HC Deb 03 March 1966 vol 725 cc1595-637

7.53 p.m.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

We now move from the ionosphere to the ground, because I wish this evening to raise the whole subject of technical education. On looking round these somewhat sparsely populated benches I realise that technical education does not raise the same political heat as secondary school reorganisation, which we discussed last night, but before the final curtain falls on this Parliament, and on this Government, it is right that we should have a debate on technical education. There are many questions which we want to put to the Government before we finally part with them.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State cannot be with us tonight. This is a particularly awkward time for a Member to be ill, and we on this side of the House wish the right hon. Gentleman an early recovery, and an early return to this Bench and this Box.

Technical education covers a vast field, everything from degree courses to instruction in specific manual skills, and the development of technical education is a matter about which we on this side of the House are deeply concerned. The Government received a great inheritance from us. The 1956 White Paper on technical education was a landmark in the history of the development of our public education, and I believe that it can be put in the same class as the 1944 Education Act.

I should like to remind the House of the sort of improvement which took place consequential on the 1956 White Paper. If one looks at Table 8 of the Statistics of Education, Part 2 for 1964, one discovers that between 1956 and 1964 there was a 44 per cent. increase in the total number of students at all grant-aided establishments. The figure rose from 1,904,000 in 1956, to 2,747,000 in 1964. But when one gets into these educational figures one gets into a difficult problem of definition, because, clearly, somebody doing an evening course, attending one evening a week, is of a different order from somebody doing a sandwich course, or somebody attending full time at a technical college.

Therefore, I think that one of the most important figures is that for the increase in the number of full-time students which, according to the Department's finances, increased from 63,000 in 1956, to 167,000 in 1964, which I calculate represents an increase of 164 per cent. I know that the Minister of State is as interested in sandwich courses as I am. In 1956 there were 4,000 students attending such courses. By 1964 the number had increased to 22,000. I know, too, that from the time when the Minister was on these benches, talking about labour matters, he has had a considerable interest in day-release courses, and here again the figures are impressive. In 1956 there were 378,000 day releases, and by 1964 this figure had risen to 574,000, an increase of 57 per cent.

It is also useful to remind the House that the number of students taking advanced courses leading to recognised qualifications at grant-aided establishments rose from 90,000 in 1958 in this case, because the tables do not give us the figures for 1956, to 158,000 in 1964. I calculate that to be an increase of about 75 per cent. These are considerable achievements, and they are part of the inheritance which right hon. Gentlemen opposite received from us. Indeed, one of their Ministers in another place, Lord Bowden, recognised this in a speech which he made at Peterborough on 19th March, 1965, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) referred in a debate earlier last year.

What have the Government done with that inheritance, and what are their plans for the future? Quite naturally one seeks guidance from the National Plan. It tells us that between the academic year 1964–65, and the academic year 1969–70, the student population receiving further education will increase by 36 per cent. in England and Wales, and 37 per cent. in Scotland. Current expenditure is expected to increase by 50 per cent., and total capital expenditure is planned to increase from £23 million in 1964–65, to £46 million in 1969–70, in both cases for Great Britain.

One of the difficulties when discussing these matters is that we are apt always to talk about England and Wales, because they are the responsibility of the Department, and to forget about Scotland until it has its separate debates, and then Scottish Members forget about England and Wales. The National Plan gives us the total figures.

I personally would like to have seen a much greater breakdown of these figures, because the meagre three pages in the National Plan, which is not exactly a concise document, on the whole problem of further education seem to me to be a bit thin. I want to be fair to the Government. As far as I can gather, the Government's projections are based on the following factors. First, 70,000 places in the colleges for higher education by the academic year 1970. This is 20,000 more than the Robbins Committee estimate of 50,000 by 1973–74. Secondly, an acceptance of the recommendation of the Henniker-Heaton Report on day release of an average increase of 50,000 boys and girls a year obtaining day release over the next five years; a similar type of recommendation had come from the Scottish Technical Education Consultative Council.

I hope that this is right. I want to be fair to the Government, because the wording in the paragraph of the National Plan is not absolutely precise and is capable of more than one interpretation. I assume that the phrase modified to take into account the proposals postulated by the Henniker-Heaton Report on Day Release means that the Government have accepted the 50,000 a year increase in day release. I hope that the Minister of State will confirm that my interpretation of the wording is correct.

The third factor is that for the remainder the Government have taken the projections of the percentage of the population participating in the different forms of further education over the last eight years, applied to the Government Actuary's population projection". Is the projection based on a continuation of the rate of growth of increasing participation in higher education? In other words, is the improvement factor which has taken place over the last eight years extrapolated into the future at compound interest rates? Is it progressive, or is it done at simple interest? Is it done simply by taking the mean average of the distribution of students between these various factors over the last eight years? Is this simply a mean figure just increased by the factor of the Government Actuary's forecast?

The Minister of State will appreciate that there is a very considerable difference between those three different interpretations. I hope that it is the first, that it is a continuation of the rate of growth progressively which we have experienced over the last eight years. If it is anything other than that, I warn the hon. Gentleman that we will be very distressed, because part of the inheritance that the Government received from us in education was a very substantial growth rate; not only the simple figures I gave for 1956 to 1964, but a continuing rate of improvement one year over the next. I know that the Minister of State, as a graduate at his university, will fully appreciate that the rate of improvement is what is germane in these matters. It is not just the improvement from one year to another. It is getting on to a good growth curve and sustaining it.

I also observe that no account is taken in these figures of any further increases which may result from the establishment of the industrial training boards and the consequences of implementing the Industrial Training Act, 1964. In small print the authors of the chapter on Education in the National Plan say this: it is not possible to estimate this element with any precision at this stage. Possibly not. We realise that these are early days, but at least some provision should be made. As far as I can discern it, no provision has been made, either on forecasting student population, or on forecasting increased expenditure, or on forecasting capital expenditure.

I need not remind the Minister of State of this comment in the Willis Jackson Report: The newly established industrial training boards will have a major rôle to play in technological manpower. Indeed, the Minister of State, speaking from this box when he was in Opposition, said this in the debate on the Third Reading of the Industrial Training Bill: The Bill is a step in the right direction, but by itself it will not produce an additional skilled worker or an additional trainee. Everything depends on the way in which it is implemented and on the kind of Government policies followed, both in relation to the Bill itself and to related problems."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1964; Vol. 687, c. 992.] Those were very sound remarks.

Possibly the Minister of State had no hand in writing the chapter on further education in the National Plan, because I am sure that, if he had, provision would have been made for the implementation of the Act. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are five essential features which fall under the province of his Department and of the L.E.A.s. The first is the provision of courses. The second is the provision of the necessary buildings. The third is equipment. The fourth are training officers. The fifth are craft instructors. We have all seen Administrative Memorandum 5/65 which the Department sent out to help L.E.A.s to meet the needs of the Act. It is a sound memorandum. Yet no allowance has been made in the National Plan for the consequences of implementing the Act and of carrying out the many highly sensible and intelligent suggestions that the Department itself recommended in the memorandum.

What type of planning is this? Yet the Government—the First Secretary of State and all the rest of them—go about swanking about the National Plan, saying, "We are going to stick to this. We shall be courageous. This is the plan. Everyone knows what the work is". But no allowance has been made for this extremely important side of education. No doubt this is what the Prime Minister means by "purposive planning". It sounds to me more like Circular 10/65 all over again, which we debated last night, in which the Government tell local authorities to reorganise their secondary schools on comprehensive lines but do not give them an extra penny—or should I now say an extra cent—with which to do it.

I am seeing the consequences of the failure of the Government to make financial provision to implement the Industrial Training Act, 1964, in my own technical college at Eastleigh. However, I do not want to make a constituency point. I am sure the Minister of State could give examples from his own constituency. This is typical of the contribution that the Department of Education and Science, under its present management, has been making to forward thinking in the nation. Its contribution to the National Plan has been singularly poor. It is the Department of Science as well as of Education, yet the words "science" and "scientific research" are barely mentioned in the Plan.

