During the Debate yesterday several Members raised the question of the effect of this Bill upon the universities. The Parliamentary Secretary, in reply, made it clear that medical students and certain other categories of students would be reserved, but he held out no hope of reservation for students in arts subsequent to June of next year. I wish to ask him whether he will undertake, on behalf of the Minister, to give serious consideration during the intervening period to the position of students in arts and the possibility of having some further extension of the period allowed to them after June, 1943? I do this not in order to secure any privilege for individuals, but in the interests of the whole educational system of the country and of the life of the universities. The Minister is reserving medical and dental students and certain classes of scientific students in the interests of the future life of the country, because the courses in which these students are engaged are very long courses, and unless the war goes on for another five or six years they will not in many cases be called up for military service. Certainly none of the medical students will be called up unless the war continues for a further five years. Therefore, their reservation is, plainly, in the interest of the future life of the country. I submit that there is a need for at least a certain number of students in arts to be reserved, in the interests of the future life o| the country and of the continuity of the educational work of our universities.
The matter, however, does not affect merely the universities; it affects the life of the secondary schools. Schoolmasters are already becoming anxious because a number of the older boys are transferring from arts, where their natural abilities lie, to science, in order that they may have that opportunity of life at the university which would be denied to them if they continued as students in arts. This is contrary to the interests of the country, as well as to the interests of individuals. We have before us the example set by the great Chinese Republic. At a time of immense crisis, the life of the Chinese universities is being continued, and the Chinese Government are insisting that it is the duty of students to continue at the universities, not in their personal interests—for many of them are patriotically desirous to join in the military effort of their fellow countrymen—but in the interests of the future of China. I ask the Minister to undertake to keep this question under continuous review and to reconsider the possibility of some further extension of the arrangement for students in arts in the future, even though it may only be for a small number, in order that the work of the universities on this side may continue and the life of our secondary schools may not be injured as it is being injured at present by the diversion of certain promising pupils from their natural bent in arts into science, in order to get the benefit of a university career.
I cannot agree with the general arguments of my hon. Friend, but I will leave it to the Minister to answer them. I feel it is appropriate, however, as I do not see any member of the medical profession present, and as I happen to have been connected for 30 years with hospital work and to be the chairman of a hospital, that I should deprecate my hon. Friend's attempt to draw a relationship between the position of medical students and the position of those whom he called students in arts. I should like to say that there is no relationship whatever between the two. It is impossible under modern conditions for any student of medicine who wishes to attain any position in the medical profession to have less than from a five to a seven years' course either at the university or walking the hospitals. To say that he is in the same position as a teacher, for instance, is merely an abuse of language. The exception that has been made in the case of medical students is a very sound and proper one. It is essential in the interests of the medical profession, and, speaking for the moment on behalf of the medical profession, I deprecate any attempt to widen the very important concession which has been made to them by arguing that if you exempt medical students you should also exempt young teachers. If that were accepted there are dozens of other categories for whom exemption might be claimed. If you open the door widely, you will have people from all parts of the county saying: "Why should my son, who is a very brillant young man, be called up if these others are not being called up?" I suggest, therefore, with respect, that those for whom an exception has already been announced are in a class by themselves, and that the exemption should not be widened.
With all respect to my Noble Friend, I would point out that what my hon. Friend is asking is not for a five or six years' course for students in arts but for some slight concession, such as 12 months at a university. As far as I am concerned, I would not ask for any special privilege for any particular section and certainly not for the intelligentsia, but what we have to consider is the interest of the country. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education is not here. We ought to have some guidance from him on this question. He is going, about the country prophesying great educational advances after the war—the raising of the school age, extension of secondary educational facilities and a general forward march in education. The whole thing is up in the clouds if after the War there is to be no output from the universities, because the success of any scheme of education depends on having a reasonable supply of teachers. If the universities are closed from the point of view of training men and women for arts degrees, there will not only be a shortage for meeting the ordinary requirements, but the whole education system will be threatened with collapse.
I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. His business is to keep the Army supplied with a constant stream of recruits. The President of the Board of Education, however, has a responsibility in the matter, and he cannot stand by idly. He ought to have been in his place to-day to explain the attitude of the Board, and say frankly that the need for man-power was so great that education would have to go by the board for some years after the war. If he said that, we would know where we are, but do not let us walk about in blinkers. Let us realise that if these proposals are taken to the logical conclusion, the universities will be completely closed to students apart from those going in for a science degree or for medicine. I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is now in his place. Perhaps he will express his attitude. The Board of Education is vitally concerned in this matter, and I should like to know whether it has consented to the complete closing down of the universities for the training of men and women apart from science degrees. If the Board has agreed, let the Parliamentary Secretary be frank and say that all the proposals for educational advance are mere wind.
I want to add my word of criticism on a somewhat wider aspect of the general problem. The House was very careless in giving a Second Reading to this Measure in the easy way it was given to the Government yesterday. It was very good of the Minister to promise us a Debate on man-power at some future date, but the Debate should have taken place before this Bill was introduced. There ought to have been a proper survey of what resources were available and what were the requirements of the nation.
