Hon. Members are fortunate these days to draw an Adjournment debate, but I have been doubly fortunate in that having selected a subject with wide public interest, the Adjournment Motion has come considerably earlier than might otherwise have been the case. I am sorry that the Minister of Education himself is unlikely to reply to this Debate. I wrote to him expressing the strong hope that he would reply personally, but apparently he does not feel able to do so. In his place we have the Parliamentary Secretary, and if I may I will call him my hon. Friend, because he is a constituent of mine. After I have finished speaking this evening, he may even decide to vote for me next time.
Since 1945 I have specialised to a considerable extent in learning all that I could about Communist activities, methods and aims at home and abroad. Communist activity within the State teaching profession is one aspect of their work in which I have particularly interested myself. I am going to try to present what evidence I have been able to collect to the House, so that hon. Members may form their own opinion. I shall do my best to avoid any unnecessary party controversy.
I have raised this question of Communist teachers on a number of previous occasions, although the replies that I have had from the Minister of Education have been, in my opinion, thoroughly unsatisfactory. It was on 20th July that I gave notice that I would, if fortunate in the ballot, raise this matter on the Adjournment. From my very heavy mailbag since I have asked these Questions and drawn attention to these matters, it has been clear to me that it is worth while going on with the work that I am doing. Some of the letters I have had from school teachers all over the country have been of the utmost interest, and a number of them significantly have been anonymous. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What is the matter with hon Members opposite? The reason I mention that, is because I think it is a most unhealthy sign that schoolmasters and school mistresses should be afraid of giving their names to a Member of Parliament in case they might be mentioned in public. At the back of their minds is the possibility of victimisation in future years. [Interruption.] Do not let us get too worked up so early. I am not saying anything controversial. I am stating facts, and if hon. Members give me a fair chance. I will present my case.
During the past two years or so the Prime Minister, in contrast to some of his colleagues, has condemned Communism in the most outspoken fashion. In the Labour Party Annual Report for 1949, we find this:
Genuine peace-lovers everywhere have a clear duty to isolate the Communist advocates of Soviet Russia's dangerous imperialist policy.
A little earlier the Prime Minister stated in this House,
The Government have, therefore, reached the conclusion that the only prudent course to adopt is to ensure that no one who is known to he a member of the Communist Party, or to he associated with it in such a way as to raise legitimate doubts about his or her reliability, is employed in connection with work, the nature of which is vital to the security of the State. The same rule will govern the employment of those who are known to be actively associated with Fascist organisations.
As a result of this, a considerable number of senior civil servants and others with Communist sympathies—with the exception of one Fascist, or a person suspected of being a Fascist—have been removed to other positions. That statement by the Prime Minister showed at any rate what was the Government's attitude to Communists being employed in positions of trust.
I suggest that it is dangerous and foolish to be mealymouthed about the real meaning of Communism.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is the rule—unrestricted by law and based on force—of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie,
said Stalin. I quote from the last page of the Communist Manifesto. I assume it is an accurate edition, because it was printed by Transport House as a centenary edition. The last paragraph says:
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be obtained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions
We have already seen such a policy put into effect since the end of the war in 11 countries in Europe which have a total population of 133 million. I have studied in utmost detail the moves by which Communists penetrate into the teaching profession, thereby preparing the ground and carrying out what some people call a softening-up process. I have studied this matter sufficiently to be able to write a book, which may be mediocre but is the best effort I could make. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear. It is a very good book."] I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) say "Hear, hear," as he was foolish enough to publish it. In that book, which I am not necessarily recommending to anybody—
—I have devoted one whole chapter to education in the Marxist State. As I have plenty of time, I will give one other quotation from Stalin because it has special reference to this question of the education of young people. I think it is from "The Problems of Leninism," although I forget exactly which book it is. He wrote these words:
What do we mean when we speak of educating young folk in the spirit of Leninism? … Doing our utmost to strengthen their conviction that our workers' State is the offspring of the international proletariat; that is the basis whence the Revolution in all countries will develop; that the final victory of our Revolution is the concern of the international proletariat.
So much for those quotations, which may be a suitable introduction to what I have to say.