On 16th December I asked a Question about this of the Secretary of State. He was able to give me a figure for the current year, but said: No decision has been taken on expenditure for future years. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman why not, he said this: …the Council for Scientific Policy was set up comparatively recently with the precise task of advising the Government on what future expenditure would be and how it might be divided, but it would be wrong to press the Council to give its long-term view on the question before it was ready to do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1447.] I remind the Minister of State that the Council for Scientific Policy was only the phoenix risen from the ashes of the old Advisory Council on Scientific Policy. It is not as if thought had been given about it. To produce a National Plan without putting in anything about what the Government were intending to do about scientific policy—a Government who got themselves elected on the basis of being able to put more impetus behind the implementation of a scientific and technological thrust into our affairs—seems to me singularly delinquent.

I move on from the National Plan to the July cuts. The plan was published in September, 1965. Two months earlier we had the July cuts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which saw educational light of day in Circular 12/65 on 24th August. I quote from the circular. Under "Other Educational Buildings" which is a polite way of referring to further education and technical colleges, it says: …the Government's intention is that until further notice projects should not be started until six months later than they otherwise would have been… That is clear enough. They were presented to us as deferments.

On 9th December the Secretary of State told us that further projects to the value of about £9 million which would have been started in the period August, 1965 to January, 1966 had been deferred. As I calculate it—and I speak subject to any correction that the Minister of State likes to make—£9 million is about one-third of the total programme for the technical colleges for 1965–66. With students in the colleges increasing at the rate of 70,000 a year this was a very serious blow.

We come to this year when we had Circular 6/66 which tells us: To the extent that the level of new work authorised to be started in 1966–67 now has to include projects deferred from earlier programmes, some projects in the 1966–67 programme announced to education authorities will have to start after the end of that financial year. This to anyone who has been in Whitehall means that the deferments have become a cut, and have been gradually absorbed into the unknown of the future. It is not surprising that one read in Education, a work with which we are all familiar, of 25th February: Mr. Crosland has sent out a Circular of almost imponderable obscurity which shows clearly that the moratorium cuts in further education are being formally carried forward into the ensuing periods, but that beneath the cloak of opaque officialese a bit more has been squeezed in than at one time looked likely. I would be grateful if the Minister would be not opaque but precise. I know that his aim is the same as mine, to be numerate as well as literate.

As I said to the House, these deferments which became cuts are clearly severe. Some of them I have managed to identify. In London there are cuts on the capital programmes in such places as the Borough Polytechnic; the College for the Distributive Trades; Regent Street Polytechnic—here I understand that it is a new building for the College of Engineering and Science; Brixton School of Building and Vauxhall College of Further Education—new buildings; Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts; North London College for Further Education. In Birmingham the cuts affect New North Birmingham Technical College; and in Manchester the Fielden Park Further Education College, and so on.

Only today one read in the Daily Mail, as no doubt the Minister of State would read, of the sad plight of the West Ham College of Technology. I very much hope that he can show that the author of this report has got his facts wrong, but there is this comment in the Daily Mail on a report relating to the West Ham College of Technology: Hopes for new buildings have been constantly frustrated…because of the Department of Education's decision to place a total ban on all building expansion in regional colleges such as West Ham. The ban is a result of a policy move and not of the six-month building freeze put on higher education last summer. I hope that when the Minister of State replies he can show us that this is completely wrong and false. If it is not, it is extremely serious.

I must make passing reference to the dispute that has gone on over our system of higher education, the division between the public and the autonomous, the binary system. I refer to the speech by the Secretary of State at Woolwich Polytechnic on 27th April, 1965. I would agree entirely with much of what he said, but there is one point in it on which I would like him to comment because I know that it has been misinterpreted or misunderstood in certain educational institutions and universities that I have visited recently.

When the right hon. Gentleman was outlining his four basic points for defending what we call the binary system, he said: …it is desirable in itself that a substantial part of the higher education system should be under social control, and directly responsive to social needs. I hope that he did not mean it—I am sure he did not—but some people interpreted that as meaning that the autonomous sector is not responsive to social needs. I can assure the Minister of State that I have come across this interpretation in circles as high up as vice-chancellors.

I am sure the Minister of State will agree that not only our brand new universities but many of our older civic universities which are carrying the heat and burden of the Robbins expansion have made many efforts to be responsive to identified social needs. To give one case in point, a few weeks ago I was at Imperial College and I found in the Department of Mechanical Engineering that a postgraduate course in design engineering had been laid on directly and consequently upon the Fielden Report.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be wrong if the idea got about that the autonomous sector was not interested in social problems and did not try to respond to them. At my own university in Southampton, where I was the other day, I saw on the extramural side a course being run for Service officers in what I suppose one would call broadly strategic studies. It was extremely good.

I believe, too, that the answer to the charges made by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, against binarism lays in the success of the Council for National Academic Awards. The information that Lord Kings Norton has give us is that after as little as a year there are nearly 4,000 students a year on 83 courses in 31 colleges. I am sure the Minister of State will also agree that we do not want the public sector so to develop that some of the best institutions are regarded as rival universities.

This is a fear which I certainly noted on the part of one distinguished vice-chancellor. I am sure that there is no danger of this, but one danger which has arisen comes from the comment of the Secretary of State that he did not intend having any more new universities within the next 10 years, a decision with which most of us on this side of the House would be inclined to agree. But I think that it has been interpreted in certain circles as being "never", and I am sure that the Minister of State will take the opportunity of saying that his right hon. Friend meant 10 years and did not mean "never". The hon. Gentleman may think this to be a trivial point, but I have come across this misunderstanding in university circles.

Another point, in passing, which is relevant is that I believe that there is a move in quite a number of universities, particularly the older civic ones to try to get closer with industry, not by the methods tried hitherto but in a move, rather important and in a way radical, to put on the academic boards distinguished people from industry. In other words, if one is running in a university a department of electrical engineering, one might go to one of the great electrical engineering companies and get the director of research as a member of the faculty board, not necessarily with full rights but rather like a visiting fellow to an Oxford or Cambridge college. I hope that the Minister will tell us that the Government will support and encourage that sort of development. In getting together in an association there is a tremendous difference between a meeting, as it were, of separate clubs formally and being members of the same club.

I pass to the question of management studies in technical colleges. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth and all of us on this side of the House would congratulate Mr. Platt and his colleagues on their work. He identified three roles. The first was the need for more functional management courses. Secondly, there was the supply and training of management teachers, and, thirdly, the implications of the Industrial Training Act. I would go a little wider, and say that, as I see it, management studies in technical colleges for the established manager need to be of three types. There is first the general type of course which should be aimed especially at the established manager of possibly some years whose educational background was rather poor. If one gets not too late in life somebody who has been shown to be competent in management on the shop floor a great deal can be done to raise his potential and horizon by the right type of course. This is what in the early days the staff and director of Henley tried to do.

Secondly, there is the matter of keeping current management in touch with new management thinking and techniques. On the whole, this would involve a short course because of the problem of getting away. Thirdly, there is instruction in particular techniques. This can be quite precise and should be in the form of instruction rather than necessarily understanding. For example, there is no need to understand how a computer works to be able not only to use it but to programme it. One thinks of such varied techniques as advanced techniques in work study, on the one hand, and studies in discounted cash flow on the other.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) was right when he said on 25th March, 1965: In the past, we have concentrated our efforts on the education of the child. Now we must concentrate on an entirely new approach to education—education from childhood to retirement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 794.] This is an enormous challenge to us in further education.

I read with interest Administrative Memorandum 8/65, but I was not happy on one point. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of admissions he said that exceptionally students of 27 years of age or over without the necessary academic qualifications should be admitted. I believe that we should allow students much older than 27 who have had a pretty thin academic background, provided the company is able and willing to sponsor them, and that is a pretty good certainty, and provided, of course, that they are willing to come and learn. Those of us who have worked in industry know many men for whom, with their practical experience, an enormous amount could have been done to fill in what they lacked in academic training.

