about the little villages in my scattered county division and meet boys and girls who stay on at school till 16 or 17, and when I say to them, "Are you going to take any course at the civic college in Ipswich?" I have found in recent months that a higher percentage of them are saying "Yes" compared with when the college was first built. Therefore, these civic colleges are a great help to those who would otherwise not get the opportunity of further education.

It might, perhaps, be thought that this is not exactly what the Motion is about, but in all my experience, and from what I have read of history, it seems to me that automation is not something new. We have had it for years. It has meant, on the whole, an uplifting for a great many on the lower rungs of our social life and that more can take up white-collar and technical jobs, which are so necessary at the present time.

Perhaps what we should always remember is that all education should be directed at trying to help a boy or girl to live a fuller life and to be more reliant upon themselves than they would be had they not had that education. We can bring automation a great deal more into our education as, indeed, we are doing with, for example, visual television. We have automatic machines for teaching languages, and even, I believe, what my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge would welcome, machines for teaching some of our children to have a better command of the Queen's English.

I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend was right when he argued how much better one of the Beatles might have been had he had a better education. It is very easy to wonder, when one sees someone who becomes a genius in the middle or towards the end of his life, whether he would have done more with better opportunities. I think that it is the character which a man builds up during his life that brings him through.

I am reminded of the book on his early life written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in which he said that he found it difficult to get on very well with his father. His father did not think him very clever and, therefore, decided to send him to Sandhurst to train as a soldier—I say this with no disrespect to Sandhurst—instead of to Oxford. To what great heights might my right hon. Friend have risen had he gone to Oxford as well? Therefore, we must not judge entirely by education, but also by the character and ability within a man himself.

I am also reminded of the story of the bank manager interviewing a very respectable elderly man who was the owner of two or three tobacconist's shops. He always paid money into his deposit account, but never seemed to draw any of it out and invest it. The bank manager asked him why he did not have a cheque book and write cheques for the payment of his business bills instead of having a deposit account. The man had to confess that he could not write. The bank manager said to him, "You have been very successful without being able to write, but think how much more successful you would have been had you been able to do so." The man replied, "Oh, no. Originally, I was a verger and, when the old rector retired, the new rector said that he could not possibly employ a verger who could not write down messages. So I was sacked and started up my little business and did very well."

Surely the right answer is to be found in our education. More and more boys and girls are making use of the facilities of education, but we must see that the boys and, particularly, girls who are employed in such large numbers today get sufficient education to enable them to lead a responsible, full civic life of their own. If they are using their hands more than their brains there is very little dishonour in that.

One of the things to which I look forward is the greater education of girls. At present, many of them on leaving school would not think of going to the only job which used to be available in country areas, that of domestic service. Now many of them are secretaries trained in typing at a civic college or elsewhere. My hope is that in the event of some of these girls becoming widows before the age of 50—and I speak with some feeling about this, because my mother was left a widow at the age of 36 and I was the eldest of four boys—they will be better trained so that they may take up more worth-while vocations if such a tragedy should befall them, some of whom might only be in receipt of the 10s. a week pension or have no pension at all. This is the sad case of many widows at the age of 47 or 48 who have had no training. Therefore, very few opportunities are open to them.

We need these girls as well both as teachers and as nurses. I am not quite sure that I entirely agree with what has been said about the United States. I have seen a far lower level of people in the United States than in this country. The level is much lower among the immigrants into the United States. I think that automation will come along reasonably slowly, but we should hurry it as much as possible. It will not create too great a problem for those whom we are training, and training better, in our schools to live a full and active life. I am sure that the debate which has been initiated by my hon. Friend has been well worth while.

2.8 p.m.

Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)

I wish to join with the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) in congratulating the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) on winning the second place in the Ballot on a day when the first Motion for debate was dealt with so quickly. I think that he has been fortunate in that respect, although perhaps it has had the unfortunate result that not many hon. Members come prepared to take part in the debate because of the pessimism about the second Motion being reached in time for them to make a speech.

I wish to begin by commenting on the different views which have arisen so fat in the discussion about the pace at which automation is likely to be effected. I think that we should view automation as one aspect of a whole series of technological changes taking place throughout industry. We have to recognise that the pace is getting faster all the time. It has become a cliché to say that we live in a time of change, but I think that it is difficult to appreciate fully the pace at which change is speeding up. In a very famous speech at Scarborough, last autumn, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition reminded us that of all the scientists that ever lived 97 per cent. are still alive and at work at present. This is having a great effect on our lives and will have a greater effect in the years that lie ahead.

We should certainly welcome the speed-up in technological change and any Government ought to try and speed it up still further so that we can use it for the greater production of wealth. One of our charges against the Government is that they have not done enough to stimulate science and technology and to see that the results are applied in industry.

I should like to concentrate on those aspects of the subject which the hon. Member for Uxbridge talked about at the beginning of his speech. In his Motion he speaks of production using a smaller labour force as a result of automation and changes of that kind. I am not sure that this necessarily need be the case. One of the troubles with the American economy is that no American Administration has ever really caught up with the techniques of full employment which were laid down in the works of John Maynard Keynes and which have been adopted, to a greater or lesser extent, by Governments in Britain and Europe in order to iron out the ups and downs of the trade cycle and to keep a generally high level of full employment.

In the United States there are still people who argue vigorously against the idea of not having a balanced Budget. There was very considerable resistance to the proposals of President Kennedy and then of President Johnson to decrease taxes in order to stimulate spending power. Therefore, the Americans seem to tolerate and accept a level of unemployment which would seem intolerable in most countries in Europe. I should have thought that as long as there was any poverty in our country, or, indeed, as long as there was poverty in the world, we should not fear technological unemployment. We should be able to organise our affairs in such a way that we welcomed automation and other means of producing wealth more quickly and were not worried about the employment problems resulting.

However, what I think will occur—it it already occurring to some extent—is that there will be a considerable shift in the nature of the labour force. This is true in the United States. Although the Americans have a high figure of unemployment, they have, at the same time, chronic shortages of some kinds of labour and they are not able to relate the unemployment to those shortages. We are already seeing this in a small way in this country. Certain types of worker are suffering from unemployment.

If we compare the Ministry of Labour figures for vacancies with its figures for unemployed, we find that among fishermen, clerks and labourers, for example, over a large part of Britain, and not merely in areas of heavy local unemployment, there is more unemployment than vacancies. On the other hand, if we look at the proportion of vacancies to unemployed in some of the skilled trades—toolsetters, bricklayers, nurses, and so on—we find a chronic shortage throughout the country, including most areas of local unemployment. As technical change increases in pace, we are likely to see a greater contrast. We are likely to see the growing paradox of unemployment side by side with shortages of labour unless our education and training policies and manpower planning generally are able to keep pace with this type of challenge.

