§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of Technology (Mr. Frank Cousins)
The range of subjects to be covered in today's debate is a wide one—education and technology. I hope that it will be to the convenience of the House if I devote my speech this afternoon to an account of the measures which the Government are taking through the Ministry of Technology—in the words of the Gracious Speech:to increase the productivity and competitive power of British industry".There are many aspects of technology which bear upon education. But it would be far too great a task for me to attempt to cover the whole range of the subjects of today's debate in a single speech. For this reason I propose to confine my remarks to technology and 367 industry and their rôle in the Government's economic policy, while my right hon. Friend, who will be winding up the debate from this side of the House, will deal with education.
I will begin by describing our general approach to our responsibilities. What is our problem? First, some British industry has fallen behind our competitors abroad and this has been due to a number of reasons. One is that the structure of some of our industry is so fragmented and piecemeal that it is out of scale with the requirements of modern production and marketing. Second, there are shortages of industrial capacity due to inadequate investment. Third, there has been a serious lack in many of our industries of research and development.
These serious defects give special urgency to the need for an active policy of Government intervention to make good the failure of market processes to achieve the level of efficiency which is needed to reach our objective of domestic growth and export success. We are contending with the accumulated results of years of neglect of this vital problem.
But the House must realise that in this day and age even our most advanced industries will find difficulty in keeping abreast of their international rivals without Government intervention and assistance. Every advanced economy in the world owes much of its industrial progress and success since the war to its having found effective ways of marrying public power to private effort.
We need only look at the United States of America—the citadel of free enterprise. But this has not hindered an enormous outpouring of public money by the United States Government into private industry through defence programmes, space programmes, and through development contracts from which private industry benefits. Very great skill has been used to ensure that these public outlays, made primarily for public purposes, should be carried out in ways that enable private industry to reap great gains in efficiency. We can all think of examples, in aviation, electronics, atomic energy, machine tools, computers, and more. Other countries besides the United States have found their own ways of employing public services to speed the progress of manufacture and export. This 368 afternoon I hope to describe our way, in this country.
We do not have the vast resources of the United States. We must apply our more limited means with all the skill we can. It must also be remembered that in our mixed economy we must rely greatly on persuasion and inducement to achieve our ends.
I would remind hon. Members opposite who criticise the work of the Ministry of Technology—and also those of my hon. Friends who would like to have seen faster progress—that our task is not to speed up a machine taken over from the last Conservative Administration. We have to build a new machine to undertake positive new tasks which were not carried out by the party opposite, either because it did not understand what was required, or because it has not yet shaken itself free from the encumbrance of a doctrinaire philosophy of the market which is irrelevant today.
What are the means at our disposal? What forms of public power can be used to stimulate, encourage and help productive industry to serve the nation best? When we came to office, some potential instruments were scattered and unorganised, some were under-used, and some did not exist. One of our first tasks was to draw the blueprint for a serviceable instrument of technological policy, fit the existing assets into it, and create others.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
§ Mr. Cousins
The means that the——
§ Mr. Cousins
I was trying to fit in with Mr. Speaker's view about the need to allow a number of other right hon. and hon. Members to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the debate will proceed in an orderly fashion.
§ Mr. Cousins
The means that the Ministry of Technology has now at hand, the forms of public power that it can now deploy, are of four kinds: first, money in its various direct applications to current needs; secondly, capital to help the restructuring of industry; thirdly, various 369 forms of ancillary service the Government can provide; and, finally, technological resources for research and development, publicly owned or supported.
Money can be used in various ways. I need only mention its very important use as an incentive by the special treatment accorded to computers in the Government's investment incentive proposals. Then there is public purchasing power, which can be applied, in those sectors where this is appropriate, to the achievement of higher quality specifications, standardisation, and the economy of longer production runs.
In addition, the Ministry of Technology is using money to help technological progress by grants, loans, guarantees, development contracts, and outright purchases. I shall be giving some examples when I come to deal specifically with the industries sponsored by the Ministry. Finally, the Government propose to use capital through the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation to improve the structure of industry.
The third main resource I referred to was the provision of ancillary services. These can take several forms, such as the Regional Advisory Service, the National Computing Centre and the setting of standards of measurement and performance, all of which I shall deal with later in my speech.
The last of the main public instruments I mentioned was the various publicly-owned or supported agencies for research and development. These range from the research associations, through the Government's own research stations, to the Atomic Energy Authority's research and development staffs. There are, in addition, the research and development divisions of the Ministries of Defence and Aviation; these are, of course, not my responsibility, but my Ministry has already established working co-operation with them, and I hope and expect this to develop a good deal further.
These agencies for achieving technological progress, while not a large fraction of the total of research and development resources available in the country, are of great significance. Some of them have attained a very high standard of excellence, a recognised position of world 370 leadership, with the potentiality of great gains to industry and commerce.
These resources have been set up over the past 50 years or so to undertake specific national purposes. Their proper deployment and management is a major responsibility of Government. There are two main problems. The first is to decide on those areas of technology and on the particular projects where improvements will bring the greatest pay-off nationally. The second is to provide the organisational framework within which such projects can be carried out speedily and effectively and which will itself be responsive to changing national requirements. This is not easy, as the right hon. and hon. Members on the other side with experience in these matters know.
It was interesting to learn, on a visit to the United States last autumn, that they, too, have yet to find a completely satisfactory solution to this problem. In Moscow, last February, I took the opportunity to discuss the problem with Mr. Kirillin, the Chairman of State Committee for Science and Technology in the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that the Soviet Government are faced with similar problems in the management of their scientific and technological resources.
I have been invited by Mr. Kirillin to make a longer visit to Russia with a small party of experts and will be going there next month. Despite the many differences between our two systems of government, I believe that we can learn from each other's methods and techniques for planning and managing research and development.
This is a very important aspect of the work of my Department, it calls for a special form of technological administration. I believe that we have started on the right lines with the extension of the Atomic Energy Authority's activities into specified non-nuclear projects. Other examples are the build-up of the resources at the National Physical Laboratory on measurements and standards and of the National Engineering Laboratory on numerical control and computer-aided design.
In the headquarters and establishments of the Ministry of Technology we are assembling and organising a combination of scientists, engineers, administrators and 371 economists which will grow into a new and valuable instrument of government.
I come now to a more detailed but, of course, not comprehensive account of the way the Ministry is using its four chief instruments. This calls for a review of specific measures taken either to help individual industries, or to meet individual problems common to large parts of industry. I will deal, first, with the leading examples of publicly-owned research resources, then with governmental services.
The Atomic Energy Authority and the National Research Development Corporation are, in one sense, executive arms of our new technology helping to cultivate and disseminate technical "know-how" and to bring to fruition developments of great significance to our economy and our future as an advanced industrial nation. While they were set up some time ago we have widened their scope and infused a new sense of purpose and direction, a new awareness of the relation between their work and the objectives of the National Plan.
Let me say a word about the Atomic Energy Authority. The A.E.A. can look back on a year of great achievement, marked by some important Government decisions about its activities, which should keep them well extended on work of the first importance for a long time to come.
Nuclear electricity in this country turned an important corner with the Dungeness B contract, for an advanced gas-cooled reactor system. It demonstrated that this system had become competitive with the most advanced of our conventional electricity stations and was superior in British conditions to competing power reactor systems.
Closely following on the A.G.R., the Authority has the construction of the steam-generating heavy water reactor well in advance of schedule at Winfrith. This reactor is due to come on power in April, 1968. We believe that this system will meet the requirement which exists widely overseas for a power reactor of a comparatively small size which can compete successfully with conventional means of generating electricity. Much overseas interest has already been shown in this system.
What we now look forward to—and this was the subject of the Government's 372 important decision in February—is the advent of the fast reactor. The prototype which the A.E.A. is to build at Dounreay, and which should begin to operate in 1971, should pave the way for the commercial fast reactor. This will be the first fast reactor of any size to be built anywhere in the world. It is this reactor which the Authority believes will usher in an era of really cheap electricity. We have to look a long way ahead for the realisation of our present plans, but we are travelling the right road. This policy is being carried forward by the Authority in collaboration with our engineering industries and the partnership thus established operates not only in this country, but in their joint efforts to secure export business.
Before I leave the Authority I would like to remind the House that it is using the powers given to me under Section 4 of the Science and Technology Act to undertake work in desalination, and the three-year programme which I authorised last year is going ahead vigorously with industry.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say something about export prospects both for the steam generating heavy water reactor and the advanced gas cooled reactor?
§ Mr. Cousins
Discussions are going on in a number of countries as, I am sure, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) must be aware. However, in the commercial circumstances of discussions at Government and company level, it would be improper for me to comment on details. I am sure that progress will be made, but it is obvious that there will be more tendering than success. That is inevitable when the other two great atomic Powers in the world are themselves in the same market.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to use the power generated by the factory associated with Dounreay for developing industry in the north-east of Scotland?
§ Mr. Cousins
I have answered questions on this subject from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) on a number of occasions, when I have said that economic growth must take place if we 373 are fully to utilise the resources of the Dounreay establishment; but that is not a matter for this review.
I now come to the National Research Development Corporation. Previous debates over the past 18 months have brought out the importance we attach to the fullest exploitation of the N.R.D.C., and the House will be familiar with the many areas of industry where it is giving support, some of which I shall mention later in my speech. They range from hovercraft through computers to agricultural machinery and drugs. On hovercraft, where we hold a distinct lead over the rest of the world, a new corporation was set up in February, bringing together the efforts of Westlands and Vickers. This should greatly strengthen our industrial efforts.
The difference between our approach to N.R.D.C. and that of the party opposite does not require much explanation. We have increased the capital available to the N.R.D.C. to a total of £25 million and modified the financial conditions under which it has to work. One significant comparison alone will illustrate the impetus to the work of the N.R.D.C. made possible by these changes. Its forward commitments stand at over £8 million compared with about £1.4 million in June, 1964, or six times what they were.
I now turn to the provision of services for industry. I shall have a word to say later about the National Computing Centre. For the moment I want to describe our proposals for helping manufacturing industry in securing better measurement, control and standardisation. Industrial productivity does not mean merely producing more with the same resources. Productivity must embrace the quality of our manufactures allied to price and service. Our reputation for accuracy and quality will help us to increase our share of the export markets of the world.
Taking measurement first; I propose to establish a nationwide service to industry for the calibration of measuring equipment. The state of measurement science and practice in a country is one of the surest signs of its technical efficiency. Modern industrial technology depends on accurate measurement. The country requires both a comprehensive system of national standards of measure- 374 ment, tied to the recognised international standards, and also facilities for checking, or calibrating, measuring instruments and other test gear against such standards so that their accuracy can be authenticated.
My Department has carried out a detailed appraisal of this problem with the assistance of the Confederation of British Industry. It has become clear that in a number of important fields there is a lack of national standards, and that our calibration facilities need to be rationalised and augmented. This is necessary for three reasons.
One is to expand our range of exports of measuring devices; in scientific instruments as a whole our balance of trade with our main competitors has recently been more than two to one against us. Another is to increase our exports of the types of industrial equipment which depend on precise measurement. I have been advised by industry that lack of authenticated calibration certificates has been a factor in losing important overseas orders. The third reason is to speed up technological advance throughout our domestic industry.
The Government have, therefore, decided to establish a British Calibration Service. Its headquarters, in the Ministry of Technology, will plan and regulate the service. The actual calibration of instruments will be carried out in existing laboratories, public and private, up and down the country. The headquarters will be responsible for inspection and approval of laboratories, and for maintaining the essential link between their standards and the national standards. The National Physical Laboratory will remain responsible for the national standards. It will be provided with adequate resources for discharging this duty and for developing measurement science and technology.
I also propose to set up an Advisory Council on Calibration and Measurement to advise me on the operation of the service and particularly on the requirements which laboratories must meet in order to be approved. I am very glad to say that Mr. Maurice Banks, Deputy Chairman of the British Petroleum Company, has agreed to serve as Chairman.
Approved laboratories will be authorised to issue calibration certificates and to charge their customers economic 375 fees. My intention is that when the British Calibration Service is fully established, it shall not, except for part of the cost of the headquarters staff, be a charge on public funds.
Instrument technology and measurement science provide one of the keys to the modernisation of industry. In the United States and Germany they enjoy high academic status. We must ensure that they are adequately covered in the curricula of universities and technical colleges, and I am discussing with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science on how this can be done.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
In principle, I welcome this original proposal. However, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in addition to the public and private laboratories, he will consider using universities? There would be much advantage in having some university laboratories in possession of these standard instruments, because that would help liaison between the universities and local industry.
§ Mr. Cousins
Certainly. This is an essential part of our approach to the service. We intend to use not only the individual laboratories of public and nationally-owned industries and the universities, but, where appropriate, those of the technical colleges. This essential service must be spread throughout the country as widely as possible.
My second area of attack is industrial standards. We are looking forward to a major revision of British standards. A great opportunity to undertake this revision has been provided by the Government's decision to go metric. The task is not merely to translate existing specifications to their metric equivalents, but also to revise hundreds of existing standards to bring them into line with the best international metric practices. The Government, through my Ministry, are providing substantially increased resources to the British Standards Institution for this task and we look to industry to do likewise.
Through their power as a purchaser, the Government can promote the use of more advanced standards. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation has recently completed negotiations with 376 industry on a scheme for the alignment of industrial and defence specifications for electronic components, and a supervisory system covering their testing. New and more comprehensive British standards will emerge from this important scheme, the first of its kind. The work will be done by the British Standards Institution and the Electrical Inspection Directorate of the Ministry of Aviation, whose resources and expertise acquired for defence purposes will thus be used for the benefit of industry as a whole.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Do I take it that the British Standards Institution will be able to give advice as to the use of the power of the purse in order to standardise? For example, many forms of numerical control are tailor-made. This is clearly undesirable. Is my right hon. Friend telling us that in that sort of example the Institution will have power to advise the Government to use the purse for standardisation?
§ Mr. Cousins
I was not putting it in that sense. I shall refer to numerical control later. What I meant was the acceptance of a higher degree of standards and that the Government will be able to use their procurement powers to ensure that such standards are used in the things they purchase.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would like to tell the House that one concern here is defence procurement and the enforcement of standards, taking into account the desirability of having a European standard and a European defence procurement on a European scale?
§ Mr. Cousins
The European defence procurement is not a matter within the province of my Department, but, certainly, the provision of the metric measure I have already remarked upon will bring us up to European and international standard levels.
The next range of services provided by the Government for industry are advisory. There is already a vast store of knowlege and experience waiting to be used. Considerable parts of industry are not making sufficient use of it. There is evidence that the most efficient 10 per cent. of firms in the engineering industries have a net output per head about 377 three times greater than the least efficient 10 per cent.
This sets a problem of communication, a problem of ensuring that the best available technical advice reaches the right man in industry at the right time and in a form which he can understand. I expect to get much assistance here from the development of the Ministry's regional services which link individual firms with Government laboratories, the research associations, the universities and technical colleges, from which they can draw information, advice and help.
This work of building links between the factory floor and the sources of technological help is being extended through the establishment of a countrywide Production Engineering Advisory Service which will be operated on my behalf by the Production Engineering Research Association. It is possible, by the use of relatively simple techniques and equipment, to achieve quite a high degree of mechanisation, automatic production and control. My Department has begun a study of these low-cost aids to automation and will develop methods to assist the smaller firm to discover those features of its own plans and processes where improvements can be made.
Generally, the whole problem of effective communication with industry and within industry will continue to be a major responsibility of this Ministry to ensure that we make the best possible use of the scientific and technical resources of the country.
I come to an account of sponsored industries and what we are doing for them. These are the principal examples to date of the direct use of public money to speed the progress of efficiency in industry. I should like to begin with machine tools.
There was some publicity during the election campaign about the work of my Department on machine tools, and I am glad to have this chance of putting the record straight. The Machine Tool Trades Association suggested that we had taken almost no action at all, and that all we had done was to act as a brake. This is far from correct.
I told the House last summer that there would be a considerable increase in research and development contracts related to machine tools. Since then, five con- 378 tracts have been placed by the Ministry; a sixth project is being undertaken by A.E.A. in conjunction with industry; and three further contracts should be placed within the next few weeks. Tenders for a very advanced numerically-controlled machine are under examination. Before the Ministry was set up, so far as I can ascertain, only three contracts of this kind were ever placed, and one was subsequently cancelled.
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have had experience of civil development contracts will know that this is not an easy matter to deal with, and will appreciate the real progress we are making in seeing this series of contracts. As a result of the support and publicity we have given, we have had a considerable increase in the number of development projects submitted to N.R.D.C., which has agreed to support three machine tool projects, and a further 10 are under consideration.
I have told the House already that we are prepared to place pre-production orders for advanced machine tools. My Department is about to place the first four such orders to a value of about £500,000. This is a quite novel type of transaction, and, so far as I know, Government funds have not been used before to support civil industry in this way. It is, therefore, necessary to get the principles established on a sound basis, but once this is done we expect to place a number of further orders. The machines required will in some cases be used in Government establishments for testing and appraisal, but will mostly be made available to commercial firms to test under actual production conditions. The information gained from this experience will be widely spread, and thus we hope to accelerate the rate at which users adopt advanced and more efficient types of machines. At the same time, our orders will enable manufacturers to launch production and thus meet commercial orders more quickly when they start to build up.
It is generally agreed that the more rapid adoption of numerically-controlled machine tools by British industry will increase the speed and accuracy of many productive processes and enable scarce skilled labour to be used to better effect. My Ministry is devoting considerable effort to this subject. A new division at the National Engineering Laboratory 379 has been established to handle it, and has taken delivery of a powerful computer. N.E.L. is also supporting the industry's numerical-control exhibition opening next week with demonstrations and lectures on simple programming methods for numerically-controlled machine tools.
I told the House last Session that we were studying ways of stimulating the use of numerically-controlled machine tools. Since then there have been wide-spread consultations with manufacturers, users and others, and details of a scheme to enable users to acquire numerically-controlled machines on trial are now being finalised. I hope to announce the introduction of this scheme very soon. I am asking the N.R.D.C. to administer it under Section 4 of the Development of Inventions Act, 1965, which, the House will recall, empowers the Government to make use of the expertise of the Corporation for projects which they regard as being in the national interest.
The final point on machine tools is the Cyclical Working Party, a matter of some interest to hon. Members. The working party, which I set up last summer to examine the problem of the cyclical pattern of machine tool orders, has now completed its task. I expect to receive the working party's report next week, and it is my intention that it should be published. Far from thinking that we have done anything like enough on machine tools, I look forward to a faster pace and growth from now on.
Electronics. The Government have always been closely involved with this industry, but primarily in the rôle of customer and sponsor of research and development for their own purposes, mainly defence. The defence programme has paid for the development of extremely advanced components and systems. Our task in the Ministry of Technology is to expand this rôle so as to support the technical progress of the industry and to develop its competitive strength.
We are taking a very close and critical look at those areas of the electronics industry where Government action is likely to be urgently required. One outstanding problem today is the development of integrated circuits or micro- 380 electronics. I think that the House may be interested in some comparative figures. The old-fashioned collection of components connected by wires or printed circuits is obsolescent. It will soon be replaced largely by integrated circuits in which miniaturisation is carried many stages further.
The dramatic nature of this change can be illustrated by four simple figures: transistor and printed circuits at 15 components per cubic inch; thin film integrated circuits, 250 components per cubic inch; semi-conductor integrated circuits, 1,000 components per cubic inch; and with metal oxide semi-conductor transistor circuits the aim is 10,000 components per cubic inch.
This illustrates the size and nature and growth of the problem we are up against, but this is a sector which may hold the key to the whole future of the British electronics industry. It is one in which the U.S.A. has already established a formidable lead. A study of what needs to be done is being urgently pressed forward, and it is already apparent that questions of industrial structure are likely to arise involving Government and industry.
Now computers. Computers are indeed, as we have said so many times, a vital tool in modern industry and commerce. One of the earliest activities of the Ministry of Technology was to determine Government policy in this field, and that policy is, in general terms, to maintain a flourishing British computer industry and to bring about a rapid increase throughout industry and commerce in the use of computers and computer techniques.
One of the more pleasing by-products of the emphasis which the Government have placed upon computers and their uses has been the growth of serious interest in the subject, and nowadays one can hardly open a newspaper without seeing a news item or serious comment on new purchases and applications of computers. Equally pleasing was the interest shown by hon. Members of this House last autumn when they attended the series of lectures and discussions on computers laid on specially for Members of Parliament by the Elliott Automation Company.
The Government's policy for the more widespread and proper use of computers is already known to the House, and I 381 do not intend to devote too much time to that aspect, but since I last addressed the House in December on the Government's decision to establish a National Computing Centre at Manchester good progress has been made in getting it going. Work on the building has begun and there have been hundreds of applications in response to our recent advertisement for staff.
I am very pleased to be able to inform the House that Mr. J. M. A. Smith, lately Assistant Managing Director of the Ford Motor Company, has accepted my invitation to serve as first Chairman of the Council of the Centre. I expect to be able to announce within a week or two the composition of the Council which will direct the work of the Centre.
The Computer Advisory Service of my Department, about which Questions have been asked in the House, is now in full operation. In its first year, it has been consulted in 140 cases outside the Government sector, and has given assistance to Government Departments in about 60 cases.
Purchases in the public sector are also going ahead rapidly. More than 25 computers are at present on order for Government Departments. First orders are now being placed for computers for universities and research under the £30 million programme announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science last December. The Ministry of Technology has recently made grants to two research associations for the purchase of computers.
We have recently placed several contracts with industry and universities for longer term developments of computer technology and application, with commitments totalling over £750,000. In particular, I should like to draw attention to a research contract recently placed by the Ministry of Technology with the Imperial College of Science and Technology. This contract of over £100,000 is for the development of a general purpose compiler processor, a very advanced piece of computer software.
Its aim is to remove one of the obstacles to the general exploitation of computers by enabling the language used to programme one computer to be readily translated and used by another one. This 382 is one of the great hindrances of computer use. If successful, as I hope it will be, it will be a major contribution towards simplifying and hence cheapening the work of preparing a considerable range of computer programmes.
While I am referring to this contract, I must tell the House that Professor Gill, of Imperial College, together with Mr. Elliott, of Cambridge University, have agreed to serve as part-time consultants to my Department on computers.
Computer design is another aspect of the use of computers, which can contribute to technological advances in engineering design of all kinds. They will release the creative energy of the designer and free him from tedious calculation and scheduling: they will allow him to explore numerous alternatives and relieve him of routine drawing office operations. This is an exciting new field of work and Britain must be in the forefront.
I am, therefore, planning to launch a co-operative scheme involving industry, universities and Government establishments to develop and apply these important new techniques. The cost will be substantial, but it will be insignificant compared with the gain to the nation's economy.
To complete my account of the industries for which the Ministry of Technology is sponsor, I must say a word about the engineering industries as a whole.
My Department formally took over responsibility from the Board of Trade for the electrical and mechanical engineering industries only in February of this year. I have no doubt that, in certain sectors, the traditional functions of sponsorship will need to be extended by more positive action of the kind we are taking with the computer and machine tool industries. We intend to move forward in co-operation with the whole engineering sector in our common purpose of increasing productivity and efficiency. No time has been lost in opening discussions with representatives of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and with the C.B.I., and leading trade associations, about the ways in which Government and industry can achieve what is the aim of us all.
383 The last of our four major instruments of policy is that for industrial grouping and expansion of capacity. During our examination of the range of problems with which we are faced, we have come across a number of important instances where the present organisation of industries is ill-suited to apply the latest technologies and to keep ahead of developments creating new products and new productive techniques.
The regrouping of industries into larger units is necessary to enable firms to sustain research and development expenditure on a sufficient scale and the necessary level of capital investment to keep their production processes up-to-date and to expand output adequately.
The Government have a rôle to play in encouraging and supporting such developments. This is one of the main functions of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, with which the Ministry of Technology will work closely in identifying situations where the Corporation can bring its resources into effective use.
The measures I have outlined this afternoon show both how the Government are setting about and intend to proceed with their task of modernisation. The basic decision that the country took in October, 1964, and which was so amply reaffirmed in March, 1966, was to reject the old policies of non-intervention or minimal intervention in the economic process and to endorse instead a new and radical policy of selective intervention.
This policy has required the development of new weapons and the sharpening of old. Inevitably, this has taken time and has still to be completed. But the first fruits can be seen both in the particular industries I have described this afternoon and, more generally, in the engineering industries as a whole. In spite of the necessary restraints imposed on the economy during the past year, investment in industry has been running at record levels.