They may have lacked academic training, not because they did not have the academic opportunities but, as in some cases one knows of, because they did not want to take the opportunities. I know of one man—this is a very good case to make the point—who, when a lad, was pretty "duff" at school, although he was a great footballer. He went into the R.A.F. in the war and flew as a sergeant pilot. He became so interested in the machines he was flying that, when he came out, helped on release by the R.A.F. in the way we all remember, he went off and took an external B.Sc. in mechanical engineering. He would never have done this if he had not had the experience of flying aircraft. That is a simple example, but there will be many more examples in the experience of all who have worked and managed in industry.

One of the biggest problems in the whole of management training is the problem of industry, whether public or private, being prepared and able to release managers for further education and training. On the whole, it is my experience that companies today are much more involved in the idea of apprenticeship training, with day-release, and so on, at that sort of age. They may even be quite good with their young staff who may be going on to take higher national certificates, or even external degrees, and so on. But the idea of their 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds needing either further education or further instruction evokes this sort of reaction, "That is a very nice idea. It is all right for the National Coal Board, or I.C.I., but for us, in our little company, when could we have the time to do it?"

We must get across to industry, to commerce and to the public service the idea that one is not properly staffed unless one has allowances in one's staff quota for people being away. This can be planned in one's staff development programme. To put it in this way, one should be overmanned by, let us say, a factor of 5 or 6 per cent. We have seen this momentarily in many of the courses which the universities and the senior technical colleges are laying on at postgraduate level. At Imperial College, for example, one will see some of the postgraduate courses laid on to respond to identify British needs. But what does one find there?—60 or 65 per cent. of the students are not British. No doubt, this is grand in helping to educate people from other countries, and we thereby fulfil a social purpose in the world. But these courses were not aimed specifically at the under-developed countries. They were aimed at our own under-developed management here.

Under the general umbrella of the same theme, I ask the Minister of State whether any decisions have been taken about a new medical school. Since the announcement on 27th July, 1964 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) that Nottingham should have a new medical school, nothing has happened. Yet on the same day, 27th July, 1964, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Health, speaking from this Box, promised that a Labour Government would set up four new medical schools. On 13th May, 1965, I pressed the Secretary of State and the only reply I received was: The claims of all possible sites for new medical schools will be considered at the appropriate time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1965; Vol. 712, c. 685.] When is the appropriate time?

It may be said that we must await the Report of the Royal Commission looking into medical education which was set up last June. But the Prime Minister, when he made the announment, made quite clear that this would not preclude decisions being taken upon new medical schools. I am sure that all those who take an interest in the matter recognise this as an urgent problem. If, for financial reasons, the Government do not feel that work should start on them, I seriously counsel the Government that, at least, the decision should be announced. There is a great deal of uncertainty, which I share, on this issue, but I will not deploy the arguments affecting my hospital region and the University of Southampton because I will do that in the Adjournment on Tuesday. I will, therefore, leave the matter there for now.

Again on the general theme of technical education, a number of questions need answering about the Government's support of the Flowers Committee Report. This was accepted by the Secretary of State on 21st December last and it is on the acceptance of the recommendation that some very large computing machines should be acquired from the United States, and that they should be hired rather than purchased, that a number of questions arise. The machines suggested were the C.D.C. 6800, which it was thought would probably be available in 1967, and the IBM 360/92, which would be available somewhat later.

I have heard these decisions questioned in university and British computing industry circles. Is C.D.C. going ahead with the C.D.C. 6800, because I have heard that it is not? It would be useful, if the information I have is wrong, for the Minister to make the position clear and to say whether or not that company is going ahead with that machine. Perhaps more important, am I not right in saying that IBM has abandoned its previous policy of hiring in favour of selling? If that is the case, it makes the economics of that Flowers Committee recommendation look rather different.

I have already detained the House for too long. I hope I have said enough to show that the present Government's record in maintaining the advance in technical education has not been up to expectation. They received a rich inheritance but they have been content—and I am being generous to them—at best to coast along and at worst cut back. I wonder what the Minister will have to say about the 1964 Labour Party manifesto pledge on further education, in which it was stated: As the first steps to part-time education for the first two years after leaving school, Labour will extend compulsory day and block release. What action has been taken other than carrying on with the provisions of our Industrial Training Act, 1964, without making any financial provision for it in the National Plan? And as for the phrase "As the first steps", what are the first steps in the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite? They Minister cannot use the excuse that he has not had enough time because that card was trumped in the very same 1964 Labour Party manifesto; and hon. Gentlemen opposite must be regretting that they stated: Labour is ready…poised to swing its plan into instant operation…impatient to apply the New Thinking that will end the chaos and sterility. Where, now, is the Prime Minister's promise to …forge a new Britain in the white heat of the scientific revolution… —so hot it did not even get into the National Plan?

Indeed, where have all the promises gone? They have gone into the deep freeze to be brought out for the Prime Minister's last appearance before polling day. But I grant the right hon. Gentleman this. The Prime Minister has made one unique contribution to the advancement of science and technology in Britain. It has been his personal performance in demonstrating the proposition that P.M. = P.R.

8.34 p.m.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich West)

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) gave us a preview of one of his minor General Election speeches, and, to that extent, I shall not follow him too far.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Minor? Was it not one of his major ones?

Mr. Hamling

It was a minor one because it was in a minor key. One need only look at the sparseness of attendance on the benches opposite. Had the hon. Gentleman been making a major speech he would have had his hon. Friends applauding their heads off.

I would like to follow the hon. Gentleman in one respect by saying something about the so-called "rich" inheritance that he mentioned. He referred to "our" Industrial Training Act. How many training boards did the last Government set up? The Opposition do not believe in making plans. What provision did they make in any of the technical colleges for the implications of the vast expansion of technical education that should have followed from the Act? Right hon. and hon. Members opposite drew an arbitrary distinction between training and further education, although anyone with experience of technical education from the practical point of view knows that there is no such distinction. They made no provision for co-ordination between the two Ministries responsible. There was no discussion of the implications of day release.

I remind the House of what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour did in July 1965. He laid it down as a condition of grants being paid for industrial training that there should be compulsory day release. He said that he would approve the proposals of industrial training boards only if they made it a condition of grant that day release or the equivalent was provided for the young people in occupations requiring a substantial amount of training. That is not an example of inaction. In the 16 months of the present Government, ten training boards have been set up and there are plans for others. This is hardly the sign of a Government doing nothing.

One might ask, with all the extrapolations for the next five years, what was done in this by the last Government. We know that they accepted the Robbins Report in 48 hours without understanding its implications for higher education. We know, too, that the Estimates Committee severely criticised them because the programme was inadequate. I have been engaged in education for a long time—not only the education of some hon. Members opposite but in the more formal type of education, in primary schools, all-age schools, senior schools, secondary modern schools, universities and, more latterly, technical colleges. In the technical col- lege where I worked I was concerned with what is called "general education".

I have always been concerned with the general educational aspects of the work of technical colleges. It has been borne in on me over a number of years that many students at technical colleges lack general education. The hon. Member talked about the lack of general education among people taking management courses. I would describe it as very often a failure to communicate, an inability to do so. This is especially true in the lower reaches of management, in the training, for example, of foremen and supervisors. To me this is clear evidence that their education at school was incomplete, that they went into industry too soon.

One of the jobs of technical colleges is to make good these omissions, and this is often the job of the teacher in the general education department. I want to make a plea for a new look at the concept of general education in technical colleges. Those who teach in these departments in technical colleges are doing a rescue operation. They are concerned not so much with the general aspects of the technical courses as with making good the deficiencies of those who may have missed out in earlier life. So often it happens that one of our functions is educating people for, say, a G.C.E. course as a prelude to leaving the industry with which the college is primarily concerned and going somewhere else.

Before I came to the House, one of the students in my class was to go to a college of education at the end of the year to train to become a teacher. I regard that as a splendid example of the work of that technical college, but it is not the job for which these colleges are primarily designed. There were other students being trained to take A-levels, and surely the idea behind that, is not purely technical education.

