HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc207-9
16. Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the campaign to reduce adult illiteracy.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The campaign to reduce adult illiteracy is a unique collaborative movement involving local education authorities, voluntary bodies, the BBC, and the Government. In the two years since the Adult Literacy Resource Agency was set up to provide assistance with Government funds, a firm foundation of local provision has been established, some 50,000 volunteer tutors have come forward, and the number of students has grown to over 100,000. The agency is currently collecting material for a further report.


Is the Minister aware that the number of 100,000 shows a considerable success for the scheme, but it needs to be measured against the number of 2 million who need to be regarded as illiterate for practical purposes? Will she bear this in mind when talking to her colleagues about the appropriate language to use in Government forms, many of which must be incapable of being understood by many of those for whom they are intended?

Miss Jackson

Yes, that is a very good point. We are certainly aware of the immensity of the problem of adult illiteracy, which does so little to bear out the comments made by some of the hon. Member's hon. Friends about the virtues of our past education system.

Mr. Noble

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to another area of adult illiteracy, namely, problems of the English language, particularly those faced by immigrants in industrial areas? This is principally a problem for the Home Office, but does my hon. Friend acknowledge that some education authorities have refused to provide the 25 per cent. grant under the urban aid programme? Will she assure the House that her Department will consult Home Office Ministers so that money will be forthcoming to establish language training sectors for immigrant workers?

Miss Jackson

We are looking into this problem. My hon. Friend will be aware that the BBC is currently considering dealing with this aspect in a programme similar to that dealing with the subject of adult illiteracy.

Mr. William Shelton

If the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State are, as they say, rightly concerned about illiteracy, is it not disgraceful that the Government have not yet found time to debate the Bullock Report on Illiteracy? Will she have a word with her right hon. Friend the Leader of the House with a view to remedying this?

Miss Jackson

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he has a word with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about finding time for a debate on a Supply Day.