Last summer, a report was issued by Professor Stone and his colleagues at Cambridge, who have been doing some work on the future manpower needs of the economy, in which they suggested that we were entering a period when we should probably need 50,000 extra technicians a year and 155,000 extra skilled craftsmen a year, but 50,000 fewer clerical workers a year and 151,000 fewer unskilled manual workers a year. They admit frankly that these figures are not to be relied on in detail because they did not have the necessary data and tools of analysis to produce a sophisticated forecast. They were, however, able to show us the trend.

One of the things which needs to be done within the framework of Government is the development of techniques of manpower forecasting in a much more sophisticated way so that we can spot in advance where redundancies and shortages are likely to occur. Our education and training policies must be geared to this kind of forecasting.

I think that the general picture is this. We will see in future a much larger demand for skill and education of the working population as a whole. It might be said that the industrial history of the human race is one of the upgrading of skills. In the pre-industrial era people worked mainly with their muscles. The work of most people consisted mainly of pulling, lifting and pushing things. In the eighteenth century there was a very thin aristocracy of skilled workers of any kind in this country. Since then we have seen, through the Industrial Revolution, a great increase of skills and literacy, and a shift from agriculture to industry and from production industries to service industries. We have seen the growth of entirely new jobs—salesmen, buyers, research workers of all kinds, and so on—and a continual increase, therefore, in the demands on the education and skills of the population.

Some people have suggested that we may reach a stage in a generation or two when the limit to human progress will be the fact that people can no longer absorb any more skills; everybody will be working at full capacity. This may prove to be one of the things which will stop the further development of techniques. Whether that is so or not, we have certainly not reached that stage yet m this country. There are many potential skills in our working population which are unused.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)

I have been listening with interest to what the hon. Member is saying, and I support a great deal of it. but surely he must agree that, even in an enlightened age, there must be a very large percentage of people who are unskilled merely by virtue of chance. Therefore, one of the things which we must do is to take care of them just as much as we must promote automation and ensure that people who are skilled get every opportunity to use their skill.

Mr. Prentice

I agree. I am coming to that point in a moment.

We should recognise that the demand for purely unskilled work will decrease and that the demands for various kinds of skill will increase. Certain types of skill may become redundant, but the overall demand for skill will increase, including in the service industries. Reference has been made to the increase of luxury trades and service industries and to the great demand for hairdressers, workers in cosmetics, and for people in all kinds of skilled occupations. It is in this situation that we must think in terms of the way in which we are wasting the potential skills of a great number of our people, and we must consider what steps should be taken to ensure that that does not happen.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Uxbridge talked about the Newsom Report. I agree very strongly with him that it was unfortunate that the Report came out at about the same time as the Robbins Report and that the Robbins Report had all the publicity and glamour. None of us would want to underestimate the importance of the Robbins Report, but I believe that the Newsom Report dealt with a subject of even greater importance. The Industrial Training Act dealt with a subject of at least equal importance. These things are related to each other, and all of them demand a lot of attention.

As things are organised at the moment, we put a lot of artificial barriers in the way of people developing their potential abilities. The first barrier is selection for secondary education at the age of 11. I believe that the way in which this is done by most local education authorities means that a lot of boys and girls are shut off from the opportunities for education from which they could benefit a great deal.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge reminded us of a survey which suggested that about 75 per cent. of people are in the middle ranges of I.Q. When he said that he drove a nail into the coffin of the 11-plus examination. That examination can easily sort out those who are in the top layer and those who are in the bottom layer—the teachers could do that automatically without the 11-plus examination—but the 75 per cent. in the middle can fall either side of the 11-plus test.

The number who go to grammar school varies from one local education authority to another. We know that the result of these tests depends very largely on such things as examination nerves, and, although a good deal of thought has gone into making this as accurate a test as possible, the fact is that it results in a kind of gamble in which no one can be sure that of this 75 per cent. of average talent children have fallen on the right side of the line.

I disagree completely with the hon. Member for Uxbridge when he says that it does not make any difference whether we select people for different kinds of courses within one comprehensive school or between one sort of school and another. It makes every difference. The point of comprehensive education is that it can make full provision for the late starter and for the boy or girl who is good in one subject, but poor in other subjects. The myth associated with the 11-plus is that one can divide children into two or three categories when in fact there are dozens of categories and all kinds of abilities which can be taken care of only in a comprehensive system of education.

Mr. Miscampbell

I agree entirely that selection may prove difficult, and that it may well be that we should have an extension of the comprehensive system, but is not the crucial question what to do with those children who are nowhere near the 11-plus standard, the ones whose teachers can say straight away are non-starters in any case?

Mr. Prentice

I am sorry to try the patience of hon. Members, but I shall come to that point.

This aspect of selection is tremendously important. If we are to look forward to a technological society, in which we shall need the highest levels of skill, the education system must be such that we obtain the benefit of the maximum amount of talent that every boy and girl possesses. This means that we should not shut off some of them at the age of 11.

A second artificial distinction is made among boys and girls who leave school at 15 or 16. This is the distinction that still exists between those who go into apprenticeship and, in the old phrase, serve their time in a skilled occupation and those who do not enter apprenticeship. This is a distinction which is rapidly becoming out-of-date and will become more and more so as time goes on. I hope that the machinery of the Industrial Training Act will be developed in such a way that we shall have a whole spectrum of training so that every boy and girl leaving school will enter a period of training for work and we shall have no distinction between potential skilled craftsmen who have their training and those who are not trained. There will be training for all kinds of work, for shop assistants, waiters and waitresses, dock workers, farm workers and those who go into industry.

The third cause of wastage of talent is the unequal opportunity that we give in terms of training as between boys and girls. If we accept the yardstick of skilled training, about one-third of the boys leaving school enter apprenticeship for skilled work but less than one-tenth of the girls do so. We are making far less use than we should of the potential skill of our women workers.

I appreciate the problem, which has been mentioned in the debate, experienced by widows who start work in middle life, and, indeed, by any woman who decides to start work after her family has grown up, even though she is married. It is too easily assumed that these women will go into unskilled work. Many women start work in middle life with the intention of going on for a long time. These potentially could enter skilled work, but no effort is made by the State or by employers generally to train them so that they may be used to their fullest capacity.