In our debates on teacher supply and the part which technical colleges can play in finding people whose general education has been lacking we have discussed what opportunities might be taken in technical colleges to provide general education courses in order to repair the deficiencies so that the students concerned can later go to colleges of education. I have asked several times for special provision to be made in technical colleges for preparatory courses such as we have at Bromley. My hon. Friend the Minister of State knows about them, for he has seen the correspondence. I want more of this development.

I am reminded of a sixth form student at the London College of Printing whose main ambition was to become a surgeon. He had left school at 15 and had not had the necessary further education, but I have no doubt that if he had had the opportunities he could have become a surgeon, for he had the mental capacity and the character. Here was a young man of 21 who regarded himself already as a failure in life. That is an indictment not so much of technical education as of the country heritage of our ordinary system of education.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh referred to the criticisms of the speech at Woolwich by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. If his research in HANSARD had gone a little further, the hon. Gentleman would have discovered that Questions specifically about the Woolwich speech were answered on 24th February by my hon. Friend the Minister of State on behalf of the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend referred to the correspondence with the Chairman of the Governors of Woolwich Polytechnic when the Secretary of State went into some detail and corrected some of the misapprehensions. To further correct some of the misapprehensions, I would refer to a letter in the current issue of The Teacher, written by Eric Robinson, the General Secretary of the A.T.T.I., which is the recognised trade union in this realm of technical teaching. In his letter Mr. Robinson defends the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman will see that the teachers in technical colleges are not deceived, as much as some other people seem to be.

What is true is that technical education is a very wide subject. It is difficult to talk even of two or three sorts of technical colleges, because they vary so widely. The one in which I worked, the London College of Printing, fits into none of these categories satisfactorily. There are courses in management studies, in which people are trained to become top managers in the printing industry. They are very often the sons of chairmen of boards in the printing trade who will ultimately take dad's place. There are full-time students, many of them university graduates. At the other end of the scale there are day-release courses for apprentices from the various trades in the industry who attend for one day a week during their apprenticeship. There are students taking the diploma in art and design, many of them already university graduates, the products of public schools and of schools abroad.

In the general education department there are people taking G.C.E. courses over a wide range of subjects. There are block release courses made up of students drawn from all over the country. There are also full-time courses in purely technical subjects and courses for overseas students. In all of this, there is a tremendous overlap with further education. When looking at a college of this sort, with 7,000 students, it is very difficult to say just where it fits into a set pattern of technical education.

I have never liked day-release. I always regard it as a most unsatisfactory method of industrial initiation. I also regard its general educational aspects as grossly unsatisfactory. How can one in one hour a week lightly repair the damage done over the years? I often think that this is cheating young men and women to whom a door is opened and then slammed before they get through. This is not my idea of what education for young men and women should be. Why are there these educational deficiencies among young men and women? This brings me to some of the things which were said last night, and which have a strong bearing on technical education. These deficiencies are the direct product of the tripartite system—or should I call it the dual system—of education.

There are grammar schools for the few and other schools for the others. We have schools described as secondary modern schools which frequently should not be described as modern or secondary, or schools based on the selective process which writes off young people as failures at eleven and condemns them to soldier on for another four years after which they fly from the coop like a bird from an open cage. They fly into industry to liberate themselves only to find that they have flown into another cage.

It is no wonder that so many young people are disgruntled and have a chip on their shoulder because they have never realised their capacity. They find in the apprenticeship system which proliferates throughout industry something which is old-fashioned, absurd and an insult to intelligent people. They spend perhaps two or three years doing simple operations which they could learn to do in a month.

What we need is a radical transformation of the apprenticeship system. I have been calling for this as a trade unionist and as a teacher for many years. The ironic thing is that it is not the trade unions which object so much to this as a great many employers, because they feel that they would lose cheap labour. This explains the reluctance of so many employers to allow their young employees to attend technical colleges for day release and why I often found that certain students did not arrive at college; their firms kept them back. This is particularly true of the five-year apprentice who is doing a man's job and receiving a boy's wage. I deliberately put it in that graphic form. In fact, they receive a wage which is a bit better than that of a first-year apprentice, but they still do a man's job and do not receive a man's wage. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), who is from the engineering industry, knows all about this; he has suffered from it.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I worked in Birmingham for many years. The apprenticeship schemes in many of the best firms are of the highest order. Many firms send the best of their apprentices to technical college and even on to university. Would my hon. Friend agree that some of the institutions he is quoting and the backward institutions do not reflect the position in the country as a whole?

Mr. Hamling

I agree. It is frequently the small firm which is the bad firm. My hon. Friend knows the founding industry very well. It is an industry with which I have some connection in that I used to do some of the teaching work of the Amalgamated Foundry Workers Union. My connection with that union showed that in this industry also there is an immense number of small firms which do not believe in training or in giving youngsters opportunities.

I was coming back to the old conception of the failure of our education system to give young people a square deal. We will begin to educate our youngsters properly only when we abolish selective secondary schools. We will give them the opportunity of a proper education only when we carry out the education policy of the Government, which was under fire last night. The failures of our education system are being sent into industry. These are boys and girls who are labelled by their parents often as failures because they failed to pass the 11-plus. There can be nothing more insulting or degrading than to label a youngster a failure before he has started on life.

We all know that the selective process means that the gap between children widens as the years go on, and this explains why in industrial areas, as my hon. Friend said last night, the boys who go into industry and the boys who leave the primary school and go to a grammar school drift apart and cease to have any common language or any common experience. This is an indictment of our social system. It does not happen in Wales, as you know very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There they have a much more civilised approach to education than have we English.

Mr. Bence

And in Scotland.

Mr. Hamling

I know less about Scotland than about Wales. In England we have these gaps, and it is the Government's intention to wipe them out. I am reminded of my old grammar school. It is ironic that many hon. Members from these benches who advocate comprehensive education are themselves products of grammar schools. Indeed, this is why we are advocates of comprehensive education, because we know what we are talking about. We attended these selective schools and went through the social mill.

I am reminded of a friend of mine at grammar school whose father was a Liverpool docker, for many years unemployed. I was with the boy on one occasion when his father passed in his overalls. The boy, in his college cap, did not recognise his own father.

This is the kind of social attitude, very fresh in my memory, which we still have in our society, and it disfigures our society. We shall never solve this problem of the deficiency of our students in technical colleges and further education until we have put the basic questions right, abolished this segregation at the lower levels of our educational system and brought about social and educational harmony.

In the next few weeks we shall be discussing some of these questions at the hustings. The House knows very well that when I speak on education I speak not as a party politician but as a teacher and as someone who believes profoundly in the virtues of education. Both my parents left school at the age of 11. They were determined that their children would have a good education as part of a good start in life. I bring to the discussion of technical education the same kind of criterion—that it is our job as teachers to give all our children, not just some of them, the best that we can afford.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

I cannot lay claim to the relationship with technical education which my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) showed at the outset of his speech. Mine is rather different. Instead of having teaching experience, I am a product of technical education. Perhaps for that reason I am aware of its tremendous importance and the great problems that confront us. Because of this, I came in to the debate not to participate, but to listen and learn and to expect a dispassionate and objective examination of this tremendously important subject.

I concede that that was what the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) in large measure did during the major part of his speech, but I deeply regret the partisan bitterness which he introduced in his peroration. I hope that this important subject does not, like so many other things, become yet another football of party politics.

The hon. Member referred to management studies and their growth in institutes of technical education. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West, drew attention to certain features of our apprentice training system. This is a subject of frequent criticism, both inside and outside this House. Perhaps, in some respects correctly, we deplore certain features of industrial training—for example, the "sit next to Nelly, watch Bill" approach which has characterised so much of our industrial training in the past. We are correct in deploring this. It has seemed most curious to me, however, that at the higher levels of industry, where it is even more important for people to be properly educated and trained, but where precisely the same thing applies, there is no criticism whatever.