The Bishop of Chichester, for whom I am sure the Minister of Education shares my very deep respect, preached a sermon on Easter Day this year at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers. He expressed the view of the Church on these matters, and in the course of that sermon he used these words:
The Communist Manifesto openly declares that Communists' ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.
I have just given the quotation from the Communist Manifesto.
Atheism—I quote Lenin—is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and the practice of scientific Socialism. It is not
surprising that, with this view, the Communists should seek the total control of the minds of the young and the domination of the whole machinery of education so as to free it from all non-Marxist influences.
That is the view of the Bishop of Chichester, given in his sermon on Easter Day this year.
Those brief quotations, which I could multiply a hundredfold, show that to accuse all Communist teachers in this country of subversive activities and gross disloyalty to the democracy which employs them, is not an attack upon the professional integrity of those teachers. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is it?"] Rather would it be an insult to them to suggest that they ever lost any opportunity of teaching their creed of bloody revolution, class hatred and atheism. Every Communist would be the first indignantly to deny that he ever did so, because that is part of the Communists' stock-in-trade. One of the first principles of any Communist or Marxist is that the end justifies the means. For the Communist there is no distinction between truth and falsehood.
I will willingly deal with sensible interruptions. In a letter to the Minister, I have asked him direct questions. He kindly and courteously acknowledged my letter, in which I set out some half-dozen questions, which I propose to put to him today because I many get more vauable replies.
The first question is: How many Communist teachers are there known to be in State schools? The Communist Party claim that there are more than 2,000. That claim was made some 18 months ago—I speak from memory—at a Communist conference in Liverpool. It was made by Mr. Giles, an old Etonian who has been a member of the Communist Party for 22 years. Can the Minister confirm that figure? Does he realise that if he is not able to give the House any figure at all, it is quite reasonable to say that his attitude to the question is complacent and that he has not given it sufficient investigation? My own view, for what it is worth, is that the figure of 2,000 given by Mr. Giles is likely to be a considerable underestimate. The Communists are never in the habit of disclosing their order of battle.
Communist teachers—this is an important part of what I want to say—do their work in a variety of ways. They are carefully placed in key positions by the education committee of their party which is set up for that very purpose, acting, of course, on the instructions of their own politbureau," which is all-powerful—far more powerful, incidentally, than their executive committee, which is only a shadow organisation. The first job of Communist teachers, in my view, is to lose no time in influencing their fellow teachers, and any school master or school mistress who happens to be working in a school alongside Communists will be the first to tell us that that is so. Many Communists were carefully placed in the emergency training colleges, which are now. I am glad to say, in process of being wound up.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Communists are carefully placed. In my experience of education administration in this country, it is usually the governing body of the school or the education authority which places its teachers. Could he tell us how it is possible for the Communists to place the teachers anywhere?
I should have thought that it is fairly obvious how it would be possible and, indeed, easy at the end of the war when there was a grave shortage of teachers for Communists to get into the emergency training colleges, provided that they had the ability. There is a good deal of evidence on the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), who is the leader of my party in the L.C.C., has already given some of it to the Minister of Education——
Not evidence? Never mind. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is no proof at all."] It is no good hon. Members just laughing at what I am saying. I am telling them—this is supported by a very large number of people—that the emergency training colleges have produced a considerable number of Communist teachers who are now in our schools. I am simply stating that——
It is the easiest thing in the world to give a twist to everything one teaches and to select one's material so as to influence young minds. Those Communist teachers are not fools, and they are where they are for a purpose. It so happens that last Sunday in a calendar which my family has produced for many years—there is a quotation for each day—I noticed these words by Florence Nightingale:
Give me the schools of a country and I care not who makes its laws.
I commend that most seriously to the Minister of Education. [Laughter.] Why hon. Members opposite should find this funny is something which I hope one of them will explain when he comes to speak.
We do not consider it funny. Many of us on this side of the House are teachers with a high regard for our profession, and we think it ridiculous that an hon. and gallant Gentleman on that side should get up and make such blatant accusations with no attempt to prove one of them.