Production in the engineering and the allied industries has increased by 3½ per cent. during the past three months over the previous quarter, and in mechanical and electrical engineering, in particular, the increase in that period is almost 5 per cent. Industry is responding to the emphasis that this Government have placed upon the overriding needs to 384 modernise our industry and to focus, under the guidance of the National Plan, less on the immediate market outlook and more on the nation's economic needs of the next five years.
But this is only the beginning. A long, difficult but exciting task lies ahead. For modernisation will not be achieved just by selective public interventions, nor by the enlarged activities of the public research and development authorities: it also needs a change of outlook—indeed a revolutionary change—in industry itself. In the new Britain that we are to build we must not fear technological change: rather we must fear not to change.
This new attitude to change must permeate the nation: it must influence management, and it must certainly reach the shop floor. But this will happen only if we achieve a new democratic relationship in industry; if we recognise that workers likely to be affected by the drive for increased productivity must more fully than ever before be associated with the decisions made.
This, then, is the way forward. We on this side of the House look forward to pushing on with the work we have begun and seeing the growing results in the coming years.
This account of the work of the Ministry has inevitably been, to a degree, technical. We make no apology for that. Our Department is a technological Department. We have to report accordingly.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
There were parts of the Minister's speech which some of us may follow more easily when we read them in print than when we were listening to them, but I am sure that the House would wish to thank him for the information that he has given.
I have only three points on which I should like to comment immediately. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke at the beginning of his speech about the "years of neglect", I was a little reminded of Lord Bowden, who said that at the rate of spending on science under my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), by the end of the century the whole of the gross national product would have been devoted to science.
385 Secondly the right hon. Gentleman referred to the N.R.D.C. If I remember rightly, it was my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the Opposition who first announced the £25 million limit for this body, and it was simply the accident of time which meant that the legislation did not come forward until after the General Election.
Thirdly, it was very clear, throughout the Minister's speech, how important it was that his Department should have close links with the universities and with the higher technological institutions. I hope that he will foster these links directly and that it will not be thought necessary for them to be fostered too much through the agency of the Department of Education and Science. Naturally, I think very much of the situation in the United States of America, where quite a number of American professors, not only at the M.I.T., but at Harvard, are becoming increasingly devoted part-time to the solution of advanced problems in engineering and technology. It is very desirable that in Britain also there should be the closest possible relationship between modern science-based industries and our universities and other higher education institutions.
As the Minister has said, today's debate covers a wide range of topics. In a sense it is quite appropriate that we should take education and technology on the same day, because we realise in Britain today that our nation will need not simply more skills but new kinds of skills. We will need a labour force which is adaptable and can take its place in patterns of production that are growing ever more complex. Certainly, when going about the country at the recent General Election, I felt that there was more interest in education than ever before, both because of its economic significance to the country and also because of the sense of enrichment of life which education advance can bring.
At the same time, there is today a certain anxiety, which has persisted since the election, that our demands on the education service are outstripping the resources that we are making available for it. The National Plan, as I read it, shows clearly that the expansion of the education service will be severely limited over 386 the next five years by an acute shortage of money for many essential tasks.
The National Plan envisages that spending on education as a whole will rise by 32 per cent. between 1965 and 1970. That certainly sounds an impressive amount, but actually it involves a slight slowing down as compared with the previous five years. The 32½ per cent.—to be strictly accurate—compares with a figure in real terms of 41 per cent. between 1960 and 1965.
Again, to take the example of schools, in which the population is expanding rapidly, school expenditure will expand by 27 per cent. between 1965 and 1970 as compared with 29 per cent. in real terms during the four years from 1959 to 1963. I have here to make a four-year comparison because we do not yet have the statistics of school expenditure for the intervening year, 1964-65.
This lower figure for schools has been put in the National Plan despite a rising school rôle, major shifts of population and the policy, to which we are all committed, of the raising of the school-leaving age. I bring this in at the outset of my remarks because these figures show clearly the need for priorities. I want to say at the start of my speech what we on this side think that the priorities for the education service should be.
Our priorities are the continued expansion of teacher supply, the improvement and expansion of primary education, the restoration of university and technical college building cuts and more provision for those who choose to stay in full-time education beyond the compulsory school-leaving age. I would add to those two further priorities on subjects which we discuss less often in this House. We should continue to spend more on the special schools, and I certainly think that we should continue to spend more on the Newsom sector. It seems to me that the Newsom children have been considerably neglected during a good deal of recent educational discussion.
To imagine that we can have all these things plus a complete new system of comprehensive secondary schools comparable with the best elsewhere is, in my view, humbug. It is important to realise exactly what we are already committed to 387 in the education service before taking on very large new commitments as well.
I come now to the references in the Gracious Speech to education, and I take, first, the sentence thatHigher and further education will be expanded to meet increasing demand.Here we have a notable discrepancy between the words of the Gracious Speech and the policy of the Government during the past nine months.
I spoke about education at all the election meetings which I addressed and I did not find one audience, in any part of the country, who thought that it made sense for the Government to cut university and technical college building and yet to plan to spend £100 million a year subsidising school meals and milk equally for everybody. That was one topic on which I found unanimity of opinion during the election. We on this side remain as critical as ever of that decision.
As the House knows, £15 million worth of university building starts were held over from last year's programme and a total of only £12 million has been added to the programmes for this year and next year. Therefore, even by 1970, even by the end of this Parliament, the universities will still not fully have recovered from the effect of the cuts made in the programme which we as a Conservative Government originally authorised back in 1964.
I accept completely what the Secretary of State has said in earlier debates about our achieving the Robbins target by 1967-68. He has said this, and the Chairman of the University Grants Committee has made it clear, also. I still believe, however, as the U.G.C. believed, that the programme which we approved was the minimum that was needed if the universities were not only to reach the Robbins figures, but also to sustain them.
I recognise that the authorisations for the current year and for next year must be taken as settled, but I give notice that we shall certainly press the right hon. Gentleman hard before this year is out—and I hope that in this we shall be joined by hon. Members in other parts of the House—to announce a considerable increase in his provisional figure of £25 million for university building starts in 1968, to take account not only of the cuts which I have mentioned but also of rises 388 in university building costs since 1963 and of the results of the inquiry by the University Grants Committee into obsolescence.
We are now in the process of building up 20 new universities, which have to attract first-class staff and which are faced with real problems of residence—in many cases growing problems—as well as of providing lecture rooms. As I said in the January debate, however, I feel even more concerned about what one might call the older civic universities like Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield. Our minds will, I expect, be concentrated very much on Oxford during the coming weeks after the appearance of the Franks Report, but it is the older civic universities which, more than any others, are bearing the brunt of the Robbins expansion and are offering some of the most important courses in arts and fundamental science.
We have had a considerable and rapid increase in university numbers during recent years. The Secretary of State himself has described the figures as "remarkable". He told us that:In 1960, the number of students was just under 108,000 and the entry nearly 30,000. Today, the number of students is 168,000 and last October's entry was over 52,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 242.]Those figures cast a curious light on what the Prime Minister has sometimes said about education being the whipping boy of the stop-go policy. They very much bear out, incidentally, a point which I recall being made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that the pre-Robbins curve of expansion was distinctly steeper than the post-Robbins rate of expansion will be.
It is important to realise that this great pressure of numbers on the universities will not slacken off. There is the clear intimation both of the recent U.C.C.A. Report on Admissions and also of the Department's own statistics, which were published only a week ago. I also believe it to be highly probable that during the lifetime of this Parliament we shall see a great increase in the demand for postgraduate courses. This is right for two reasons. Many young people who have qualified for a university place become more interested in learning during their 389 first degree course and they want to pursue a subject at postgraduate level before embarking upon a professional career.
There is the second point that a less specialised first degree course followed by a period of postgraduate study will be increasingly regarded as the right sort of preparation for a growing number of highly responsible jobs.
Many people recruiting an economist today would rather recruit someone who has done a postgraduate course as well as a first degree course, because there is nothing like study at the postgraduate level for making one realise the limitations of a subject. The danger of becoming too academic on a topic occurs far more in the case of a person who has done only a single first degree course and has not learnt the limitations inherent in any form of social study. This means that the universities must have the assurance of a level of building grants which will enable them to sustain the number of students that they will be under overwhelming pressure to admit.
I have only one other point on universities. Once again I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say something about the proposal that he himself put forward for a new technological institution in the North-East. He volunteered that suggestion in the debate on 25th March last year, since when it has run into the sand. I realise his difficulties, but it is not unreasonable, 13 months afterwards, to ask for a progress report, and I hope that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray)—whom we congratulate on having become a member of the Government—will be well placed to put on pressure with regard to that project.
The Government have made a straight cut of £9 million in the programmes that we announced for technical colleges. The Conservative Government announced building programmes of £51 million over two years, and the present Government have reduced this to £42 million. I agree that in any case there would have been starting delays. I am not sure that the party opposite would have accepted that excuse from us, but I agree that there would have been some delays, and that technical college buildings are more adaptable to unexpected changes in numbers.
None the less, my hon. Friends and I believe that this cut of £9 million must 390 be restored during the lifetime of this Parliament. The Minister of Technology must agree that the passage of the Industrial Training Act, coupled with the acceptance of the Henniker Heaton target and an extra 250,000 on day release, should result in a greatly increased demand for technical college places. I cannot imagine a worse example of bad planning than passing a Measure stimulating an increased demand and then reducing the supply. That cannot be right in the longer run.
Furthermore, we want a large increase in other kinds of professional training, especially management. One good measurement of our commitments to efficiency as a nation is the quality of professional training given not just to the Alphas in our society but to the Betas, and the Beta minuses. Britain has always had a certain number of top Alphas, but in the past she has not always done as well as she should, either in general education or vocational training, for the Betas and Beta minuses. It would be tragic if the upsurge in demand for training were to be frustrated at the critical moment by a shortage of staff and accommodation.
Before I leave the subject of technical colleges I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about the proposal for a new category of polytechnics. No doubt when the full publication of this proposal is made we shall wish to debate it. My hon. Friends and I fully accept the need for some rationalisation of degree level courses in technical colleges, which are extremely costly in skilled manpower and equipment, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal will not involve a devaluing of the area colleges as a group, or a devaluing of the part-time route to advanced level qualifications.
One of the truly remarkable aspects of the controversy over the so-called "binary system" has been the ability of some learned gentlemen to write eight or 10 columns in the weekly Press without mentioning part-time courses. I hope that we shall never make the mistake of devaluing the part-time route, which will be of great importance for some time yet.
I now come to the second reference to education in the Gracious Speech, which says:Further steps will be taken to increase the supply of teachers.391 We can all be glad that the colleges of education have been expanding more rapidly than any other part of our system of higher education. There were 28,000 students in the colleges in 1958; there were 54,000 in 1963; there were 61,500 in 1964—and the right hon. Gentleman has told us that there were 73,000 last year. This has been a tremendous achievement on the part of the colleges themselves, and the House should realise this. I do not want in any way to sound grudging in my acknowledgment of the vigour with which the right hon. Gentleman himself has pursued this expansion.
At the same time, my hon. Friends and I may be forgiven for pointing out that three-quarters of this increase took place before the change of Government and, more important, it would certainly not have been possible without the extra buildings, totalling £60 million worth, which we authorised between 1960 and 1965. This has been one inescapable foundation of the expansion that we have had during recent years.
When the right hon. Gentleman spoke at Eastbourne at Easter about finally eliminating classes of over 40 in primary schools by 1976 I detected not so much a feeling of incredulity as a certain exasperation on the part of those who remembered the promises in the Labour Party's 1964 manifesto to get rid of all classes over 30 at the earliest possible moment. I thought that it was a shade like the moment in "Animal Farm", when Clover and her friends started to ask themselves, "Is this quite how we expected the great revolution to turn out?"
I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. First, while he was able to announce progress on a number of fronts—and I welcome particularly the increase in the number of day colleges—I hope that he can tell us a little more about the progress of the working party on superannuation for part-time teachers. We regard this as highly important; indeed, we put it in our manifesto. We hope for enabling legislation, if not in this Session, at any rate, at the latest, in the next.
Secondly, surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to reconstitute the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers, perhaps in a slightly altered form. The ninth Report of the 392 old N.A.C. raised the highly important consideration whether we could afford, by the 1980s, to use up half the output of higher education within the education service itself. This is the sort of issue where long-term planning and the consideration of alternatives in terms of cost effectiveness is desirable and, indeed, essential.
The Government's attitude to planning seems very curious. They produce, at enormous labour, this great volume—the National Plan—which is really rather a pointless exercise in global planning based on one single indicative target selected as a political decision, and neglect planning in a particular area where there is, in the words of one educational correspondent,a fundamental feeling of muddle, a cluster of events, evasions and uncertainties.This is a perfect example of a problem where long-term planning is both sensible and essential.
Thirdly, I come to what the Gracious Speech says about the schools. Here, on one issue, the right hon. Gentleman has consulted me throughout, and there is absolutely no disagreement between us. This is in respect of legislation to implement the agreed arrangements for increased grants in our voluntary schools. We on this side of the House think that the increase from 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. is right—and that 80 per cent. is as high as it should be without losing the whole concept of the voluntary school. It is also right to extend these grants to new primary schools. Admittedly this involves a departure from the 1944 settlement, but the 1944 Act never envisaged either the rate of growth or the mobility of the Roman Catholic population in this country, and on grounds both of equity and administration this change should be approved. Anyway, we believe that voluntary freedom of choice is particularly important in a religious denominational context of this size.
I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to comment on this now, but when we come to consider the legislation I hope that we shall bear in mind all minority views in this respect and that we shall not forget the legitimate concerns of those parents who do not subscribe to the tenets of any denomination. We should bear in mind the whole range of opinion on this subject.
393 Having spoken about the voluntary schools, I come now to what is to me one curious feature of this part of the Gracious Speech, namely, the omission of any reference to primary schools. This is surely strange. The primary school population will rise by over 600,000 during the present Parliament and we are likely to receive the Plowden Council's Report on primary schools during this first Session. I have already expressed my feeling that the rise in total school expenditure provided for in the National Plan is almost certainly inadequate, but I should like in addition, to make a more detailed and pointed criticism of the National Plan.
As I read it, the plan makes no provision at all for primary school improvements. We say that local education authorities should have restored to them the opportunity to spend as they like on mini-minor works and also that at any rate some replacement projects for the worst primary school buildings should find a place in each major school-building programme. I do not want to exaggerate this point, but, at least, when I announced the 1965-66 major school building programme, there were about 50,000 new school places provided for my improvement projects, and something of that order is essential every year.
I agree particularly with Mr. Preston, the education correspondent of The Guardian, when he asked:Have we got our priorities right? Not just between nursery, secondary and higher education, but between the bright new estates, with bright new schools, and the decrepit, twilight areas which get next to nothing.The new primary schools on the new housing estates are among some of the brightest and most encouraging schools in the country, and yet not far away are the very old, dingy primary schools in the oldest parts of the cities. My point relates not only to new buildings, but to better equipment for primary schools, if they are to achieve the first approach to science and languages and greater freedom in art, drama, and music. We should not forget, either, the village schools—the rural primary schools. I think that some of my hon. Friends feel that the small village school has a rather too accelerated rate of closure and demise in some areas of the country.
394 I now come to the other school topic which is touched on in the Gracious Speech, namely, secondary reorganisation. Of course, it is this aspect of educational policy on which we are most divided in the House. I should like to make two points on this subject clear at the outset. First of all, we absolutely agree, of course, that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to see that opportunity is extended to all children at the secondary stage. It is no part of our policy that the needs of only a small minority of children should be satisfied at the expense of the rest.
I certainly agree that, in the past, we often under-rated what many boys and girls could achieve and what it was right to expect of them. When people speak about the pool of ability in this country and its size, I often think that it is important to remember not only how big this pool is but how big we want to make it and how seriously we mean to plumb its depths.
Surely, we want to make the best of all the potential talents which we have. And during the last 10 years and the last five, opportunity has been steadily widening. The number of school-leavers taking G.C.E., according to the latest statistics, went up from 27 per cent. in 1961-62, to 36 per cent. only two years later. I hope that the Secretary of State and Professor Townsend will modify their statements about our whole system being based on the belief that only a fixed proportion of children can attempt G.C.E., because this is not how the system has been working, especially in recent years.
Secondly, I am sure that our manifesto was right in refusing to take a dogmatic line on reorganisation, when it spoke ofjudging proposals for reorganisation on their educational merits.There is a growing number of highly successful all-through comprehensive schools in this country. I represent Birmingham, where we like to think—I believe justifiably—that we have about the single most successful, all-through comprehensive school in the West Midlands.
There are areas, like scattered country districts or those with new and expanding housing, which seem particularly well suited to a pattern of reorganisation which 395 does away with the need for selection between different types of school. The pursuit of any uniform pattern of organisation is wrong. There is sense in flexibility when one is considering the needs of different areas and I think that hon. Members, including some new Members, could examine my record and would bear out that that was the approach which I tried to follow as Minister.
We as a party are not committed to selection between schools as a principle. Where there is selection, we want to soften its impact by putting off as long as possible any final decision as to what kind of course a boy or girl is capable of achieving. But we are committed—I believe, rightly committed—to bearing in mind the performance of good existing schools. This is where our policy differs from that of the Government, which is based on the objective of the complete elimination of separate grammar and secondary schools, which we find quite unacceptable.
Why is that so? Basically, for four reasons. First, as we made plain in our manifesto, we are strongly opposed to what we called "hasty and makeshift plans", especially in the big cities—what my right hon Friend, the Leader of the Opposition, has referred to on several occasions as the "bogus comprehensive". The truth is that the Secretary of State has asked all local authorities to reorganise, but has not been able to promise them the money to carry out the job properly. A good deal of anxiety is being expressed about this.
I expect that a number of hon. Gentlemen noticed the speech of Sir Ronald Gould, at Eastbourne, in which he said:The more important issue remains—how to reorganise with no additional resources. Some authorities, blessed with modern, well-equipped buildings, will find no great difficulty, but most would have to be miracle workers to provide a satisfactory scheme … so great is the political pressure for comprehensive education from the Department, politicians, various groups and individuals, that some will decide to do a poor job at once.That is exactly what we feel and exactly our point of difference from the Government.
It is the Secretary of State's belief, which I reject completely, that if we advance towards the complete elimination 396 of all separate grammar and modern schools everywhere, there will always be, in social and educational terms, a net gain and never a net loss. An even sterner warning was given by the speech of Lord James—last Session—in another place, when he said:Ideally, I would ask the Government to think more deeply about their whole philosophy of the unconditional abolition of selection"—a good phrase—particularly in urban areas, at a time when we know that in many cases there will simply not be the money available to make nonselective education moderately efficient, or even viable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd February, 1966; Vol. 273, c. 255.]
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)
The right hon. Gentleman appears to be giving the impression in this argument that I have approved reorganisation schemes in the urban areas which are unsound. If so, will he give me one example of this?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I accept that he looked at the Liverpool scheme, said he liked it, but then did not go on to approve the whole of it. He also caused the Luton scheme to be revised. I think that a very big and important test case is shortly coming up over Manchester, but I am concerned—even more than with the notorious cases—with what I would call the cases just on the margin of viability. I would not think it right in debate to give too many detailed examples, but I can think of one which I came across during a by-election where it is proposed to join a grammar school with two modern schools a mile or so away.
I think that there might well be a good argument in this case for joining together the two small single-sex modern schools, but as soon as one starts to join together two schools a mile apart, quite apart from the purely management difficulties—the main roads and the rest—one has the point about the balance of accommodation. How can one be sure of heeding the warning in the right hon. Gentleman's own circular about seeing that those in the lower tier school get the same opportunities as they would have got in the grammar schools? It is that type of case which gives many of us very great concern.
397 However, if the Secretary of State gives us an assurance that he will scrutinise these schemes very sternly, that is very welcome news, though I think it suggests that the whole objective of the unconditional abolition of selection is impracticable and should never have been embarked upon.
Secondly, to come to a rather different point, we are strongly opposed to any attempt to force a local education authority to go comprehensive and to close the existing grammar and secondary modern schools if it can show that it is already extending opportunity widely. The Government's policy is causing wide resentment in many areas, not only among grammar schools but among a great many other secondary schools as well. When a county secondary school is proud of its achievements, and feels that it is more than usually skilful in getting the late developers over a difficult phase, or when an authority already achieves G.C.E. results well ahead of the national average, it cannot understand why it should be bullied into reorganisation.
There are also authorities which have only just reorganised in another sense. Only a few years ago they set up county secondary schools following Circular 283. People feel that these schools should have a chance to prove themselves before they are doomed wholesale. While I would not wish to make too much of the point, I feel that Circular 10/66 was something of a watershed. Surely it was a fair point, in an editorial in Education:Either you accept that local education authorities should be responsible for planning secondary education in accordance with the needs of their areas—which seems to be what the Act of Parliament says—or you don't and Mr. Crosland is putting himself among those who want to derogate to the centre the rights, responsibilities and prerogatives of the local education authorities.The right hon. Gentleman has a prerogative which I grant him completely. I have used it myself. It is to approve or disapprove a project proposed to him. I would certainly not in every case, and maybe not even in the great majority of cases, have thought it wise to approve proposals for new, two-form entry, grammar schools in new housing areas. There is much to be said, where one is planning from scratch, for proceeding on different lines. We do not want more new grammar schools that seem un- 398 likely to grow into a viable size, but I still believe that it is the prerogative of the authority under the Act to put proposals forward initially.
Thirdly, there has been cavalier treatment of many educational arguments. For example, can the top 5 per cent. be adequately stretched in a completely nonselective system which spreads the resources of sixth form masters much more widely? There is a real point here about which many are concerned. We want to see more boys and girls get their G.C.E. in five or even six years, but should not penalise those who can reach O level within four. And what about the bottom 10 per cent. of the Newsom children? What grounds are there for thinking that they will do better in a large all-through comprehensive school than in a smaller, more intimate type of secondary school?
§ Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in areas where local education authorities are pushing G.C.E. O-level in every secondary school the very children for whom he has expressed such great concern—I share his concern; they are the Newsom children—are being penalised?
§ Sir E. Boyle
Yes. The hon. Gentleman raised this subject in an earlier debate, and I have considerable sympathy with him. After discussing this and hearing his views, I think that it is probably an exaggeration and wrong to say that every single secondary modern school should, as a point of honour, so to speak, offer G.C.E. I am raising the point that one associates with writers such as Mr. J. B. Mays, in Liverpool, as to the type of school in which the lowest section—the "Robinsons" as they were called in the Newsom Report—can best fit.
Also, what about the able child in a poor area? If we want to see more children of manual workers getting to the university, we ought never to forget what the aided and direct grant schools have done to enable many boys and girls to overcome the handicaps of a poor district.
These are all educational arguments which cannot just be brushed aside, and they all point to the fact that it may well be desirable to have more comprehensive schools—more non-selective secondary education—but that there are 399 real doubts in many minds as to whether we are wise to aim at the absolutely unconditional abolition of selection even in the long run.
Lastly, do we really want nothing but completely non-selective State schools on the one side and completely independent schools on the other? This is an extraordinary policy for the Labour Party to follow. We on this side believe very strongly in the importance of the direct grant schools which stand between the two systems. Especially in the north of England, these schools attract a number of children who would otherwise go into the independent schools, but they are also acceptable to the poorest. They also achieve, incidentally, a very real social mixing.
I agree that there can be scope for compromise over the precise methods of entry, but how can an outstanding academic school select without employing selection? I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's policy will force a number of direct grant schools to go independent, and what educational or social purpose will that serve? Surely a proportion of publicly provided free places in as large a number of first-class schools as possible is better than none. I fail to see how, on their principles, it can be in the interests of the Labour Party to widen the gap between the systems and almost to force a number of the best direct grant schools in the country to seek independent status.
I have set out these arguments which seem to me to deal with the most important patterns in this context. But, of course, we on this side realise that we do need still to do much more to level up opportunity. However, we think that there are very many much better ways of pursuing and fulfilling that objective than the policy enshrined in Circulars 10/65 and 10/66. If the Secretary of State wants to level up opportunity, let him as a start get more money for school improvements, especially in the North of England. I seldom agree more with the Economist than I do over what it said in last week's edition:The differences between the backward, slummy parts of the country and the prosperous middle class areas are never so stark as when they affect the future of children.400 That is profoundly true. I wish the Patronage Secretary were here. I am sorry that I did not give him notice of this reference, but the point has only just occurred to me. I well recall two very large building projects for Newcastle which were approved, one for the 1963-64 programme and one for the 1965-66 programme, which cost well over £500,000. Each will mop up the bad secondary modern schools, one in each half of the district. That is the sort of project that really helps to level up opportunity in a city.