I speak from experience as both an industrial worker and a participant in industrial management. In the great majority of cases in industrial management, not in the large firms to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) referred, but in the typical unit in industry, employing about 800 people, the hard fact is that the man doing the administrative or managerial task is the man who picked it up by rule of thumb, basically the "sit next to Nelly and watch it" technique, and who has even less understanding of the scientific and technical aspects of management. For this reason, the debate is extremely useful in focusing attention on this shortcoming of industry.

Not many years ago I was put in a responsible position with one of the largest manufacturers of electrical equipment in Britain, with whom I had been a shop steward. When promoted to that responsible position, I was told that the courses which I had undertaken to prepare for it at Manchester College of Technology were so much scientific waffle that was irrelevant to the practical needs of the factory.

The department for which I was made responsible had over many years experienced regular outbreaks of sporadic strikes and short stoppages, which, I confess, as a shop steward I was unable to control. Because of the responsible position I then occupied and the training which I had undergone in the department of industrial administration at the Manchester College of Technology, I was able to do what I had been unable to do previously and, in the first 12 months of my responsibility for the department, eliminate any loss of time due to strike action. That is one aspect of the problem.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has rightly drawn attention to what can be achieved with our nation and its resources if we apply to it the new techniques and scientific developments of the last few years. The average industrial manager, if asked which new machine or machines he would like to boost his output, would much prefer to given a new production control technique or a new stock control system. These things, if not more important, might be equally important in boosting our industrial output and harnessing the resources of the State. Clearly, this development can only properly be achieved as a result of extension of the study of managerial techniques in technical institutions.

I hope, therefore, that when my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies to the debate, he will be able to tell us what new developments in this direction are proposed to ensure that this aspect of our industrial life and our technical education system is given the kind of attention that it deserves.

I want to draw attention to what seems to me the effect on the standards of technical education of the technical institutes. The typical apprentice, when he chooses his career or vocation in industry, sets his sights on the ultimate goal, as a participant in industrial management, or as a technician, and he hopes to acquire the ultimate qualification, which is invariably associate membership of the appropriate institute. He pursues his education in the technical institution, following the steps which will take him to his goal.

There used to be a preliminary course to the Ordinary National Certificate course, and the National Certificate course, and then there was the Higher National Certificate course. This has been rejigged a little in recent years, but, fundamentally, it is still the same, orientated to ultimate membership of the appropriate technical institute. Therefore, to qualify, a person taking the Higher National Certificate course has to be set at the level which will give the successful candidate ultimate admission into the appropriate institute. With the growth of education generally this quite clearly has meant that the number of people who will be passing the standards set by the institutes will grow in number.

The institutes, because they represent the interests of their members and associate members, clearly have a vested interest in the standards which are set, and the hard fact is that with the passage of the years—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) seems somewhat sceptical, but I can assure him that this is the view of lecturers and teachers in technical institutions—the standards have gone progressively higher so as to control the numbers of people qualifying for associate membership of the institutes, and we have the ridiculous situation where people with associate membership qualifications acquired several years ago are now, in order to prepare people for the ultimate qualification, having to teach at higher levels than they are capable of doing. They are teaching something they have not learned themselves, so as to qualify persons for associate membership of their appropriate institute.

This seems to me entirely wrong, and a classical example of a restrictive practice, a restrictive practice which, because it is prejudicial to the national interest, should be dealt with, and dealt with very firmly and quickly. I think that the accepted standards for the ultimate technical qualifications should be taken out of the hands of the institutes, and that we should have standards stemming from the Department, in the same way as in other fields we have divorced from the standards the interests of the people setting them. This is of tremendous importance.

Finally, the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West made seems to me fundamental to this whole question. We accept that the greatest problem confronting the nation is how to raise our levels of production and productivity, but integral with this is the need to expand this area of our education so that more and more people with the capacity for and understanding of industrial management, and the control and application of the new techniques, may qualify. But we shall not get the volume of entrants of the right quality in this field till we accord to them that parity of esteem which is denied to them at present. So long as we continue to treat this kind of education as inferior to the academic education which is obtainable through universities, we shall not get the right kind of people in the right numbers.

When discussing the subject of technical education, I do not care on which side of the House I sit. I hope that whichever Government are in power in the near future will see that technical education is of vital and increasing importance in grappling with the tremendous problems which confront us today and will do so for many years to come.

9.10 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) about the enormous importance of the subject that we are discussing tonight. It is of very great importance to the nation, for three reasons.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the first reason is the fact that we are dealing with the sector of education which, arguably, is of more direct economic importance than any other. The National Plan says in page 197: The long-run increase in productivity in Britain must depend heavily on the greater skill and technical proficiency of the labour force". I would go rather further and say that we need to pay more attention in Britain not just to expanding the labour force, to making it more productive and more flexible, but to the whole question of professional education. I believe that we need to pay much more attention to professional training and to the whole professional infrastructure of our national life. One of the best statements that I have seen on the subject was made by the Government's economic adviser, Dr. Balogh, in a speech with much of which I could agree.

We want in Britain to have rising standards of general education that will fit young people to take their place in more complex patterns of production. But, following that general education, we need to pay attention to more specialised forms of professional education as well.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Doncaster speaking about the relationship between the technical colleges and the universities. I should have thought that today there was a real overlap in standards between the best tech- nical colleges and the university institutions, both of learning and of research. But I should have thought that it was also true—and I quote some words that I used recently in a lecture—to say: The centre of gravity of the technical colleges, compared with the centre of gravity of the universe, is not so much learning as professional training. I would only say that in our concern that a larger proportion of our young people should have an opportunity of attending institutions of learning, do not let us make the mistake as a nation of devaluing professional training. In almost all spheres, industry, marketing and, not least, administration, it is something of greater importance today than ever before. That is why I was so pleased when I was asked if I would be a member of the Fulton Committee which is to inquire into the Civil Service.

The second reason why we are discussing a very important subject tonight is because of the direct interest not only of the nation but of our young people themselves. Today, more and more young people are seeking qualifications, and more and more qualifications are being offered all the time.

I will not try and debate last night's subject with the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), but I feel that he painted the picture a little too gloomily when he laid so much stress on what he called the waste and frustration of our present system. I cannot help feeling that the hon. Gentleman's speech overlapped to a remarkable extent some of the things said and written by the extreme Right in educational thinking. For one awful moment when listening to the hon. Gentleman, I thought that I was hearing one of the less persuasive lectures of Professor Bantock. It is curious how extremes meet in this subject. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that if one looks at the statistics put out by the Department—I went to look them up, which is why I discourteously left the debate for a few minutes—one sees that all the time more young people are getting into a better position to be qualified for a good job after leaving school.

I recognise that the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) was right to pull me up last night for laying disproportionate stress on G.C.E. results. If one is talking about schools, one needs to think not just about G.C.E. but also about educational values—the capacity for education which one notices among young people today, and the serious discussion and thought amongst school children on many subjects. But if one looks at G.C.E. results over the last 10 years, one sees that the proportion of the relevant age group getting at least five O-level passes has gone up from 11½ per cent. to 18½ per cent. More and more young people are becoming qualified to seek a good job after school, and this is another reason why the expansion of the technical colleges and the expansion of further education generally is so important.

Thirdly—and here I do agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich, West—there is one other important aspect of technical education, namely, that it provides a second chance, a further avenue by which people can make good the deficiencies of their schooling earlier on. However much I may sometimes wish to dispute matters with the hon. Member for Woolwich, West in the House, I am sure that I should have learned a great deal from him if I had experienced his tuition.

For those reasons—the national interest, the desire of increasing numbers of young people to become qualified for good jobs, and, thirdly, the fact that further education provides a second chance—this large sector of our education system is, I believe, one of great importance.

I should like to put two points to the Minister of State. First, are we really making sufficient financial provision for further education? Secondly, are the Government and the National Plan setting their sights high enough with regard to their forward estimates of prospective student numbers. I propose to deal first with the amount of money that is being made available, and here I would put an important question to the Minister of State about building.