After having made, as I hope, better use of the potential talents which we now waste, there still remain the problems of those who are not qualified either for academic work or highly skilled work of any kind, and here we are back to an aspect of the Newsom Report which is of great importance. We must have a period of transition between being at school and being at work which would fall on both sides of the actual school-leaving age. What is wrong at present is that boys and girls tend to think that on a particular day they are finished with school and are through with education for the rest of their lives. There is a psychological break there. Many look forward to leaving school, to a time when there are no more school rules or school uniforms and they have money of their own. All this adds to the feeling that on the day they leave school they can leave education behind. We should do everything we can to introduce an entirely different atmosphere.

Chapter 9 is an important chapter of the Newsom Report in which the Newsom Committee talks about the last year of school with particular reference to the use to be made of it when the school-leaving age is raised to 16. The Report puts forward some wise suggestions about relating the curriculum of that year to the outside world and its work and in its other aspects. The teaching of geography, science and other subjects should be related to what will happen to people in the outside world. Boys and girls should be encouraged to see the relevance of what they are learning. The Committee suggested that during that year there should be visits to industry and other places of work, a chance of discussions with people at work, and the opportunity for spending some time training at a factory so that the children see all the time the relevance of school to work.

We then have to look at the second half of this matter, and that is the importance of continuing education after the official school-leaving age. One problem which has not been raised so far in the debate is that of day release, or block release, for some form or other of part-time education. It seems to us on this side of the House that we should move as quickly as possible to a situation in which every young worker has a right to day release or some other form of release from his work. This is something which we would like to see made a right for apprentices in the first instance, and then, as resources developed, extended to other groups of workers until it became automatic and compulsory up to the age of 18 and was then followed by other provisions beyond that age when the resources became available.

Recently, the Henniker Heaton Committee, appointed by the Minister of Education, issued a report on this subject and recommended as an interim target an increase of 50,000 day-release places a year for the next five years. I should like the Under-Secretary to comment on this and say whether the Government have accepted that target. We feel that this is the very least that should be expected. If we have any criticism to make it is that the target is not sufficiently ambitious. This is an important aspect of the queston of facing the problems of the period when a boy or girl is both at work and at school.

Another important aspect is the need to expand the youth employment service. The National Youth Employment Council is investigating some of the problems of the service. Can the Under-Secretary tell us how long that investigation will take and can he give some interim report on what is being done?

If we are to talk about better educational and industrial training opportunities, a corollary of this is the expansion of the youth employment service. In general, throughout the country the service is now under-manned, and I believe that the pay and status of those engaged in it leave a great deal to be desired. Much more needs to be done in the training of youth employment officers. Their own organisation has made demands on that account. We need to see careful, informed guidance being made available to every young person during the last year at school and the early years at work so that a boy or girl who has started on something and is unhappy can be shown that there are alternatives available, and so that what is being done at work can be related to opportunities of training in a young person's own individual talent.

We want this to continue well beyond the present age of 18. At present, there is a statutory obligation on the Youth Employment Service to provide vocational training up to 18 years of age. I do not think this could be done in practice in many areas beyond that age, because of the shortage of staff and other difficulties, but we ought to make sure that it becomes a reality up to 18 and then consider expanding it beyond that age.

It is important, in the sort of period that we shall be entering, that we should try to get round pegs into round holes because of the importance to the individual and to the community. If these various reforms are carried through, we shall help a fairly big proportion of young people, including young people of average I.Q. and of less than average I.Q., to recognise that education can continue throughout their lives if they make the wise choice and is not something which they left behind on the day they left school.

I wish to refer to the problem of leisure, which has been raised by more than one hon. Member. One by-product of the inequality in our educational system is a very drastic inequality of access to sport and organised games for teen-agers. We must face the fact that today the majority of young people leave school at the age of 15 or 16, and that the majority of them have no further contact with sport or with organised games except as spectators or possibly as gamblers on the football pools. This is entirely wrong.

Those who stay on at school have facilities available for organised games, and it is recognised that not only those who are good at games should participate; they are available for everbody, for the 17 and 18-year-old and for people even older. We need a tremendous public investment in playing fields, swimming pools, running tracks and sports facilities of all kinds, bearing in mind that at the age of 16 and 17 most healthy young people have plenty of energy and exuberance and should have these opportunities which are denied to them at the moment.

Some people draw attention to the possible connection between the lack of these facilities and the growth in juvenile delinquency. This may well be one of the contributory causes to the growth of juvenile delinquency, though we should not argue the case purely on that ground. I am thinking of the majority of youngsters who never become juvenile delinquents, but who suffer from frustration and lack of opportunity in these respects. Many proposals have been made to the Government, by the Albemarle Committee, on youth clubs, the Wolfenden Committee, on sport; and there have been other reports, but very little action has been taken. The Government have been very good at appointing distinguished committees, but I am often amazed at the patience and generosity of busy people who give their time to serve on committees only for their reports to be pigeon-holed afterwards so that nothing is done about them.

The House will have an opportunity to debate the sport and physical recreation aspects of this matter in a half day's debate on Monday. I would not, therefore, wish to say anything more about it now, but, acting on the assumption that I may not be fortunate in catching your eye on Monday, Mr. Speaker, I thought that I had better say a word about it now because it is very much part of the theme which was introduced by the hon. Member for Uxbridge. In an age that gives us an opportunity for more leisure, we must think constructively as a community of the provisions which should be made for it.

I conclude by referring briefly to what the hon. Member for Uxbridge said about the social divisions which will become apparent in society, as he thought, as automation and these other changes have greater effect. He reminded us—and I thought that he was absolutely right—that in the past and, indeed, to some extent in the present, when an old-fashioned class system has given more opportunities to some people than to others, a man or woman who did not make progress in life could take some comfort from the thought that they had been unlucky, that life had been unfair to them and that they would have done better if they had had the chance.

As we move away from the old-fashioned class system, as we are doing—and under the Government which will take office in October we shall move away from it much further and much faster—we have to face the problem that those who do not do well, who do not pass examinations and do not become skilled workers or professional workers, will have their relative failures complicated by the feeling that they have had a chance and have not been able to take it. This presents a real challenge to all of us and to our standards of behaviour one to another in the period that lies ahead.

We are in danger of replacing the old class divisions by new forms of status divisions, of thinking that the scientist and engineer is a new form of aristocrat who is entitled to all kinds of special privileges. There is no simple answer to this, except that I believe we need to develop civilised standards of dealing with each other, and, I would say for my own part, Socialist standards of dealing with each other, so that we have the utmost respect for every individual in every walk of life. The society to which we are to move will need the person of high intellect. It will need the person of manual skill. It will also need the person with neither high intellect nor manual skill but who will do an honest day's work at some simple task which needs to be done.