Again, there is one other duty which the right hon. Gentleman has at this moment, and that is to ensure that we have sufficient resources for making a real success of the raising of the school leaving age. I believe that this is still a highly important priority at a time when the proportion of children staying on in Surrey is more than double that in Durham. Here is a most important means of levelling up as between the north and south of Britain. I would rather see the right hon. Gentleman get more resources to make a real success of this major reform than see him encouraging people to concentrate solely on this big question of the abolition of selection. I believe that if we want to see better opportunity in this country, the two ways that I have just mentioned are among the most important.
I apologise for having spoken rather longer than I had intended. I end by saying that in all this controversy we ought never to lose sight of what is the purpose of education. I began by talking about training for skills—training for more skill and for a wider range of skills—but surely the purpose of education is also that we should achieve a more attractive, a more tolerant and a more discriminating society. The society we hope to achieve does not want to be too much dominated by the value-judgments of only a small section of the population. I believe that one of the strongest arguments for educational advance is precisely that it will enable us to achieve a society which larger numbers of people will have had a direct share in helping to create.
The greatest need of the service today is for more resources. We will fight hard those educational proposals, like the unconditional abolition of selective 401 schools, that we believe to be unsound. Equally, we will do all we can to urge the right hon. Gentleman to secure those resources that are urgently needed if we are to achieve an education service worthy of our nation.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
I wish to claim the indulgence of the House because the speech I intend to make refers more to the first half of the debate than to the second. I will, first, set out my qualifications for speaking on the need for technical change and modernisation in London's docks—indeed, docks throughout the country.
I come from a family of Thames lightermen. My family has worked on the River Thames for more than 200 years and even with a name like mine I can prove it. From the cumulative experience of my family, I can say that the main findings of the Devlin Report on the docks—which, by and large, will, I hope, be implemented—are generally welcomed by people who know something about the problem.
The most important thing running through the Devlin Report is the need for a change of attitude in industry. I understand that it is the practice in a maiden speech not to be controversial, but the House will appreciate that it is extremely difficult to talk about the problems of the docks without touching on some rather controversial material.
Brought home forcibly in the Devlin Report is the fact that both management and unions are in need of change in their methods and attitudes. By and large, the main employers of dockers and stevedores are inefficient and clumsy, but one must make it clear, in fairness, that the two main unions—there are three, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Dockers and Stevedores' Union, the so-called "Blue Union", and the Watermen, Lightermen, Tugmen and Bargemen's Union—have not shown the leadership which is required in the docks today. I deliberately exclude the smaller union, the Watermen, Lightermen, Tugmen and Bargemen's Union, because it has come out rather well in the Devlin Report and I believe that its members have consistently tried to think forward to a changed 402 industry. The other unions, however, stand to be criticised on that score.
I need not bore the House by dealing at length with the need for change. Suffice to say that unless we get a radical change in the docks, all our hopes for modernisation, technical change and balancing the economy will be so much pipe-dreaming. Modernisation is absolutely essential. To achieve it a great deal of reorganisation will be necessary, certainly in terms of the employers of labour. As the Devlin Report forcibly states, there are far too many employers and there must be dramatic reductions on grounds of efficiency. At the same time, the unions concerned must be more energetic in getting the allegiance of workers because at present it is only too easy, as the Devlin Report emphasises, for unofficial elements to capture the allegiance of most of the labour force. Here again, it requires a much more energetic approach, which I am sure the unions will meet.
As for changes on the technical side, with modern equipment to ensure the quick turnround of ships, this, too, requires a great deal of attention, although that topic was not the main purpose for the establishment of the Devlin Committee. There would be little point, however, in attempting to achieve a change in industrial attitudes, including the attitudes of the workpeople, if, at the same time, we ignored the technical side, involving the turn-round of ships, with improved and modernised berthing facilities.
The British Transport Commission owns a number of docks, but the Port of London Authority is the main body responsible for the largest sector of ports in this country. Here there is ground for radical reform and I was pleased to note that in the Gracious Speech the modernisation of the docks was mentioned. I prefer to leave my comments on this aspect of the matter there for the moment.
I turn to the question of retraining dock workers. Too little has been done on this score and I regret that no mention of it was made in the Devlin Report. When one speaks about dockers and stevedores—particularly stevedores and lightermen—one must say that too little attention has been given to the training of these semi-skilled and skilled workers, 403 particularly craftsmen like the lightermen. A projection for the future is necessary in this matter if we are to have a modern docks system.
In the lighterage industry, for example, the responsibility for carrying cargoes on the River Thames from the landward limits to Teddington Lock rests on the lightermen, who are still taught to row or drive their barges. More thought should be given to the fact that for a number of years firms have not required barges to be rowed. Too little attention has been given to the possibilities of using the Hovercraft principle for Thames barges. This and other principles could be adopted for the carrying of cargoes.
If we can have a modern technical approach to the problems of the men and equipment in the docks we can look to the future, remembering what is said on this subject in the Gracious Speech, with some chance of success.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
It will be the wish of all hon. Members that I should extend the warmest possible congratulations to the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) on his maiden speech. He spoke with very great knowledge, clarity and brevity, all of which are qualities of speaking which the House appreciates. We look forward to hearing from him on many future occasions.
I take this opportunity to speak about the educational scene in Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said how right it was that education and technology should be considered together. I do not suppose that one can find any part of Britain which shows the need for this more strongly than Scotland, for there the needs we have for industrial development reveal the demand which exists for young people who are trained in mind and hand in the new skills and techniques.
The greatest challenge which faces education is the raising of the school leaving age in 1970. The need for this great step forward is well known and the case for it in Scotland was admirably summarised in the Brunton Report. Last July, on the initiative of the Opposition, we had a debate in the Scottish Grand 404 Committee about the preparations that should be made for the raising of the school-leaving age in 1970. This emphasised yet again the three needs that must be met—the need for more teachers, the need for smaller classes in Scotland, and the need for more school accommodation.
Speaking from the Government Front Bench on that occasion, the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) declared:… we want even more teachers to reduce the class size, as well as raising the school leaving age in 1970-71. Obviously we shall have to be governed by how successful we are in attracting teachers.Later she said:… we shall have to increase recruitment to teaching beyond the level that we expect from the steps taken so far.The hon. Lady then expressed the proper view that… any new steps should be taken if at all possible with the co-operation of the profession.".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 8th July, 1965; c. 176-180.]That was last July, and we have since been waiting to see what specific proposals the Government have in mind to ease the acute teacher shortage today and prepare the way for the sudden increase in the strain on our educational resources expected in 1970-71.
The Gracious Speech refers to further steps to increase the supply of teachers. The House will want to know what these steps are, what consultations have taken place on them with the profession, whether the hoped-for co-operation has been obtained, and whether the steps are adequate to meet the present educational needs in Scotland—and particularly the desperate shortage of teachers in certain areas, such as Glasgow. The right hon. Gentleman may be able in his reply to confirm or deny that it is still the Government's intention to raise the school leaving age in 1970-71. I am afraid that the Gracious Speech hardly suggests that there is to be the vigour in educational matters which this makes necessary——
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Gentleman will remember, of course, that whereas, in 1964, the entry into training colleges in Scotland was 3,800, last year it rose to 4,400. This is a fairly dramatic rise.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I agree, and all credit should be paid to that advance. At the 405 same time, the hon. Gentleman will recognise that even that advance is not sufficient to meet the needs of 1970-71 even if we project it. New methods of recruitment have to be explored. We have put forward such proposals as the bachelor of education method, a bachelor of technological education degree, and so on, and we await some comment on them from the Government.
The educational scene in Scotland will not improve unless the teaching profession has confidence in the future. This it certainly does not have today. After all the fine words of last July, we waited eagerly for action which would consolidate the mood of harmony reached with the profession by my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) in 1963. The action which, in fact, followed was clumsy and botched, and illustrated yet again this Government's talent for precipitating unnecessary crisis.
The House will recall that some months ago the Scottish Joint Council on Teachers' Salaries put forward an agreed recommendation which amounted to an average increase in salaries of something just under 15 per cent. The Secretary of State for Scotland rejected that recommendation, and in its place put forward scales which represented an average increase of about 13 per cent. He was, of course, acting within his rights in rejecting the Council's recommendation, but how clumsily those rights were exercised. With, apparently, no consultation or discussion with the profession, the Council's recommendation, agreed after months of negotiation, was thrown brusquely aside.
This provoked deep resentment among teachers in Scotland, of which I am sure every Scottish hon. Member will be aware. This resentment sprang not just from the cut from about 15 per cent. to about 13 per cent. but primarily from the high-handed treatment given to the teachers and their negotiating body by the Government. In passing, I would say how surprised and disappointed I am that no Scottish Minister has been with us during this debate on education and technology.
The offence caused by the right hon. Gentleman was shown by the reaction of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the largest representative teachers' body there—which, I might say, had observed both 406 the letter and the spirit of the terms of the three-year agreement reached in 1963. The Institute called for token strike action and the withdrawal of its members from certain services. Fortunately for the standing of the profession these decisions were reconsidered, but the fact that they were considered at all shows the extent of the resentment which the Government's action provoked.
At the same time, the Government's proposed salary increase was referred to the Prices and Incomes Board. The Board was asked to see… whether any further adjustment would be justified to put Scottish teachers generally into a fair relationship with teachers in England and Wales.But this, surely, is a question which the Secretary of State himself is best able to judge, particularly in view of the differences there are in the structure of the profession in the North and the South.
It is extraordinary that, having decided to consult the Board, the Government did not ask for detailed consideration to be given to the salary requirements of the two very different structures. How can a fair comparison be made unless the basic differences between the two systems are taken into account? Yet, in his public letter of 11th February, the Secretary of State declared:It is no part of my purpose to see any attempt made to undertake a detailed comparison of particular scales related to particular qualifications and so forth.Perhaps we can now be told what progress the Board is making within the narrow terms of reference, and when its report is expected.
Is the Board exploring the problem in any depth? Is it taking into account, for example, the need in Scotland—if we are to have the industrial development we look for—for young people with new skills and new training? All these matters are tied up very closely with the current teacher shortage and the need for new recruitment. I hope that the Board can consider the matter more widely than the Secretary of State has indicated.
The Gracious Speech also indicates that new machinery will be set up in Scotland for settling the remuneration of teachers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us what consultation about the matter there will be with the teachers' representatives, and when the proposals 407 will be made known. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the very real concern about the composition and standing of the Scottish Joint Council following the unhappy events of the last months. Can he say what rôle, if any, the Scottish Education Department will have on this new Board as members or assessors, and whether it is the intention of his right hon. Friend to introduce arbitration machinery, as was done in the case of the change in the committee in England?
The Gracious Speech also refers to the proposal to… promote further progress in the development of comprehensive secondary educationto which my right hon. Friend referred earlier. The House will know that comprehensive education is not new in Scotland. It has for a long time been part of the educational pattern in many parts, but what are the Government's proposals for the furtherance of comprehensive education in Scotland? I ask, because there appears to be a disturbing conflict between two recent publications. One is the famous—one might almost call it notorious—Circular 600, dated 27th October, 1965, from the Scottish Education Department to local authorities, under the title, "Reorganisation of Secondary Education on Comprehensive Lines". This asked the authorities to inform the Secretary of State by 31st March this year what their general intentions were.
From the tone of the circular it appeared that the final responsibility for deciding when and how and, in some cases whether at all, to develop on comprehensive lines would rest on the local authorities themselves. This is a very different approach from that taken in a broadsheet distributed by the Labour Party in Scotland during the General Election. It was called "Election Special", and had a special section on education. I looked with great interest to see what was proposed. I thought that it might be a sort of advance indication of what the Gracious Speech might show.
The plan as it is set out in the broadsheet is quite different in tone from the Department's circular. The broadsheet says:Comprehensive education … will be with the whole of Scotland soon.408 It also says:the separation between the senior secondary and the junior secondary schools, will end.This means that the statement about consultation in the circular is nothing more than a sham and that the Government's plan for comprehensive education will be forced through compulsorily whether the local authorities want it or not.
The broadsheet states:every new secondary school will be comprehensive.Is that, in fact, Government policy? This broadsheet has aroused a lot of concern among local authorities. If all new secondary schools are to be comprehensive, why did the Government go through the farce of pretending to consult local authorities by Circular 600? The party broadsheet suggests that the final decision has been taken by the Government and that local authorities will not be allowed to build any new secondary school which does not fit in with the Government's obstinate and inflexible doctrine.
The circular itself appears to be a little more flexible. For example, there is a very real problem in the country districts in Scotland, particularly among the remote parts such as in the Highlands. The circular recognises the particular difficulties of those parts of Scotland. In paragraph 11 it makes this quite clear by stating:In some areas, where the population is most scattered and where communications are most difficult, it may be impracticable to provide in one school a range of courses suitable for all pupils in the area, even during the first two years of their secondary courses, without a measure of centralisation which would be quite unacceptable to parents and which would have serious social disadvantages.That is quite right, but the broadsheet makes no such qualification and states that the scheme will be for the whole of Scotland soon. Which are we to believe, the circular or the broadsheet? Which do the Government denounce? If they denounce the broadsheet, as they must, they will also, of course, withdraw the deceptive statement in it that last year:Scotland was exempted from the economic axe.That was a bare-faced inexactitude which should shame the Labour Party.
Now the Government have the opportunity to meet the real needs of Scottish education and to restore the confidence 409 of the teaching profession, which they threw away a few months ago. I hope that we shall soon hear of positive and constructive action to put right the damage they have caused.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
After that election speech, I should like immediately to switch to another problem which is probably more related to education than would appear at first sight.
The debates we have had on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech so far have had one theme running through them. It is the need to modernise our institutions, be they industrial relations, be they education, be they docks, or whatever. This will be the theme throughout this Parliament—the need for modernisation, the need for change, the need for efficiency, the need for competitiveness. My speech this afternoon will be devoted to the need to start here in this establishment of Parliament.
We must resolve that never again must we tolerate the pantomime, the irrelevant time-wasting slapstick nonsense of the last few days. The time for the fancy dress, for the walking backwards, for the ridiculous ritual dances we have experienced in the last week has gone. The silly parading of Black Rods, Gold Sticks, Red Dragons and purple robes—all this nonsense must go.
How can we in this House seriously ask the trade unions, trade union members, and management, to modernise, to get rid of their restrictive practices, to increase productivity, if we ourselves in this House continue to work to feudal rule, go slow and stop productivity altogether as we did last week—certainly most of last week? Who of the millions of our citizens who watched a televised part of our proceedings last week could have been convinced that here was a dynamic, purposeful Government equipped with a streamlined, modern Parliamentary machine, about to embark on a make or break year and perhaps the most critical five years in peacetime history?
In my view we dare not, we must not, let the senseless veneration of our past blind us to the exciting challenges of the future. It was significant that our first attempt to modernise in this Parliament 410 was to televise the most futile and feudal part of our proceedings—and that without any consultation whatever anywhere. It was the perfect example of how not to do things. This afternoon the Leader of the House was over the barrel. Instead of saying quite frankly to the House, "We made a botch of it and it will not happen again", he sought to wriggle and writhe out of what seemed was clearly his responsibility and the responsibility of the Government. I have no objection to televising our proceedings; I think that that will come, but not in that way.
I turn immediately to the Prime Minister's references to the modernisation of our proceedings here. Most Parliamentary reformers would be inclined to agree that the proposals that he then made may represent a tardy, timid step in the right direction. The implementation of those proposals may do something to obviate the sense of frustration so often felt by back-bench Members, the feeling that they are impotent political eunuchs who are used, if not abused, by an all-powerful Executive juggernaut.
The Prime Minister's suggestions were, in essence, a reproduction of those put by the independent Study of Parliament Group to the Select Committee on Procedure in 1964. Those proposals were put and evidence was taken from professors of government and others, who gave evidence before the Select Committee. That Committee preferred its own solution to those proposals—a new Select Committee developed from the Estimates Committee with extended terms of reference to facilitate examination of how Departments carry out their responsibilities and to consider the annual reports of Departments.
In other words, the proposal was to graft on to the existing Estimates Committee additional committees—perhaps still sub-committees of the Estimates Committee—with extended terms of reference, to enable the Estimates Committee to examine the administrative workings of Departments. The Leader of the House—the same one as we now have—on behalf of the Government, rejected that proposition by the Select Committee on Procedure on the ground that it would allow a Committee of the House to get too near to discussing policy; to which I would simply reply, "So what?".
411 It is viewed against that very brief historical background of conservatism that the Prime Minister's proposals seem to represent a little progress, although not very much. There was one remarkable advance, however, in that the Prime Minister accepted, or seemed to accept, a vital principle; that is, that Ministers might be cross-examined in committee on administrative policy. Those who were here in the last Parliament will recollect that that, too, was very firmly opposed by the present Leader of the House. Nevertheless, that was an advance by the Prime Minister.
But almost immediately that was made suspect by the very next point made by the Prime Minister, when he suggested a certain informality of the new committees' proceedings and the possibility that such new committees might not be required to publish all the evidence that they receive. The very fact that that suggestion could be put forward by the Prime Minister, however tentatively, filled me with great suspicion. I will tell the House why. Select Committees of the House have two main functions. The first is to gainfully occupy more Members of the House and to give them an insight into the working of government which they could not gain otherwise. The second and much more important function is to provide the House as a whole and the public outside the House with much more factual information than they have had access to hitherto.
The Prime Minister made the point that, if reports are to be made to the House, they must be made together with the evidence on which they are based, otherwise they are completely valueless. Therefore, the proceedings of such committees must be formal on all occasions, otherwise they would become very much more like specialist party groups. For example, the Foreign Affairs Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Health Group, the Education Group, and so on, go upstairs and listen to a Minister of the Crown. Views are exchanged. The meetings are secret—or they are supposed to be. Something always manages to leak out. However, the information given at those meetings is not available either to the House as a whole or to the public outside. It is not enough simply to find work upstairs in committees for 412 Members of Parliament. It must be useful, constructive work for themselves, for the House, and for the nation, and it must represent a salutary challenge to the executive arm of government.
I want to make one or two other comments on the Prime Minister's proposals. It must be, in the nature of things, some time before we see any results. Perhaps there will be none this Session. Discussions have to take place through the usual channels. Agreement has to be reached. Then the proposals, I assume, will have to be brought back to the House for full debate and agreement by the House.
Then the machinery must be started up. We shall immediately come up against all kinds of physical difficulties, such as finding accommodation in this place for such committees, because it is what I would call a governmental slum and physically there is not accommodation immediately available to additional committees. Even if the accommodation is found, there will be some considerable difficulty in staffing the new committees. The recruitment difficulty is already acute, not only for the staff of the House but throughout the Civil Service.
To the extent that more officials will be recruited to the Clerks' staff the promotion prospects of such recruits will be rendered more limited. This is a very limiting factor in getting the type of people we want. The likelihood of first-class men and women being available before October, 1967, is problematical.
That takes no account of the kind of expert staff—research assistants—that such committees would require if they were to have any meaningful existence. It must be remembered in this context that the Government are already committed to providing additional Clerks for the Estimates Committee as it exists at present. We want at least another two, and perhaps more. There is no prospect of getting them before October of this year.
The third difficulty that arises from the Prime Minister's proposition is that the Opposition now, I am glad to say, are rather sadly depleted in numbers. Many of them are part-timers. When they are in opposition they get out and seek work elsewhere. The Opposition 413 will find it extremely difficult to man additional committees. They will probably agree with me that this is quite a problem.
The fourth difficulty is that there will be a danger of overlap with the work of the existing Estimates Committee. I believe that the Estimates Committee already has terms of reference wide enough to cover all facets of the administrative processes. It also has machinery to co-ordinate the activities of its sub-committees and to ensure that there is no duplication of effort. Sub-Committee A is the medium by which we prevent overlap and ensure co-ordination. It we have the one or two new committees that the Prime Minister has suggested, we shall immediately be up against the problem of the need to co-ordinate the work of those committees. There will be the machinery existing within the Estimates Committee to co-ordinate the activities of its sub-committees and we shall have to set up another committee to co-ordinate the work of the new committees and the Estimates Committee.
From all these reservations the House will gather than I am not terribly excited about the Prime Minister's proposals. It might have been more advisable—I say this with great diffidence, as a member of the Estimates Committee; I realise that the arguments I am now putting forward are subject to similar objections to those I have raised in connection with the Prime Minister's proposals—to increase the numerical strength of the Estimates Committee to enable its sub-committees to cover all Government Departments and to widen its terms of reference along the lines suggested by the Prime Minister and by the Select Committee on Procedure in 1964. This would have entirely met the Prime Minister's point.
Even if all those suggestions were accepted, that of itself would not be enough. It would certainly give additional work and opportunities to more Members of Parliament, but only a handful of Members would have that opportunity. The Prime Minister mentioned only one or two new committees. That would mean, depending upon the size of them, about 20 or 30 Members of Parliament. That is my first qualification.
My second qualification is that it would not do anything to remedy a basic weak- 414 ness in our system of government—the ability of this Legislature to probe in depth and at length the policies of Her Majesty's Government. At the moment, we have two principal methods available to us for doing that—the set debate and Question Time. In my view, both these are grotesquely inadequate. Most set debates are little more than sterile exercises in party discipline. The Minister speaks for half an hour perhaps, at the beginning or the end, almost invariably reading from a prepared brief—either reading well or readily badly. If it is 9.30 at night he might not be reading at all. He is content at that point just to stay the course. So that the set debate gives us no opportunity to challenge the Executive in any meaningful way at all.
Mr. Speaker has increased the rate at which Question Time moves. This is no reflection on our new Speaker, but that is not entirely an unmixed blessing. All that we have achieved by that speeding up is an even more superficial scratching of a wider area of Ministerial responsibility. I repeat that is no criticism of the Speaker. He is working according to directives, almost, given to him by the Select Committee on Procedure. However Question Time is conducted, it can never be more than an exciting, largely unpredictable and spontaneous charade of democratic challenge of the Executive by the Legislature.
I hope that in the lifetime of this Parliament we may see some experimenting with the creation of one or two specialist committees examining Ministers on policies and on proposed legislation. If I might deal with the latter point first, the last Government rightly were proud of the passing of their 85 Acts of Parliament in 17 months. From the point of view of sheer productivity there could be no complaint about the record of the last Parliament, but I do not think that there are many Members who sat in that Parliament who would deny that not all of them were too well drafted. In any case, the last people in the country to be consulted about them were Members of Parliament.
This point was very well brought out at the opening of Parliament, when proceedings were televised in the "museum" along the corridor and millions of people in the country knew the contents of the Queen's Speech while we were standing 415 at the Vote Office, like waiting for the "pubs" to open. We had to wait to read something of which every member of the populace had been in possession for at least a quarter of an hour. The same applies to Acts of Parliament. We are the last people to be consulted, and then when the Government present their proposals we are faced with a fait accompli. We might succeed, with great difficulty, in getting through drafting amendments but that is all.
I could quote a lot of examples of ill-drafted legislation, and legislation that would never have got through if it had been in front of Select Committees before the Government brought it forward. I quote as an example the Judges Remuneration Bill. I doubt very much whether that would have got through this House if it had been put in front of an all-party committee before it was presented to us. I can quote other examples, such as the Race Relations Bill, the ombudsman Bill and the Scottish Universities Bill, the latter being an example from one's own experience in Scotland. Then there was the Companies Bill. All these would have been very different Bills and would have contained very different proposals had they been in front of Select Committees before they were presented to this House.
Coming to Bills in prospect—the steel nationalisation Bill, the Prices and Incomes Bill and the Land Commission Bill—it is quite monstrous that these should be brought in front of this House after all the interested bodies outside have been consulted so that we are presented with a Bill and are told, "Take it or leave it." It would be highly profitable if the House of Commons, or Select Committees, all-party committees, were consulted before this procedure took place. It might well save a lot of time during the Committee stage of Bills if this were done.
I turn to the desirability of the appointment of specialist committees for the scrutiny of policy in depth. This, it seems to me, is the vital missing link in our Parliamentary chain of command. If the Prime Minister had announced the proposed establishment of just one such committee as an experiment, instead of the ideas now before the House, I would have been happier and, frankly, much less 416 suspicious than I am. All back-bench Members know why all British Governments are afraid of the United States model. The case was put very succinctly by the Leader of the House to the Select Committee on Procedure on 26th May last. He objected then very strongly to Ministers being cross-examined at all on anything in committee upstairs because, as he said,… he can be examined much more closely.Is not that a terrible thing, that this House, the elected representatives of the people, ought not to be allowed the opportunity of examining Ministers too closely—the implication being that so long as we can just examine them they are not examined too closely and, therefore, they can get away with things on the Floor of the House that they would not get away with in committees?