I have seen this rather remarkable document, Circular 6/66, and I shall be sorry if I learn—I do not think I will—that any circular worded quite like this one was sent out during my own period as Minister. The only sense that I can make of it is that owing to the postpone- ments, last year's further education building programme will turn out to have been £9 million less than originally anticipated, that the programme for 1966–67 is going to be no larger than originally authorised—that is to say, it will remain at £27 million—and, therefore, that over the two years added together, the total value of projects started will be only £42 million instead of £51 million.

On the subject of planning, I would say to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West that at least in 1956 Lord Eccles introduced a White Paper containing a clear planning target for technical college building which we fulfilled as a Government. He also set a planning figure for a rapid increase in the total number of scientists and technologists over 10 years, and we fulfilled that target one year early. Further, having brought in the Industrial Training Act, we provided for substantially larger capital investment programmes, both for 1965–66 and 1966–67.

Mr. Hamling

Is that why the previous Government kicked Lord Eccles, as he now is, upstairs?

Sir E. Boyle

I think that with his White Papers of 1956 and 1961 Lord Eccles made two outstanding contributions to the education service, and I also say that I do not think any Conservative Minister, or ex-Minister, has ever made more impressive speeches critical of the present Government than Lord Eccles has made since he went to another place.

I should like to ask the Minister of State about the building programme figures. Just as in the case of the universities, I do not doubt that the prospective student numbers will be able to be fitted in next year and the year after. That is not in question. But surely, in view of the expansion in the numbers of these colleges which there is likely to be, the time is not far off when there may be a very acute problem of providing roofs over heads.

I therefore hope that the Minister of State will be able to tell us that if local authorities can undertake a larger quantity of building of technical colleges, this £9 million will be made up to them at the earliest possible moment. I know that there are often difficulties for local authorities in actually fulfilling the programmes which have been authorised. None the less, I recall well that in 1964 when the programme for 1965–66 was announced the £24 million which I announced, had to be compared with total bids of £69 million; in other words, there were many more projects which local authorities wished to have approved. I therefore hope that the Government can tell us tonight that the £9 million will be made up to local authorities as soon as possible.

As to the figures in the National Plan, are we setting our sights high enough and providing realistically for the numbers there are likely to be in technical colleges? I was pretty startled to see in the National Plan last September exactly the same figures, with one exception, as I remembered well from my own time as Minister. The exception is full-time students. For sandwich students, part-time day students and evening students, the figures in the National Plan are exactly the same figures as those we were working on as a projection during my time as Minister, and of which I still retain a copy. As the Robbins projection became out of date within a year of the publication of the Robbins Report, I find it quite unbelievable that the right projection for the early part of 1964 remained the right projection for the second half of 1965.

I hope that the Minister of State will confirm that every effort will be made by the Government to keep the figures in the tables in the National Plan suitably up to date. On many occasions I have expressed my own disappointment with this chapter. I do not think it is up to the standard of a Department which, when all is said and done, in its statistics has achieved one of the finest steps forward in applied science of any Government Department. I hope that these figures will be kept up to date in terms of reality. If the figures produced by U.C.C.A. for the numbers seeking university places are right, we know that the trend of school leavers seeking entrance is running far more strongly than was anticipated. And similarly I should have thought that the numbers of those wishing to go on to technical colleges are likely to be considerably higher than those on which the Government are basing their present plans.

In my last few minutes I wish to go over two or three special aspects of tech- nical colleges and ask the Minister of State some questions. First, can he tell the House anything tonight about the rumours that the Government will shortly schedule about two dozen institutions, mainly regional technical colleges, as polytechnics or super-polytechnics? I have for a long time realised that there would have to be some rationalisation in the institutions doing degree level work outside the university sector. Obviously, too much duplication in research would inevitably be wasteful.

It must be remembered how much more ground courses have to cover nowadays as compared with 20, or even 10, years ago. I think it was Lord Bowden who made the very fair point that chemistry, as a subject, has more than doubled in volume since the war. And much the same is also true of many aspects of applied science. Courses are getting more elaborate all the time and covering a wider range. There is an overwhelming case for some rationalisation. None the less, I hope that the Government will hesitate before making too sharp a distinction between the new range of technical institutions and all the others. I can understand the anxiety of those who do not want to see part-time advanced diploma level work devalued. I can also understand the anxiety caused by any suggestion that only a small number of institutions should have a monopoly of approval by the C.N.A.A. for degree level work. I am in favour of a measure of rationalisation, but I hope it need not involve too sharp a distinction between this new group of institutions and other technical colleges of proved worth and importance.

The other point concerns control. I welcome the news that we are probably going to have greater freedom for the governing bodies of these new institutions, just as I am glad to learn that the working party on college of education government has been going successfully. But I do not believe we shall be able to keep the present administrative system intact. I am sure that in this part of education we shall have to move to a pattern of organisation that crosses local education authority boundaries. While, in general, I am in favour of education continuing as a local government service—I do not want to see it develop into decentralised central government—in the higher education field we have got to think in terms of grouping and this is something about which my own party expect to have a good deal to say during the following months.

I wish to say a word next, on the subject of industrial training, and then on management education. With regard to industrial training, I have always felt that it is not good enough simply to pass an Act. I know that firms are looking at their syllabuses much more closely, which is a very good thing, but I wonder how the technical college principals themselves think the Act is going.

I would also stress the importance of members of boards, both industrial and educational members, giving sufficient time to their work. There is a very real danger with regard to the training boards that too much will fall on a very small number of people. Too much responsibility will fall simply on the technical staff on the boards and I hope that the industrialists and the educationalists will play their full part. I believe we are only at the beginning of something very important indeed. We are, as somebody said, only at the 1870 stage of industrial training in this country that corresponds to the 1870 Education Act and we have got much further still to go.

I now wish to touch on management education. This is a very neglected field. I think the National Plan referred to management education and to qualified managers as our scarcest resources in this country. I hope the Minister of State will take note of what my hon. Friend, in his remarkable speech this evening, had to say on the subject of management education and the types of course that we need. It seems to me that there is probably a need in the new business schools for a good two-year postgraduate university course in business education of a high intellectual level, although I believe this course should not be too academic. Surely those in charge of it need to have had some operational experience themselves, and to have some knowledge of operational research.

I would also emphasise the importance of more specialised post-experience courses in the technical colleges. I should regret any suggestion that the universities should concentrate on the highest level course and the technical colleges only on the lower level courses. Surely the right approach is that it should be the task of the new business schools to give the more general postgraduate courses of a high academic standard, and that the technical colleges should provide the more specialised courses—the post-experience courses.

The only other point I wish to make concerns the link between the technical colleges and the provision of facilities for teacher training I was a little disappointed by the hon. Gentleman's answer on this subject to me this afternoon. He told me: Two of the annexes brought into use at colleges of education last September involved the uses of facilities in establishments for further education: as these annexes counted as part of the parent college of education it is not possible to give separate student numbers for them. If we want to see a broad-based supply of teachers, I believe that there will be a strong case for closer links between a number of colleges of education and technical colleges and the provision of more teachers by this means. It will, of course, involve institutional difficulties. This is a subject on which the A.T.C.D.E. has approached me privately and they will be concerned, of course, about uniformity of standards. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister of State will re-emphasise that we want to see in this country a broadly-based pattern of teacher training and that, quite certainly, technical colleges have a contribution to make in this field.

To echo my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price), despite the fact that this subject naturally attracts at the present time less attention than the subject which we debated last night, I am certain that from the point of view of the country this is a subject of the highest national importance, and that greater attention to professional training and standards of professional performance is vital to our nation's future. Many of us feel that there has been a sharp contrast in this Parliament between the speeches that the Prime Minister made on this subject before the last election and his speeches and performance during this Parliament. He presented himself to the nation, as we know, as the protagonist of the view that we needed to develop a new science-based British industry, active and energetic and technologically skilful. We are deeply disappointed that one cannot point to one major speech that the Prime Minister has made on technical education during the present Parliament.

I want to make plain that to this aspect of the education system we as a party shall continue to give priority; and I do not believe that, whatever controversies there may be on other aspects of education, anyone will doubt the effect on our nation of the initiative taken by my noble Friend Lord Eccles, which has revolutionised our system of technical education and vastly increased the supply of trained manpower in Britain.