I am merely expressing regret that we cannot discuss it on the Bill, and I do not propose to go into any further detail on the matter. I want to ask whether apprenticeships in the necessary skilled trades are to be broken at 17 years and eight months. At that age a boy is beginning to get started and to become of some use. Is he to be cut off and drummed into the Armed Forces when perhaps there may be a growing need in shipyards or engineering shops for the particular type of skill he was developing? I felt, and the Minister's speech gave one reason to feel, that the Government's idea was that the year 1943 was going to settle it, that we were going to throw everything in on the assumption that the whole business would be finished off in 1943. It might be a possible policy for the nation to say, "We are going to stop producing skilled workers and intellectual workers other than in medicine and science for a year because that year will be the decisive one which will settle the war." What possible justification have the Government for assuming that next year will finish this business? The Prime Minister told us when there was a tendency to become a little light-hearted that this was only the end of the beginning. If it takes three years to end the beginning, I do not think we are justified in assuming that one year will carry us through the middle and the end as well.
I apologise too. The point I am trying to make is that the Ministry of Labour should attempt to make a more impressive case than they made yesterday in justification of this Clause which will register young fellows at 17 years and eight months and bring them into the Armed Forces at 18 instead of as previously bringing them in at 18½.
Let me press the point that I was trying in my somewhat clumsy way to put. When the age of entry into the Army was 18½ years lads had advanced a considerable extent in their trades or, if they were at the universities, they had made at least the beginnings. I am assuming that the ordinary reservations will continue and that it will be possible for the Minister to reserve apprentices in the shipbuilding industry—
—to reserve apprentices in the engineering industry, to reserve young folk in the coal mines, and that the normal machinery which the Ministry have been operating will continue to operate even with these lower ages, In the case of universities, however, a young fellow does not normally go at 17 years and eight months; he is still at school. What will be the machinery for deciding what young fellows are to be admitted into the medical profession? Previously, I understand, they themselves decided. They entered the university and registered in the medical course, and then the Ministry of Labour allowed them, if they were making satisfactory progress, to remain.
It is not for me to instruct the hon. Member. He has shown himself to be very ingenious, and I should say that that is about all that there is to this Clause—the calling-up for registration at a certain age and nothing else.
Well, I may be getting daft in my old age, but I was under the impression that that was what I was talking about, the registration of young people at 17 years and 8 months instead of at 18 years plus so many months. I will try to keep within the very strictest Ruling that you can devise. I wish to ask how many months it takes to get the young people through the various processes which they have to go through, from the date of registration. How many additional months of their service will this give to the Services? In the early days, when not merely the youngest classes but the older classes were being called up, there were huge numbers to be dealt with at the same time, there was new machinery to be created, and sometimes the best part of a year elapsed between the date of registration and the actual intake of the young fellows into one of the Services, but now, when practically nobody is being taken in except young fellows of 18, how long will it take the Ministry to get those young fellows through the various processes? There is registration—that takes a day; medical examination—that takes a day; there is the actual allotting of the young fellow to one or other of the Services. Is it necessary to give the Government power to register boys at 17 years and 8 months so that they may have them effectively at the age of 18? Do the Ministry of Labour require four months for what has to be done?
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give me some satisfactory explanation why four months are necessary, because in view of the diminished numbers, in view of the fact that there is only one class to deal with, in view of the fact that youths arrive at the age of 17 years and 8 months on different dates—because not everybody reaches that age on the same day—I cannot for the life of me see why, if there is reasonable competence in the Department, four months are necessary to register a youth, medically examine him and allot him to one Service or the other. From the point of view of the general cultural life and technical necessities of the nation, to take these four months at a critical period in a youth's educational career, or at a critical period in his apprenticeship, just when he is developing skill, merely in order that the Ministry of Labour can carry on at some easy-going jog-trot pace, taking four months to do a job which as far as one can see could be done in a week, is not to make good use of the nation's man-power, and I associate myself with the criticisms of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey).
I want to support the plea which has been made that if the Committee approve this Clause my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will, in operating it, take account of the representations which have been made to him. I hope he will be urged to do so by the Board of Education, which I feel has a vital interest in this matter. Some of us feel concerned that matters in which the Board of Education ought to have some say are decided by other Government Departments, and that, so far as we have any evidence, its influence has counted for nil. What is at issue in this matter is this: Do the Government attach any importance whatsoever to the maintenance of the study of the arts in this country? If they do, they will so operate the Clause that they will maintain at least a quota of students who, under prescribed conditions, will be allowed, in spite of this Clause, to postpone their registration, or at any rate will be given some kind of reservation. That is what I want the Minister to ask for, because there is involved here something which is of vital importance to the future of this nation. We ought to say that even in war we have to look to the period beyond and not engage in some short-sighted policy which is likely to do more lasting harm than good to the life of the nation. What we are asking, in fact, is a compromise. We ask the Minister to take into account not only the claims of the Forces but what we believe to be vital to the life of the nation and, above all, its glory.