The hon. Member must wait for it Furthermore, if he has any evidence to refute what I have been saying, If have no doubt that the House will be extremely interested to hear what he has to say. This is a debate, and I am expressing my own personal view, and I do not see why that should get under the skin of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the extent that it seems to have done. I am expressing not a party view but something which is very much in the minds of all parents in the country, for they are deeply anxious about the present situation. Can the Minister when he replies tell us anything about the organisation called the Woodland Folk? [Laughter.] This is funny, too, is it?
I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. Gentleman is saying "And the same to you" to you, Sir. The leader of the organisation called the Woodland Folk is known as Koodoo. I wonder whether the Minister has read their "Woodcraft Folk Song Book," which contains a great deal of Communist propaganda. I can give a lot of information about this organisation to the Minister if it is of interest to him. It is worthy of investigation.
Numerous publications are available to brief Communist school teachers and, incidentally, others who may not be aware that they are lapping up Communist propaganda, so well is it often presented. I will give some examples. I have drawn attention to this on several occasions recently in this House, but all I have been given by the Minister is a flea in my ear. I sent him recently a copy of the "New Central European Observer," a weekly foreign affairs publication subsidised by the Czech Embassy, in spite of the fact that the Czechoslovak Government will not allow us to publish anything in that country. It has two Communist editors and contains nothing but straightforward Communist propaganda. When I pointed out in my letter that this had been circulated to school masters and school mistresses all over the country, asking them to take it for their current affairs lectures, the Minister replied:
I really do not think there is much danger that any teacher would be tempted to make use of this particular material for teaching purposes.
Why not? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Why take it in if they are not going to use it in their current affairs lectures? I do not understand—[An HON. MEMBER: "Of course you do not"] Of course it is used.
Another example is the "Bureau of Current Affairs," a biased, Left-wing organisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Oh, yes. It was the successor of A.B.C.A. which did so much to get the party opposite into power. I know all about the A.B.C.A. During the war I did not allow anyone in my company to read some of their literature. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] I really had hoped to be allowed to make a serious speech without such facetious interruptions, and I am sorry it should be a cause for hilarity.
I am glad to say that, after frequent attacks from this side of the House from myself and my colleagues, the publications of the "Bureau of Current Affairs" are no longer used in any of the three Services unless they are "vetted" by a committee set up for that purpose. I have some examples of their pamphlets in my hand. I challenge anyone to say that "Western Germany Today," written by Basil Davidson, is anything but biased, inaccurate and partisan. I was very glad, when I asked all three Service Ministers what use was made of it in the Services, to learn that it was not being used at all.
Another pamphlet, which is equally biased and partisan, is called "Human Rights," by Mr. G. T. Hankin. I have checked up on these things and have read them. Are we really to be told that it is more important to protect grown-up soldiers against partisan and biased publications than it is to protect children in our schools? Everybody knows that the Bureau of Current Affairs is one of the main sources by which teachers of our schools brief themselves for their current affairs lectures.
Frequent use is made of the Education Section of the Society for Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R., of which a well-known Communist, Mrs. Beatrice King, is the chairman and on which are represented a large number of teachers' organisations all over the United Kingdom, including, until December, 1949, the National Union of Teachers itself. In order not to speak too long, I will not give hon. Members more details, but they can easily look this up for themselves. These publications produced by the S.C.R., as it is called, are undoubtedly widely used by teachers in their current affairs lectures.
Name, rather, one school where it is not used. There are numerous books in use provided by an organisation called Central Books, a notorious Left-wing bookshop; I have a number of pro-Communist books with me. Then there is the Educational Bulletin issued by the Education Advisory Committee of the Communist Party, and the International Bulletin of Education, published quarterly by the World Federation of Trade Unions (Teachers' Section), and which is handled, incidentally, by Central Books. There are many other sources of Communist propaganda, quite a number of which come directly from the Soviet Union and from other Communist—dominated countries, and many of these find their way into the hands of teachers.
If hon. Members who interrupt like that would do me the courtesy of listening, they would hear what suggestions I am making. The point is this. The man to make suggestions is the Minister of Education. He is in charge of these things, and it is for him to do something to still the anxiety of British parents. I have in my hand a pamphlet called "Russia Today," published by the British-Soviet Friendship Society. I have an idea that that is one of the proscribed organisations of the Labour Party.