As I have looked at the television recordings of Senator Fulbright's committee "grillings" of Mr. Dean Rusk and Mr. McNamara, it seemed to me that our Question hour in this House and set debates are poor, anaemic creatures, desperately in need of a blood transfusion. I would dearly like to see our Foreign Secretary and Minister of Defence meet their "Senator Fulbright's committee" upstairs, not necessarily going the whole hog with the Americans, but, at any rate, going a far greater distance than we have dared to contemplate up to now.
Unless and until we do that, my cynicism and suspicion about the seriousness of all Governments in their approach to Parliamentary reform will remain as great as ever. They are not abated by the lack of reference to any measure of House of Lords reform this Session. This featured prominently in our election manifesto, which said:Legislation will be introduced to safeguard measures approved by the House of Commons from frustration or defeat in the House of Lords.I hope that that does not mean simply that all we are concerned with is the delaying powers of the other place. Our objections to it are much more serious and fundamental than that. I hope at least for an interim Measure this Session reducing the delaying powers to those now applicable only to Money Bills, then, next Session, a Bill to root out the hereditary element, to rid the place of its 417 cancer of a built-in Tory majority, and then a fundamental reassessment of the composition of the place and the functions of any second Chamber in our constitution.
I have said what I wanted to say about Parliamentary reform. I hope that we shall have many more opportunities during the Session and this Parliament on this vital issue, and I hope that the Government will be far more forthcoming on the issue than they have been hitherto or than they were in the last Parliament.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will forgive me if, in the slightly unfamiliar aura which surrounds me on this occasion, I do not follow him along the labyrinthine ways of Parliamentary reform. Although this is the first occasion on which I have addressed the House as the Member for Carlton, I do not feel that I can, by any stretch of the imagination, claim the indulgence of the House as though this were a maiden speech, but I wish to claim a little of your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to preface my remarks with a short tribute to my illustrious predecessor, Sir Kenneth Pickthorn.
As many hon. and right hon. Members know, Sir Kenneth was a great House of Commons man. Although at times, perhaps, he may have seemed a little mischievous in his approach, he was at all times ready to defend vehemently the rights and privileges of private Members. His great love of the House and his deep understanding of its ways were manifest to all who knew him when he was here, and it must have been an extremely difficult decision for him to take to retire voluntarily from what had become a way of life to him in a period lasting more than thirty years, first as a University Member and then, during the second half of that time, as the Member for Carlton. I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to say those few words on a matter which can hardly have any bearing on the Gracious Speech.
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because for me this is basically an opportunity to break the ice on my return after an involuntary absence since October 1964. It is good to be back, and I am very grateful to my 418 new constituency of Carlton for granting me this privilege.
Now, to bring myself within the rules of order, I refer to the Gracious Speech, particularly that part dealing with education, with the promotion offurther progress in the development of comprehensive secondary education … Further steps to be taken to increase the supply of teachers"—by implication, I assume this to be a reference to teachers at the secondary stage—and measures to expand higher and further education.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I note with real regret that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of an intention to deal with problems arising from our out-dated and overcrowded primary schools and of dealing with these as a matter of urgency. I know that developments in the later stages of education are more impressive on the record. Indeed, there have been cases in some of the developing countries of institutions of secondary education being established with a great flourish before there was any widespread primary education available. But a British Government ought to be able to take a broader and more civilised view, recognising that primary education is the very foundation of the whole education system. The effectiveness of secondary and further education must depend on the quality of primary education, and I feel strongly that the time has come for us to give a high degree of priority to increasing the number of primary school teachers, replacing many of the old, out-dated and totally inadequate primary school buildings, and building quite a lot more new primary schools in order to reduce drastically the size of classes at the primary stage.
It is not inconsistent with the points I have made in other education debates when my own party was in Government for me to urge once again that a small class is more important at the primary stage than at the secondary stage of education. In many primary schools I have visited I have seen differences in mental ability and aptitude among children of the same physical age. I am advised by educationists that it is by no means rare to find in a class of 7-year-olds differences of mental ability varying 419 between the average for, say, the 4-year-old and the average for the 10 or 11-year-old, and, by the time these children reach the secondary stage, the selection process itself will have narrowed considerably the range of abilities in each class. Also, temporary educational blockages such as those producing the backward reader among young children can often be cleared by the time the child reaches 10, 11 or 12, provided that the facilities are there to give the individual attention necessary to deal with these problems.
It seems to me, therefore, both logical and, in a sense, humanitarian to reduce the size of primary classes to a maximum of 30 pupils instead of the present average of 40, which is so often exceeded. In my view, this should certainly take precedence over increasing vastly the supply of teachers in order to raised the school-leaving age from 15 to 16 on a compulsory instead of a voluntary basis as at present. I should like to see the primary school-leaving age raised, that is, the age of transfer from primary to secondary school, even before the secondary school-leaving age is raised, or at least concurrently with it—which would probably be the best solution.
Raising the age for transfer from primary to secondary school would have three great advantages. First, it would make possible a better assessment of the natural aptitudes and abilities of each child at the point of transfer. Second, it would enable the syllabus of the State primary school to be broadened to provide equality of opportunity for State educated children with those in the private sector. As a by-product of this, it would facilitate more cross-fertilisation between the public and private sectors, and I see nothing wrong with that. Third, it would ease the pressure on the secondary schools and in this way would help the Government to raise the school-leaving age on the target date by reducing the number of years which pupils would stay in secondary schools, having regard to the number of teachers we can recruit between now and 1970.
In my view, this is a question of getting the order of things right, in popular parlance, getting the priorities right. I, for one, deprecate the distortion of priorities for what seems to me to be a purely doctrinaire reason in the Gracious Speech. 420 I hope that the Government will look again at the serious problem in primary education and will rethink what really needs to be done in order to raise educational standards and to improve the quality of our State education.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Test)
For the last 13 years, I have been a teacher in a secondary modern school—I hope they have not been 13 wasted years—and it will not be surprising, therefore, if I seek to talk today mainly about education. However, before doing this, I crave the indulgence of the House to refer briefly to two other matters of vital concern to my constituency.
Southampton is the premier passenger port in this country, and we have tremendous potentialities for development as a major cargo port. To quote from paragraph 532 of the Rochdale Report, the recommendation was:In view of its great natural and geographical advantages Southampton should be developed as one of the country's principal cargo ports".It was, therefore, with some alarm that I read the account of a debate on port development in this Chamber at the end of the last Session in which Southampton was not even mentioned.
Recently, the Southampton City Council prepared a detailed document setting out the case for the development of the port of Southampton. My plea to the Government is that before any decision is made about the allocation of resources for docks development they should take note of all the available information presented to them.
Secondly, many of my constituents are seamen. My father went to sea for 51 years. I am perturbed that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to any proposal to amend the outdated Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. Many people, particularly shore-based workers, do not realise the legal code, in many cases without right of appeal, under which seamen live and serve. No shore-based worker would stand for this. I know that it will be a mammoth task to amend the Act—I believe that it has 784 Sections—but I hope that a start on it can be made during this Session.
Like many others who are keen on education, I should like a greater proportion of our national resources spent 421 on education, greater even than that allocated in the National Plan. On the other hand, we all have to realise—I am very pleased that the Secretary of State made this point at the N.U.T. conference—that it is not just a matter of wringing more money out of a reluctant Treasury. In fact, the more that is spent on education, the less that can be spent on something else. It is a question of priorities. No doubt each of us would have his own idea where the less should be spent. But inside the available resources it is also a question of priorities.
School building is an accumulated problem, over not 13 years but 60 years. It is an accumulated problem of neglect. It was spotlighted by the report which presented so great a problem that it broke the back of the computer in 1964. I realise that not everything can be done at once in school building, but my view is that priority should be given to replacing and modernising our primary schools. All hon. Members can think of primary schools in their constituencies which are a disgrace to Britain in the 1960s. We must never forget that primary education is the basis upon which all other education depends.
I was very pleased to see a reference in the Gracious Speech to the supply of teachers. I want to concentrate for a moment on one aspect of the problem. I believe that there is great scope for the recruitment of teachers from other occupations. I refer to the mature entrant into the profession. Many of these will be people of ability who, for some reason or another, maybe their own fault, missed the education boat at the age of 15 and 16 and since then have been working in some other occupation. I believe that they have something very valuable to bring into education. If we lived in an ideal society with no shortage I should insist that every teacher had at least one year's experience of the world outside the classroom before he came into teaching. I have never been convinced that the conventional system of grammar school, training college and then back to school again was the best method of training teachers if we use the word "teacher" in the widest sense of the word.
I shall now say something which will probably get me into trouble elsewhere. To my mind, there is nothing sacred about five O-levels or one or more A-levels as 422 an entry qualification for mature students. Such a qualification may be right for someone going to a training college at 18, but it is not the only qualification for a mature entrant at 25 or 30. I should also like to see other further education establishments used for training mature students. I am not convinced that the normal curriculum of the training college is necessarily the best one for mature students.
We are all agreed in this House—reference has been made to it today—about the importance of raising the school-leaving age to 16 by 1969 or 1970. What worries me is that very little thought appears to have been given to what we are going to do with the extra year in the schools. It is all right for the G.C.E. and C.S.E. children; they have their examinations. But what about the non-examinees, the ones nowadays called Newsom children? We must have a radical change here. If the extra year for these children is to be based purely on the classroom—three or four more English or arithmetic lessons, and so on—I believe it is doomed to failure before it starts, and that it will create many problems—disciplinary problems and the rest—which do not exist at the moment.
There is a need for boldness and imagination. I should like to see the extra year used as a transition between school and work, between school and the world outside. I see no basic objection why a boy, if he thinks he wants to be an electrician, should not have a week off during the year and work as an electrician to see whether he likes it. It may mean that certain trade unions may have to change some of their rules but I do not think this is important. We can use the extra year in a valuable way if it is planned in advance, and there is not much time left for that. It is in this field that the mature entrant to the profession who has had experience elsewhere will be of particular value to teaching. There is also a need in this connection for expansion of the Youth Employment Service, so often the Cinderella of education.
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, if my remarks have seemed to be rather rambling and if I have put out some ideas without coming to any conclusion. However, for me today the wheel of fortune has taken a complete turn. It was 28 years ago 423 when as a boy of 11 I sat in a classroom in front of you when you were teaching me the intricacies and beauties of the English language. There is, however, one essential difference; in those days I was trying to avoid your eye, but today I sought to catch it.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I crave the indulgence of the House because this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour to address it. I am extremely thankful to the electors of North Cornwall for having sent me here. It is a constituency of proud and radical traditions, and I think that all the electors of North Cornwall, or the great majority of them anyway, are glad that we have at last released the constituency from its state of dishonour. Until 1950 it only once ever left Liberal hands.
I am sorry that the Solicitor-General is not here to receive my greetings from the electors of North Cornwall, but I shall convey them on another occasion. He may, after all, feel that they were not properly conveyed the last time he had contact with that constituency.
The most important thing about choosing a constituency is that it should be a place where one can spend one's summer holiday. One of the advantages of the T.V. lights that we discussed earlier this afternoon was that they showed up the difference between those hon. Members who had got some of the sun and those who had not. I was delighted to see that the Prime Minister had taken his holidays in Cornwall. He was a walking advertisement for early holidays in that county.
A major part of my purpose in the House of Commons will be to bring before it and before the Government the great problems from which Cornwall suffers. This is not a debate about those problems but perhaps I may give notice that this is a large part of my purpose in coming here, because we are, in a very real sense, a neglected part of England. We have the lowest incomes of any area. We have a level of unemployment double the national average. Week by week we are exporting a mass of young people, which does not help the building up of a complete community. I see no harm in saying this in a debate on education and technology. After all, 424 one of the main purposes of education is to civilise the community.
I am proud of North Cornwall because it had the highest poll of any constituency in the country, but I want to emphasise—although it may be disastrous for me to do so—that I am one of those hon. Members whom A. P. Herbert calls a "non-Member". There are many hundreds of us in this House. A "non-Member" is one who is not sent here by an absolute majority of his constituents.
In my constituency, more people voted against me than for me—and there are hundreds of hon. Members who, every time they see a group of their constituents, realise, perhaps with some shame, that they do not enjoy the majority support of that group. I hope that when the Government come to consider reforms which are necessary in this House they will also consider reforms of the whole election system.
I am also particularly proud of Cornwall because, with an entirely nonpolitical county council, we have achieved considerable advances in comprehensive education. I assure the Secretary of State for Education and Science that he will have support on this bench in his endeavours to right the wrongs of our secondary school system.
The movement is entirely non-political in Cornwall. There is no case for saying there that the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines is a kind of Marxist plot. It is nothing of the sort. It is simply the best way of achieving our purposes in education which are, after all, to ensure that every child is given an equal opportunity and to tear down the class barriers which divide the nation.
We shall only do that by pushing through the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines. I see nothing Socialist in that. Having said that, we also have to accept the challenge of the Secretary of State when he asked the N.U.T. to make up its mind on priorities. We all have to do so. I am glad that one or two hon. Members preceding me have mentioned primary education, which is the Cinderella of the educational system.
We have already had a reorganisation of all age schools, particularly in rural areas, and this, after all, was to the great 425 advantage of secondary education. It was not particularly to the advantage of primary education, which is largely still stuck in the old buildings. Now we are about to have the reorganisation of secondary schools on comprehensive lines, and again it looks as if primary schools will be left a little out in the cold.
In its Report No. 25, "Education in the National Plan", the Department of Education and Science, after putting forward some proposals for righting the imbalance of teacher-pupil ratios, said:This will ensure a continued steady improvement in the pupil/teacher ratio … the improvement is likely to be recorded mainly in the secondary schools.Thus, the Department admits that its endeavours will still leave primary schools rather badly off. I do not see any reason, educationally, why primary schools should be allowed to have classes of forty when it is deemed necessary that secondary schools should have classes of only thirty. I have never met an educationist—I am not one—who thought that this was the right way of going about it.
I hope that we are not about to embark on a retreat from the ideal of smaller classes. But I have noticed that, in one or two places, there seems now to be a certain retreat from the idea that we must bring classes down at all costs. One hears references to teacher aids helping in the teaching of bigger and bigger classes.
I am sure that hon. Members, in looking back on their school careers, feel that the most significant influence was the relationship they enjoyed with one or two teachers who influenced them along the lines in which they wanted to go, whether political or cultural, or whatever else it might have been, and it is this vital relationship with the teacher in small classes that one cannot get in large classes.
I have brought from Cornwall an ideal of what I want the pupil-teacher relationship to be. It is contained in that great classic, "The Sword in the Stone", and it is the relationship between Merlin and King Arthur. It illustrates something of what I want to express when I say that we want small classes where a real relationship and bond can be built up between teacher and pupil.
426 In Cornwall, we have a large number of rural schools, and there seems to be a feeling that these are to disappear, that it is efficient to amalgamate them into larger units and shift the children by bus. But when one has regard to the inefficiencies of the rural bus services, one realises that this is not a good idea. More important, these schools have a good relationship not only with the pupils but with the families. I send my son, aged five, to the little rural school in our home village, and the headmaster knows the problems in the families of all the children in his school. This is something that one can never get in the larger, more remote primary schools in the towns. The preservation of rural schools is something to foster, and to fight for. I shall certainly do my best to do so.
I know that you relish short speeches, Mr. Speaker, and I do not intend to go on much longer. But, obviously, part of the problem in education is the supply of teachers, and I hope that when the Secretary of State looks at the need to expand the number of teacher training colleges he will look in the direction of the far South-West, because we have an absolute right to a teacher training college in Cornwall. Indeed, we demand it. Finally, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will leave the Camborne School of Mines right where it is.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I do not know very much about the Camborne School of Mines, but the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) has spoken with the passion and conviction that comes from those who represent areas in which they live and have been brought up, and I am sure that the electorate of North Cornwall, whatever else they feel during the coming four and a half years, will not feel that they have in any way been under-represented. The hon. Gentleman has given us due warning that the electorate of North Cornwall will have a voice in this House.
It is also my good fortune not only for the first time to congratulate a maiden speaker but to do a double. It is with very great sincerity that I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) on his excellent maiden speech. I was hoping that you, Mr. Speaker, being a 427 Southampton neighbour, would come in time to hear at least part of my hon. Friend's speech. He and I share many things in common. Unlike his father, who was at sea for 51 years, as he said, I was at sea for 18 months, but I share his passion for the welfare of the merchant seaman, and the reconstruction of the Merchant Shipping Act.
Certainly we need to pay attention to what my hon. Friend had to say about teachers. Although under the glassy stare of my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test in what he said of teachers who go from one side of the teacher's desk to the other in a very short time, with the career pattern of school-college-back to school. I am sure that there are many who support my hon. Friend very strongly. The electors of Southampton will be happy to learn of his powerful and constructive maiden speech.
I, too, heard what you said about short speeches, Mr. Speaker. Those of us who have been questioning the Minister of Technology about computer-aided design and numerical control will welcome his speech this afternoon. But the purpose of my contribution is to focus attention on very much the same subject as that chosen by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and to pursue the Prime Minister's thinking on the subject of committees.
One would agree straight away when the Prime Minister says that there is an urgent need for a committee on Home Office affairs. There is certainly fruitful scope for similar action on the subject of planning permissions and the House could well probe here, in depth, in future. But I am sure that there is no subject which lends itself with more urgency, as well as giving such scope to a Select Committee, than technology, science and higher education. I would go along with the Prime Minister rather further than my hon. Friend did, in what my right hon. Friend's speech on Thursday said about the actions of the Committee in its activities upstairs—Col. 79 of HANSARD.
Like my hon. Friend, I was rather concerned about the subject of servicing and briefing. The Prime Minister posed 428 the question whether the servicing and briefing should be done by a Government Department or elsewhere. It strikes me that if it is not done by a Government Department, one then has to ask by whom it will be done. Speaking with three years' experience of the Public Accounts Committee, I know only too well, as in the case of Ferranti and many others, how much we owed to Sir Edmund Compton, or whoever happens to be the Comptroller and Auditor General at the time. It would be extremely expensive and extremely difficult to give the same facilities to a new committee, similar to those which the Public Accounts Committee regards as its right. So it is probably necessary for a Department to brief as widely as possible the Members of any new committee, but that committee at the same time ought to have other sources. Perhaps the research assistants to whom my hon. Friend referred could also be responsible for organising contacts in the outside world for the hon. Members of such a committee when they do their work upstairs.
Like my hon. Friend, I was concerned about the reference to an informal basis. How informal? To what extent do we need verbatim reports? If one does not have verbatim reports, how can one tie down witnesses and how can one give the evidence necessary to support a report? At the same time, verbatim reports take time. I do not pretend for a moment that the present committee set-up is anything like satisfactory. It will be recalled that when there was a debate last session on the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, precisely four Members took part—the Financial Secretary, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) and myself. This was a debate on a vast amount of work, not only by us but by the Comptroller and Auditor General's staff of 600. That is the sort of situation which brings the House of Commons into a certain amount of disrepute. In all this it is essential to make sure that evidence presented to a committee does not go stale. It is no good debating something six or nine months after the event, as so often happens. If this proposed committee is set up, let us have debates early while the subject is news, while it is "hot" and while we can be effective.
429 I am more concerned about another aspect of the work of a specialist committee—not the work upstairs, but that outside. I would like a system whereby the committee concerned with science and education, for example, was systematically "on the hoof", for want of a better expression, so that for several separate weeks in the year Members were going around visiting and seeing for themselves on the spot what was happening. The example which springs to mind is that of numerical control. A study of how far numerical control can be standardised in industry might be a very good subject for a committee of six to eight Members. But if it were to be done, the Members would certainly have to go to the National Engineering Laboratory at East Kilbride, certainly to Dalkeith, where Ferrantis are doing their pioneer work; and the committee would not get very much of an overall picture if it did not go to the Manchester College of Science and Technology. There must be regular visits around the country of such an all-party group.
The same is equally true of the research councils, which seem to be a fruitful subject for investigation. It is not sufficient to have Professor Medawar and his colleagues being examined in Committee Room No. 12. It is far more meaningful to go to Mill Hill and see on the spot the sort of work being done. This would be equally true of the universities and the Vice-Chancellor of York is only one of those who have said that they would welcome a visit by a Select Committee, because they and their staffs would positively like the House of Commons to be better informed about what they are doing.
During the election, I noticed a very formidable anti-Parliament feeling, a great cynicism about M.P.s, Liberals, Conservatives and Labour, the feeling that while we might talk about modernisation, perhaps we had not seen it for ourselves sufficiently. In the last 18 months, there has been an excuse, because we have been shackled to the House of Commons far more than is healthy. But now there is no excuse and now if we are to gain the confidence of industry, the trade unions and the universities in our seriousness about modernisation, there is 430 every reason, incidentally not least in order to uphold the prestige of Parliament, why Members should go round the country on a Parliamentary basis to see what is happening. Therein lies one way of getting the sort of information which would equip them to fulfil the tasks so admirably outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West.
When they go to establishments, as I hope they will, Members of the Select Committee on science and higher education ought not just to see the head of the university at vice-chancellor level, or confine themselves to managing directors in industry. I hope that they will talk freely to those who work at all levels and in the evenings have a sort of a two-way traffic in ideas with members of the staff of the university, or research council, or industry open to anyone who cares to come. If investigation is confined merely to senior personnel, it will lose a great deal of its point.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that one does not need to be a member of a Select Committee to go on fact-finding missions of that kind. If he asks his right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, or his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, he will find that either would be only too pleased to arrange for visits for him as they have for me.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) knows, he and I have done a great deal of this and have been welcomed almost wherever we wanted to go. But that is not sufficient. The hon. Member makes my point. The sort of visits which he and I have made have been far too desultory, because they have meant going to a research establishment one week and some totally unconnected scientific establishment, the next. I pay tribute, as I am sure he does, to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee for the visits which it has arranged, but that is not in any sense a co-ordinated and coherent study of a subject. If one wants to probe in depth, then we have to have a coherent, co-ordinated series of visits, which makes criticism meaningful and probing in depth possible. That is why it ought to be done on a committee basis rather than the free-lance basis 431 that he and I have adopted so far. Besides, there must be a system of progress-chasing, involving the possibility of debate on the floor of the House. This cannot flow from individual visits by Members such as the hon. Member for Orpington and myself. Such a committee structure would be a symptom of a basic belief in the "open society".
My hope would be that during the next five or ten years we advance towards a far more frank society, a more adult society, in which a civil servant and a Minister, concerned with Technology, would not feel it incumbent upon himself or herself to defend everything they do. I should like a society in which men and women in the Civil Service, or Junior Ministers, feel more free to admit error. They must not do it too often. No one will stand up here and defend silly mistakes, but, nevertheless, in a sophisticated technological society, into which we are entering, for heaven's sake let us have a position where civil servants and Ministers and others feel free to admit their errors.
Let us not fall into the trap of creating institutions of a sort which may have been successful innovations in the 'fifties but are not, in our view, suitable for the 'seventies. The institutions we most seek to create are the institutions of the 'seventies, an era in which, many of us hope, there will be a far franker and more adult attitude towards the complex problems of the day. A Select Committee on Technology, Science, and Higher Education would be a step in this direction.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), in whose speech I was particularly interested, and by whose speech I was particularly impressed. I am, in essence, a traditionalist, and I do not want to see the glorious traditions of the Palace of Westminster and of the Houses of Parliament go by the board. I do not, for instance, want to see the pomp and pageantry and ceremony of last Thursday go; that is without comparison in the world, and I want to see that kept. I recognise, however, that in changing times and changing conditions our methods, in both Houses, have to change.
432 I suggest that we start at the grass roots, that we start in this Chamber, if we are going to reform, and that we start with some of the minor details which irritate many Members. For instance, let us get rid of privilege to hon. Members in this House. Why should any hon. Member claim priority to a particular seat? By tradition this is done on both sides, by universal, kindly and general agreement. If it were challenged, of course it could be upset; but we do this. This is a minor point, but I think that it stems from the root of change in this House.
Another tradition which is exceedingly irritating to hon. Members is the priority which is given to Privy Councillors to speak. This has been generally rightly used, but at times has been exceedingly abused. The time has arrived when all back-bench Members, particularly, should be on a par with one another in catching the eye of the Chair.