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) and other hon. Members seem to think that in the last war the art student was kept at the universities. In this matter we ought to keep some sense of perspective. In fact, there were only specialised students at the universities. If we are going to take away all art students from the universities, if we are going to make the universities into specialist institutions for the rest of the war, it is necessary to take the university spirit into the Services. In other words—
Then perhaps I might ask my hon. Friend a question. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). Although we have been told that medical students are to be allowed to go up to the university, it has become apparent to a great many people that there will be such a shortage of teachers that somebody from the Board of Education or from the Government should make a statement as to how that position will affect, for instance, the Scottish universities.
I would like to ask a question on one small point. In laboratories in this country are what are called group leaders, very often young men of about the age 17–18, and their job is very important. They work in conjunction with five or six other research students on vital scientific war work. If these young men, who are specialists, are subjected to medical examination and later to calling up, a serious gap may be created. I would ask whether there will be a call-up of these group leaders in laboratories and whether they will be finally called up to serve in the Forces.
I am in some difficulty as to keeping in Order in replying to the discussion, but the point which was made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) as to the time it takes to register and call up is obviously in Order, so I will endeavour to answer it. At pre- sent, men cannot be called up immediately on reaching the age of 18. They must first go through three stages. First of all, a Royal Proclamation has to be issued in respect of their age group. The last Proclamation was issued on 22nd October with regard to the group of boys of 18. A boy who was born on 23rd October of the appropriate year and therefore became 18 the day after that Proclamation, would not become liable, and he would have to wait for the next Proclamation. As we could not arrange to have a Royal Proclamation every day, but only at stated intervals, there is an obvious gap of time there.
Then the age group of the boys must be registered. The young men call for registration and their occupations and qualifications are verified. They must be given the opportunity of registration in the register of conscientious objectors, and they must have all the opportunities and rights associated with hardship. Their occupations must be looked into to see whether it is advisable to defer or to reserve them particularly, if they are in agriculture or coal-mining or are apprentices. They must be medically examined, and, in certain circumstances, those examinations, though normally straightforward, have to be done with considerable care and specialists called in. For all those processes to be done properly, and for the young man not only to have his rights but to realise that he has them and to make it clear to him that the process is not being hurried or scamped over and that he is having every consideration, believe me, three to four months is the time necessary.
With regard to education, I would rather like your guidance on that, Colonel Clifton Brown. It would cramp my style or my points to endeavour to answer, under this Clause, what has been said by the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Harvey). Perhaps it will be better for me to reply to those points on the Third Reading, but I would like your guidance.
I hope I may be allowed to say a few words on the Bill. I do not want to challenge the Bill—that is too late, of course—but to make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman and his Department, the Ministry of Labour, in respect to a large class of young persons who will be affected by the Bill but who are hardly ever mentioned in this House at all. Hon. Gentlemen have been talking of teachers, medical students and the like, and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) told the House about skilled workers, engineers and mechanicians, but the largest single group of all affected by this Bill will be shop assistants, warehousemen and clerks. It is by far the largest single group of workers in any of the several industries of these islands. I would plead with the hon. Gentleman to be good enough to keep in touch with the Ministry of Food, because those who distribute food in this country are becoming alarmed about the staffing of their shops. These young people will have to be registered just like miners, engineers, or agricultural workers; but there is no exemption or much deferment for shop assistants, warehousemen and clerks. As one who has been connected with them for about 40 years, I think I am entitled to make that plea on their behalf.
There is one further point. From the Union to which I belong, a large number of our members have already gone into the Forces, totalling about 60,000, or 50 per cent. of all our male members. A considerable proportion have lost their lives, some have been discharged on medical grounds. We are familiar with all that, but I want to impress upon the hon. Gentleman and his Department not to accept the assumption that anybody can be a shop assistant, a warehouseman or a clerk; that any Tom, Dick or Harry can distribute foodstuffs, especially now, with all the paraphernalia of rationing to be understood. To serve behind a counter to-day in a shop is quite a skilled job, but the Ministry of Labour does not seem to realise that fact judging from the way shop assistants are being called up wholesale.
The hon. Gentleman might be good enough to watch a point which I have raised before, and that is about queues at shops. People imagine that queues are the result of shortage of supplies, but that is not always the case. It is very often because the Ministry of Labour have called up all the skilled assistants from the shops; unskilled people have been brought in to replace them. We have had the position in some shops where all the men have been called up; there is hardly a male left in some shops and offices to-day. They have all been roped into the Forces. There is no exemption for them at all. They are the one class of people in the community for whom there is hardly a single exemption on almost any grounds. I want to impress further on the Government that they have to understand that food is the first munition of war. It is all very well having guns, bayonets and battleships, but the distribution of food is the first essential in the life of any community. Having said that I would like the hon. Gentleman to beware lest he combs out the shop assistants of this country to the extent that he may find something serious happening some day that the community will not be pleased about. Whatever my views may be on war and peace, I am certain of one thing, that the civil life of the community has to be carried on, and I am sure that we must staff our shops in such a way that our civilian life shall proceed smoothly in war and peace alike.
I rise only to stress a point which we understand is to be dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary. If this Bill is carried, it was stated yesterday, we might as well shut up the universities in June next. A point I want to emphasise is that, if this is carried out to the extent it looks like being next June, it is a very bad start for the fore-shadowed Education Bill mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. If that is to be hamstrung at the beginning by this Bill, it is a very serious outlook for us all. I hope the Minister will find some way of reserving our future teachers because we are told in the Bill which is foreshadowed—
I will obey your Ruling, Sir; With regard to our young men to whom a university career is essential, to spoil their chances by not letting them complete or even start a career in June next will be a source of calamity. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some assurance that some amelioration will be given to the lot of these university students.
