HL Deb 30 May 1960 vol 224 cc88-92

6.32 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is concise, but it embraces within it a subject which is of deep significance to the modern Commonwealth. Both the Montreal Economic Conference and the Oxford Conference which followed it, in which the seeds of this Bill were sown, recognised that education was the indispensable foundation of political democracy and of the economic and social advance of countries in the twentieth century. I think it was agreed—it was certainly the policy of the United Kingdom Government, and I ant sure it was agreed by all parties in the United Kingdom—that we should take a decided lead in trying to help the Commonwealth in this corporate effort to expand the scope and the quality of education.

There were three ways in which the Oxford Conference suggested that we could do this. The first was to increase the number of places for students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, in our universities and technical colleges; the second was to add to the supply of teachers to go from here to posts overseas; and the third was to take an increasing number of persons from the Commonwealth countries and train them in this country to teach. We never can be satisfied with the results that we achieve in this field; nevertheless I think we can be reasonably proud of the part which this country is playing and the facilities which we are providing. Out of a total of about 44,000 students from overseas in this country to-day, 32,000 are from the countries of the Commonwealth. In the next ten years we hope to provide from the expansion which is going to take place in our technical colleges some 4,000 additional places—that is, additional to those which are now enjoyed by the students from the Commonwealth.

I think your Lordships will be glad to know that, following upon the Montreal and Oxford conferences, 220 Commonwealth scholars are going to arrive in this country this autumn—the first scholarships to be given following the Montreal conference—and 400 bursars are going to arrive to take their places in the teacher training colleges of this country. Lord Scarbrough, who has taken on the chairmanship of the Commission who select the Commonwealth scholars, tells me that they are fulfilling their highest expectations and are boys and girls of very high quality—or, perhaps I should say, men and women of high quality, because a great many of them are taking post-graduate courses.

The intake of students on this scale and on the expanded scale to which we look forward in the next ten years could not be made without sacrifice. As noble Lords know, there is a clamant demand among the boys and girls of this country for places in the universities and technical colleges. Nevertheless, I am sure that everybody in the country supports the inclusion in our expansion programme of a high percentage of Commonwealth students, because the service of education is one of universal benefit to humanity and one in which we are peculiarly qualified from our experience and traditions to give.

The second part of what I have to say concerns the supply of teachers from here to go overseas and the attraction of individuals to come here to attend our teacher training colleges. The long-term objective, of course, is that each Commonwealth country should develop its own educational resources. But the best short-term help which we can give is to send out from this country as many teachers as we can enlist to fill key positions in the educational field in overseas and Commonwealth countries; and secondly to train here and to equip individuals from the Commonwealth countries so that they may take a leading part in their own educational organisation when they go home. Very large numbers of teachers are going from this country to the Commonwealth countries overseas every year. I am not going to name a figure; it is very large. But it is a little misleading, because a great many go to the countries which are already developed, and we want to see a better distribution so that the newer Commonwealth countries get a greater share. Again, the supply of teachers in large numbers overseas cannot be done without sacrifice, because we are all the time in this country, of course, trying to reduce the number of children in a class in school But, again, I am sure it is the wish of the House and the wish of the country that that sacrifice should be accepted.

Now that the Government are providing the money and creating the opportunity, I hope that there will be large numbers of volunteers among people who are interested in teaching, because their services will be enormously appreciated, particularly in the new Commonwealth countries; and I feel quite certain from what I have seen when I have been overseas to these countries that when they return the teachers themselves will feel not only that they have been rewarded, but that they carry a greater authority and influence in their profession here by reason of the additional experience that they have gained overseas.

Lastly, I should like to express my gratitude for the co-operation which has been shown by the teachers' representatives, by the local authorities, by the churches, and by the teacher training institutions, who have pledged themselves to make this scheme for the supply of teachers to the Commonwealth work. They have devised a draft scheme of secondment to which we hope that all the education authorities will subscribe and which we hope they will all adopt. I will not give your Lordships the details of it, but under it salary and pension rights and career and promotion prospects are safeguarded. There, again, the Minister of Education has set up a national committee to supervise the supply of teachers for overseas. Out of an expenditure of £6 million in the five years, which was agreed at the Oxford Conference to be the United Kingdom's subscription, £3¾ million will go for the purposes of this Bill and the incidental purposes connected with it. It is very important that in this matter education should be a continuing service, and therefore machinery has been set up, and there is now a Commonwealth liaison unit in the field of education which will ensure that consultation over the whole field is regular and continual. The first Director is a very distinguished Indian, Dr. Jha, who was lately Vice-Chancellor of Benares University, and the next conference to review the progress will be held in New Delhi in 1961–62.

I thought it worth giving that short review of these educational facilities to your Lordships' House, and to use this Bill as an excuse to do so, because I hope that this, which I think is a promising start, will be endorsed by your Lordships and the Bill will be given your unanimous approval. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill now be read 2a.—(The Earl of Home.)

6.41 p.m.


My Lords my noble friend Lord Dalton asked me to apologise to your Lordships because he had to attend a committee on university halls of residence. We welcome this Bill very warmly indeed. We welcome all its objectives, and it is a great pleasure to be assisting in putting it on the Statute Book. We think it will be easier to get teachers to come to this country than to make arrangements for our teachers to go to Commonwealth countries. There is a little reluctance to be overcome, on account of the problems which the noble Earl has mentioned—the problems of pension rights, of losing one's place on the career ladder, and the feeling that one has not the chance of applying for a post immediately it is advertised if one goes overseas.

We are delighted to hear what the noble Earl had to say about the draft scheme which has been worked out with the local education authorities, and we hope very much indeed that it will be universally accepted and universally successful. If I may say so, I only wish that there was a similar scheme for dealing with medicine in the Commonwealth, particularly in the more underdeveloped Commonwealth countries, where we have had just this sort of difficulty with the National Health Service. But we have not yet had a Bill like this to overcome it. We warmly welcome both the Bill and what the noble Earl has said.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for taking over for his noble friend and giving a welcome to this Bill. It is my keen desire that we should get in touch with all the employers in industry and the professions in order to try to see what arrangements can be made, whether in medicine or in any other profession, to create a Commonwealth service of this kind. So if the noble Lord has any ideas, I shall be a very ready recipient.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.