Yes, proscribed by the Labour Party. In other words, it is wrong for a member of the Labour Party to belong to it; it may result in his being sacked, as I believe it has done in some cases yet it is quite all right for teachers to use this document with which to teach his children. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give us the evidence of that."] This particular copy was sent to a schoolmaster. It is addressed on the back, under the cover of a penny stamp, to "Schoolmaster, Llangarron, Ross-on-Wye, Hereford." It went through the post addressed like that, and thousands of others have been sent out similarly addressed to schools all over the country.
I ask the Minister to deny that if he can. There is another document sent out at the same time to the same schoolmaster. This is called "I Saw the Truth in Korea," written by Mr. Alan Winnington, the "Daily Worker" correspondent with the North Koreans. I can only describe it as a treasonous document. It has none the less been sent to a large number of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses and I have no doubt that those with extreme Left-wing leanings are using it—
I will give some evidence now. One textbook to which I have previously called attention is called, "Life in the U.S.S.R." This was first written in 1943 and originally Sir Bernard Pares was commissioned to write it, but, by a fluke, because he was unable to take it on, it was written by Mrs. Beatrice King. It was reprinted in 1944, 1945 and 1948, and is pure Communist propaganda. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shocking."] Yes, it is shocking. Some 25,000 copies have been sold and are in circulation and still on the travellers' lists of the publisher, although I feel bound to admit its sale has been decreasing.
I am not saying that that was not the case, but that this document is Communist propaganda and anyone who reads it must agree with me. The Minister went a large part of the way to agree when I drew attention to it. I do not mind particularly what happened in 1943, but this is in use in schools—[An HON. MEMBER: "Which school?"] 25,000 copies have been sold already—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] It is a school textbook—[An HON. MEMBER: "What education authority bought it?"] Education authorities do not buy school textbooks; school textbooks are usually bought by the school, I believe, and the books they have bought are checked by the authority concerned.
That is what happens in East Sussex; I do not know what happens elsewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is a Tory council there."] This is under an overall Communist direction. If the Minister would like to have more details from me, and if he does not know about these things—although I hope he does—I will willingly give them. If he does not know exactly how the Communist Party organises matters, I have a number of details here. For example, I have the New Year letter issued on 11th January, 1949, by the London District Committee of the Communist Party starting with the words, "Dear comrade," instructing all Communist school teachers exactly how they should behave and what to do and signed by John Mahon, G. C. T. Giles, J. T. Jones, M. D. Clarke, D. Capper and E. Godfrey. If that is not evidence, I do not know what is.
To take one example—and this is the worst I know—there is one school, not very far from here, Acton County School, where 16 teachers admit that they are members of the Communist Party. Sixteen teachers in one school. Admittedly it is the worst case I know. The headmaster is Mr. Giles, who has high academic qualifications. Not long ago that school sent a telegram of congratulation to Communists who were striking against the legally elected French Government. Sixteen Communists in one school—is that evidence? Now laugh. When this occurred a Conservative motion was moved on the local council asking for an inquiry to investigate the reason why the school's name was used in the telegram and it was defeated by the Socialists on the Council led, I believe, by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) who, incidentally, unsuccessfully attempted to exclude the Press from the debate which took place.
I wonder if the Minister knows about a club called the Voronezh Club, run by a well-known Communist? It is well worth investigating. The school is known locally, not as the Acton County School but as the Acton Communist School.
I am not making any attack on him. This has been common knowledge for several years. It is surely unnecessary to give notice that one intends to mention a fact which has been in newspapers throughout the country. It is a statement of fact, and the hon. Member for Southall would be the first to agree with it.
The lines on which some local authorities are thinking was shown on 26th October, when the Middlesex County Council, by 54 votes to 29, defeated a Socialist motion to refer back to the Education Committee their recommendation that persons known to be members of the Communist or Fascist Parties, or to be associated with them, should be debarred from certain key teaching posts under the control of the council. I should like the Minister to tell me what is his view of that action which has been taken by the Middlesex County Council.