There will be many appeals to the Parliamentary Secretary for exemption. What I am asking for is that there shall be equal treatment all round so far as that can be done. It is only fair that those in favoured positions should have a particular call on them. Some are better fitted than others, or have better opportunities, to go in for higher education, but I hope that preference will not be given simply because someone is a university student or something of that kind. This is total war, and everybody is called upon to give equal service as far as he can. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) would not have spoken about any Amendment in the Bill at all, because I noticed the course he took against the Bill and that he voted against it. Therefore I do not think he has a right to seek its Amendment. I do not think that a man who is opposed to the war and has done all he can to stop what we are doing for the war effort can have the right of trying to amend any Bill like this at all. It strikes me that every time he gets up to speak it is not a question of helping the war effort but of how far he can retard it. I would be better pleased with him if, having fought straightforwardly, as he has done, on the principle, he let it alone and did not urge certain Amendments.
I will not attempt to follow my hon. Friend into this dispute as to whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) should be able to back both horses or not. I want to say a word in his favour, lest I should be thought in my subsequent remarks to be backing one class. I think we should give due weight to the plea the hon. Member has made. I have made representations several times to the Ministry. I am told by organisations which I think are disinterested that there are serious difficulties occurring in relation to workers' needs and therefore a need for protection for skilled assistants in shops dealing almost entirely with rationed commodities. If the time of workers is wasted there, then workers' time is lost in the factories. I am quite certain that point is plain to the Minister, and I am certain he is keen to help. If the Ministry continue as they are doing, it will be found, I think, that a further withdrawal of such assistance will create acute conditions in many industrial areas in the disposal of rationed commodities.
I wish also to have a little more attention paid as to how this new call-up is to affect other professions than teaching. I cannot speak, of course, for the English universities, and I cannot speak with any authority for the Scottish organisations, because the hurried passage of Measures which circumstances sometimes force upon this House means that we have little opportunity to confer with the specialist organisations whose views should be heeded. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will leave matters in a very grave position if he does not take this opportunity of amending the impression he left with the House yesterday that all art students would almost automatically have to cease their studies. In Scottish universities an arts degree is not a cultural degree completely; I wish it were. It is not even a degree that is the first step only of training for a teacher. It is a qualifying degree for many professions, for our Church of Scotland ministry; it is a qualifying degree for commerce, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows. He must face up to the curious dilemma he has created for himself even if he is not impressed by the rest of my argument. If we are to have training of technical students continued, you will in Scotland have to make provision for students studying mathematics, because you cannot have university training of science students, which are a priority need for the war, unless you have also the teaching of science in the schools, and you cannot have the teaching of science in the schools without mathematics, and you cannot have mathematics elsewhere than in an arts course. I do not think I need labour that point. I take it that that will be one of the qualifications that the Minister will need to make in terms of deferment.
I am not clear what additional facilities the boy of 17 years and eight months is going to have in terms of hardship. At present, the man or boy indicates at the time of the medical examination that he intends to appeal for deferment on grounds of hardship. I quite see that, no matter where you draw the line, there will be difficulties; but if you are going to compel the boy to intimate four months before he is likely to go to the Army whether he means to apply for deferment, you are obviously widening the gap in which hardship may arise.
May I apologise, through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the Chairman of Committees for having enlarged unduly on the subject before the Committee? But I am sure the House will agree that this is a subject of very great importance, and we all look forward with very great interest to the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, among other questions, on the effect of this Measure on the life of the universities and on the educational life of the country. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) misunderstood the position. Those of us who have spoken on this point do not want any favour for any privileged class. The universities are recruited from the whole mass of the country. Over 75 per cent. of our students come originally from the elementary schools. We are thinking of the country as a whole, and not of a class. So far as the future of education is concerned, it is of immense importance that students who are later to become teachers should have the opportunity at least of beginning their course at the university, although it will be interrupted shortly by a period of military service. If they are not allowed to have at least one year, they will in many cases not go to the universities at all. They will go on to some other career, and be lost to teaching, and their capacity as teachers lost to the country. That is but a single instance to show the immense importance of allowing at least a year of university study for the arts degree. If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot give a full reply now, I would like him to say that he will keep this matter under constant review with the Board of Education, and that he will not close his mind to the possibility of making some arrangement in future to permit the arts side at the universities, and all that depends upon it, to continue.
Before we pass this Bill I want to enter a very strong protest against these perpetual efforts to obtain further exemptions. This Bill would not have been necessary at this stage were it not for the very large number of deferments and exemptions already granted. I do not want to make a Second Reading speech and be asked by you, Sir, to sit down, but we have to bear in mind that the whole need for this Measure at this time is due to the fact that there are far too many exemptions already allowed, and that a closer and more rigid scrutiny of the exemptions which already exist would afford a far better supply of man-power than will be obtained under this Bill. The public mind is becoming more and more alarmed at the way eligible men of military age are remaining exempt from military service. Let us remember that this is only a half-baked, stop-gap Measure, to take the place of a more rigid system of military service.