Processes of production will be team processes in which everybody, including the unskilled worker, will play a useful part. A useful discipline here is to remind ourselves that everybody whom we meet every day, on the bus and in the street, is better than we are at something, and that we should not feel smug or self-satisfied, whatever position we may have reached in life.

The most important point of all about the future is not the level of production or the technical questions involved, but whether we can develop a society in which each man and woman can feel that they are leading a full, happy and dignified life. Human dignity must be the key to this. This will present us with new challenges in the age of automation lying ahead of us.

2.38 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)

I apologise to the House and to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) for not being present for the first part of the debate owing to an outside engagement.

We have debated this matter before and I am sure that the remarks of hon. Members on both sides of the House will add to the consensus of opinion which has been expressed in the House about this ticklish problem. I also apologise to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, and I shall endeavour to be brief.

I must make one or two remarks about the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), a speech with much of which I agreed. If I may say so, the hon. Member always speaks with very good sense and he is reasonably non-controversial. I agree that we are moving into a new era where class barriers are coming down, and that when a new Government are elected in October we shall make further advances, particularly as that new Government will be another Conservative one. But, irrespective of political considerations, the remarks of the hon. Gentleman are always worth very careful consideration, and I think that there is a good deal of agreement on both sides of the House on these matters.

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on one or two points. For instance, we have different philosophies about comprehensive schools. By and large, his side of the House agrees with them, and we on this side do not. I always try to look at the matter non-politically. In my view, the present system, although it has its imperfections, is the best. If we have too many comprehensive schools, the child who lags behind will not necessarily get a better chance than he does under the present system. The large comprehensive school tends to inhibit the bright child and he may not have the opportunities which he would have under a grammar school system.

Nevertheless, in our education system there is a place for all types of school, including the comprehensive, and I believe that the experiment which has been going on for some years now is capable of being carried on for a few more years before we make a final judgment as to whether or not it offers an answer to some of our problems in secondary education.

I agree very much with what the hon. Gentleman said about further education and day release. In due course, the climate of opinion must develop to the point where people realise that they must go on being educated after leaving school, that automatically, at least until the age of 18, the process must continue. We must inculcate into young people the idea that education is important, that it does not necessarily stop at 18 but, indeed, continues for the rest of life. It is very encouraging to read sometimes about people in their forties or fifties who are taking G.C.E. courses, studying to become barristers or going through examinations of one kind or another which, while they may not fit them for any particular financial advance, will make for keenness of mind and better quality as citizens.

In this country, we must reconsider our attitude to the problems which will inevitably flow from the advance of automation, irrespective of which side of the House forms the Government. Automation today is, in one sense, rather like transport was at the beginning of this century. It was in its very early stages. People half believed in it. They had absolutely no idea of the advances which would come and which are still being made even in our time. As a consequence, there was a lack of planning and a lack of understanding of what would take place. Very much as our forebears were at the beginning of this century in their attitude to transport, we are in danger of not realising how automation will develop out of all recognition. One has only to think for a moment of all that has happened between the day when the motor car was a remarkably novel vehicle going along the road with a man in front holding a red flag and today when we almost have the supersonic airliner. Automation will advance in much the same way, though, no doubt, even more rapidly.

Inevitably, serious problems for both management and employees, for both Government and all people interested in the welfare of the citizen, will be created, We must have a far better appraisal of what is needed to prepare people for automation as it develops in the 1970s. Both management and unions could play a far bigger part than they are now in educating both their sides to the challenges ahead.

One of the keys to the whole problem is retraining. We must have a massive expansion of retraining facilities for both artisans and professionals, for everyone employed in all sections of industry and commerce most likely to be affected. We had a debate on this subject a few months ago, in which I was fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and I then expressed the hope that, perhaps, one of these days we should reach the ideal state of affairs when every person employed had two skills. At the outset of his career, a person would do one job, but he would, at the same time, have a reserve occupation to which he could switch if, in due course, his first skill became redundant through changes in the pattern of employment. We must become more adaptable as a community. People must be able to switch more readily from one pursuit to another. If such a stage were reached, it would, I believe, be a definite boon not only to the individual but to the State as a whole.

I was interested in what the hon. Member for East Ham, North said about leisure and sport. Allied to some extent with the question of retraining is the point that we should develop a better sense of purpose in the pursuits which people follow in their leisure time. If working hours are to be reduced, as undoubtedly they will be, we must make sure that, even if the queues at the employment exchange, through good planning by the Government, are reduced, the queues at the dog stadium or horse-race track are not enlarged merely because there is extra leisure time. People must make good use of the hours available to them, and to this end we must inculcate a better sense of civic purpose and responsibility in the community as a whole.

There is a problem connected with sporting pursuits. It is vital that young people, particularly school children, should have every possible facility available to them to exercise their bodies and remain fit and healthy, but, as time goes on and young people reach their late teens and early twenties, many of them may be discouraged. Nowadays, we are becoming more and more successful in all kinds of sporting pursuits, and standards are very high. There is the danger that the person who is only an average performer who falls below the norm, and who does not feel himself capable of competing with leading athletes, will be inhibited. I hesitate to mention athletics in the presence of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, but I have in mind all sorts of activities, swimming, soccer, Rugby, cricket and the rest. There is great fun in taking part in games, but not so much fun if one is not particularly good and always regarded as a "rabbit". Although standards are improving considerably, overall the great bulk of people who take part in sports are not particularly good; they participate for the enjoyment, and not to achieve great athletic success.

While making every effort to educate the public on the subject of automation, we must not be frightened of it. There is latent fear throughout industry on both sides that automation is something which will inevitably overtake us, but that, at the moment, it is best to ignore it. We should accept the challenge straight away. It will be a great boon to the nation as a whole.

The hon. Gentleman reminded us of the danger of dividing our nation between the skilled and the unskilled. I referred to this in the previous debate, as did other hon. Members. We have largely eliminated the poverty which once existed, dividing our people into two nations, and to a large extent we are one nation today. The barrier between rich and poor is going. We must not reach a stage when there are two nations again, with a barrier between the skilled and the unskilled, because this would create very great resentment, resentment just as real and sincerely felt as that which was felt at the time of the division between rich and poor.

If we can tackle these problems successfully, automation will prove of very great benefit to the country, and I am sure that, with the advances we have already made and can in future make, we shall be able to keep our place well in the van of the rest of the free world.

2.48 p.m.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) for having chosen this subject for his Motion today. He is fortunate in having some time for debate. On most occasions, the first Motion takes nearly the whole day and others have to take their chance of not being reached at all.