Hon. Members will have seen publicity given recently to the collection of signatures by schoolchildren for the Moscow-run so-called peace appeal, which is holding a Congress in a few days' time in Sheffield. Exactly what the details were, I do not know. A small girl made in Trafalgar Square a speech which had undoubtedly been written for her by some Communist who had inspired it.
What worries me seriously is the complacency of the Minister about this problem. As recently as 19th October, he said:
There is no cause for anxiety over activities in and about London County Council schools …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th Oct., 1950; Vol. 478, c. 276.]
He was answering a Question about Communist propaganda in State schools. Why did the right hon. Gentleman avoid any reference to the most important speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead when he replied to the Debate on 17th July? My hon. Friend asked several important questions which the Minister studiously avoided answering. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies tonight, he will prove my view of the Minister to be wrong. I should have thought that the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's own personal and
confidential secretary, Miss Anne George, was one of the Communists removed from her position 18 months ago on the Prime Minister's instructions would have brought home to him the danger of having a disloyal person in a position of trust in the State.
I sum up by saying that on present evidence, so far as I can obtain it, and in the present circumstances. I am not in favour of banning the Communist Party. Incidentally, unlike Mr. Deakin, I never have been in favour of that, my main reason being that I have no idea how anybody can tell who is or who is not a Communist, or at any rate how anybody can tell where the dividing line comes. It was Mr. Bramall, who lost his seat at the last election, who asked the Prime Minister that very question when the Prime Minister made the statement to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. The Prime Minister said he did not think there was any difficulty, but it may have been because in the circumstances he had to use those words.
I believe that Communism will die a natural death if its aims and true nature are ruthlessly exposed. Is there any reason why we should be any less shocked by the activities of large numbers of avowed fifth columnists, which is what the Communists are, pouring revolutionary, seditious and atheistic propaganda into British children's ears in British schools, than we should have been had a similar number of Fascists been doing the same thing before 1939? To me, the two are comparable and equally shocking. I hope they are to the Minister.
The absurdity of the present situation seems to be underlined by something which has occurred to me—that apparently we cannot trust a clergyman to teach our children in a State school but we can trust a Communist. That bears thinking about.
I am convinced that the huge majority of parents throughout this country will agree with every word that I have said today. For five years terrible harm has been done to children by the methods which I have described. I submit to the Minister that he has a great responsibility to investigate the charges that I have made and to report with no delay to this House the result of his investigation, and, furthermore, to take the necessary action to ensure that, in fture, British children are taught the British way of life, loyalty to the Crown, loyalty to the Constitution and godliness, by British teachers who can be trusted.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) has made a number of sweeping, but very vague accusations against the professional integrity of teachers in this country, but he has not adduced a single specific instance in support of the accusations he has made. He says that insidious, revolutionary propaganda is being poured into the ears of the children in the schools of this country. Can he name a single teacher in this country, who has been found guilty of abusing his position of trust as a teacher by indulging in political propaganda inside the schools—either Communist political propaganda or Conservative political propaganda? I imagine that the hon. and gallant Member would say that it was just as unprofessional for a Conservative teacher to indulge in Conservative propaganda as for a Communist teacher to indulge in Communist propaganda.
One would imagine that the hon. and gallant Member would not have come to the House of Commons and made these grave, but vague accusations without being able to adduce one single example in support of the accusations he has made. In the course of his speech he said that this was very much in the minds of every parent in this country. Can the hon. and gallant Member give an example of a single parent in this country who has written to his local education authority and has said, "My child has been taught Communist propaganda by his teacher in the school?" Can he give a single example of that?
I have been challenged to give an example. I will tell the hon. Gentleman that the Sheffield peace Congress is about to take place, and the Chair- man of that Congress, or the Chairman of the Executive Committee, claims that 500 million people in the world have signed the Peace pledge—[Interruption.] Wait a minute. Thousands and thousands, probably tens of thousands of those, I fancy, are children in our schools. There was a great deal of evidence in the newspapers about it recently. If that is not Communist influence of children, what is?