I think the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) has badly misrepresented my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Harvey), who was not pleading for more exemptions but for a more intelligent use of cur man-power, in the national interest. Those men who are studying for arts degrees have been doing so for only one year, as a general practice. Nearly all those men have gone through a training in the university cadet corps. I know of man after man who is studying at a university, and so fitting himself for his post-war obligations, and at the same time preparing himself for the life of a soldier. From the point of view of the proper use of our man-power, it is a wise course to continue such a procedure. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will give us some guidance. Do the Board acquiesce in the complete paralysis of university life? Are they content, in the national interest, taking the long view, that the universities should more or less close down, except for medical and dental courses? If the Parliamentary Secretary says that the State will not suffer, we know where we are. I am satisfied that that would be a short-sighted process. I am glad that the Paymaster-General in his speech the other day laid such emphasis on education. He led us to anticipate in the next few months a great constructive education Bill. It is simply wasting our time to pass Bills to deal with education if after the war there is going to be a terrific shortage of teachers, or—what amounts to the same thing—if the teachers who are available are going to be untrained, unqualified, and unfit for their jobs.
With great respect, the future of the teaching profession is going to be greatly affected by this Bill. If universities are to be closed down, I suggest, with very great respect, that it is relevant. But I will not say more than that. I am conscious of the vital importance of getting every available man trained and into the Army at the earliest possible moment. Let us have a wide outlook. This is a great nation, with great responsibilities, not only for the im- mediate problems but for the future of civilisation. It would be a sorry day if we who claim to be the pioneers of civilisation saw our great universities, of which we are so proud, all closed down or so confined in their work that our whole educational fabric will be paralysed. We ought to have some guidance from somebody else as well as from my unfortunate friend the Parliamentary Secretary. It is not fair to put all the responsibility on him. I hope we shall get some guidance from either the Paymaster-General or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education.
One hon. Member has stated that in his opinion there are far too many exemptions at the present time. I should like the Minister who is to reply to dwell on that. It seems to be a very great reflection on the whole of the Ministry of Labour, and on second thoughts I hope that the hon. Member who made that statement will realise that he has spoken rather extravagantly. I do not know of any indication of wide exemptions, and equally, in stating that the public mind is alarmed at the number of exemptions, he is, I am afraid, falling into the old trick of identifying his own individual mind with the public mind. I have found quite a large section of the public mind alarmed because there are not enough exemptions or rather that they are not always of the kind that they desire. The interpretation of the public mind introduces in all of us a certain kind of presumptuousness, and therefore I will not proceed along those lines myself, but submit that there is no indication as far as we are aware of the sweeping statement that would leave one under the impression that most people who ought to be in the Army are outside. In fact, I find it quite the reverse.
Another hon. Member suggested that it was quite out of Order for my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) to urge Amendments. I do not intend to take up that argument at any length, but all of us in this House are continuing to make the best of circumstances. That being so, I feel as entitled as my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton to say that while this is a deplorable Bill, we ought at the same time to make the best of it in the circumstances. I cannot for the life of me see determine what our youth should do. We therefore that while I am opposed to the Bill because I think it is a dangerous and deplorable step affecting grievously the future of our country and democracy, we cannot say that while the House is giving support to the Bill we will try to improve it as far as possible.
I do not see my hon. Friend's line of argument. I am sure that he himself on many occasions has been hostile to a particular proposal and nevertheless has found it adopted by the House and then quite rightly done his best to try and improve it. That is how we get along in this country, particularly knowing how we are known throughout the world for compromise and adjustment and, indeed, toleration. If we therefore could be ruled out from discussing anything, the principle of which we had rejected at some other time, it would be impossible to discuss anything in this House whatever. I hope most earnestly that the pleas made by the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) that the greatest consideration should be paid to the educational needs of the youth of our land will certainly be borne in mind. We should not too lightly adopt platitudinous shibboleths about any privileged class. In a sense we in this House are a privileged class, every boy or girl who goes to a university is privileged, and everyone in an ordinary elementary school who manages to climb a little way up the very narrow ladder allowed to our boys and girls is a privileged person. I suggest therefore that while in the deepest sense of the term all men are equal, they are not all equally endowed.
Democracy requires in future as large a proportion of fully educated youths as it can possibly secure. That is one reason why I believe that this Bill is very deplorable. I can understand and appreciate the necessity for conscription of all adults. It is a relatively fair and a right way, but it is altogether different when you apply the same principle to those with immature minds. We are helping to are not allowing for independence of mind on matters of tremendous importance and significance. Those who are grown up are in a position at least to make such adjustment. We here are adults, and we are gradually drawing in more and more of the nation, coming lower and lower in the age, so that at last we may have them at 14 if the war lasts another five or six years. We ought to have some representatives of that class in this House. Youngsters of 17 and 18 ought to be entitled to come here if for no other reason than that we are helping to decide in this important Assembly how they should live and how they should die. Therefore from that standpoint the Bill is very deplorable, though equally the House agrees it must go through in the circumstances. Though I believe it is a deplorable Bill and that it should not be put into the same position as a Bill to conscript the adult life of the nation, nevertheless in the circumstances I hope and believe that all the Ministries concerned will try and make the Bill work as equitably and fairly as possible, particularly with a view to the after-war period, when we shall want all the educated young people we can possibly secure in order to rebuild our country in a better way.
