HL Deb 13 June 1944 vol 132 cc207-8

My Lords, I beg your Lordships' permission to correct a misunderstanding which has arisen. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, in the course of his speech on the Education Bill, suggested that some words of mine implied that the elementary school child had less courage than his public school brother, which was expanded to mean that I was casting some reflection on the courage of a large section of our fighting men. I need hardly say that such a thought never entered my mind. Never in my life have I thought such a thing, never have I said it, and most certainly I did not mean to suggest it. I was discussing the public school system and its way of life, forcing a boy to accept responsibility and discouraging an insistence on individual rights; the question of courage was never intended by me to be raised at all. If courage were the sole test, every private soldier would be a Field Marshal.

I do feel that it is unfortunate, to say the least, that when the noble Lord, who said that he had no desire to be unfriendly—and with some effort I am endeavouring to answer him in the same spirit—put so unpleasant an interpretation on my words, he did not before doing so at least make an effort to get in touch with me. He could have telephoned to me; he could have obtained my telephone number from the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, or he could have sent me a telegram. He did nothing of the kind; he put this interpretation on what I had said and allowed me no opportunity to correct it. I had taken this first chance of doing so. I had some experience—only slight, I fear—of the indomitable courage of our fighting men in the last war, a courage of which we have now the most splendid and inspiring example. I share with the majority of our Lordships the anxieties common to so many parents, and I do assure your Lordships that it is absolutely out of the question that I should have intended my words to bear the meaning which the noble Lord put upon them.


My Lords, I am sure that you—and I not less so—will be glad that the noble Viscount did not mean what the words he employed conveyed. He should be grateful to me in that my remarks have enabled him to clarify his.