The problems which the hon. Gentleman has raised in his Motion face all countries of the world today. The advance of automation has been so rapid that it is high time that we settled down to a careful and speedy consideration of how to arrange for the inevitable problems which will develop in its train.

In the City of Leicester, part of which I represent, very great technical progress has been made. Leicester is a prosperous town, and it is prosperous, I believe, because those who have been in control of its affairs and have been in charge of its manufacturing industries, including the people employed in them, have, through considerable foresight, taken good advantage of advances in scientific knowledge, technical expertise, and new patented processes.

There is a diversity of occupations in Leicester which enables people to gain from the experience of each other. Automation brings us face to face with the great human problem of occupation and the use of leisure time. That is well known and it has become almost a platitude. We must consider the manner in which we can influence those who are to participate in the work and their opportunities for leisure.

I do not propose to repeat what has been said by other hon. Members, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). He gave the House the benefit of his very wide experience and explained much of what we in the Labour Party propose to do when we take office. I shall not enter now into any political controversy. My views are similar to those of my hon. Friend.

There are, however, one or two points which I wish to underline and one is the great importance of day-release schemes to enable young people to study and gain experience. I have visited colleges in Leicester which are engaged in the schemes. I have seen the excellent manner in which the training is carried out and the keen interest displayed by those who are released from work in order to engage in this form of study. I am satisfied that every encouragement should be given to firms—it may even have to be compulsory—to engage in day-release schemes.

Another aspect of the problem is shown by the hooliganism in which some young people have engaged particularly recently, and which would seem to indicate that their leisure time is not being properly utilised or their interests directed into the proper channels. I do not know whether we ought to condemn only the young people. They act in a strange manner, but is it entirely their fault? Does not some of the fault rest with those of us who ought to have been more aware of what was happening and to have made provision by Government or voluntary effort to cope with it adequately?

We know that the amount of leisure time will increase in the future and it is essential that we consider how best this time may be used, in conjunction with the question of education, so that we may discover what is to be done to ensure that those whom we call the less gifted children—the Motion refers to the educational facilities provided for less gifted children"— receive proper attention.

I think that the comprehensive schools provide facilities which have already indicated that a large number of youngsters who might otherwise have been considered less gifted are very gifted in various directions. There are, however, a large number of youngsters, who are not so educable as others, either in the academic sense or from the point of view of imparting some skill.

We must realise that we have to take the guidance of the youngsters in hand from the start. We cannot wait until a child has developed into a teenager. The energies of young people must be properly directed. They should be imbued with the spirit of adventure and this may be made possible by such efforts as the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme. They must be given opportunities so that they will come naturally to realise the benefits of education.

I agree that the provision of facilities for sport, exercise and useful recreation is very important. We can speak only from our own experience and I think that I may be able to contribute something from mine which may prove of benefit. First, youth clubs. In my view, the kind of education which youth clubs provide is extremely important in the moulding of the bodies and the minds of young people so that they may be able to cope with situations of change.

As the House knows, I am a member of the Jewish community, and I will refer to some of the things in which we have been engaged. I am proud of the fact that the community was in the forefront of the youth club movement. In 1896, nearly 70 years ago, in an area which I represented for some years in the House, the first Jewish club was opened in the East End of London for working lads—the Brady Boys' Club. Today, it is one of the largest clubs and settlements in the country and many thousands of successful men and women are grateful to it for what it did for them in their youth.

The club movement has grown. In Leicester, we have some excellent clubs in which opportunities are given for boys, and in some cases girls, to exercise their energies in a proper and wholesome manner. The club movement has grown to a large extent. In addition to the large and famous clubs there are today small units in suburbs and isolated areas where devoted voluntary workers help daily to give to our young people the kind of facilities for channelling their energies and preventing them from becoming "mods" or "rockers".

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is to reply to the debate, may be considering how this can be related to the subject of the Motion. It is important, for example, that there should be greater impetus from the Government in encouraging play centres and junior clubs, so that by the time that youngsters reach club age they are already club-minded and on leaving school they are already established in an atmosphere of energetic, purposeful endeavour. The more gifted youngsters stay on at school and some try to get into universities. I would not say that the majority of those in the clubs are less gifted, but they are less adapted to that kind of further education.

At the club to which I have referred—the Brady Boys' Club; and the same thing must be true of many other clubs—classes are held in such subjects as photography, art, drama, music, ceramics and discussions. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme is taken right up to gold medal standard. In addition, there are among its activities, camping, woodwork, swimming, car and motor cycle maintenance, as well as athletics, football, cricket and judo. Provided that the young people can be got into that kind of atmosphere, they have excellent opportunity. In this way, the young people derive an education from which they benefit, although not, perhaps, in the strict sense of education, one which enables them to utilise their abilities after school to face the new situation in which automation plays such an important part.

The major portion of the money for these clubs has to be found by devoted people, who have to nag members of the public for voluntary donations for buildings and for the upkeep of the work. I know that the Joint Under-Secretary is keenly interested in this movement May I ask that further consideration be given to supplying the means which are necessary to develop and continue those establishments? Trained instructors are essential. Where the size of a class is not large enough for the local authority to send an instructor, the club has either to rely on voluntary unskilled help, which is extremely difficult to find, or provide the money to pay someone to do the job.

It is true that the Government give grants. Far be it from me to deny that they give grants in some cases, as do some of the local authorities, but in my view these are not enough. After all, prevention is always better than cure. We can, I believe, prevent people from automatically and naturally falling out of the race of human endeavour and slipping into ways which are not the best, putting it very mildly, in their interest or the interest of the community. It is important that they should have proper training, and I think that if this effort were encouraged more than it is today we should find one way of dealing with some of these problems.

As I have said, we must start from the bottom. It is no use waiting for a young person to be induced to go into an atmosphere of that kind. The movement itself must start with play centres where children come after school to have tea, play games and enjoy singing and dancing and other simple activities. By that method we train a young person to want to be within that atmosphere and by having junior clubs with similar activities to senior clubs they ultimately feel themselves part and parcel of an organisation which will bring them a considerable amount of enjoyment and at the same time help them in their work.

Perhaps I may refer to one aspect of what is best, according to the ability of a young person, for that person in future years, in the matter of employment. I think that one learns from the experience which various bodies have had in this matter. About three years ago the education committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies investigated the problem and decided that parents and children should be advised, several years before the youngsters left school, about the courses which should be taken at school so that not too many would leave school and enter overcrowded trades and professions or those where fewer persons would be needed through automation.