It is usual for us, Sir, to ask for your permission when we wish to address this House, but I am not sure now whether it is not the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) whom I should ask before addressing the House.
To say who should speak or should not speak would seem to be the prerogative of the hon. Member, which, I think, on calm reflection, he will not pursue. Each of us, like the hon. Member, represents a division, and we are responsible for making speeches in this House in accordance with the human intelligence which we possess. I, like many others, dislike this Bill. I would not have intervened particularly but for the statement which was made by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) on the question of exemption. I do not know whether his statement is true or not. One hears all sorts of things up and down the country that certain people can dodge the Army this way and that way. Some people say all sorts of things about Members of Parliament. We hear of men dodging the Army and of men in this occupation and that, but I hope that the Minister of Labour, on the question of the right of exemption under the law, is not going to attempt to alter the law without asking the permission of the House of Commons to do it. We are taking boys under 18.
You are proposing to take them at 17 years and 8 months for registration and medical examination and to go through all the things that they would not have been called upon to do until after they had reached 18. We are asking them to do this before 18, and the result is that, in some cases, they will be in the Army within a day or two of reaching the age of 18. You are, in effect, setting to work to call up boys before the age of 18, whatever you may say about it. I hope nobody will intimidate the Minister of Labour into changing the present law. If there are wholesale wrong exemptions that is a terrible charge which the Department must meet. It means that they are not carrying out the law. The hon. Gentleman who made that statement made it with sincere conviction. He charged the Department with allowing people who should not be allowed to get off, to "get away with it" under the law. Even if the law is too wide, I hope that neither the Parliamentary Secretary nor the Minister will interfere with it without the House being properly consulted.
I dislike intensely what we are doing. I think alternative methods could have been brought into being before we started to do this to boys under 18. Other ways and means, within the existing framework, could have been found without descending to this ridiculous age. Boys of 18 are very different to-day from what they were in my young days. At that time 18 was a common age at which to be married. I started my apprenticeship at the age of 14, the day after I left school. To-day, no reputable trading firm would take a boy until he was 16. To-day, the relationship between a boy of 18 and his mother and father is totally different from what it was when I was young—call it sentimentality, flabbiness or whatever you like. To get down to this age for this purpose is shocking. I do not think you will accomplish very much by doing so. Frequently you have both father and son in the Forces, which is a serious thing. It is terrible to leave a woman, at home to carry a heavy burden herself and to look after other young children when her husband and her eldest son have had to go away to the Forces. This House is lightly going into the whole thing. People shout about exemptions. I have every sympathy with university students, but there is growing up in this country a feeling that the only people we have to fight, and the only devils we have to deal with, are the devils in the factories; I am not having it. The poor people must be considered. If the fight has to be fought others have to do it as well as the factory people. When there is talk of hardship the most cruel hardship is to see father and son go to the Army at the same time. It has already happened, although I admit not extensively.
That may well be. In running a war you must have regard to every consideration, although nothing, I admit, arouses deeper feeling than that A must go while B stays at home. If we pass this Bill to-day it will only be a short step until the age is lowered still further. From the speeches that were made yesterday on behalf of the Government it would be easy to adduce an argument for lowering the age still further. As I have said, I do not like this Bill at all and I do not think it will help much. I am certain that a capable Ministry of Labour could have looked around and introduced a Bill to deal with the matter in some other way than by taking these lads at this age. This country, with all its faults, is a reasonable country in which to live, but to-day it is doing a very unreasonable thing.
May I repeat what I was trying to say on one of the Clauses? It is no accident that six speakers, including Members representing Scottish constituencies, have referred to the universities and the educational side. I think the reason is because we have not yet had a complete statement either from the Board of Education or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the only Minister, I think, who can speak with authority for the universities, unless it is the President indirectly, because the universities come under the University Grants Committee which is responsible to the Treasury. Perhaps that is the reason we have had no adequate reply. From the "Daily Mail" of to-day it looks as if some of the heads of Scottish universities are not aware of the position. It looks as if they had not been fully consulted. Many questions arise as a result of this Bill. Boys sit for scholarships. Are they to sit for them between the ages of 17 and 18? I want to be clear about this. If schools are to carry on with boys from 17 to 18, in sixth forms, they must know precisely where they are. It is obvious that during the last two years there has not been a full measure of co-operation between the Ministry of Labour, the Universities and, I think, the Board of Education, otherwise there would not have been these frequent letters and misunderstandings about the call-up. If a boy at, say, Manchester Grammar School wants to sit for a scholarship to a university, he has to sit when they are available. The whole course of his school life may change, if it is not worth his while to sit. I have grave doubts on this subject. This did not happen in the last war. Just to go up to the university for a year—is it worth it? I think we ought to have in the House a statement of Government policy on this matter.
