Ministry of Education

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd February 1948.

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Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth 12:00 am, 23rd February 1948

There are so many from Wales that I did not dare to bring them along. From two points of view I am convinced that the Committee will regard this additional £1,781,000 for which we are now asking as a good investment. It is good from the point of view of the State, because it will help to ensure a supply of men and women trained to occupy important positions in the professional, industrial, and commercial life of the country. From the point of view of the individual, I would emphasise that, in dealing with these awards, we treat each case as an individual human problem. This expenditure enables us to make good opportunities which men and women have lost as a result of their service during the war. I may, perhaps, be forgiven fore quoting from another letter which, I think, demonstrates that we are interpreting what was our duty under this scheme when it was originally introduced. The letter comes from Purley in Surrey. It states: I am much obliged to you for your letter of 13th February with regard to my son, David, and the grant under the further Education and Training scheme. If you will allow me to say so, I do not think that I have ever seen such a sympathetic letter from any Government Department before. If this is the way in which the Awards Branch of the Ministry of Education works, all I can say is that it is most admirable. The letter concludes: Many thanks. I have quoted that letter not in order that the Ministry of Education might receive any kudos, but because I wanted to pay my testimony to the staff who have been responsible for the administration of this scheme and to the human way in which they have carried out their duties.

Under subhead H.6—grant in aid to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the purchase of the contents of Ham House—the sum involved is £90,000. Here, again, I think that we have an investment that will contribute to the interest and education of future generations. The house contains an unrivalled collection of 17th century furniture and other works of art. Since the contents were considered to be worth about £150,000 in 1930, I think that there is no doubt that the nation is being well served at the present price of £90,000. There is one other item on that side of the ledger to which I would call attention. That is teachers' pensions. It looks a large sum of money to ask for in a Supplementary Estimate, but this additional expenditure could not be included in the original Estimate, as the Act of 1947 increasing pensions had not then been passed. This is called for because of that Act of Parliament.

Turning to the opposite side of the ledger, I think that I should refer to two of the savings that we expect to make on our original Estimate. The first is under subhead D.2—grants and loans in respect of aided and special agreement schools. This refers to an expenditure which could be incurred by making grants and loans to the managers and governors of voluntary schools under Sections 102 to 105 of the 1944 Act. The reason we expect savings under this heading is that under present circumstances, labour and materials are not available for making as many improvements to existing voluntary schools or for building as many new aided and special agreement schools as we would like. The other saving, under subhead M of £168,000 is on repayments to the Ministry of Works for temporary school accommodation. The saving under this heading is due to the fact that the H.O.R.S.A. programme has fallen behind schedule.

The main reason for the delay has been, as the Committee know, the shortage of labour both on the building side and on the technical side—shortage of materials and components—and, above all, the fuel crisis of a year ago. This crisis caused a great set-back, but we have overcome its effects and the rate of progress has now been greatly accelerated. On the progress made to date, and provided there is no unforeseen setback such as occurred last year, I think that by next September, when the full effect of the school-leaving age comes to be felt in the schools, the position will be much better than it was last September. While the full programme of the Ministry of Works will not have been completed by that date, it should be possible to provide fairly adequately for all the additional children who will be in the schools as a result of the raising of the school leaving age.

Here, I should say that the delay in completing the Horsa programme has not been the cause of the shortage of accommodation at the lower end of the schools. The increase in the birth rate and the effects of the war would have created difficulties in infant schools whether we had raised the age or not. I shall be glad to answer any question that may be raised with regard to any other item on which Members of the Committee desire information.