9.32 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)

I should like to begin by thanking the House for the references made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He is disappointed at not being able to attend today's debate, as, indeed, he was disappointed at his absence from last night's debate. I am sure that he will be glad that so many hon. Members wish him a quick recovery.

We are in a somewhat intriguing situation. We are on the eve of a General Election, before which the Opposition on successive Supply days have had the choice of subjects. Many of us had expected, and commentators in the Press had forecast, that in some way or other the Opposition would take the opportunity of these curtain-raising debates to express their policies on matters on which there were great clashes of principle between their side and ours.

The result has been rather curious. It was not clear tonight, and it was not clear last night, whether or not they were trying to convey any kind of message to the country. They appeared to be approaching the election in a very bemused and defeatist frame of mind, which is rather a pity—we were looking forward to a good scrap and we hope that they will buck up a little.

Here and there in this debate the election has crept in. A great deal of the matter has been of a nature where there is a bipartisan approach. Speakers on both sides of the House have expressed views that would be accepted on the other side, but here and there hon. Members opposite have brought in this business, as the hon. Member for East- leigh (Mr. David Price) put it, of the wonderful inheritance which we have had from them and their disappointment that we are to expand provision for education by only one-third in five years.

I shall try to reflect the pattern by being fairly non-controversial most of the time, although I cannot resist two partisan comments to start with. If hon. Members opposite want to make education an election issue—it is not quite clear whether this is part of their intention or not—we are delighted to take them on. We are delighted to talk about the inheritance. We are delighted to talk about the appalling state of our school buildings shown in the school buildings survey. We are not delighted by the situation, but we are glad to take them on in an argument about who was mainly responsible.

The country will not be impressed by propaganda to put on us the blame for a situation over which they presided for so long and until so recently. Similarly with the over-size classes. Similarly with the very small proportion of our young people who go on to higher education, compared with many other countries. Similarly with the small proportion of our young workers who are given day-release, and all the rest, which we are striving to put right—

Sir E. Boyle


Mr. Prentice

No. I intend to be a bit ruthless. Both tonight and last night, there were two Front Bench speeches from the Opposition—I do not complain about that, though I suspect that some back-bench Members who wanted to speak might complain—but we have had only one speech each time, and there is a great deal of ground to be covered.

I must resist the temptation to talk for too long about last night's debate, but the subject has crept in today and the right hon. Gentleman himself referred to it just now. One comment I must add is that, if this is to be a subject of public discussion in the next few weeks, it is time that the right hon. Gentleman and the Opposition Front Bench got off the fence. In all the debate last night, there was no indication at all of whether the Conservative Party is in favour of getting away from the 11-plus or not. As far as one could interpret anything in the speeches one heard from the right hon. Gentleman and others, they were saying, "Yes, there are faults in selection, there are faults in separatism, the 11-plus has been proved wrong, but we do not approve of the Government doing anything about it".

The light hon. Gentleman seemed to have one eye on the education world where, as he knows, if he were to defend 11-plus selection, his reputation, which is deservedly high in many ways, would suffer, and another eye on the reactionary fuddy-duddies in his own party who do not understand education and who have been attacking him for months for not being aggressive enough on the subject. I resist the temptation to take that matter further, but, as I sat throughout the debate last night, I felt inclined to get it off my chest.

A good deal of the speeches today, from the two Front Bench speakers opposite, at least, has denigrated the National Plan. I put the matter to the House in this way. This is the first time that any Government of this country have engaged upon a realistic exercise of long-term planning, looking first at the national economy, assessing the growth potential of the economy, working out and defining the steps which ought to be taken to get a reasonable rate of growth, and then relating the social services, including education, to the expansion which the country could afford.

People will not be impressed today by comparisons between figures in the plan and the kind of figures for expansion produced by right hon. Members opposite in the last few months of the Conservative Government when they were in their death-bed repentance period just before the General Election. It was in that period they decided that the school building programme should go up, the major programme from £60 million to £80 million a year. It was during that period they decided that the further education programme should go up from £17 million to £24 million a year. It was during that period they accepted the Robbins Report in a flash, with all the implications for capital investment.

It was the biggest programme of education expansion ever, but it was all on paper. It had not been carried out during the 13 years when they were in office, and neither during those 13 years had the Conservative Government ever led the country to an economic rate of growth which could afford the promises which they made during that last-minute conversion.

The public will not be impressed by either side bandying comparative figures about during the next few weeks. I look forward to the time—in, say, 1970 or early in 1971—when hon. Gentlemen opposite will get up at that Dispatch Box—and I emphasise "that" Dispatch Box—to initiate a debate comparing five years' achievement, the period covered by the National Plan, with the previous five years under a Conservative Government. We look forward to that time and to being judged by the results.

That brings me to another partisan reference, although I shall become less partisan as my speech continues. Both Front Bench speakers opposite referred to the alleged differences between the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other Labour spokesmen before the last election about moving towards a science-based economy, and so on, and the achievements since.

I could speak for a long time about the economic planning that has gone into the last 15 months. There have been the policies behind the D.E.A.; the prices and incomes policy, the formation of the Ministry of Technology and all that has gone into that—and we are still looking forward to hearing hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about the Ministry of Technology in terms of policy and not personalities—and, coming to my Department, there have been improvements particularly in relation to further education.

In our responsibility as the Department of Education and Science we have regrouped the research councils, set up the Council for Scientific Policy, which is a different body with a different rôle than the one referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have started two new research councils, one concerned with natural environment and the other with social science and we have increased the research grants to the research councils by 20 per cent. in the current year.

There has been an impetus for science research and in the university sphere there has been acceptance of the Flowers Report, which was debated yesterday in another place. There have been special grants to institutions of higher technology and there has been much impetus given by the decisions of this Government in that sphere in recent months.

When considering further education, it is agreed on both sides of the House that in the years ahead this will be the fastest expanding part of an expanding education system. And here, for the convenience of the House, I divide the subject into two parts, what is sometimes called the "higher courses"—although that covers not only degree courses and the rest of further education.

On the higher courses, I remind the House that our figure in the National Plan is to achieve a total of 70,000 students taking higher education courses within the further education sphere by 1970. The Robbins recommendation was for 50,000 by 1973. We are already, by the number of students in these colleges, ahead of Robbins. We intend to stay ahead, and that is without subtracting in any way the expansion in the universities themselves. That will happen in addition to this.

There are one or two special parts of the higher education sphere within the technical colleges to which reference has been made. With regard to management education, the position for some years was that an expansion of management courses was taking place in the technical colleges without the demand from industry following suit in a satisfactory manner. This is, to some extent, still true, but demand is catching up. All sorts of influences are coming to bear on management, as a result of which more and more of them are prepared to take advantage of this provision.

Many hon. Members have expressed some criticism of management and I am sure that those criticisms apply over a wide sphere. However, we have seen, for example, that the United Kingdom Diploma in Management Studies has been a success story as part of this provision. Enrolment this year is 20 per cent. up on last year. The approximate number of enrolments was 3,300 in the current academic year, spread over about 36 colleges providing these courses.

Sir Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

The hon. Gentleman's Department could help in advertising to managements the advantages which are available in these courses.

Mr. Prentice

A number of people can help to advertise, including the Department. Indeed, we have recently appointed into our public relations branch a new officer specially concerned with further education, including this aspect, and many other things can be done. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that publicity is an important part of this work.

There are about 5,000 students taking more specialised courses in management—office management studies, personnel management courses and a number of others—and we estimate that about 8,000 are taking other professional examinations which include management as part of the course in a number of industrial and commercial activities. In addition, there is a very wide range of short courses of the type to which the hon. Member for Eastleigh referred as being needed for different grades of management in different parts of the country.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to say something about reports in the Press about the higher part of further education and the proposals that we have for concentrated higher work, together with reference to what are being called "polytechnics". The Press reports were not altogether accurate in detail, but it is true that we have been working on this subject for some time.