A third point at which I think we should break with tradition is the length of speeches. Whether by back benchers, or from either Front Bench, they are far too long. This is not a laughing matter. It is a very serious matter, because in important debates on foreign policy, on the Common Market, on matters which are vital to most hon. Members, it is almost impossible for the so-called non-expert to get in. The House wants to know not only the view of the so-called expert, but also the view of the hon. Member who can represent the opinion of the man in the street. Therefore, I think it essential, as you, Mr. Speaker, have suggested, that we should make shorter speeches. I would go further and put a time limit on back-bench Members of about a quarter of an hour, and a time limit, except for special occasions, specially important debates, of half an hour on right hon. Gentlemen on both sides.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
§ Mr. Jennings
Well, fair enough. The hon. Member thinks that too long. Perhaps I am being generous.
Consider what happens about debates in this House, even debates on important subjects. Because of Private Notice Questions and other matters taken after Questions, a debate may not start until after four o'clock. The Minister takes 433 an hour, or an hour and five minutes, or an hour and twelve minutes, and his opposite number on the Opposition Front Bench almost as long. Another hour after nine o'clock is taken by the opposing leading spokesmen.
What chance does that leave to hon. Members on the back benches to put their points? It is essential that the back-bench Members in this new Parliament should exert their rights and ask for a bigger share of the time on the Floor of this House. Therefore, I would welcome a reform about time allowed to speeches.
These may appear to be trivial points, but to us who are ordinary, humble back benchers they are vitally important; they are of the very breath of Parliamentary life to us, affecting our rights and liberties.
But the most important part of the speech by the hon. Member for Fife, West was that in which he dealt with the power of the Executive. I confess that over the last few years, trying to look at this House objectively, I have been frightened. I have been frightened at the increasing power which has been garnered to itself by the Government Front Bench, and taken by both parties whichever has been in power. Trying to look at this constitutionally I have come to the conclusion that the power of the back bencher has gradually diminished, certainly on the Floor of the House, and that, in effect, we have come to be governed not necessarily by Cabinet government but literally, within that Cabinet government, by an oligarchy. This, to me, is a very dangerous tendency of modern government in this country.
As the hon. Member for Fife, West outlined, whichever side is in power, back benchers are presented with a fait accompli and they are then expected, out of loyalty to their Government and to the party to which they belong, to go into the Lobby to support that fait accompli—maybe, not having had a single opportunity to put a constructive suggestion on the policy. Like others in this House, I object to being merely Lobby fodder. I was not sent here just to be that.
I welcome the idea of an experiment in specialist committees. I do not like too much the American model of government. I have seen it in action both in the central legislature and in one or two of the States, and I am not enamoured of it, but 434 we can learn from it, and I feel that the experiment of exposing—I use the word advisedly—exposing Ministers and their policy to questioning in depth, even while it is being carried out, would take away from the Executive the inherent feeling that they can do almost what they like so long as they can steamroller their followers into the Lobby. Therefore, I welcome that.
My next point has nothing to do with procedure. I like to walk, and the only place in this place to walk, apart from perambulating round the Lobbies, is on the Terrace. I have often tried to make this point. I once tried to raise it on an Adjournment debate and just failed. The Terrace is our lung, particularly in the spring and summer months. We are prevented from enjoying it to the full by a miserable-looking, dirty-looking, drab marquee stretching almost the whole width of the Terrace. Even a small man like myself has to wend his way through all sorts of obstructions in order to exercise even a pair of short legs. I hope that this summer we shall have some better action about the marquee from the appropriate Ministry. If we have to have a marquee let us have a clean one and let it be a little narrower so that there is more room for hon. Members to walk.
I turn now to education. I should like the Secretary of State for Education and Science to be quite definite and specific on two questions: his two Circulars 10/65 and 10/66—and all that—on the reorganisation of secondary education and, coincidental with that, the question of raising the school-leaving age. Does he really contemplate doing these two together or in such close proximity? The right hon. Gentleman nods in agreement. He envisages that he will revolutionise the education system by abolishing the mixed system and superimposing on the present structure a universal comprehensive system.
Let us make no bones about what this means. It means a gradual elimination over the years, once the fatal—I say that advisedly, too—step has been taken, of the present system and the implementation of a full comprehensive system of all types of school—public schools, independent schools, direct grant schools, grammar schools, secondary modern 435 schools and secondary technical schools. There is to be one pattern for everybody. Socialist speakers, when talking about integration, hedge on the question of independent schools and say, "We will find some use for them". When they say that independent schools will go on, this is nonsense to me, because if Socialists are honest with themselves they mean to bring about the elimination of schools of this type and the substitution of a full comprehensive system.
According to the circulars, this system has to be brought about by 1969. I look at my own area and others where the authorities are struggling to find an answer to the circular. It is difficult, as the Secretary of State admits. It is more difficult to unify secondary and grammar schools which are some considerable distance apart and to call them one unit. We have had experience in Burton-on-Trent of a technical school having buildings in various parts of the town. At last, the school is in one building. It is heaven on earth to those concerned after their experience. Will the Secretary of State put the clock back and have diverse units operating all over the place as one apparent unit? This will be physically impossible.
There is another point. A fully comprehensive system cannot be introduced without extra money. I know quite well that the share of the national cake for education has increased over the last few years and that we are spending a fair sum of money on education. If this scheme is time-tabled for 1969, much extra money will be necessary. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that he will get it from the Treasury? Unless extra money is forthcoming, this scheme will fail. It will be a hotch-potch and will bring complete chaos, far more chaos than we had in 1945 when we changed over from the old system to the Butler system. I was teaching then and I know exactly what happened. There was complete chaos for several years.
In addition, we are to raise the school-leaving age and keep on children, involving extra buildings and extra staff, a year later in 1970-71. Does the Minister really believe that on top of the first revolution he can bring about this minor 436 revolution with no extra money? If he cannot guarantee that the Treasury will provide this extra money over the next few years, how will it be possible for this to happen efficiently?
I am a believer in the mixed system. I am not a categorical opponent of comprehensive schools. I have repeatedly said in the House that I believe that there are circumstances in which the comprehensive school is the answer. But it is not a general panacea. I think that the country would be well advised to develop its comprehensive system gradually where conditions were suitable—the creation of a new town, the extension of a new town where there could be schools on one campus, or where reorganisation is being carried out in a wide diversified rural area. I have no objection to that. But it is wrong to ask a town like Burton or a city suddenly to make the change.
I object to the idea that the only argument against a comprehensive school system is that it will destroy the grammar school. Of course, it will destroy the grammar schools as a separate entity. But it will also destroy the secondary modern school, which after years of growing pains is at last coming into its own and, having done tremendously good work, is beginning to feel the benefit of its record.
Therefore, the question of money is all important. I wonder, when the Secretary of State tells the National Union of Teachers to look for priorities, what are his thoughts about priorities, because they are bound up with money. This is the crux of the whole situation. Will he tell us tonight how he proposes to get over this hurdle in order to reorganise secondary education and to raise the school leaving age almost simultaneously?
I should like to up the point made by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), in his maiden speech. There is a very grave danger—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] I shall sit down shortly. The rule which I suggested earlier is not working yet. I will sit down almost immediately.
Secondary school education seems to have been in the forefront of the battle all the time I have been in the House. Primary education seems to have been pushed to one side. This is a tremendous danger. I ask the Secretary of State to 437 examine carefully the future of primary schools. I know that we are awaiting the report of the Plowden Committee on the age of division between primary and secondary education. This is an added reason why he should postpone his comprehensive look for a great deal longer. I implore the right hon. Gentleman not to regard—and I am sure that he does not—the primary system as a Cinderella, but to look at it, in conjunction with secondary education, as part of the whole, and as a most important part of it.
I have one last word of admonition for the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he really will clarify his mind as to the difference between auxiliaries and ancillaries.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
On rising to my feet to address the House this evening, I would, first, ask the House to consider that I, as the new Member for West Belfast, had to overcome many obstacles before I had the opportunity of addressing this House. I take some consolation from the fact that in the television and Press analysis immediately after the result of the election, you, Mr. Speaker, and I were categorised as the fourth largest party represented in this House: "Others, Two". I cannot refrain from saying that if that is correct it will be a most influential fourth party in this House.
I am not sure whether that was an attempt to depict me as an impartial independent, which I most decidedly am not, or whether it makes you, Mr. Speaker, an added member of the Republican Labour Party, in which case I take this opportunity to welcome you into the party as there are, as you will be well aware, all too few of us.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hesitate to interrupt a maiden speaker, but I can assure the hon. Member that I am not applying.
§ Mr. Fitt
I did not really think that you were, Mr. Speaker.
Since the election I have read in sections of the British Press that I have been classified as an Irish Republican. I should take this opportunity to classify my political allegiance. To classify me as an Irish Republican is not strictly correct. The Irish Republican Party in Ireland does 438 not recognise the authority of this House in any part of Ireland and its members would, indeed, refuse to take their seats in this House.
I have not yet given up hope, and I have not yet determined to follow the line of the Irish Republican Party, because I believe that during my term as the representative of West Belfast in this House I will be able to appeal to every reasonable Member in this Chamber, and, through them, to every reasonable member of the British public. I feel certain that at the end of this Parliament dramatic changes will have taken place in the North of Ireland, of which I am a constituency Member.
Having arrived at this House at the latter end of last week and having listened to the speeches made by hon. Members, from both sides, I marvel at the normality which exists in British politics. Serious questions are discussed. It has become apparent to me this afternoon that education will be an issue of great importance during the lifetime of this Parliament. All hon. Members can apply their intellect and wisdom to achieving an education solution. This atmosphere does not exist in the constituency which I represent.
In Northern Ireland, at every succeeding election there are no economic issues involved. In this island of Britain, the recent election was fought on the different policies and philosophies of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Labour Party, and the Labour Party were victorious. In Northern Ireland, no such issues entered the contest.
I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether in your position as a member of a political party at any election prior to your elevation to the Chair of this House, you have ever had your telephone constantly tapped during the course of the contest. This happened to me during the recent election. Did you, Mr. Speaker, or any other hon. Member, have to have police protection to protect you from a bigoted sectarian mob when you were declared the victor in the contest? I did, not 50 or 100 years ago, but within the past month, and this is not a unique experience.
At every election at which I have been declared the victor, the bigoted mobs have attempted physically to assault me. Three weeks or a month ago, my agents were threatened that if they attempted 439 to enter into my opponent's areas—areas of West Belfast are designated as Unionist and anti-Unionist—they would be physically assaulted if they attempted to stand by the ballot box to prevent my opponents from personating votes.
This is something which people in Britain cannot understand and it is something on which I intend to educate the British people. It is something in which I hope to elicit support, not only from this side of the House, but from both sides of the House, because I am convinced that there are on all sides in this Chamber honourable men who have acted in their political life with the utmost rectitude, political honesty and sense of fairness. I make an appeal to each and every one of those Members in this House to ensure that we in Northern Ireland are afforded the same opportunity to fight elections on the economic issues involved and that we will be free from all threats of physical violence.
I realise that in the course of a maiden speech it is the tradition of this House to be uncontroversial, but I cannot make this speech without being controversial. It is not my intention in any way to be controversial in this speech, because I am speaking with all the honesty and sincerity at my command.
In the 1964 election for this Parliament, certain incidents took place in Smethwick and, rightly, many hon. Members, on both sides of this House, condemned the atmosphere in which that election was held. That is the atmosphere in which elections have been fought in Ireland since 1920, and that is the atmosphere which will prevail in Northern Ireland until this Government take cogent action.
I realise—and here I ask for the indulgence of the House—that there will be very few opportunities for me to get on my feet and to take in the whole of the Queen's Speech, because by tradition certain Acts of Parliament and certain actions are the reserve services of the Northern Ireland Government. I do, however, ask the Labour Government whether they have ever considered, because they cannot say that they were unaware of the question, an amendment to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. No Act is sacrosanct. The changing social conditions over the past 50 years 440 make the Government of Ireland Act completely unworkable. When we realise how every concept of British democracy is being flouted in Northern Ireland we conclude that now, immediately, is the time to amend that Act.
In 1949 the British Labour Government—and they had the support of many progressive members of the Tory Party—changed the electoral law and brought in the Representation of the People Act. That established the democratic principle of "one man, one vote", with which I am in complete concurrence. It is a fair system; it is the only democratic system which should be applied in these islands. But in Northern Ireland that system operates only in respect of the 12 constituencies represented in this House. For other elections in Northern Ireland—for local government elections and elections to the Stormont Parliament—we have an anti-democratic electoral system.
This system would not be tolerated in any other freedom-loving country. In Northern Ireland the same people are elected to administer the different Acts—the one applicable in Northern Ireland and the one applicable for Imperial elections. Can we expect these same people to administer their own electoral laws, on the one hand, and then to wear a different hat and administer the 1949 Representation of the People Act? The first aim of the Northern Ireland Unionist Party is to perpetuate its own existence there. Let there be no mistake about that.
It is generally accepted that when an area in Britain is threatened with economic depression, and where there is mass unemployment, and people feel that they are being trodden upon, it will return Labour, or even Communist, representatives. Over the past few years, however, the area to which I refer as Northern Ireland has consistently returned Tory representatives. I suggest that those Members are returned not on the issues involved, but by a completely unacceptable system, and that the only issues discussed during the contest concern the question whether one is a Catholic or a Protestant.
In West Belfast I fought the recent election on the political platform of Republican Labour. I am a Socialist, and I intend to speak from this side of this House. I intend to vote as a Socialist. 441 I intend to support the Labour Government in their initiation of all social and progressive legislation. But having done so as a Socialist I shall ask the support of hon. Members on this side of the House to help me to initiate the same system in Northern Ireland. If I believe in Socialism for England, Scotland and Wales I must be afforded the right to believe in Socialism for my own country.
I ask the Government to listen to my words this afternoon and to realise that I am speaking for many progressively-minded people, not only in West Belfast but in all Northern Ireland. I intend to voice their disapproval of the present undemocratic system and the election laws which now exist in Northern Ireland. In the Queen's Speech I read—and I admire the Government for promising this—that a system is to be devised to provide further subsidies for local authorities to help them build homes for the people who need them, and to make it easier for young married people to acquire homes of their own. I shall support the Government in their implementation of this legislation.
I wonder, however, whether it is recognised that in Northern Ireland to own a home means that one also has a local government vote. In Britain everyone over the age of 21 has the vote, but this is not so in Northern Ireland. I insist that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. The people there are British subjects and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as are possessed by any other persons living in these islands.
To perpetuate its own majority the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland has devised an electoral system which for local government purposes can give six votes to one person and yet deny a single vote to another. This is 1966, and if true democracy is to operate in these islands it is time that the procedure in Northern Ireland was abolished. Not only does it deny a vote to a person who does not own a home; from this root stems all the other social evils. If a person does not own a home he does not have a local government vote, and if the party in power considers him to be an energy or an anti-Unionist it will ensure that he will not get a home.
442 The town of Dungannon, in County Tyrone, is run by a Unionist-dominated council. It has a small majority of 400 or 500 on the electoral register, but this ensures that it is elected at successive elections. But there are 2,000 people looking for homes in Dungannon—2,000 young married couples, who have no homes of their own. The Unionist council has met repeatedly. It has held meetings and adjourned meetings. It realises that the vast majority of these 2,000 people are anti-Unionist, so it says to itself, "If we build these people homes we will also be giving them the vote, and they will vote against us. We will be out." This is happening not only in Dungannon, but all over Northern Ireland.
I have no hesitation in predicting that now that I have the honour to represent West Belfast, within the next two or three years further council estates will be built in my constituency, and the houses will be given to Government supporters with the intention of unseating me. This is the atmosphere which I am trying to break through. I reiterate that in addressing these remarks to the House I am appealing to every Member who believes in democracy. I am not asking for preferential treatment, or making an outlandish request on behalf of my constituency; I am asking for exactly what British constituents have.
As a Member of the Stormont Parliament I have spoken on many occasions in this vein. It was very frustrating to realise that the House there, with 52 Members, had 40 Members of the Government party. No matter what plea was made I realised that it would not get anywhere. I realised that when it came to the vote on any subject which I supported, 40 Unionists would go into the Lobby to vote against it and to deny any semblance of democracy. I hope that I shall not suffer any of that type of frustration in this House.
I did something unusual this afternoon. Normally, I do not speak from a script, but I had prepared this one. However, I feel that I do not need a script to put forward the case for democracy in Northern Ireland. One can only speak from the heart and I defy contradiction of the charges which I have levelled this afternoon.
443 I realise that I may have infuriated some hon. Members on the other side of the House. I do not see many of those hon. Members who are entitled to be infuriated. There is only one of them there. If these hon. Members feel that way, the cap must certainly fit. I would ask that one hon. Member, the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), if he believes in the policies which have been pursued in Northern Ireland and disagrees with my charges, to prove it by supporting me in asking the Government for an inquiry into the Government of Ireland Act. I am willing to stand or fall by that decision. I would ask, I would insist, that the members of the tribunal which would hold this inquiry be taken from both sides of the House, not from this side alone. I would accept any hon. Member from any side of the House and I am sure that that inquiry would find that what is happening in Northern Ireland today can no longer be tolerated.
There are references in the Queen's Speech to Vietnam and Rhodesia. As a Socialist, I intend to support the Government's action on those areas. In Rhodesia, there is an exact parallel to what happened in Ireland in 1912, since when a minority has tried to subjugate a majority. In 1912, a tragic mistake was made by the then British Government. Now, 54 years later, I have to come to this House to level charges at the ascendancy group which was then installed in that country.
I ask the House to consider the tragic mistake made then and to ensure that they continue on the lines they have taken in regard to Rhodesia. If they surrender to blackmail, the world will not readily forgive them. How ridiculous this Parliament must look on the stage of world affairs when one views the Parliament and this country expending their energy and their treasure on trying to bring about in Rhodesia a state of affairs which would ensure the political and human rights of the black Rhodesians, when, at the same time—either through ignorance or through sheer cowardice—we are not prepared to ensure the rights of our own British subjects in Northern Ireland. The problem at home must be settled before we seek to settle problems abroad.
I have always taken the view that an elected constituency Member's first and 444 last allegiance should be to the people who voted for him and elected him to this House, that their problems should at all times remain paramount. That is why I say to the Government this afternoon that before we take any action on human or political rights in any other part of the world we should ensure that those rights are installed in Northern Ireland.
In the earlier part of the debate, a great deal of time was spent by Members on education. As one who did not have the benefit of a university education, I am only too well aware how necessary education can be in 1964. A new university was mooted for Northern Ireland and the money for that university was to have come from the pockets of the British taxpayers. The Lancashire lassie and the Yorkshire yokel were paying to subsidise that university.
In Londonderry—poor, sad, tragic, gerrymandered Londonderry—there is mass unemployment. It has become known as a city where the women work in the shirt factories and the men stay at home. In Londonderry, Catholics and Protestants banded together to have the university sited there. They realised that it would be an injection of lifeblood into Londonderry, that, in the first place, it would do away with the unemployment and that people would be employed.
They realised that, as building progressed and students began to attend, it would bring life into Londonderry, which is slowly dying of decay. But this consideration was never accepted by the powers that be in Northern Ireland, even though the money was being found by the British taxpayer. The only consideration which activated the minds of the Unionist powers in Northern Ireland was that two-thirds of the population of Londonderry were Catholics. They would not put the university in Londonderry, because there were too many Catholics there. They sited the university in the heart of Coleraine, which, again, is a Unionist-dominated area, inhabited by Government supporters.
On the attraction of new industry to Northern Ireland, I speak as a Socialist. I do not want to see anyone unemployed in Northern Ireland, be he Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter. When industry is 445 attracted to Northern Ireland it is conveniently sited in the Unionist areas. The areas where there are no Government supporters are continuously ignored.
The Government of Northern Ireland take the view that if they give one of their supporters a job they will have his vote for all time and so perpetuate their own reign in Northern Ireland. I oppose Unionism in Northern Ireland and I will do so until my dying day. West Belfast has been a break-through. Since winning this election, I have received 468 telegrams, 700 letters and 1,000 telephone calls—not from people of my own religion, but from those who would be opposed to me in religion, who saw the result of the election as a break-through for political wisdom in Northern Ireland, who saw the result in West Belfast as a day of reckoning for the Unionist Party.
Hon. Members should understand that the Unionist representatives in the House have been coming here for so often that they believe now that they rule by divine right. One of the Unionist Members of this House actually opened his election address with the words:I am sorry that this election has been forced on me at great expense by the intervention of a Liberal candidate.Disgraceful! How "disgraceful" that anyone should dare to oppose him.
That is why there is such a serious inquest going on now in Northern Ireland. They cannot believe that 3,000 Protestants voted for me. However, there is no more proud representative in this House today than I. I realise that Protestants and Catholics have supported me and that it is with their voice that I speak.
I make one final appeal to the Government. The situation in Northern Ireland is serious. Discrimination is an everyday occurrence. People are denied jobs because of their religion. Only two days ago, the Cardinal Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Conway, issued a statement calling on the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to do something to erase this cancer of discrimination from our midst. The Cardinal Primate of All Ireland is a reasonable man, a man who has done everything during his life so far to bring about better and more harmonious community relations. If he felt that he had to make that call to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, how much more important is it that 446 this Government should support him in bringing about a more normal political situation in Ireland?
I am a Socialist. I will defend and support this Government with everything at my command, but, having done that, I ask for the support of the Government and of every hon. Member in doing away with the situation that exists in Northern Ireland today.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
It is a special pleasure for me to follow the new Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), because in this House, whatever we may think about the arguments put forward, we like people who speak with sincerity and with fire in their bellies; people who hold a cause dear and have come to this House to put that cause forward. If the hon. Member considers that his speech was non-controversial, I am sure that we must all look forward with great excitement to the first occasion when he feels that he is not inhibited by the conventions of the House.
It is quite obvious that in the hon. Member for Belfast, West we have a man who feels very sincerely about the things for which he has fought. He has a descriptive turn of phrase, and the House will look forward with great interest to hearing him whenever he feels pressed to speak. I would only say this to him. He spoke of being one of minority of 12 against 40 in the Stormont Parliament, but he must not feel too depressed about that. At the present time, I face a Parliament in which I know that there are a 100 more people on that side than on this, and I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite will troop night after night into the Lobbies—Lobby fodder—being used by their Whips in carrying legislation in which they do not believe—exactly as the hon. Member feels happens in the Stormont. In any Parliament, that is always the view of the minority about the actions of the majority.
That brings me to the Gracious Speech. I apologise to hon. Members opposite—many of whom are new and have come here full of idealism—for the sparse attendance we have for this debate on the Gracious Speech. I should, however, point out to them that we are getting a little tired of this particular Queen's Speech, because it is the third time we 447 have debated it. We cannot, therefore, be expected to show quite the same enthusiasm as there is amongst new Members—or is it that the new Members just want to get their maiden speeches in before the competition increases and we get on to more controversial subjects?
I confess that I approach this Parliament with a good deal of alarm. The present Government have been returned as a result of an election in which, without any doubt at all, we won the argument and they won the election. History will show that argument eventually wins, and if our case—and it was a good case on the various major issues confronting the nation—is the more sensible case, eventually the British public will support us. But what worries me is that although this great reforming party has been returned to govern the nation for probably 4½ years, what is there in the Queen's Speech that is new? What is there that is exciting? What have we to grip the imagination of the people? We only have a rehash—and "hash" is about the right word. What started in 1964 as a bit of tender lamb had become in October 1965 a sort of fricassee, and now we have got down to cottage pie. It is has been done and redone so often. What is there new in it? Nothing.
All there is in the Gracious Speech is a rehash of all the policies and programmes that the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Member for Ormskirk, and now the present Prime Minister, went round the country during the election telling the public that had been passed into law. Of course they have not been passed into law. He made great play about what the Government had achieved in their 16 months in office. I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), who is not in his place, who has said that he finds it very difficult ever to understand what the Prime Minister is endeavouring to say, but what the Prime Minister was endeavouring to say all through the election was that all these things had been passed into legislation.
The fact is that we who were in the House before know that in most cases there had been a pronouncement by the Government, in some cases a White Paper and in some cases a Bill had been presented to the House but had not been 448 debated. That was the performance after 16 months of office. Now, of course, we have to go through the chore of dealing with this legislative programme. The Government now having a majority of 100 or so, we have the reintroduction of the nationalisation of steel. I have no doubt that on the other side there will be great cheers when the Second Reading of that renationalisation Bill is debated. I dare say there will then be more controversy than there has been over the Gracious Speech we are now debating.