Another organisation, the Jewish Welfare Board, took over the actual working of the scheme and has done yeoman service. For generations, it has had an industrial department to deal with this problem of obtaining suitable apprenticeships and advertising. In my view, youth employment officers cannot possibly deal with the situation unless it is taken in hand during the school age. Whether it is done, as at present, by voluntary bodies similar to those that I have referred to, it would be advantageous if voluntary bodies assisted the authorities as this body does. We must see to it that the child is prepared for its future life in this industrial age, an age which will undoubtedly be governed by this tremendous advent of automation.

The problem touches every phase of life. We have to have vision. I am not so sure myself that those who think that automation in its full sense will be delayed some years are correct. I think advances will be made rapidly. Our country has men and women who are capable of dealing with automation and of making the necessary research. In my own constituency we have a large industry already which deals with the advance of automation, and I am assured that, if properly supported by the Government, and if proper orders are given by Government to our own automation industry, we can advance very rapidly, as rapidly as any other country in the world. I am myself satisfied about that. There must be cooperation between the Government and the factories which are engaged in it, and the research must be very intensive. We have the scientists who are capable of doing research.

I am very glad that we are facing up to this problem. I understand that we shall be discussing it again next Monday. I think that we cannot discuss it too often. The duty is ours. The generations to come will either thank us or blame us for the action we take or fail to take. The job is ours. It is a challenge to us. We have got to move rapidly. I believe that a Government directed by the ideas of this party will be very much more capable doing it. Nevertheless, even in the short intervening period we have to make very rapid strides in that direction.

I conclude by again saying how grateful we are to the hon. Member who introduced the Motion.

3.13 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) on the use to which he has today put his good fortune in the Ballot. He urged upon the House that there should be no platitudes used during this debate on a subject where platitudes are not uncommon, but I hope that he will accept from me that this customary form of congratulation is sincerely meant. I am glad, too, that my hon. Friend has concentrated on the education of the less gifted child.

One aspect of his speech that was so welcome to me was the moderation with which he introduced us to the topic of automation and its possible effects on employment. When jazzed up by political presentation at Scarborough and elsewhere automation has tended to take some strange hues. I think that there has been, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North (Mr. Miscampbell) suggested, a tendency to exaggerate the rate at which automation will reduce the amount of work to be done.

The United States Department of Labour has done a good deal of close study into the reasons for the high unemployment rate that has persisted in America over a number of years. Its conclusions are largely inconsistent with the theory that this has anything very much to do with automation. I thought that a book by Professor Rostow, the American economic historian—" The Stages of Economic Growth"—had some wise things to say about this subject. He pointed to the fact that automation had been accompanied in America by what he called a most extraordinary and unexpected decision on the part of the people. With rapidly rising living standards, Americans began to behave, in his words: as if they preferred the extra baby to the extra unit of consumption". The birthrate has similarly moved sharply up in this country, and that trend, together with the continued increase in the expectancy of life, has meant that each worker here, as in the United States, has to support more people.

A passage by Rostow is, I think, relevant to us and a corrective to the more alarmist Galbraithian theories to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge referred at one point. Rostow says: It is too soon for a four-day week and for tolerance of substantial levels of unemployment, if only the unemployment benefits are large enough—as Professor Galbraith has counselled. A society like the United States, structurally committed to a high consumption way of life; committed also to maintain the decencies that go with adequate social overhead capital; committed by its own interests and the interests of those dependent upon it or allied to it to deal with a treacherous and an extremely expensive world environment; committed additionally, out of its own internal dynamics, to a rapidly enlarging population and to a working force which must support more old and more young…such a society must use its resources fully, productively, and wisely. The problem of choice and allocation—the problem of scarcity—has not yet been lifted from it. If that is a fair analysis of the American position, it probably applies with even greater force to us.

In short, I find it hard to believe that, if our country is wisely governed, automation need threaten us at any stage in the near future with a situation in which there is not enough work to go round. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour takes the view that in the next decade we are much more likely to be faced with a manpower shortage than the reverse.

But, of course, I accept the connection, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge has rightly drawn attention, between rapid changes in the pattern of employment and the work of the schools. The implications of technological advance for the education of the average and the below-average child are as a number of hon. Members have recognised, of particular importance.

This was a point to which the Newsom Committee, in fact, drew attention in the first chapter of its Report. It said that the expansion in employment in the service occupations was producing a demand for a recruit who is better educated. In fact, the Newsom Committee chose for an illustration of what it meant by the particular expansion of the service industries exactly that chosen by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North—the catering industries.

The Newsom Committee also pointed to the fact that opportunities for skilled workers are continuing to increase. The demand for unskilled and semi-skilled labour has been declining for a very long time—as the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) suggested, perhaps since the beginning of time. It may be reasonable to expect that in the longer period the decline in the demand for unskilled labour will be accelerated. But if there is here a lesson to be drawn from American experience, it seems that even in a period of increased automation when some unskilled jobs are disappearing, other jobs which demand very few skills appear to be multiplying. But I accept the broad facts that have been described.

The debate has ranged widely, touching on a number of topics. On Monday we shall discuss the use of leisure and no doubt there will then be an opportunity to reply to some of the points raised about the Albemarle Committee and sports provision. All I would say now to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) is that, in the period since the Albemarle Committee reported, there has been a great expansion of provision. The help given by the Government both towards recurrent expenditure of the voluntary organisations and towards club building has been greatly increased. Whereas, on the capital side, youth service building was running at under£1 million a year before the Committee reponed, it is now running at£4½million and "here have been considerable increases in the grants made to voluntary organisations and in the recurrent expenditure of local authorities.

Sir B. Janner

I quite agree that there has been an advance and most people are, of course, prepared to admit as much. But we want a very much bigger advance.

Mr. Chataway

We all want a very much bigger advance in most directions and we are determined to implement the recommendations of the Albemarle Committee as soon as we may, but I cannot accept from the hon. Member for East Ham, North that the Report has been pigeonholed or that the Report of the Wolfenden Committee, which was not a Government report but one commissioned by a body outside, has been disregarded by my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Prentice

I was suggesting that there has been an increase from an abysmally low figure to one a bit bigger but still much too low.

Mr. Chataway

We shall go into greater details on this on Monday.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, in a most interesting passage in his excellent speech, spoke of some of the difficulties of an increasingly meritocratic society, in which the individual may feel that failure in any direction is to be attributed more to himself than to any extraneous circumstance. I am sure that my hon. Friend was right to lay a good deal of emphasis on that.