As the Third Reading knocks it out altogether, apparently—I say apparently because it is not altogether certain—I think the arguments, pros and cons, ought to be stated and that somebody ought to say from the Front Bench that the Government have come to the conclusion that it is better for a young man to be in the Services and have citizenship training than to be at the university and serve in the university squadron or Senior Training Corps. The case ought to be debated in the House, because it is important. There is one further point which I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to clear up. My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) said that already men are doing one year for their teaching diplomas. I was not aware that any men, except a few who are unfit for military service, were going to the training colleges or universities for this purpose. At the moment, apart from such men, there are no male teachers in training, only women. I refer to this matter because we ought to know where we are going. Do not let us talk about Education Bills, for there will be an acute shortage of teachers—to man existing schools.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will state the position as regards the calling up of one or two other professions, beside doctors. We all know that doctors and certain other people are reserved. Have the Government taken into consideration other professions in relation, first, to the war, and secondly, to the post-war years? for example those who are to train youths between 16 and 18 years of age in continuation schools. These and other questions ought to be answered. We should not have had six speeches from hon. Members on the Third Reading of this Bill unless there was some uneasiness. I feel that if it cannot be done now, on some future occasion the President of the Board of Education ought to state the position clearly.
I rise only to restate on the Third Reading my speech on the Committee stage, so that the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to reply to it. May I also say a word or two to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) concerning the new doctrine he enunciated that if one opposes a Measure on principle on the Second Reading that puts one out of the game until the end of time.
I do not think that, on consideration, my hon. Friend would maintain that argument. He is known in the House for the regularity with which he repeats in Debates his arguments concerning certain things I could mention a dozen matters on which he has repeated his case again and again, and in opposition to the majority of the House; again and again he has come back into the ring on the same matter. I am very hopeful that some of the things which my hon. Friend has advocated in the past will yet be carried out before his period of service is finished. There is nobody who has raised so often the questions of old age pensions, the unemployed, workmen's compensation—
I was dealing with it as a personal matter with my hon. Friend. We have been sufficiently friendly to enable us to deal with these personal matters. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to answer particularly the question as to how the students who are to be permitted to remain at the university are to be chosen. Who is to decide that certain young fellows are to be allowed to go ahead in medicine, or in scientific engineering, naval architecture, or chemistry? Under the former age limit, they went into the university and started on one or other of these courses before the question of their going into the Army arose. I think that under this Measure the majority of them will not be at the stage of having started on their courses. Who is to decide whether they are to be permitted to start? Is it to be the schoolmaster or the Joint Universities Recruiting Board, or is it to be the Minister of Labour? I think we ought to know this. I want also to know the same thing with reference to apprentices. Who is to decide whether individual youths who have started in a particular trade are, in the national interest, to be allowed to complete their apprenticeship. I want to be assured that the decision on these matters is to be in the hands of people who are really competent to make the decision, and that it will be made on broad grounds of national policy rather than on narrow grounds of the interests of particular classes or groups.
I am definitely against this Measure. I think that to bring in these boys is a mistake. I think the nation could afford a gap of this sort it it were only for a year, but it cannot afford a gap of this description if there is to be another five years of war. We cannot afford to have our young boys hurled into the war in this way, thereby creating a gap in the production of skilled workers, technicians, men of culture, civil servants, lawyers, accountants. If we are to have a gap over an extended period in which none of these people are to be trained, then we shall create a terrible national problem. I say that nobody on the Government Front Bench has given any reason for believing that the year 1943 will see the end of this struggle and that it is only for a very temporary period that we shall be holding up the ordinary cultural development of the nation. I am against the Measure. In the Division yesterday I was a teller against it. May I say here that I profoundly object to the B.B.C.'s report of the Debate yesterday? It is not the Minister's responsibility, for presumably Ministers do not have the B.B.C.'s reports of our debates submitted to them. It was shocking that the B.B.C. reported last night—
I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the introduction of this Measure is a regrettable necessity, but he should not try to avoid the challenge that this is a lowering of the age or that lads are being called up at 17 years and eight months, because the process of being called up starts with registration at 17 years and eight months instead of at 18. The Prime Minister has informed us on several occasions that four-fifths of the people of the world are with us in the war. Before the Ministry considers any further reduction of the age let them begin to mobilise those four-fifths—maybe remove partition in Ireland, maybe provide a National Government for India. See the man-power that you could get as a result of the co-operation which those measures would bring about. Let the Government make use of the available man-power in the world and leave the lads, as far as possible, alone.
We have had a rather strange Debate. Very few speakers addressed themselves to the subject of the Bill yesterday, and for the winding-up speech to-day we have just heard an hon. Member, who I thought was most enthusiastic in support of the war, suggest that we should not call up our own people but make use of other people to fight our battles for us.