I believe that this House has two very important matters in front of it with neither of which does it seem to me that the Government have the courage, the wisdom or the "know-how" to deal. First, there is the country's economic situation. I shall not enter into any argument about who was responsible for this crisis or that—this is all old hat, old election ballyhoo that both sides have overplayed. The fact remains that the nation faces a very grave economic problem, and today we are dealing with one of the fundamental issues of that problem, which is that the nation is short of brain power. Yet last year we recruited into the Civil Service 10,000 more people than were in it in the year before.
I have no objection to the Civil Service, nor any hostility to it. I do not say that we can run the modern State without having anyone in the Civil Service. Nevertheless, we must remember that every first-class brain that goes into the Civil Service goes into that side of our life where the main job is to control the activities of other people. At a time when we are short of brain power, we are putting a bigger premium still on the available brains for industry, education and all other aspects of life which are not part of the Civil Service. If the Government really want to tackle this problem, they should bring a really hard broom to bear to see how many of the administrative functions which are carried out by civil servants today control the activities of the nation at far too great a cost in terms of brain power as well as cash.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) on his appointment as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology. I am sure that he will do well in his job and will succeed. One of the first tasks he will have to face 449 is that of finding people to fit in to key positions affecting our economy and industry generally. Such people are in short supply, and one reason for this is the paternalistic system under which more people are placed into jobs administering controls than into positions of producers, inventors, thereby helping to earn the wealth which the nation needs.
This is not, of course, as simple as I am putting it. Of the half a million or so people in the Civil Service, how many are really making decisions? In other words, the pattern has been that at least one person in the Civil Service is this type of position is duplicated by a person doing a similar job in industry. Thus, if I am a civil servant and I ask firms to give me reports on a certain matter, it automatically means that each firm must have a person occupied in preparing that report for me. These activities place a great strain on the brain power of the nation. We must decide how we mobilise our brain power and manpower so that we overcome our economic problems. We must release into productive effort far more of the best brains the nation possesses.
I regret that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is not in his place, because I go a long way towards supporting much of what he said about the reform of Parliament. However, he places too much emphasis on what I call the "form" of Parliament. It is easy and popular to make fun about the Gracious Speech being delivered in the House of Lords and of how the Members of the House of Commons are called to the Bar of the House to listen to it being read. It is equally easy to make fun of the delays that are caused to our proceedings while Black Rod enters the Chamber. So is it easy and popular to say how we could do away with the formality of the Mace having to be in its place. There are all sorts of things we could say about these customs, how they are a lot of mumbo-jumbo and do not mean very much, but hon. Members who think in those terms should consider just how much of our Parliamentary time is spent performing these customs.
Considering our procedure generally—the Mace having to be in its place, Mr. Speaker being in the Chair or not being there according to whether we are in Committee or in the House, and the Ser- 450 jeant at Arms holding up the proceedings while he lifts the Mace up, or puts it down again—we must, at the same time, remember that if a stop watch were used I doubt whether all these things would take more than two minutes in a Parliamentary day. In a year of our proceedings in Parliament not more than half an hour is spent listening to the Gracious Speech. These customs represent a great historical background, and I suggest that Parliament would be a much poorer and duller place if these adjuncts to our activities were removed.
I am opposed, therefore, to the whole idea of taking the colour out of Parliamentary life. Hon. Members who have been in the House for many years know only too well that there is too little colour in our activities already. Colour is necessary and a splash of it from time to time makes this place—and I mean the Houses of Parliament collectively—a better place, not only for us but for the people outside who do not come here every day.
Having said that—and before proceeding I congratulate you, Dr. King, on your appointment; I hope that you will have many happy years as Speaker, and I equally hope that I will not give you many occasions, even in the late hours when dealing with the Finance Bill, to get cross with me—many hon. Members agree that this House is in great danger of losing its position in the nation, not because of our procedure, but because of the Executive, whether they be Conservative or Labour. The Executive have taken, and continue to take, more and more power away from this legislative assemby, which is the House of Commons. This is the fate of any assembly where it is not realised that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Any Government want their business, As life becomes more complicated, any Executive want to take more power and it is difficult, in the way that Parliament works, to see how individual hon. Members can control the Executive.
In the last Parliament there were cheers from hon. Gentlemen opposite when the Prime Minister appointed the largest Government in the history of Parliament. Those hon. Gentlemen did not realise that there was, therefore, a larger vested interest in Government, an interest which is not a good thing in a democracy. I have no doubt that by the time all the Parliamentary Secretaries and so on, who think 451 they are on the first rung of the ladder to promotion, have been appointed, the situation will not be better but worse. It means that nearly half the Government side of the House has a prescriptive right and interest in the Executive getting their business—reducing the amount of time for debate, reducing opportunities to challenge the Executive; and I suppose that this is inevitable whichever party is in power.
For this reason I strongly support some of the views of the hon. Member for Fife, West, who has done enormous service, as Chairman of the Estimates Committee, for Parliament and who knows what he is talking about. He knows, from his day-to-day activities as a back bencher, how this House works. He knows that if this Chamber is to control the Executive we hon. Members must begin to produce new machinery which is more powerful than at present available to us. It is right that this Chamber should have the power, for example, to inquire in much more detail into certain aspects of Government and to be able to send for people who have the knowledge to inform us. We should be able to discover on what basis the Government of the day assess how much money should be spent and from where the money should come.
One of the great difficulties of this House is that the Government ask Parliament to vote money for one year. I have on many occasions questioned Ministers on this aspect—and that goes for when my hon. and right hon. Friends were in power as well as for the present Government—particularly when Ministers have stood at the Dispatch Box and plausibly said, in effect, "I have great honour in presenting this Bill. It will cost only £10 million this year". Everybody says, "Hear, hear. That is very cheap."
The Minister does not tell us that it is £10 million this year because it is operating for only about a week and that next year it will cost £100 million. He does not explain whether the gross national product next year will go up by £100 million to take care of it. Many of the financial troubles of the country come from the fact that the House allows the Government to pass legislation which imposes tax burdens two, three, four or five years later far beyond anything which Parliament appreciated when it was passing the legislation.
452 Today we are debating education. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has had a distinguished career at the Ministry of Education and probably, with the exception of my old right hon. Friend Lord Butler, has had as great an influence on education in the last twenty years as anybody. He knows that many educational programmes begin to bite financially only years after we have passed the legislation through this House.
We ought to have specialist committees in which we can nail down the civil servants and the Ministers to make a declaration as to the commitment into which we are entering when legislation is being passed. This means that in some way we have to evolve some form of specialist committees with much more power than the Estimates Committee as at present constituted. The suggestions made by the Prime Minister are the typical suggestions which I would expect from that very clever politician. They are to give hon. Members, particularly on his side of the House, the illusion of power without their being given much more power than they have now. Hon. Members are to be allowed to discuss administrative problems. It is not the administrative problems that I wish to discuss but the policy which led to the administrative problems. If the policy decisions had been right in the first place, there would probably not have been administrative problems in the second place.
We shall have a lot of fun upstairs discussing regional problems. There will be a very balanced discussion on the future of the North-East Coast, with a great mass of Labour supporters and about four Tories! Equally, there will be a very balanced discussion about the South Coast with a great mass of Tories and a few Socialists! These proposals are just to give back-bench Members the illusion of power. Let me make it clear to hon. Members that when they are dealing with the present Prime Minister, they may support his major policies but they should deal with him with a very long spoon. He knows how to feed the fat out to the children and to get them blowing bubbles and being happy as Harry. But he is leading hon. Members up the garden all the time. He has sold hon. Members opposite a Conservative foreign policy, and they are 453 going round the country proclaiming what a wonderful policy it is. He is the master of double think and double talk in putting things into people's minds.
I believe that before this Parliament ends we shall finish with joint meetings of back-bench Members on the future and on how we can control the activities of the Executive. All I ask back-bench Members opposite is to realise that the Executive will always try to mislead them in the amount of power which they are being allowed to handle. They should therefore view any proposals with a good deal of suspicion.
In the House we have an enormous task in front of us. If democracy is to continue to work, this legislative Assembly must once again become paramount, and certainly more effective than it has been in the last fifty years. These dangers grow and grow. As we all know who are politicians, the time comes when we must seize a matter and deal with it. This is the time. It will probably be in this Parliament. I can see an alliance of back-bench Members against the Executive, with my right hon. and hon. Friends on our Front Bench, who are ex-Ministers, probably backing the Executive and telling us that our proposals are impossible. In fact, they will be putting the Executive line, which is always that they want to get their business through—and the sooner and more easily they get it, the better it is for them.
As the hon. Member for Fife, West said, many Bills in the last Parliament would not have been passed in the form in which they were passed but for the fact that the Executive wanted to get their business. I believe that in this Parliament, we, the back-bench Members, have a great task in front of us to bring back power to the legislative assembly by demanding it—by demanding power to vet the Government's policies, power to send for people and papers, to use the Parliamentary expression, and power to get adequate information on issues on which we have to vote long before we come to a vote on the Floor of the House. If we do that, I believe that this Parliament, even with a Labour majority, could go down as one of the great Parliaments in our seven hundred years of history.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)
The debate today is concentrated around education and technology, a combination which, I think, is most appropriate. There is no doubt that we are all interested in the technological advance required in this country, but we are bound to recognise that, while all of us talk a good deal about economic growth and extra productivity, we must give careful consideration to various human factors. Perhaps we do not ask the right questions often enough. When we think of the way in which daily life has been transformed over the last 25 years, and the amount of social sickness which is obvious to anyone who takes a cursory glance at national affairs, we recognise that there are human factors which must be considered.
I want to bring a sense of urgency, if I may, to the educational side of the debate. I was disturbed when I heard the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and other hon. Members opposite who were critical of my right hon. Friend's advance towards comprehensive education and complacent about the present set-up. There are a considerable number of intelligent children who are being denied the opportunities which they ought to have today under the present tripartite system.
I want particularly to refer to a point which concerns me as the representative of North-West Durham. The Statistics of Education, Part III, issued last week, gave me a shock. At the week-end, there was considerable discussion among educationists and others in the North-East because of the revelations provided by those statistics. It showed that for the year 1963-64 the national average of school-leavers obtaining two or more A level passes was 8.2 per cent. The average for the northern region, which includes Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland, Westmorland and the North Riding of Yorkshire, was 5.9 per cent. The average for the South-East, which includes Kent, Surrey and Sussex, was 11 per cent.
I have said in this House on many occasions that I do not regard as a measure of education attainment of O-and A-level passes, but this reveals a situation which must distress those of us who live in the North-East and all who are concerned about educational 455 opportunity being available for children wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. Of pupils who had five or more O-level passes, the average was 18.5 per cent., for the northern region it was 14.1 per cent. and in the South-East 25.3 per cent.
No one in the House would suggest that all the clever children are in the South-East and that in the North-East they are not so clever. We realise that that is not the explanation for the great variation in these figures. I anxiously await the publication by my right hon. Friend of the study now being undertaken by Professor Wiseman on the effect of environment and social factors on educational attainment. They ought to give us some very valuable information.
I think that these figures give a sure indication of the difference in attitude to the subject of the length of school life. In the North-East we have a long tradition of early school-leaving, certainly at the statutory leaving age. In the North-East we have been much too dependent on heavy industry and craft apprenticeship. I have nothing against that, I am glad to see youngsters going into craft apprenticeship, but in our area there seems to be a preponderance of that kind of activity after leaving school.
There is also a great prejudice against girls going on to higher education. I am for ever raising this question locally when I address meetings. This long-standing prejudice takes a lot of breaking down. I am sure that it also contributes to the overall figures.
Perhaps the major reason for the difference is the constant migration from the North-East which has taken place throughout my lifetime. During the depression years we experienced it earlier and it lasted longer. In the thinking and attitudes of some who during the whole of that time were leaders in public life what I call the depression complex lingered on. I can remember the days when rates were burdened with Public Assistance and, therefore, less money was available for other social services. Education undoubtedly suffered.
I remind the House of the priorities which have been established by successive Governments. I have no quarrel with those. Obviously, the first is new school 456 building, what we call the roof overhead priority where a new town or a new housing estate has been established. Otherwise, the children would have no school to attend. Naturally, the Minister has had to give priority to building there. In this, the South has had a better time than the North. In the South-East there has been congestion because of the new jobs created and because of the attraction of people to that area, whereas from too many places in the North people have moved and populations have declined.
The old elementary schools, often built in the 19th century, have been renamed secondary modern schools. They now provide inferior facilities in parts of the Northern area. I remind the House of the categorical statement in the Newsome Committee's Report that the Committee found that children attending private schools and, therefore, enjoying education in smaller classes and staying beyond the statutory leaving age had a greater educational attainment than one would normally expect. In the South-East, where there are more private schools and more direct grant schools with more opportunities for children to stay on after statutory leaving age and to be educated in smaller classes, the attainment is very often higher than one would expect.
I therefore welcome the Government's initiative and determination, which was reinforced last week by the statement of the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs that the Government are to be "tough" with the South-East. They are to see that areas which, in the past, were denied the opportunity to make a contribution to the prosperity of the nation will now have first priority. In education this is just as important, perhaps more important, than in other fields. In this country we have educated the able child at the expense of the less able.
In some down-town areas which have felt the depression longest, buildings, teacher supply, equipment, playing fields, size of class have meant that those who most needed dedicated, inspired teaching in good new buildings with first-class equipment have had to do with second-best. We talk about 10 or 13 years of neglect, but we acknowledge that this has gone on for many more years. That is the great problem which my right hon. Friend has to tackle. There is so much 457 which must be done and we know the limits of our economic resources.
The Newsom Committee's Report said:It is not possible to generalise about the capacity of the average or below-average pupils until we have had the opportunity to keep them at school for a longer period in smaller classes.So let no one throw any doubt on the decision of the Government. I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for Handsworth again giving support today to the raising of the school-leaving age. In the North-East we demand that this should be carried out because it is one of the essential steps to give to our school-children the justice they have been denied for far too long.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, we are not just concerned in education with the provision of skilled manpower. School must never be regarded as a sort of plant from which we churn out skilled manpower. School deals with the spirit of youngsters and the spirit needs nurture, care and education just as much as the body needs nourishment. Human life is impoverished wherever children have been denied education. That is why I am a firm advocate of comprehensive schools and comprehensive education. Children are suffering now and we need to reorganise secondary education now.
I have been talking about the relation of attainment with the length of school life. Wherever comprehensive schools have been established—some have had to make do for they have not purpose buildings by any means—children stay at school longer. I can tell the House of a comprehensive school which serves two council estates where there are no owner-occupied houses and there the average number staying at school is far greater than in the rest of the country. We are unique in this respect. Wherever we have comprehensive schools offering a wide variety of courses with extra opportunities, parents in the North-East are just as anxious as parents anywhere else that their children should be able to take advantage of the extra opportunity.
That brings me to the second issue I want to raise. I am not blaming anybody, but there is no doubt that, because of the pressure to improve the secondary sector, the primary sector has suffered. 458 We know that this may have been absolutely essential. As has been said already, we do not want to teach children more arithmetic and keep them on at school another year merely to do the formal work. The teachers are doing a remarkable job in this respect.
There is no doubt but that in secondary education much work has had to be done. Therefore, every Government has tended when cuts have had to be made to concentrate them in the primary sector. All hon. Members recognise that there are times when we cannot do all we want to do and must cut a little. Over the past 10 years a great advance has been made in education. In the House we sometimes tend to under-estimate all that has been done in education. Great strides have been made, but much remains to be done. Unfortunately, when we have to go slow in the provision of resources very often the axe has fallen on the primary sector. I hope that this is not felt at Curzon Street, but those of us who have been in the primary sector have felt that the sector which has been considered to be most able to bear a go-slow and stand the cuts and which has been made to make do with the oldest buildings has been the primary sector. The primary sector has had to make do with less provision. It has been thought that any necessary cuts would have less effect in the primary sector than in any other sector.
Sensible and reasonable investment in the primary sector will overcome many of the problems which now beset those who work in the secondary sector, particularly those who teach in secondary modern schools. Again, I stress the urgency of this. Today, half a million children will have had their school dinners in their classrooms because there is nowhere else for them to eat their meal. Fifty-seven per cent. are in schools with no inside lavatory. Forty per cent. of primary schools have no staff room. Over one-quarter of primary schools have no hot water.
In the primary schools the stability of the relationship between teacher and pupils is most important. The salary structure of the teaching profession, with extra payments for this, that and the other, particularly in secondary education, has led to much greater mobility of staff, with people chasing after extra 459 responsibility posts. This has meant far greater mobility than is desirable, particularly at the primary stage. The primary school child needs a teacher that will stay for a considerable time. The degree of mobility which there has been and the incidence of part timers have led to some of the difficulties experienced in teaching in primary schools.
There must be much more flexibility in the discretion given to authorities about the use of their allocations of building money. I appreciate that there must be a global sum, but in the primary sector tremendous improvements by way of converting and adapting older schools could be made which would transform the life of primary school children and teachers. It is amazing what could be done. I am glad to say that in Weardale, in West Durham, nearly all my primary schools have been transformed over the past four or five years. Now it is a pleasure to go to see the children at work, but much more can be done.
I have talked about the difficulties in primary schools. The House should remember that the primary schools have been the pace setter. More enlightened new development is going on in primary schools than in any other sector. The primary sector, with limited resources, is pioneering a new approach to the teaching of mathematics, science and foreign languages. This is an exciting project.
I believe that it is possible to overstress the needs of the very able child. I acknowledge that able children must have their opportunities, but it must be remembered that the country is not lagging behind because of the lack of technical "know-how". The brain power is in the country. Exciting possibilities are opening up. I watched with interest the telecast of the Prime Minister addressing the Scottish T.U.C. Today, I followed my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology very closely and tomorrow I shall read his speech with great interest. It is just as important to create the right attitude and approach in workmen and everyone else as it is to cater for the very able child.
We are paying a heavy price because we have neglected what I will call the Newsom child. We should not wonder at 460 much of the social sickness, the frustration, the symptoms to be seen in adolescents, and so on. It is a terrible tale of neglect through the years. We have cast aside those who at 11 were not considered to be suitable for secondary education. It is the attitude and the approach which are hindering the technological advance of which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology spoke today. In education we dare not fail. The Government are pledged to building a better society in which youngsters will be equipped to meet the need of the changing world. We in the House have a duty to will the means to make this possible. We can do it only if we are prepared to give more resources to this great service of education.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I am tempted by the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) to follow him and state the point of view of the South-East on some of the points he made. I should not like him to think that we in the South-East are any too pleased with the First Secretary of State's declared intention to discriminate against us. I should not like the hon. Gentleman to believe that we have no further educational needs to be met, no old primary schools which need renewal, no oversized classes which need to be reduced, no increase in population continually coming in and demanding the expenditure of money to provide new schools to cope with it.
The hon. Member paid tribute to the record of the South-East in examination results and in the percentages staying on at school. Over the county of Surrey as a whole at least it is well over 50 per cent. The results which have been achieved are very impressive. This record is a strong argument for a rethinking on the part of the Minister of his declared intention to force Surrey authorities and others who will not toe the line to adopt a comprehensive system under pain of seeing funds cut off.
These two things coming together—the starvation of funds with which the South-East is threatened and the insistence by the Minister that the present pattern of education has got to be changed for doctrinal reasons into a comprehensive pattern—threaten the educational system in my constituency and 461 others in south-east England not just with a standstill but I believe with a setback. True we can even up the discrepancy between the North-East and the South-East by levelling down, but I do not suppose the hon. Member for Durham, North-West wants that any more than I do.
I could follow the hon. Member at length on this subject, but my real purpose, Mr. Speaker, in catching your eye this evening is to comment upon a particular omission in the Queen's Speech—not a novel omission but one which strikes me as regrettable—and that is the absence of any mention, for the third successive year, of the aircraft industry. We have had in past Sessions a good deal of debate on the subject of the aircraft industry and new aircraft projects, so I suppose the Government might defend themselves by the argument that the phraseThe development of science will be continuedcould be held to be applied to the aircraft industry. Maybe this is so. Maybe there is a prospect in this Session that we shall hear from the Government—we need to hear urgently—what their plans now are to save a substantial section of this very important industry from the very low state to which it has been reduced by decisions taken in the past 18 months.
I admit that the present order books of the industry which could carry it through for the next two years are fairly healthy. Many of these orders were obtained and placed before the present Government took office. The aircraft which are being sold now for export were ordered well before 1964 in many cases, and the present healthy state of the industry's order books is no particular credit to the Socialist Administration from 1964 onwards.
However, it is the future that matters. It is what happens three and four years ahead which matters. It is the orders to be placed for that period which are going to be able to maintain the industry. It depresses and distresses me to see the way in which the Government appear to believe that if they do not think about the aircraft industry its problems will disappear. This is not a static situation. Since the last Parliament sat for the last time we have had plenty of developments 462 in aviation. On the very last day of the last Parliamentary Session the Minister told us that B.O.A.C. would not take up the suspended VC10 orders, in breach of a pledge given by a previous official spokesman in this House. It is a curious commentary that apparently a Siamese independent airline can afford to order Super VC10s and can look forward to operatinig them, but B.O.A.C. will not.
There has been much development in connection with the airbus where it looks as if the Government will be making up their minds too late. A situation has developed in which there has been a need for decisions about the stretched Trident aircraft for B.E.A. and there has been no sign of a decision from the Government. We have had a clear and urgent need for a decision to be taken by the Government to go ahead with the Anglo-French variable geometry project in time to have it ready for service in 1972, and we have had no sign of any intention on the Government's part to make that decision.
Most recently, as a result of investigations carried out by a congressional committee in the United States of America, grave doubt has been cast upon the published performance and price statistics of the F111 aircraft. We may hear more about that subject tomorrow, and I hope we shall. I mention these matters to show that the crisis which has faced the aircraft industry ever since the Socialist Government took office in 1964 still persists and, indeed, is more serious now than it was then because of the passage of time and because of the way in which opportunities have been lost. I believe that this year, this summer, decisions have got to be taken to maintain any possibility of keeping the British aircraft industry alive as a going concern. The House, the industry and the country are waiting for these decisions and the Government must make up their mind, and make it up publicly and soon.
This brings out what I believe to be a most important gap in our present Parliamentary armoury. We have no means as a House, except the casual opportunities offered to us by the composition of the Civil Estimates, of keeping the performance of the aviation industry and of individual projects under review, unless we get an opportunity to debate them because they have just been cancelled. When money is being spent on Concord, 463 on Jaguar and on other projects still being developed in this country, we need as a House of Commons to be able to keep the closest scrutiny of the way in which these Government orders, this Government business, this side of a great industry is being handled, how public money is being spent and what value is being obtained for it.
The Ministry of Aviation has been criticised often enough, but it was curious and characteristic that when the Minister himself came to the House at the end of the last Session to make a statement, one year late, on the recommendations contained in the Second Report of the Lang Committee on the Ferranti affair about certain reforms needed in the Ministry, his principal contribution was to say that he had no intention of accepting one of the Committee's major reforms and he ignored the other outstanding recommendations. Very likely we shall not get another opportunity to get at the Minister on this for a long time yet to come. The House should have that opportunity because this is a matter which affects the working of democracy and of government.
I hope that the Minister who is to wind up tonight—I want him to deal in some measure with the affairs of the aircraft industry, if he can—knows of the postmortem by Lord Plowden himself on his own famous Report. Speaking in a debate in the other place, Lord Plowden said that he now realised how much better it would have been if the work which his Committee was charged to do and which, he admitted, it had not been able to do adequately, had been carried out by a Select Committee established permanently on the American pattern. This is what we want.
I follow here very much the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). The Civil Service in this country is proliferating and Parliament is becoming steadily less effective. Some hon. Members say, "Televise our proceedings." This will give the people of this country who are interested, it is said, a sense of participation in Government. My submission is that it will give them, so long as our affairs remain ordered as they are now, only the shadow of participation and not the substance because we ourselves have only the shadow. Decisions are taken outside our reach. Facts are known but not within our know- 464 ledge. There is so much to be uncovered, so much need for a window to be opened into Whitehall, that the proposal to extend the Select Committee system is, to my mind, the most important of all Parliamentary reforms, and it should be top of anyone's list.
It is a matter of indifference whether one extends the electorate if the electors have no power. It is a matter of irrelevance whether we televise Parliament if Parliament does not matter. In my belief, it would be about as interesting at the moment, as compelling and as close to life as any edition of "Crossroads", and probably rather duller, if that is possible. All these things would be a waste of time.