It led the hon. Member for East Ham, North to discuss the 11-plus and selective schools. He would do well to consider the words of the Newsom Report on this. I do not question the genuine difficulties about selection at any age but in its introduction, after stating that it takes considerable time to be able to judge any school organisation and suggesting that it is too early to make judgments about secondary modern schools, the Newsom Committee's Report says: It is, of course, even more premature to attempt a reasoned judgement on comprehensive and other types of secondary organisation. It is an absence of dogmatism that we want in this subject. I am sure that many on the education world would be a good deal happier if they saw less dogmatism from the other side of the House.

To pass quickly from the variety of additional matters which have been raised in the debate to the main question to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge directed his remarks, he inquired about the Government's follow up to the Newsom Report. The major Government decisions which have flowed from the Committee's work are well known by now. The Committee's principal recommendation has been accepted and a date set for the raising of the school-leaving age. We have had a building programme for 1965–68 which is some 30 per cent. higher than current levels of school building. This bigger building programme represents an important and expensive response to the Newsom Report.

If the raising of the school-leaving age and the increased level of school building are the two most obvious, they are certainly not the only results. There are new initiatives for in-service training and refresher courses for teachers which have been taken by my right hon. Friend in the light of the Newsom Report. Hon. Members may have seen only on Wednesday reports of an experiment in Northumberland whereby the school day is to be extended along the lines which the Newsom Committee recommended. This recommendation is under consideration by my right hon. and learned Friend.

The Report repeatedly drew attention to the close connection between schools and their environment, or, to put it more formally, between the socio-economic factors and educational attitudes, organisation and achievement. One of the recommendations was that an interdepartmental working committee should be set up to deal with general social problems, including education in the slum areas. An interdepartmental committee has now been established with rather wider functions. As my right hon. and learned Friend announced this week, its task will be to consider plans for and results of research and development work on any aspect of the general theme, "The Schools and Society." The object is better to co-ordinate activities and to make more efficient use of public funds and other resources.

A number of Departments are represented on this committee—Home, Health, Education, both England and Wales and Scotland, together with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Labour and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The committee will be concerned with much of the research work which has already been mentioned to the House in connection with the Newsom Report and including the major project to be carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research with the financial backing of the Home Office and the Education Department which was announced recently by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

I am sure that this new arrangement will help us to get the most out of the variety of research now in hand. It is an arrangement which recognises that in this respect the work must clearly be of interest to a number of Departments and that it can be carried out only with close co-operation among a number of Departments. Many of the Newsom Committee's recommendations called for research into the connection between the school and society, particularly in slum or twilight areas, and into the connection between educational and social advance. This new arrangement will, I believe, enable us to carry out those inquiries the more effectively.

While on the subject of the school and society, perhaps I might mention a short conference which is to be convened early next month of about 35 headmasters and headmistresses drawn from all over the country from different types of comprehensive and secondary modern schools. They are people whom we know have had considerable success in difficult conditions. While one does not expect that any hard and fast conclusions will be reached at this short conference, the hope is that the material provided will point the way to further studies which are needed, and will give us more information about the best existing practice in the schools.

In the past a great deal that has been learnt in the schools has remained with the originators, or has died when the teacher concerned has moved on to another job or retired. Ideas have not been circulated as freely as they might have been. We have sometimes been rather casual in this country over the whole question of spreading ideas as to what should be taught, and of course it was with what should be taught that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge was primarily concerned today. My hon. Friend has given the House an opportunity of discussing not only bricks and mortar and normal logistical questions, but also what is needed in the way of curricula in our secondary schools at a time of rapid change.

I suggest to the House that in the past there has been no adequate machinery for identifying, developing, and making generally available the best that is being attempted in many individual schools. I am sure that many hon. Members who have looked at the Newsom Report have been impressed by the descriptions there of the very best that is going on in some schools, but in the past there has not been as good a circulation of ideas as one would have wished. This will be one of the main jobs of the new Schools Council.

Agreement to set up this Council was reached only a few days ago. It has been said that it may prove to be one of the most important educational advances since the 1944 Act. It is to be an independent representative body. The Chairman will be Sir John Maud. Its first meeting will be held in October, and its main functions will be to keep under review curricula, teaching methods, and examinations in our primary and secondary schools.

My hon. Friend has been concerned today with what is taught in the schools, and with the need to ensure that young people are educationally equipped for social and industrial changes. We are primarily concerned in this debate with the kind of education which is going to be given in our secondary schools in the future. I want, therefore, to talk for a moment or two about the curriculum and about the problems which we hope this new machinery will enable us to tackle more effectively in the future. I emphasise that nothing that I say should be taken as prejudging the right of the new Schools Council to make up its own mind on its future programme of work. I want, rather, to describe the ways in which my right hon. and learned Friend is prepared to make a contribution to the work of this Council and to complement it by undertaking related activities outside the Council's terms of reference.

The first and most important point which I should like to make is that the context within which many of the recommendations in the Newsom Report will have to be followed up has been subtly altered by the Government's acceptance of the main recommendation to raise the school-leaving age. That will not just mean thinking out what is to be done with the Newsom pupils for an extra year of secondary education. Both for them and for all the many others who in future will stay longer at school we have to think about the five-year course as a whole and about the likely consequences of the reform. These will almost certainly include a considerable increase in the number of pupils who decide to prolong their education beyond 16, whether in school or in part-time further education.

The abler children will also be affected by the raising of the school-leaving age. My right hon. and learned Friend hopes that the Schools Council will give attention to the problem which will arise for them in all probability as sixth forms become even larger and include a wider band of ability than they do today. My hon. Friend, in his analysis, sought to draw a very important distinction between vocational education and academic education. He was followed by a number of hon. Members who suggested that more of an academic education was required for the less gifted child. The thesis I shall try for a moment to advance bears some similarity to this, although I do not entirely accept that the problem is just as my hon. Friend described it.

For those who will still be leaving school at 16, the earliest possible age, the key problem is to make the curriculum relevant and to make it seem to them to be relevant. The work that is done in school has to prepare young people to tackle the real problems of the adult world and, as the hon. Member for East Ham, North stressed, to help to bridge the gap between school and work. It is not a new problem, but its form is constantly altering. It is changed by the shifting patterns of work and altered profoundly each time the school-leaving age is raised.

Every time the school-leaving age is raised young people become more aware of the outside world for a longer period before they leave school. They are older and able to understand matters of greater complexity. Their attitudes change and these changed attitudes have their effect throughout the school com- munity. Even today, 17 years after the raising of the school-leaving age to 15, it is not at all clear that these implications of a longer school life have always been fully taken. Some of the evidence in the Newsom Report suggests that there will be a considerable proportion of school-leavers whose work in school has given them very little opportunity to learn about the problems of living in our society.