I was chairman of a group which studied this matter. It contained people with experience in related fields who advised me. But I must point out that this is not a report from any particular group. It is a policy statement from my right hon. Friend as representing the Government's view of future development. The report is now with the representative bodies—the local authority associations and the teachers' unions—and other interested parties for their comments.

The report recommends a measure of concentration. I cannot go into details, but we have been much aware of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. We do not want to create divisions between further developments nor in any way to devalue the part-time courses. Yet there is a need, when thinking of a very large expansion of higher courses in the technical colleges, for concentration. This is partly to conserve resources, partly so that highly qualified staff, who are scarce in some categories, should teach viable numbers, and partly for educational reasons in that it is a good thing for those studying in depth to be in institutions of a size in which they can meet others studying other subjects at higher level and, therefore, gain, as one does in university, from the interplay of disciplines instead of being spread out into too many small courses throughout the country. However, there are many complications—the distances that people are prepared to travel, for instance—and we are trying to achieve a balance.

I want to make a brief reference to the C.N.A.A. One of the keys to the success of this sector of further education is the reputation that the C.N.A.A. is rapidly achieving. It was set up in September, 1964, as a result of a Robbins recommendation, to award degrees and other awards in those institutions which have not degree-giving powers of their own.

Over 80 courses are in operation which the C.N.A.A. has approved. It should be emphasised that its degrees are of university level and in no sense second-rate. Indeed, in a few years the C.N.A.A. will be the largest degree-awarding body in the country, with the possible exception of London University. Its work deserves to be better known and it deserves fully the respect that it is earning. I hope that hon. Members will do their best to sing its praises whenever they get the opportunity.

Sir E. Boyle

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm my recollection that it is false to say that Robbins regarded the C.N.A.A. simply as a sort of means of last resort? An article in the New Statesman recently suggested that the Robbins Report proposed that everyone should as far as possible get degrees through the universities and that the C.N.A.A. should be a kind of long-stop. But that is not what I read in the Robbins Report and I hope that the Minister of State will confirm my view.

Mr. Prentice

I do confirm that. This is a very important point to get across. The mistaken impression to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred is too widespread and should be countered wherever possible.

In the argument about the binary system, I welcome what was said by the hon. Gentleman, and certainly my right hon. Friend wants to correct any misinterpretation put upon his Woolwich speech. My right hon. Friend took the opportunity in the recent debate on universities to talk about his Woolwich speech and to make it clear that he was not saying in any way that the universities were not responsive to social needs.

If the hon. Gentleman also wants to go to the pain and trouble of reading the speech which I made in winding up that debate, he will find that I gave a number of examples of the way in which the universities were coming closer to industry, were taking part in regional planning and in the solving of local social problems and many other things of that kind which should be better known and which are a growing part of their work.

It is sometimes suggested in reports which one reads about this that the binary system is something on which there is a sort of unholy alliance between the Government and the Opposition against opinion outside. That is not true. The concept is supported by the U.G.C., the A.T.T.I., the local authorities and a great many representative bodies and by the majority, although not all, of those who have taken a view of the subject.

I have just one other comment about the higher part of further education. I was interested in what was said about the contribution which technical colleges could make to teacher training. In the 14-point speech which my right hon. Friend made to the National Union of Teachers' Conference last year he said that he saw the technical colleges first making a direct contribution to teacher training itself—this is in addition to the kind of things I was talking about in the answer which I gave to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) earlier today—providing premises for annexes and services of one sort or another.

We are planning to make a start on this, probably next year, and we feel that there is a contribution which some of the technical colleges can make. They have a special kind of expertise and experience which will contribute to the system of teacher training and be of great value. We are working towards that, but there are several problems to sort out. I am not surprised to learn that the A.T.C.D.E. has had a word with the right hon. Gentleman. It has had a word with us, too. It naturally takes an interest and it is proper that we should discuss these matters with it. We expect these developments to take place next year.

I feel a little guilty that I have not left myself as much time as I would have liked to speak about the other parts of further education, but, again, the need is expansion and expansion particularly geared to the Industrial Training Act; geared to it not as though that was the only part of further education—there are many other parts—but to show that we regard the Industrial Training Act as being an essential part of the modernisation of Britain, an essential part of raising the efficiency of British industry, and an educational reform which will bring wider educational opportunities to young people and in some cases also to older people.

The right hon. Gentleman said that it was certainly not enough just to pass the Act. I cannot resist saying that that is about all the Conservative Government did. They got it passed just in time after years of delay and procrastination and now we have the job of carrying it out. Eleven boards are in operation. Three more will be appointed very soon and another batch will come along later and the terms of the boundaries of that further group of boards are now being discussed.

We expect, hope and believe that this will have a revolutionary effect on day release. It is fair to say that it has not had that effect yet, that the expansion which the Henniker-Heaton Report envisaged has begun in only a very small way. In November, 1964, the latest date for which I have complete figures, there were about 276,000 young people getting day release, about 31 per cent. of the boys and 7 per cent. of the girls. The figures for November, 1965, are not yet processed, but there will not be a very substantial difference. When we say that, we should recognise that by November, 1965, the Industrial Training Act was just coming along. It is true that four boards had issued their training proposals in the summer, but probably not in time to have much effect on the programmes of individual firms.

I hope that there will be a much more noticeable effect, which will grow in the period ahead. I would draw the attention of the House to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, that normally he would only approve training schemes for grant purposes if they include, for young people under 18, either day-release or the equivalent in terms of block release. This is an important statement of policy.

The question is asked whether the F.E. system will be able to take this big expansion, as and when it comes. Here, we rely mainly on two things. First of all, the building programme, which is going up. In answer to what the right hon. Gentleman said, the main factor during the current year has been the failure for a number of reasons of many local authorities to get on quickly enough with the programmes for which they had asked and been granted by the Department.

This is a disturbing fact and we are following it up. As I told the House the deferment policy was announced last summer. We did not think that it would have that much effect upon the F.E. programme. Because of this factor the way in which the right hon. Gentleman put the questions to me does not really apply, and our difficulty is to get the local authorities along more quickly than they have been moving.

We do not regard the programme announced in the National Plan as being cut. There was a deferment, but what had been happening, superimposed on the deferment, was the slowing-down to which I have referred. Our task is to achieve the programme by prodding as much as possible. The programme for 1966–67 stands at £27 million, and I would like to announce a figure which has not yet been announced—the figure for the programme 1967–68 will again be £27 million. That is a large programme, larger than ever before, for the coming year and the following year. It will be our task to jolly along the authorities to achieve these figures.

The other part of our task is to be found in the more intensive use of resources in order to achieve this expansion. The National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce under Sir Harry Pilkington's chairmanship has been making four studies relevant to this. There has been a study into the size of classes, into the use of buildings, of administrative methods and procedures and a study of the organisation of courses. These are at different stages, but the first one is completed and the report, with a draft circular commending it, is being discussed by the local authority associations and others concerned.

There is a good deal of slack to be taken up, a good many undersized classes, which if these problems are dealt with, can help us towards achieving the concentration we need. I make no apology for repeating that one of the things wrong with our educational system is that far too many of our young people still leave school at the age of 15 and go into jobs offering organised training quite divorced from the education system.

The Government and the local authorities and both sides of industry are now committed to a number of reforms that should alter this position by the 1970s. There is, first, the raising of the school leaving age, to which we are firmly committed. It seemed that last night doubts were cast by hon. Gentlemen opposite on this. But we are firmly committed to it. Secondly, there is the impact of the Industrial Training Act at work, not in the narrow sense, but in the shops offices and farms, and employment of all kinds.

Thirdly, there is the expansion of the further education system, in tune with the Industrial Training Act and fourthly, the expansion in the improvement of the Youth Employment Service, in accordance with the Albemarle proposals, in order to give more specific, detailed and constructive advice to every young person in the transition from full-time school to full time work.

By these methods we hope that there will be a continuation of education, which many young people will see as something it would be a wise thing to follow for the rest of their lives. This will need drive and determination from all concerned in these matters.