The Prime Minister's proposals I believe to be an even greater waste of time, his suggestion that, now that the ombudsman has, apparently, been forgotten, a sort of "ombudsgroup" should be set up, that a committee might inquire into issues referred to it. They would be home issues, of course, not difficult issues, not important or expensive issues like defence or military procurement. This is a typical solution of the Whitehall mind. Find work for idle hands to do, establish a few more committees, let Parkinson's law hold sway. There will be much busy-ness, much occupation, much minute taking among the Government's own back benchers who, having been denied office, might otherwise conspire dangerously among themselves. This, evidently, is the thinking underlying these proposals.
It would be a great waste of time and a fraud if the only cautious steps towards reform which we took in this Parliament were to be down that cul-de-sac, for that, in effect, is what it would be, a scheme designed simply to provide hon. Members with a slightly enlarged chance of getting up and talking and having their names in their local newspapers. It is not designed to bring a really critical shaft of light to bear upon the darker recesses of, let us say, the Ministry of Aviation, not designed to force Ministers to defend themselves in depth and under questioning to the elected representatives of the people, constantly, perhaps suddenly, perhaps unexpectedly and without all the advance briefing which Ministers might like—and none the worse for that. But this is what we need.
465 This could be almost the most significant reform of this century, I would say, except that I forget the enfranchisement of half the electorate. But if we are not to have it, let us not fool ourselves with the thought that anyone will be any the wiser because the proceedings of the House are televised. However carefully they might be edited, however cunningly they might be presented, however skilfully they might be lit, it would still, I fear, be a fraud. What we want, and what I and, I believe, back benchers on both sides will fight for in this Parliament, is real democracy in action, real effect and efficiency in Government, and, if we get it, we shall certainly have this Government out of the way, too.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Coe (Middleton and Prestwich)
I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I ask for the indulgence of the House in making my first speech here.
Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember my predecessor, Sir John Barlow, who was a Member of Parliament for 15 years. He was well respected and made a valuable contribution to debates, particularly on subjects such as commerce and Far Eastern affairs.
I represent a very diverse and very fascinating constituency. Middleton Borough has grown in population from 20,000, when it received its Charter in 1886, to almost 60,000 today. Traditionally one of the Lancashire cotton towns, it still has some very good mills, but the range of industry has been widened, and we can now boast a comprehensive range of products such as brewing, fruit canning, sheet metal, plastics, latex foam, sauces, cigarettes and cosmetics.
It is not without significance, in view of Middleton's history of periods of prosperity and recession in the cotton industry, that the motto on the Middleton arms is "Courage in Adversity". Today, Middleton is a progressive and congenial town, and I suggest that it looks forward to a proud future.
Three years before Middleton received its Charter, Prestwich, another part of my division, was recorded as containinga great number of genteel residences, principally occupied by Manchester merchants".466 This would perhaps be an over-grand description today, but with its beautiful parks and open spaces it is a desirable area in which to live. This is equally true of Whitefield, which manages to combine the grace and charm of a residential area with a few industries manufacturing such products as cotton, sweets and towels.
In my fairly short association with my constituency, I have been impressed by the quality of the community and the social life throughout it. Indeed, my one regret during the recent General Election was that the hustings prevented me from attending a band concert and a performance of my favourite "Pirates of Penzance". As a "Geordie" who has made his home in the North West, I pay tribute to the warmheartedness of the Lancashire people. I am very proud to be one of their representatives here, and look forward to acting very often on their behalf
I turn now to the Gracious Speech. In seconding the Address so excellently last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) asked:Is there a doctor in the House?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 53.]and rejoiced in the fact that there had been, I believe, a 10 per cent. increase in their numbers—from 10 to 11. As one of a very large influx of teacher Members, I will avoid quoting any comparable percentages for my profession. Hon. Members might even feel that the fact that so many ex-teachers have come into the House does not help the Secretary of State in his efforts to increase the supply of teachers.
However, as one of these schoolmaster-politicians I should like to consider some aspects of the teaching profession and its importance to our education system. I believe that one of the standards by which a country can be judged is the quality of its education system—how free it is, whether it is adaptable and able to change, whether it gives real equality of opportunity and whether it is successful in turning out full and complete citizens. The responsibility for the quality rests almost entirely with teachers. Governments and local authorities can provide the schools and the most up-to-date equipment, but the job of activating the minds is something which is left to 467 the teacher. He has the capacity to excite or to bore. He leads his students forward to the joy of learning or drives them into sullen submission.
While I welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the Government's efforts to increase the supply of teachers, I feel that this must be coupled, also, with a desire to see that the teachers we send into our schools and colleges are the best quality we can find. Reading the speeches of my right hon. Friend, I am satisfied that he will do all in his power and that he is, indeed, already winning the battle for an increased teacher supply and cares about their quality.
Nevertheless, I believe that the rapid changes which are taking place in education and the pressures which are being put on teachers are causing certain feelings of uncertainty and perhaps apprehension as to the true function of teachers in the education system. So much depends on the image that is held of the teacher and his work in society. It affects, for example, the attitudes of young people thinking of going into teaching. I have heard youth employment officers and vocational guidance officers say that potential teacher material among school children have asked, "What can I do other than teach?".
This type of attitude is changing, obviously, judging by the figures that we have been given recently of entrance into the colleges of education and perhaps this attitudes also stems partly from an ignorance of the real opportunities that exist in education today. But it goes much deeper than the view held by potential teachers. I believe that society as a whole finds it difficult to assess the true place of the teacher and I should like, at the end of my speech, to suggest two points which I feel may be helpful.
Turning to teacher training, I wonder whether we do not tend to confine our intending teachers within too narrow bounds. At training college I was certain that my vocation lay in junior school teaching. Two years after leaving college, I was in secondary schools. I then became a deputy headmaster and recently I completed my work in further education lecturing to students at final degree level.
468 I feel, therefore, that students need to have time and opportunity to feel their way as to what age range they want to teach and in their early training period courses should, wherever possible, be so wide that they equip our students to be competent over a fairly wide range of pupils.
I hope, also, that the colleges of education will try to attract a much higher number of skilled teachers who have had long experience with the less academically gifted child. I also welcome the widespread experimentation that is taking place in our colleges of education as to the best types of courses—although I must confess that I have a grouse in that my own subject to government appears to be neglected. I believe that the schools have a duty to make certain that the teaching of citizenship is done well. The assumption that any teacher can teach citizenship or that, at best, the history teacher can do so, is in my view a false one.
While stressing these particular points, I would hasten to express my admiration at the magnificent response of the colleges and departments of education in making possible a widespread increase in teacher training. Like them and the teachers' organisations, I am certain that our first priority in the training of teachers is to produce educational craftsmen. There are very few born teachers. We must, therefore, ensure that our teaching force is both highly skilled and qualified.
From my own experience an unqualified teacher can be a very sad sight and it is not a pleasant duty to have to rescue an unqualified teacher from a rather boisterous, but nevertheless harmless, group of children who soon realise that their teacher is unable to respond as he would have done if he had been fully trained. On the slightly different but related subject of auxiliaries, while I think that they have a place and I hope that progress will soon be made, we must, nevertheless, recognise the genuine fear of the teachers of any possible dilution of their profession.
Like many others, I believe that a fruitful source of teacher material is the mature student and I welcome the Minister's initiatives in this respect and his determination to see whether we can learn from other countries and to do what can be done, especially in the matter of 469 married women returning to the profession. The local authorities will have to be more flexible, particularly with such necessities as nursery accommodation.
I hesitate to comment on the vexed question of teachers' salaries, having just received my last pay cheque as a teacher, but as someone who has served in each branch of the service I will say that the young teachers particularly are still at a grave disadvantage, as are those in the primary schools. I also hazard the view that the special responsibility allowances have done more artificially to fragment the teaching profession and induce an unnatural amount of movement of teachers than anything else. I am also concerned that as teachers we are far too compartmentalised. I was horrified, when moving from junior to senior to further education, to find what a degree of ignorance and indifference there was between each sector of the education system. I hope that my experience was untypical.
Finally, I want to offer two suggestions. To help to clarify the modern rôle of the teacher in society, we should have a special inquiry charged with this task. Perhaps this could be done by a Parliamentary Committee on education, such as that envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Thursday. There is a good precedent. In 1834, a Parliamentary Committee looked into the state of education in this country, including the teachers, in great detail. I would hope that such a committee would include one or two ex-teachers, although not too many. It would have a wonderful opportunity to ask for a wide range of testimony, including that from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend has said that this is the time for action in education, but it would be possible in this way to [...]carry out at the same time a long-term consideration of the rôle of the teacher in our system. Any evidence from such a committee should be published as a means of helping to widen public appreciation of the rôle of the teacher.
This brings me to my second and last general point. One of my major criticisms of the social services concerns the division between the layman, or if you like the consumer, and the professional. In the hospital service, for example, the mother can give great assistance to the nurses and sisters of the hospital in the 470 care of her sick child if she is allowed to do so. In the same way, sensible co-operation between parent and teacher could be of immense value to both and particularly to the child.
Much has already been done about parent-teacher relationship, but I know from my own experience that a number of teachers look upon parents coming into the school as interlopers and, regrettably, there are parents who go to see teachers only when they have a grievance. I am convinced that much more could be done in this respect. Only recently I heard of a school which sends out reports containing a section in which parents can send back their comments. I would also like there to be participation by parents on the boards of governors or acting as school managers of their own children's schools.
I appreciate there are difficulties in this, but I believe that they could be overcome. In these two ways I believe we shall be helping to create in this country a climate of opinion which would positively desire an expansion in educational facilities and would foster a better understanding of the rôle of the teacher today.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
It is with very great pleasure indeed that I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe) on his able maiden speech. I should like to say to him that although he may not be, as he said, a native of Lancashire, he has absorbed some of that warm-heartedness of the Lancashire people to which he paid tribute. Obviously he has a very great deal to contribute to the work of the House in considering education by reason of his qualifications as a teacher.
Although he said that by getting himself elected to this House he was not particularly helping the Secretary of State with his task of increasing the supply of teachers, it is clear that when he makes further speeches on this subject he will, in effect, be assisting in this task by getting the Secretary of State to realise that he must revalue the teaching profession, that it is all very well for the Secretary of State to go round talking to the teachers about becoming managers in schools, but that if they are to be managers they must be paid accordingly. We must appreciate that fact.
471 I should also like to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) on his extremely notable maiden speech, which showed that although he is not a teacher himself he has a very real grasp of educational problems, as well as a passionate concern for the needs of his constituency. I was particularly interested to hear him say that the transition to non-selective secondary education is going ahead quite smoothly in his constituency without any political differences.
It is with reference to the question of the transition to non-selective secondary education that I want to say one or two words this evening, one or two words which are of a parochial nature relating to the problem in my own borough, where it has been proposed by the education officer that in place of the existing tripartite system there should be two different types of school, one of which goes as far as O-level G.C.E. and the other as far as A-level G.C.E. This would, he says, be non-selective, but I think that, in a constituency like mine, where parents are fully alive to the need of a good education for their children, it could possibly be the cause of parents tending to select the school which goes up to A-level, and very few of them will choose the school which provides for up to O-level courses only.
Therefore, we shall still have this problem of selection, and in place of the fairly elaborate system which we have at present we shall have one which will be of disadvantage. And I think that there is some force in the objection that it will perpetuate the class differences which are involved in the present tripartite system of education.
As Mr. A. D. C. Peterson said in an article in Comparative Education last June, on the question of the tripartite system:The first fatal flaw was that it failed to recognise the pervading influence of social class and job-expectations.Wherever we have more than one type of school, in which there is a choice available to the parents, middle-class parents will always tend to choose the school which allows their children to stay on longer at school. It is, I think, a serious objection to this system that the better teachers will tend to gravitate to the 472 school providing A level courses, even if that is not the intention of the education authority. I do not see this system being accepted by the Secretary of State, but I should like to hear his comments on the system as I have briefly described it.
The other question about which I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman relates to the West Riding system which, it appears, has some advantages in communities like mine. The education officer, in his report to the committee in the London Borough of Bromley, says:It is understood that the Department is most unlikely to accept a proposal of this sort"—that is, of the West Riding type—unless, while wanting to change, a local authority finds no other system administratively practicable.This must be the education officer's interpretation of one passage in Circular 10/65, that is, paragraph 22, where the Secretary of State says that he does not intend to give his statutory approval to more than a very small number of such proposals in the near future, the reason being that he wants to wait until the Plowden Report is made and he can see what the Plowden Committee recommends about the age of transition.
But, from an Answer given to a Question just before the Summer Recess last year it appeared that the attitude of the Department was beginning to change and that a larger number of West Riding type schemes might be acceptable to the Minister. I should like to ask him what his present policy is on this subject, because it strikes me that the West Riding system has certain advantages, particularly for boroughs like mine. It is wholly non-selective and comprehensive. There is no separation, as there is in some two-tier schemes, at the age of 14 between those going on to G.C.E. A level and those who are to leave at the statutory school leaving age. There is transfer a year earlier in terms of the important first part of the G.C.E. and, finally—a factor which is locally of great importance—if there is a smaller primary sector only from 5 years to 9 years it is possible to begin to replace the ageing primary schools and concentrate the school building programme on the middle schools which take children from the age of 9 to 13.
473 The only reason for my intervention this evening was to ask the Secretary of State, in his winding-up speech, to say something further about his thoughts on the West Riding system and whether he would accept more than the very small number of such schemes which he stated in Circular 10/65 he was willing to accept.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
It is my traditional and very pleasant task to start by congratulating the hon. Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams), Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe) on their maiden speeches. Even the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who takes such joy which we older Members understand in attacking some of our traditional practices in the House, would agree with me that this is one of the traditions which we would all keep and which we mean sincerely to our new colleagues and not just as a traditional form of words. I think that they realise that never again are they likely to have their words listened to with such rapt attention. If they get attention they are unlikely to get silence. If they get silence, it is almost certain to mean that they are not getting attention. I suspect that perhaps that applies particularly to the hon. Member for Belfast, West. We enjoyed the maiden speeches today, and I know that all of us on this side of the House would like to offer our sincere congratulations to those Members who made them.
I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) how glad we on this side are to see him back in the House. I believe that in saying that I speak also for hon. Members opposite.
This debate has ranged mainly over education and Parliamentary reform. I want to return to the theme on which the debate was begun by the Minister of Technology. He gave the House a catalogue of his Department's wares. He also spoke about the inheritance which he had taken on, on which I could take issue with him at length. I will not do so, however, because I want to concentrate more on what should be done.
All that I would say to the right hon. Gentleman in passing about the more scornful passages of his speech is that 474 when he comes to this House and talks about the developments in atomic energy and its peaceful uses as one of the things of which he is now rightly proud, that as much as anything else was part of the good inheritance which he and his Government took on 18 months ago.
The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about technical college building cuts, nothing about aviation, nothing about the brain drain and nothing which showed that either he or the Government understood the problems of technology in the round or the sort of industrial economy which is needed to encourage it. The catalogue which the right hon. Gentleman gave of the work of his Department reminded me of what I might call selective hormone treatment for some of the important plants in the national garden. There is nothing wrong in that—done well, it could be valuable—but it is not enough on its own. Indeed, on its own it can be useless or even damaging, because the whole of our economic garden needs to be tilled and cultivated in a way which creates the growing conditions for efficiency and for new creative ideas so that they can flourish and in which stagnant attitudes and complacency are shrivelled up and die.
That is why selective intervention is not enough. That is why, in what is the terminology of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, the old devil of market forces must be given some head, because it is in the proper play of market forces that we are likely to achieve the vigorous economy in which technological developments will flourish. It is in the overall policy for the economy that we on this side believe that the Government have failed since October 1964 and are showing every sign of continuing to fail.
§ Mr. Dalyell
When the right hon. Gentleman says that selective intervention is not enough, does he mean that there should be more of it or less of it?
§ Mr. Carr
If the hon. Member will give me a few moments, he will hear exactly what we on these benches think about the sort of measures that are needed. What is needed, and the only thing that will do the trick, is a comprehensive system of related and complementary policies vigorously and continuously applied. That is what we are not getting, but that is what we have got 475 to have instead of some of the mutually conflicting policies which we have at the moment.
I want to indicate five main themes of policy in which action is needed concurrently if we are to get the rapid rate of technological development which we must have in the economy. None of the five is sufficient on its own. All of them must be taken together.
First, the Government must mobilise to a far greater extent their influence as a purchaser. The Government, coupled with the local authorities and the nationalised industries, have an immense purchasing power. It has been estimated to be something like £6,000 million or even £7,000 million a year. If properly used, this could be a powerful lever in the technological development of British industry. The Minister of Technology mentioned this in his speech, but, unfortunately, he did not give much indication about the Government's actions in depth on this problem.
It seems to us that if we are to use the Government's power properly in this way, we must have embedded in the policy-making and administrative machinery in all Departments a considerable number of people with technological training and experience. They must be embedded in the hierarchy. It is no good simply having them on the sidelines, as advisers. They must be in all Departments, including the Treasury. Unless we get the whole Government machine permeated to a greater extent than now with people of scientific and technological training and experience we shall not get the thinking of the Government scientifically and technologically orientated.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the right hon Gentleman indicating that there should be a wholesale incoming to Government from industry of extremely scarce skilled people? He knows from Select Committees how difficult it is to get technical cost officers. Is he advocating this? It not, what does this mean?
§ Mr. Carr
This is one of the things that we advocated in our manifesto. The number of these people required in government is small in relation to their total numbers, but so great can the in- 476 fluence of the Government be, for good or bad, in these developments that there are few places in which a relatively small number of people with this experience could be used with greater effect, so that they can exert more leverage on the developments that we want.
Concurrently with this policy there must be an overhaul of procurement methods. In the debate on the Plowden Report in February I outlined, in relation to aviation, some of the reforms which should be considered. To put it mildly, it was extremely disappointing to find, as we did before the election, that more than one year after the publication of the Lang Report, which dealt with one aspect of Government procurement methods, the present Government were barely beginning to take concrete action with industry.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Frederick Mulley)
The right hon. Gentleman must make up his mind whether he wants tighter Government control over contracts or whether, as he advocated eloquently in the debate on the Plowden Report, there is too much Government control. We can carry out the recommendations of the Lang Report fully only by putting further constraints on industry and by closer technical supervision.
§ Mr. Carr
I cannot go over all I had to say in the debate on the Plowden Report. I stand by what I said then. I am not necessarily advocating the acceptance of every item in the Lang Report, because some may conflict with the Plowden Report, but I say that action is needed and that the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have now had the Lang Report for more than a year and action has not been taken. Meanwhile, we go on in this inefficient manner.
Concurrently with mobilising the power of Government itself, we believe that something valuable could be done by mobilising, as a complementary process, the true constructive critical faculty of Parliament itself. Like the hon. Member for Fife, West—as he made clear in his speech—we do not think that the Prime Minister's hurried proposals last week add up to much. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and my hon. Friend the Member for 477 Woking (Mr. Onslow) made clear, we regard the Prime Minister's proposals in this matter as phoney.
The hon. Member for Fife, West is probably right when he says that the right way to develop is on the basis of our Estimates Committee procedure. Let us grow on this. If we do so we may get something useful. But if we are going to develop, in this or any other way, the use of the Select Committee of this House, the subjects with which they deal must include aviation and other technological subjects, and also defence procurement. It would be a mockery if we were to set up that procedure and then to exclude subjects of that magnitude and importance, where such enormous sums of the taxpayers' money, as well as such tremendously important issues, are at stake.
The second main field of action is to increase the pressure of competition. In theory one may be able to sit comfortably in industry or in some laboratory and invent and then apply wonderful new ideas, but it seldom works out that way in practice. Necessity is usually the mother of invention, and if we are to get a dynamic approach to technology in industry we must apply the pressures of competition throughout the whole of our industrial structure. We must turn the heat on restrictive practices, whether by management or by labour.
For management, we must keep our restrictive trade practices legislation and our monopolies legislation up to date, which probably means fairly frequent reviews and amendments to make sure that these laws keep their cutting edge. It means that we must be prepared, as we said in our election manifesto, to make use of tariff policy, cutting tariffs—if necessary, unilaterally—if and when it should ever be needed in a particular industry to sharpen the competition in that industry.
For labour, it means the greater use of productivity bargaining in wage negotiations and it means a modernised legislative framework to curb unofficial action by the trade unions such as we put before the country in the election. Above all, for management and labour alike, it means maintaining a proper overall balance in the economy between the supply and demand of services. The level of demand should, of course, be kept up, so that 478 there are opportunities for all to prosper, for firms to get orders and for individuals to get and to keep good jobs, but there should not be such a glut of demand that anything goes.
There should be enough worms for all the birds, provided that they are prepared to get up early to catch them, but the birds who are ready only to get up late should not expect to be too well fed. Both among management and labour over the last decade, too many people have been able to be too well fed without really earning their keep. I stress the fact that that is why, in this somewhat harsh doctrine of more competition, the pressure must be put on management, by way of competition, as much as on labour.
It is no good merely talking about restrictive trade practices on the labour side because, in the end, there are no bad soldiers, there are only bad generals, and this is true in industry as in the military sphere. However, for the soldiers there must be a legislative framework just as there should be for the generals, which is what we put forward in our programme at the election.
The third main sphere of action——
§ Mr. Cousins
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question before he leaves that point. He has stressed the need to increase the pressure of competition. Does this mean that, in computers, we ought not to be willing to assist firms under outside pressure or, in micro-electronics, to which I referred, that we should let the Americans maintain their lead without using Government pressure? In atomic energy, does he say that we should not think that the Atomic Energy Authority ought to be the sole operator?
§ Mr. Carr
No, because we on this side are not dogmatic. We must lay down general lines of policy, but any good rules ought to have exceptions to them. We must get the general guide lines right and see that the departures from them are exceptions and are not allowed to become the rule.
The third main sphere in which vigorous policy must be applied is to strengthen the pull of incentives for the individual and the company. If the stick of competition is necessary, so is the 479 carrot of incentive. Here, in the last 18 months, since the Labour Government came to power, we have taken nothing but backward steps. In personal taxation, the increases must be a discouragement to individual drive. Many of us, not only on these benches, are dreading what further instalments of this there may be in store for us next week.
In company taxation, the substitution of Corporation Tax and the withholding tax on dividends, or at least the predicted rates, instead of the old combination of Income Tax and Profits Tax, tends to support and comfort the established, well-breeched company and to make growth more difficult for the new enterprising company which cannot possibly finance its growth out of retail profits and needs to follow a high distribution policy in order to be able constantly to get more capital from the market for its expansion. The Prime Minister was often fond of talking about a "candy floss" economy, but at least that implies some dynamism and gaiety. What we are stuck in at the moment is a pot-bellied economy, too fat, too lethargic, not fond of exercise and prone to coronary thrombosis. That is the sort of economy we are getting into at the moment.
In company taxation we must also have proper investment incentives for industry to modernise with new plant. When the Conservative Government left office in 1964, British industry probably had better investment incentives than its competitors in any other advanced industrial country. Last year the Corporation Tax devalued these incentives. This year, before the election, and again, unfortunately, in the Gracious Speech, we have been threatened with a new form of incentives which are thoroughly bad and which the Government know quite well are thought to be bad by industry. Under the new form of incentives there is, first of all, discrimination, quite contrary to what is said in the Gracious Speech—discrimination not necessarily in favour of those who contribute most to our balance of payments, but very often against those who contribute to our balance of payments. The hotel and tourist industry is a case in point.
But it is worse than that. Under the present system an industrialist gets his 480 incentive if he uses wise judgment in the sort of plant and equipment which he installs. If he buys modern equipment and if he works it properly, if as a result he produces goods of higher quality or cheaper price, or both, and sells more both at home and abroad and makes more profit, then he gets a big incentive. But under the new system an industrialist can buy a bit of manufacturing equipment which can be as old-fashioned as he likes, he can put it in and work it inefficiently, and whether it is old-fashioned or new-fashioned, whether he works it efficiently or inefficiently, he gets the same grant. This is not the sort of incentive to produce efficient, modern technological development.
The fourth field in which an active policy is required is to give British industry the larger home market which it needs by joining the European Economic Community. That will provide both sorts of incentive—the carrot and the stick, greater opportunity and greater competition. This larger home market is becoming obviously more necessary as each year goes by if we are to obtain the optimum scale of production in a growing number of industries, particularly in the newer technological industries. The Prime Minister, we gather from the Gracious Speech, is now trying to worm his way in. We suspect that the British public as well as our friends in Europe may prefer a spaniel to a worm.