In its general aspects, questions of relevance arise most obviously in those subjects which are loosely described as the humanities—English literature, geography, history, religious education—but other subjects like home economics, health education and mathematics are beginning to develop a considerable overlap with the traditional concern of the humanities. But in all subjects I think the most urgent questions seem to be those of content rather than of method—that is to say, the questions that are concerned more with what we should teach than how we should teach. They come not so much in the form what history and what geography should be taught as what questions in the social, political, economic or moral spheres can usefully be broached with pupils of different levels of ability.

There is a need to think less about subjects in watertight compartments. In the past the literary side of the curriculum acted for those who stayed at school long enough as a carrier for ideas about freedom, the rule of law, attitudes towards economic and social change, free will, individual responsibility, human rights, society's requirements of the individual, and so on.

The question, now that all pupils are to stay long enough at school to become aware of these ideas and to raise questions about them, is what is the modern counterpart of the literary tradition of the grammar school. If I pose the question in that way, I hope that I may have some sympathy from my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge because I think that this is what he was looking for and getting at in his speech.

This may seem a very difficult problem to tackle, particularly if new ideas are to gain general currency before the school-leaving age is raised to 16. It is certainly a difficult problem. My right hon. and learned Friend is hopeful that this is an area of study and of development work which the Schools Council could tackle, if it so decided, with good hope of achieving a substantial measure of success, because, here again, there has been a great deal of promising experiment going on over a considerable period.

The head teachers who will come to the conference next month, to which I referred earlier, will certainly have a good deal of information to give about ways in which they have successfully brought their pupils to think about these general ideas and their application to the personal judgments that are needed of individuals at a time of rapid change. It is precisely because so much has been already attempted, and is felt by the teachers concerned to have run into the sands, that it is likely that the Council's initiative would be welcomed by the schools and could produce useful results within a few years.

Before, turning to one or two other matters, I should like to mention a special and important aspect of this problem of relevance. There is the need today, more than in the past, to bridge the gap between school and work, as my hon. Friend said, and to provide, as the hon. Member for East Ham, North said, a period of transition.

Again, this is not a new problem, and again it is one that is constantly changing in form as pupils stay longer at school and as employment opportunities alter. The need here is for a major co-operative effort involving the Government, the trade unions, the employers and many other bodies and organisations in addition to the Schools Council. If we are to tackle this problem seriously we need, frankly, to know much more than we do about the qualities which school leavers ought to possess if they are to move easily from school to work and from one form of employment to another in later life.

What is it that the different employers are after? We heard the other day something about what it was that the managing director of I.C.I. was after. This is useful knowledge, but I do not think that we have enough of it at the local level. We need to know more about the attitude of young people themselves to the vocational relevance, as they see it of the work they are doing at school. We need to find out and make available to the teachers information which few of them possess, about what actually happens to a school leaver when he begins work, settles down in his first job and then changes it, and what physical adjustments, adjustments of attitude, personal relations at work and home he has to face.

These are all matters of considerable concern to the teacher who wants to prepare his pupil for the transition from school to work and many teachers can make only vague guesses at the answer.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, I wonder if I may put this to him? He knows about the conference at Harrow which is held each year between head teachers and local employers where this matter is discussed for a whole day in the context of the actual requirements of the employer and the exchange of knowledge between teachers and employers. It was founded in my constituency, and I think it is important.

Mr. Chataway

That is an extremely valuable initiative. I know that efforts of this kind are being made in various areas and that many schools have the closest contact with many employers in their area. I am sure, however, that there is more that we need to do in this direction.

We should consider very carefully the implications for the schools of the changing structure of industry and employment generally. We can see in the United States a process at work that seems to mean that more and more jobs call for narrow and highly developed skills. Is this likely to be the pattern in this country? If so, what are the implications for the schools and the technical colleges?

These are questions which may well engage the attention of the Schools Council. We have to decide whether we should concentrate more than we do on giving the less able pupils a high degree of competence on a narrow front, as I believe is the policy in a number of American schools—and it is successfully pursued—or whether this should be the job of further education and training. If we go for early training on a narrow front, how do we reconcile that with the requirement for adaptability in employment, to which a number of hon. Members have referred?

Mr. Prentice

I am very interested in this part of the hon. Member's speech. May we take it that the Schools Council will have, first, a research staff provided by the Department, because it seems to me that some of these problems need research in depth and not the collection of views at conferences? Secondly, will there be a system of bulletins so that the results are sent out fairly rapidly to the teachers in the schools who have to apply all this?

Mr. Chataway

The exact means by which the Schools Council will choose to disseminate its information cannot be given at the moment, because this is an independent body. It has not yet met. It will be taking its own decisions. However, I have not the least doubt that the deliberations of the Council will give rise to a great deal more research and development. One of the ideas in the mind of the former Minister of Education, in setting up the working party which considered the advisability of such a Schools Council, was that we needed a body of this sort to stimulate research and development.

Mr. Prentice

It is because it is an independent body that it may need the administrative help which only the Department can provide.

Mr. Chataway

Certainly, it is my right hon. and learned Friend's intention to give that help.

I have undertaken to allow some time for my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) to introduce the next Motion. I apologise to him for having trespassed so severely on his time.

I have not talked so much about buildings or the supply of teachers, nor have I touched on all the questions which have been raised in the debate. In answer to the hon. Member for East Ham, North perhaps I may say that, on day release, my right hon. and learned Friend has accepted the Henniker-Heaton Report and is satisfied that we should aim for its target of a further 250,000 in day release by 1969–70. He attaches considerable importance to the expansion of day release and block release.

I have tried to refer to a few of the more fundamental problems which call for research and have considered the future content of education. I hope that by doing so I have shown that my right hon. and learned Friend is very much alive to the importance of the issues which are raised in the Motion. Our aim, as my hon. Friend suggested it should be, is not just to ensure that young people are trained for the jobs available in an increasingly automated industry but that they are educated to full membership of a society that is liberated and not harnessed by scientific advance. I have seen Sir Leon Bagrit, chairman of Elliott-Automation quoted as saying that whereas the civilisation of Ancient Greece was built by those freed from drudgery by a slave class, a not too distant future generation may live in a society liberated as a whole from drudgery by automation. If that vision is to come anywhere near fulfilment the opportunities of automation to which my hon. Friend's Motion relates will demand from all a more coherent and complete education than this or any other country has hitherto envisaged.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, recognising the social consequences that follow when automation increases production by using a smaller labour force and when people below a minimum standard of ability and education may consequently find it hard to obtain employment, calls on Her Majesty's Government to state their policy for improving still further the educational facilities provided for less gifted children who may otherwise be excluded from an automated labour market.