I said that an attempt should be made, by removing partition, to obtain the co-operation of the Irish people, and by setting up a National Government to win the co-operation of the Indian people. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make a declaration that these are not our people—
The OFFICIAL REPORT will show to-morrow whether I am correct or not. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) raised three practical questions with regard to students of medicine. These will be provisionally accepted by their medical schools, and then it will depend on the result of their Higher Certificate examination, the first M.B. or the appropriate examination, whether their reservation will be finally confirmed. Therefore, the medical schools will have the choosing of the boys. Scientific students will be recommended for deferment, as at present, by the Universities Joint Recruiting Boards, to whom application should be made by boys who intend to begin such courses at the universities or technical colleges. The deferment of apprentices is settled by the district man-power boards on lines laid down from the headquarters of the Ministry, who will naturally consult those interested in the problem. This whole question is at the moment under discussion and I should not like to make any definite statement at this moment on the age limit.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) raised the point of shop assistants, warehousemen and clerks. No one would deny that the severity of the call up has fallen in full measure on those classes, but I am afraid that will have to continue. With regard to the call up of older people in shops, the Ministry of Labour are fully apprised of the diffi- culties of shopping at present. We have the advantage of consultation, in regard to food shops with the Ministry of Food, and as regards other shops with the Board of Trade, but in the present acute shortage of man-power we cannot afford to leave more people in the distributive trades than are absolutely, necessary to carry on those vital services. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) called for a "fair call up." I am sure the whole House and the country agree that we must give fair treatment as between one man and the next. I will not enter into his dispute with the hon. Member for Westhoughton on the appropriateness of his remarks. As to the laboratory group leaders I will look into the matter and see what the position is.
With regard to arts students at the universities, perhaps I am rather to blame for this question being raised. The matter came under reconsideration after the Royal Proclamation of 22nd October reducing the age of call up of men to 18, and since then we have been in close consultation with the headmasters and heads of universities, the Board of Education, and the Education Department, Scotland, on how to reconcile in the overriding, compelling demand for manpower with fairness of treatment of the citizen and with the necessity for education in the universities to be kept alive. I had the privilege of presiding over a meeting of headmasters and university heads to discuss these problems. The Board of Education were also represented. The decision was taken which I mentioned yesterday with regard to boys at secondary schools who wished to go in for the higher certificate or for comparable examinations, which of course include university scholarship examinations. Those boys, born in 1925, who are still at school and are candidates for the higher certificate, will, if necessary, have their calling up, deferred until July, 1943, to enable them to take the examination. We had to inform the universities and the public school headmasters that it was obvious that we could not continue the year's course for arts students in its present form—
—and the secondary school headmasters, and others interested, including the Education Departments, that it was obvious we could not maintain the same rules which had been decided upon last year when the call-up was 18½ for the year's art students at the universities. Boys who reached a certain standard of education, Higher School Certificate and the like, were allowed last year to go up to the university for a year's course in arts subjects provided they would not be 19½ when that course was over and provided they took certain military training at the time. In view of the increasing severity of the man-power position we took the view that that arrangement could not be allowed to continue. After discussion with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, the Minister of Labour came to the view that it was better to stop offering deferment to boys whose medical grade was sufficient for the Forces to enable them to go to the university to study arts for a year. That will entail the closing down of art courses at the universities at the end of the summer of 1943 except for those boys who are medically unfit for service. They will be the only class in civil life to go up to universities to study arts courses in future. I listened with interest and great sympathy to the plea that the hon. Member for the Combined Universities made for further consideration of this matter between now and next July. This question has been closely considered in consultation with the Board of Education and all interested parties, and it is not fair to leave these boys in doubt now as to what their position will be. Therefore, I must ask the House to adhere to the decision which my Minister took as to closing down these courses at the end of the summer for boys who are medically fit to join the Services.
I do not want to argue the case for the divinity student, but my recollection is that at present he is automatically deferred. At this stage he is only an arts student. What will his position be? Will the Parliamentary Secretary address himself to a point I raised about arts students doing mathematics and working on honours mathematics for science?
If the mathematics student persuades the University Joint Recruiting Board that he is on a scientific course needed in the war effort he will get off. With regard to the divinity student, I am afraid that I was not aware there was any special deferment, but I will look into the question again.
On the outbreak of war steps were taken by which divinity students, although they might be in an arts course, were accepted for the divinity course if they were presented in October, 1939, and they continued to be reserved.
I am not sure of the position at the moment, but I will look into the point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) attacked me and the Government on the ground that we were destroying the universities. He suggested that I was "paralysing even the fabric" of the universities. I may be strong and powerful, but I am not endeavouring to pull down the fabric or the buildings of the universities. The right hon. Gentleman was a trifle too outspoken in his remarks. The question of students is rather complicated because students are taking many different courses and we are circulating a full statement to universities, headmasters and others interested. I only made the announcement yesterday because a decision had just been made and I thought that it would interest the House.
I asked a question yesterday with regard to people from Eire under the Dominions Clause in the Bill. I got an answer from the Minister but I think the position is still somewhat indefinite. Will they be taken under this Bill even if the Eire authorities do not come to an agreement with the Government?
I said yesterday that hardship appeals would be considered not only up to the 18th birthday, which is what the hon. Member for the Combined Universities asked for, but right up to the date of receiving the enlistment notice where circumstances demanded it. The position from the point of view of hardship changes from month to month and it is not desirable to cut out people who can qualify for postponement on hardship grounds.
My right hon. Friend would like me to thank the House for the facility it has offered in passing this Bill. We may regard its reception both by the House yesterday and by the Press as yet another indication, if indeed one were needed, of the determination of us all to prosecute this war unflinchingly to victory.