The fifth main field of action is to stimulate our advanced technological industries. These are industries at which we can excel and these are the industries which are potentially both the biggest export earners and the biggest import savers for the future. They are also the industries in which work at the frontiers of technology fertilises much of the rest of industry.
Furthermore, these are the industries which in a scientific and technological age provide our younger scientists and engineers with the focus of pride and inspiration, a factor which I think is probably at least as important as the level of salaries in making them wish to live out their careers in Britain rather than seek to emigrate. The aircraft industry, and its associated industries, is the most obvious example of the sort of industry 481 we should have in mind, but in this industry the record of the Labour Government is a disgrace, and many hon. Members opposite know that it is a disgrace and are thoroughly ashamed of it. In this industry the record of the Labour Government has been nothing but overhasty action followed by vacillation and uncertainty. They destroyed a whole generation of new military aircraft not to disarm but in order to buy from America without having any idea how to fill the vacuum. Then they appointed the Plowden Committee and that reported last December. Now, five months later, we have no considered view on that Committee's many recommendations.
There was no mention of aviation in the Gracious Speech, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking pointed out, and no mention of aviation in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Technology earlier. What is to happen to this industry? Are the Government going ahead with their plans of partial nationalisation? If so, the lack of any reference in the Gracious Speech to these plans presumably means that legislation will not be introduced before the end of 1967 at the earliest and cannot, therefore, become effective before the middle of 1968. Is the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation really saying to the industry, in effect, that there must be another two years of delay? If not, why was there not some mention of it in the Gracious Speech?
§ Mr. Mulley
If it is the wish of the Opposition to debate aviation and if these matters had been raised earlier in the debate, then a reply could have been given.
§ Mr. Carr
There is still plenty of time for a reply to be given before the debate comes to an end. There are plenty of other opportunities, I assure the right hon. Gentleman, when this question of aviation will be pressed from these benches. The right hon. Gentleman will not complain of any lack of opportunity to tell the House and the country what is his policy on the subject.
If there is to be another two years of delay before this industry's future organisation is settled, what real credibility can the industry and those who work in it have in their future? What credibility will the industry have in the eyes of its potential customers through- 482 out the world? What will happen in this interim period? What are the programmes going to be?
It is true that since the Defence Review the position is a little clearer on the military side, but what about civil aircraft? The Government have allowed the VC10 to die. I notice the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation shaking his head in disagreement. Nevertheless it is true. Moreover, they appear to have done nothing about the stretch development of the Trident and the BAC111, and it looks as if we are getting dangerously late with plans for the project for the European air-bus. It seems almost certain that B.O.A.C. will have to commit itself even more deeply to American equipment and now even B.E.A. is in danger, for the first time, of having to buy American aircraft. If that happens it really will be the beginning of the end of any substantial British aircraft industry.
What is the good of all the shop window dressing of the Minister of Technology if the Government as a whole are strangling this major technological industry—an industry, paradoxically, for whose products there is the prospect of an enormous and growing demand throughout the world in the coming decades?
What about space, a subject not mentioned in the Gracious Speech and not mentioned by the Minister of Technology this afternoon? Naturally, what Britain can do is limited. For Britain a man on the moon—no. But space communications—yes. And as a matter of urgency. What is the policy of the Government and what will they do at the meeting tomorrow of Eldo, the European Launcher Development Organisation? Are some of the rumours true; that we are going to pull out? If we are in earnest about advanced technology we must have a national space communications programme and we must also participate with Europe.
What will the Government do about the present diffusion of responsibility for space among so many Government Departments, because that must be concentrated? If the Government have nothing to say in a debate opened by the Minister of Technology about either aviation or space, and if there is no mention of it in the Gracious Speech, what is the 483 meaning of the Government's policy for promoting advanced technology in this country?
The effect of the Government's initial attack on the aviation industry, followed by their blankness about any future policy for aviation and space, show itself painfully in the brain drain.
I wonder whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite even contemplate the effects of the sort of advertisements that have been appearing in recent weeks in the various newspapers. Here is one from last week's Sunday Times.Join the U.K. engineers and scientists now enjoying the advantages of the U.S.A. aero-space industry.That is by "Careers Incorporated (U.K.) Limited. In a letter they say:Through our English subsidiary we have transferred close to 200 men at salaries ranging from 12,000 dollars to 18,000 dollars in the past six months.Here is another advertisement:Aero-space engineers. Challenging opportunities with De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. Dept. 7, Ontario Immigration Branch.Another alongside it reads:Permanent American aircraft design work in England. Comprehensive Designers, Inc.This is a measure of the waste of technological manpower in this country and of the brain drain, both by emigration and by direct feed back to the industry of the United States instead of to our own. It must stop if the country is to go forward technologically. If we want to curb the brain drain, if we want to stop the drift towards subservience to the United States in modern technology, it must again become the declared objective of British policy to have a British aircraft industry and a British space communication industry as well, and we must carry conviction both at home and abroad that we are in earnest in pursuing those objectives. We are not doing so at the moment, and we must do so urgently.
I have tried to show that if technology is to flourish in this country, there must not only be a Ministry of Technology doing the sort of "selective hormone" treatment which the Minister told us about today—valuable though that sort of treatment may be—but a comprehensive series of complementary policies governing the whole of our economy. 484 Mobilise the Government's power, strengthen competition, strengthen incentive, stimulate our technological industries, take Britain into Europe and give her the larger market which is essential for these advanced technological industries—those are the only policies that can get the technological developmant that we must have.
We must have it, Mr. Speaker, because it is the only source of the future material wealth of the country without which we cannot carry out all the plans—for example, for education about which so many hon. Members, and so many new Members have spoken today—and the sort of developments which will make life better in this country for all our people. We cannot do that without the wealth, and the wealth can only come by a comprehensive policy to make our economy efficient and technologically advanced.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) made one remark with which we can all agree; that we have listened during the course of this debate to a number of very striking maiden speeches. We have had them from my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams), Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe) and from the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). Almost all of them were brief. They were all well informed. They were all very much to some point or other, at any rate. I think that I can genuinely say, and here I echo the right hon. Gentleman, that if this is the typical calibre of the new intake into this Parliament it will come up to standard of all that has been said about it in the Press, and they make the case for some considerable reform of our Parliamentary procedures.
I only want to mention in more detail two speeches made this afternoon, one of them by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test. I have a personal interest in that constituency, having fought it in 1955, as it was fought by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) in 1959. My hon. Friend has done a good deal more successfully than either of us were able 485 to do. It is a constituency, Mr. Speaker, which has almost every advantage of friendliness, interest, and so on. There is only one disadvantage in fighting Southampton, Test—or at least there was until the last election—and that is the competition that you, Sir, provide in Southampton, Itchen. When one is going round making one's rather tedious speeches about productivity, incentives, rate of growth and balance of payments, one has this rather unfair competition from you conducting your musical entertainments, poetry readings and many other things of that sort. It certainly had the effect on me of drawing audiences rather rapidly from one half of Southampton to the other.
So far as concerns the Member for Belfast, West, it is a relief, I understand from his speech, to be able to call him "my honourable Friend". When he was elected, there was some doubt as to the precise character of his political views, but he cleared up any doubts this afternoon and much of what he said would have stirred echoes on this side of the House, as any reference to O'Connell is bound to do. It was a pity that no other hon. Member from Ulster was present [An HON. MEMBER: "There was."] One was here? We can look forward to exciting confrontations in future. One sentiment I felt was that I was glad that I was not responsible for introducing an agreed denominational schools settlement in Northern Ireland.
I wish to say a word about two speeches, not on education or technology, made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). They both spoke on Parliamentary reform. They both gave a welcome, although perhaps a less than rapturous one, to the suggestions made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for reforms in our procedure. I wish to say how much I agree personally with a great deal of what they said. Education was one of the Departments mentioned by the Prime Minister as a candidate for examination by some form of new Parliamentary Committee. I would be a very willing candidate, and a willing "guinea pig", for this, because I believe that some such reform would both increase the sensible use of time, not only by new hon. Members 486 in this Parliament but by a great number of back benchers on both sides of the House.
It would also have the effect of greatly increasing the degree of Parliamentary supervision and control over Ministers. I am very sympathetic to a great deal of what my hon. Friends said and also to what the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said about the fact that under our present procedures Ministers are not brought sufficiently under effective Parliamentary supervision and control. The debate today has been extremely interesting and there have been a number of excellent speeches, but from the point of view of bringing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology and myself under effective Parliamentary supervision it is probably the case that two hours in a special committee would have had more effect than the far larger number of hours we have been debating this afternoon.
This kind of set-piece debate inevitably assumes a somewhat formal character. I have enjoyed the debate and listened to a number of excellent speeches, but it is not the kind of debate from which I can go back to my Department feeling that I have been strongly examined and criticised such as I would feel if it had been a debate in a Committee. That would have given me a sense of being examined more than these set-piece debates are able to do.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham has not, I think, any legitimate complaint this evening about the fact that a number of points he made will not get answered. Our lines of communication are rather diagonal on this occasion. There was the Minister of Technology followed by a former Minister of Education, and then, at the end of the debate, there was the right hon. Member for Mitcham speaking on technology followed by me as Secretary of State for Education and Science. I make no criticism about this being so, but it was at the request of the Opposition that this order of speakers was adopted, so I do not think the right hon. Member has any cause for complaint. Had he wished to have a debate on aviation, we would have made certain that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, and not myself, would have replied to the debate.
487 In any event, a number of points he made would not have deserved a very lengthy reply from this side of the House. I found one or two of his statements, even though I am not an expert in the aviation industry, distinctly curious—for example, his statement that some years back, under the Conservative Government investment incentives in this country were more generous than investment incentives in any other country in Western Europe or in the world. If that was the case, one asks oneself why our investment did not become higher than that of any other country in Western Europe or in the world, because it did not.
Again, it is simply no good the Opposition going on criticising the fact that the Labour Government, over the last 17 months, on two occasions, possibly more, have increased taxation in various directions. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that any Government in any circumstances faced with a large deficit on the balance of payments have no alternative but to reduce demand somehow, somewhere, by some means. There was no alternative in those circumstances but to increase taxation in certain directions.
When the right hon. Gentleman comes along this evening and calls the Prime Ministers proposals for Parliamentary reform "phoney", I must point out that he was a member, I think for most of the time, of an Administration which had plenty of time to introduce "un-phoney" proposals for Parliamentary reform had it so wished. In fact, the Conservatives showed no interest whatsoever in Parliamentary reform during the whole period they were in office. For them to now describe these quite considerable proposals for reform as "phoney" is simply not adequate.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
To give only one example, we introduced the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, of which the Prime Minister boasted in his opening remarks on Thursday.
§ Mr. Crosland
I am delighted that in 13 years one reform was introduced. That is certainly better than none. There was plenty of time for far more reforms than, in fact, were introduced and the right hon. Member for Mitcham ought to have given a rather more constructive welcome 488 this evening if he feels so strongly about reform.
I should like to try to answer as many as I can of the particular points on education which were raised in the course of the debate. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) started off by talking about teacher supply. He gave this almost the highest priority of the various questions which he mentioned. I entirely agree with him that teacher supply ought to have the highest priority within the education service. The present position is, as I was able to say at Eastbourne at Easter, to the National Union of Teachers, that the prospects for teacher supply look a good deal better than they did last year and, indeed, a good deal better than they have looked at any time over the past few years.
As a result partly of the intake of 29,000 into the colleges of education and partly as a result of the so-called productivity exercise in the colleges of education, we are appreciably nearer achieving our objectives in terms of class size than we have been for years before. The present position is that by 1971 we shall be on the verge of achieving 40/30 class size. There will then be a temporary set-back, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, due to the raising of the school-leaving age. These class sizes will then be achieved for good in 1976.
The right hon. Gentleman asked, perfectly reasonably: is that a good enough objective? He implied that we should set ourselves a yet more ambitious objective of, say, 30/30. I entirely agree. Nevertheless, one must make the point that we are now nearer first the 40/30 objective and then the 30/30 objective than we have ever been before. This is something for which we can take some legitimate pride.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked a number of more detailed points. I should like to refer to one or two of them. He asked what was the position with the Working Party on the superannuation scheme for part-time teachers. The position is that the Working Party has had four meetings. It is having a fifth meeting in the very near future and on present indications I would hope that it would be in a position to make some recommendations, whatever they should be, by this summer.
489 There is a certain limitation on the speed at which the Working Party can work, because its work is very closely linked with salary scales for part-timers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, these are inside the Burnham machinery, over the speed of whose working I have no control.
Then my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test referred to mature students, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich. They will know, I think, that I share very strongly all the views which they expressed on the question of mature students. These students not only have the great advantage of bringing with them when they come into the classroom a certain maturity which inevitably the products of teacher-training colleges do not bring, but they have the supreme advantage from my point of view of being certain to teach for a considerable length of time once they go into the schools.
That is why it is very important to do everything we can to encourage the flow of recruits from this source. This is why we have continued to open more day colleges. This is one of the reasons that I want teacher-training departments in some of the technical colleges. They will appeal particularly to mature students. This is also the reason why, as I said at Eastbourne, I am determined that there should be either a college which is suitable for mature students to train in, or an outpost of a college, in every single town or city with a population of 100,000 or more. I would be grateful if hon. Members on either side of the House, if they are conscious of some considerable concentration of population with no access to the kind of teacher-training facilities that mature students need, will let me know and I will then see what I can do to remedy the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the National Advisory Council and asked whether it should be or could be instantly or in the near future reconstituted. This is something to which I have given a great deal of thought. The whole question of consultative machinery in the world of education is, to put it mildly, not an easy one. As a number of my hon. Friends will know, there are a very large number of organisations in this sector which rightly and legitimately claim to be consulted. There are already a large number of advisory councils and 490 committees of one kind and another, and I and my hon. Friends, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, already spend a considerable amount of our time meeting one or other of the various bodies in the educational world.
I do not yet see what the ideal form of consultative or advisory machinery is. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Chairman of the National Advisory Council, Mr. Bullock, thought that the then existing form of Council was the wrong one. He resigned from the Council and recommended that the Secretary of State should take the chair. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, and I had hoped that over the past nine months or so there would have been more detailed discussion in the educational world as to what was the right form of advisory and consultative machinery in this complex and varied field where there are so many organisations which rightly want their views to be put and heard. I still have an open mind as to what the right answer is.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think that the right hon. Gentleman realises that I was not making an appeal necessarily for the National Advisory Council to be put back in its old form, but would not he agree that there is a case for long-term planning as to the use and output of higher education, and in particular about the demands made by the educational service itself on the output of higher education?
§ Mr. Crosland
I am entirely in agreement with that. When we debated the Report of the Estimates Committee on the Universities I said that I had now agreed with the Chancellor and the First Secretary to set up a committee partly of officials and partly of outsiders to advise the Government on the elements of the qualified manpower policy which we have never had before. He was quite right in drawing attention to the fact that if we went straight for the 30-30 classes the educational world would be taking about 50 per cent. of the output of higher education, and the question whether we get this proportion is very uncertain and needs to be examined in a long-term sense.
I was about to say a word on productivity, which is very relevant to the teacher-training colleges and the appeal 491 that we have made to them to increase their productivity by one or other of the variety of organisational changes. I am certain that when educationists appeal to me, as they obviously and rightly and consistently do, to go to the Chancellor or to the Cabinet and get more money for education, they must realise that this appeal will be totally ineffective unless I can show that the educational world, like other sectors in Britain, is seriously interested in higher productivity. I cannot legitimately ask for more money from the Cabinet unless I can show that we in education, as in industry and whoever else it may be, are genuinely trying to increase the effectiveness of the buildings, of the teachers and of the training facilities that we already have.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked me, as did several other speakers, about the primary schools. The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) stressed that we must not neglect our primary schools, but must give them a high priority and make sure that they do not become the Cinderella of the education world. I totally agree. I can show how high a priority I give to them by quoting two sentences from Circular 10/66 which make quite clear that, after we have built the schools needed simply to put roofs over the heads of the additional numbers of children, the primary schools have the first priority:Priority must be given to projects required to meet the needs of children who would otherwise have no school to go to. After this, the Secretary of State will give first place to proposals which are designed to improve or replace the worst primary schools.Thus, there is no difference between hon. Members and myself on this subject. After roofs over heads, primary schools must have, and they now do have, the first priority of all.
In this connection, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned another matter which is very important and which is linked with a point made in a speech which, unfortunately, I did not hear by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), that, in the education system, we have not only serious vertical inequalities, but are now getting some extremely serious, so to speak, horizontal inequalities. The right hon. Gentleman drew attention to the contrast between the wonderful new 492 school with marvellous equipment on the new housing estate and the old school with bad equipment in the old slum, working-class, down-town areas of our large cities.
It is not only in education that this contrast exists. The person who moves out to the new housing estate will live in a new house, have access to a new school, and probably have youth club facilities and sports facilities which he would not find in the centre of a city. There is a growing gap between the opportunities of the one group of people and the other. It is rather akin to the contrast between the North of England and the South to which my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West, drew attention. Again, it is not the old traditional vertical inequality but is much more a horizontal one. I am very conscious of this inequality, and, when we are allocating resources, it is one which we try, so far as we can, to reduce.
The hon. Member for Burton discussed the school-leaving age and asked whether we were giving enough money for the raising of the age. I hope so. We are giving about £105 million precisely for raising the school-leaving age over a period of three years and a little more. No one can dogmatically say that this will be enough, but, on the best calculation we can make, it will be sufficient to carry through that exercise with a high quality of new building.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test asked whether we were making enough preparations for the last year. He rightly pointed out that it is no good simply keeping children on in the existing type of school with the existing type of curriculum without taking special care that they have something different which will keep them properly interested and give the kind of education suited to them. We are doing a great deal here. My hon. Friend probably knows that the Schools Council has given very high priority to trying to work out what curicula will be suitable for the extra year, with particular reference to the Newsom children to whom he referred.
As regards buildings, the architects and buildings branch within the Department of Education will be producing, during the course of this year, a number of types of building design which we think will 493 be particularly suited to the educational needs of that year group, which, of course, are quite different from those of other year groups.
Now, a few words about comprehensive reorganisation. We had from the right hon. Gentleman this evening, not for the first time, the usual Conservative double-talk on this subject. Conservatives are both for comprehensive reorganisation and against it. They are both for selection and against selection. They find faults with the 11-plus, but they are not willing to do anything about getting rid of it in the places where it already exists. As I said during the election campaign—I suppose that we shall not get it in a post-election period—it is about time that Conservatives said clearly whether they were or were not in favour of selection at 11-plus.
All that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us is that he is perfectly prepared to accept comprehensive schools, for example, in areas of new housing. He has got exactly to the point where Abraham Lincoln had got in 1860, where he was prepared to prevent slavery going into any more States, but not to do anything about it in the States where it already existed. It is time the Conservatives, on this issue, moved on to 1862.
I want to make a number of points on this, because the right hon. Gentleman gave rather a false impression. I am sure that this was not intentional, but I think that he may unintentionally have given rather a false impression. He talked a great deal about the necessity for not approving bogus comprehensive schemes, and quoted the Leader of the Opposition, who said with great éclat during the General Election that I must not approve bogus schemes. I had been saying that for a year before he even thought of saying it. I have been saying from the start that we will not accept bogus comprehensive schemes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth, when I challenged him this afternoon, was kind enough to say that there was not an example—I hope I am not misquoting him—of a case where I had approved what he or the Leader of the Opposition would regard as a bogus scheme.
It is very hard to discover what the Conservative attitude is to this fundamental. We had a great deal of 494 uncertainty during the General Election as to whether the Conservative Party, had they got in, unlikely as it seemed, would or would not have withdrawn Circular 10/65. We had a great deal from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon about how the Conservatives would be prepared to approve comprehensive schools in country districts or areas of new housing. But the controversy or difficult question is what one does about selection in the areas in which the right hon. Gentleman was most interested, in the large conurbations, because that is where selection as of now operates in its harshest form. Until the Conservative Party tells us what its attitude is, not to new comprehensives on new housing estates, because almost anybody would be likely to be in favour of that, but to comprehensive reorganisation in the large cities, it is extremely hard to know where hon. Members opposite stand on the issue.
The hon. Member for Burton said that by our comprehensive policy we were going to destroy variety and impose a single pattern. I can think of nothing less like the truth than that. We are to have a variety of 11-18 all-through comprehensive schools. We shall have a variety of two-tier systems, some with 11-13 and others with 11-14. We are already beginning to get experiments with sixth form colleges. We are already beginning to get experiments with different ages of transfer, and on that I will answer the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) in a moment. One thing that nobody can possibly say we are likely to get is total uniformity and lack of variety. We shall go through a period which I regard as thoroughly healthy, with considerable experiment with different versions of comprehensive organisation. These various types of scheme will have only one thing in common—they will not permit selection at 11 plus. Apart from that, they will show a very large element of variety indeed.
The hon. Member for Orpington asked what the attitude would be now, as opposed to last July when the circular went out, to schemes for 9-13 middle schools on the lines of the West Riding. He is right in supposing that our attitude has shifted in the light of experience since the day when we used the language in the circular. We would now be more willing 495 than we were then to consider, possibly, 9-13 schemes. We would still ask to be shown that these schemes could produce a clear advantage in terms of teachers and buildings, but supposing that they could, we should be more inclined than it appeared from the circular to approve such schemes. At any rate, I want to insist on the point that there will not be any single uniform pattern of comprehensive education. There will be a great variety, which will be a thoroughly healthy thing for the whole country.
The right hon. Member for Handsworth, in the course of warning us against approving bogus or ill-thought-out schemes, talked a good deal about split premises, and said that perhaps in schools a mile apart one could not create a proper school with good standards and a sense of unity. I do not believe that it is possible to generalise on paper about the very tricky question of split premises.
All of us can think of cases where schools in split premises simply do not add up to one proper school. It is called a school, but the schools involved do not add up to one and there are hopeless difficulties of time tabling, of achieving a common corporate spirit, and so on. But—to be fair to ourselves—we turn down any cases which come to us of split premises which would clearly be like that.
But there are many other cases, including some not far from Westminster, of schools occupying different premises which work excellently. Of course, the teachers and the headmaster would prefer not to have split premises and to have everything in single premises. But split schools can work well and, indeed, a considerable number of schools of this kind were approved by the right hon. Member for Handsworth and other Conservative Ministers of Education. There are, in fact, quite a number of these comprehensive schools in split premises all round the London area.
There is one that I have not seen myself, but which one of my hon. Friends will know. I read about it two days ago in Departmental papers. The school is in South Wales and was approved by the right hon. Gentleman himself so it is impossible to take a dogmatic line and say that split premises are always bad. One has to look at every single example 496 of them to judge whether the educational disadvantages do or do not outweigh the advantages.
The right hon. Gentleman said that Circular 10/66 constituted a watershed, implying that we had here a degree of interference with local authorities that was unknown in the history of the country. Those of my hon. Friends with long memories who know education, and particularly those coming from London, Manchester and other such areas, will know that there is nothing new in the idea of the central Government trying to exert rather strong control over local authority policies.
Dame Florence Horsburgh, as she then was, and Sir David Eccles, as he then was, were well known in London and Manchester for what I would consider very autocratic interference with what local authorities wished and there is no question of Circular 10/66 expressing some new policy. Indeed, it is a much milder document in tone than a number of initiatives that were taken by Conservative Ministers of Education.
The fact is that, on the comprehensive issue, whether or not the Conservatives are ever prepared to come off the fence on this point, we on this side are clear. We believe that selection at 11-plus is totally unjustifiable on educational grounds, on social grounds and even, fundamentally, on moral grounds. While I am certain that we shall achieve the objective by co-operation with local authorities, it is for that reason that we propose to go firmly on with our steady policy of eliminating the 11-plus and achieving genuine equality of opportunity through comprehensive reorganisation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the debate be now adjourned.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]
§ Mr. MacArthur
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to ask the Secretary of State a question before he sat down. It is monstrous for the debate to be choked off like this. I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to questions about Scotland that were put in the debate. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is in a difficulty because no Scottish Minister has seen fit to be here to intervene in the debate, but these questions are of critical importance to Scottish education and it is monstrous that they have not been answered.
§ Mr. Crosland
I will gladly see that the points put by the hon. Gentleman are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but the hon. Gentleman knows very well that any English Minister who dared to talk about Scottish education would be out of his mind.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.