No. Can the hon. and gallant Member give me a single instance of a child in any school who has been asked by his teacher to sign the peace petition? Can he give one single instance of that?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there are 2,000 Communist teachers in this country. I think he is quoting a statement made not long ago by Mr. Giles who is, we all admit, a Communist teacher. I am certainly not saying that there are no Communist teachers in this country, but there is no evidence that any Communist teacher has used his position as a teacher in order to inculcate Communist doctrine into the children. The statement that there are 2,000 Communist teachers was made to the Communist conference by Mr. Giles. I think that he very much exaggerated the number of teachers in this country who are members of the Communist Party.
Mr. Giles made the statement that there are 2,000 Communist teachers in this country, to give the Communist conference the impression that he had a great deal more influence on teachers than he really has. Personally, I doubt if there are anything like 2,000 members of the Communist Party in the teaching profession here. At all events, even if there are 2,000 members of the party in the profession, that is less than 1 per cent. of the members of the profession in England and Wales.
The hon. and gallant Member said that Communist teachers influenced their colleagues in the staff rooms. I suppose that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not want to censor conversations in the schools. He would not want to prevent members of the staff of any school discussing political matters within the privacy of their own staff rooms. I am sure that he would allow teachers to discuss these matters in a friendly way inside their own staff rooms.
The hon. and gallant Member said that Communist teachers were very much influencing the political views of other teachers, but it is a fact that all the Communist candidates who were known to be Communist candidates who put up in recent years for election to the executive committee of the National Union of Teachers were defeated by considerable majorities. Obviously, their influence within the teaching profession does not extend very far. The hon. and gallant Member accused Communist teachers of influencing other teachers. He thought that they had no right even to influence their fellow teachers. I maintain that they have not any great influence upon their fellow teachers.
Because I have been in the profession for over 40 years and I have occupied a responsible position in the chief union of the profession. I know what my professional colleagues are thinking and feeling, and what influence the Communists have over the great mass of the profession. If I guessed the political opinions of the majority of our teachers, I am afraid that I should have to confess that probably most of them are more friendly to the Conservative Party than they are to us. Although they are friends of the Conservative Party, I do not think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would wish them to indulge in propaganda on behalf of the party in their classrooms.
What are we to deduce from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech? I do not know if he wants the Minister to say that he will not permit members of the Communist Party to be teachers in our schools. Is he aiming at that?
All I could deduce from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was that he thought that no member of the Communist Party should be allowed to teach in a State school. In other words, the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to apply a political test to the teachers of this country. No other profession has a political test applied to it. The clergy have no political test, but there are people in the hierarchy of the Church of England who are not, perhaps, members of the Communist Party, but who are at least enthusiastic for that party's policy. There is no political test for the legal profession, and yet we have a leading member of the Bar in this country who is not a member of the Communist Party but is a great supporter of its policy. No political test is applied to the medical profession, but I know that there are members of that profession, and probably very successful practitioners, who are members of the Communist Party. Apparently, the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to apply the political test to the teaching profession alone.
I want to tell him that the majority of the teachers of this country, although bitterly opposed to Communism in every respect, will also be bitterly opposed to the imposition of a political test. If any teacher so far abuses his profession as to indulge in political propaganda with children on behalf of the party in which he believes, every teacher would say that he should be subjected to very severe disciplinary action. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite can bring to his local education committee any instance of a teacher indulging in political propaganda in the classroom and can prove what he has stated, I am quite sure that the local education authority would take very severe disciplinary action against that teacher.
No teacher wants to see a position of trust abused by the use of political propaganda, but, on the other hand, the teachers would object to the imposition of a political test, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, will treat the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman with the contempt which they deserve, through the lack of evidence which he has produced.
I certainly am not going to make any vague general charges against the teaching profession. I have far too high a respect for that profession, and in this House I choose my words with care. I am going to try to carry the whole House with me, because, in our hearts, all of us know that there is a latent problem here, and that, if things were to go wrong, it would not he merely the schools that would be corrupted, but the result would be that this Parliament itself would be swept away.
I am not going to exaggerate this danger. I am going to ask the House, for the time being, to put aside party differences and to join with me in asking the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to take cognisance of the situation that exists, to inform themselves as fully as they can about it, and then, in due course, to come to the House and say that, having examined the whole situation, they either think that matters can be left alone, or, alternatively, they consider that further action should be taken. It is the full appreciation of the facts in the Ministry that I am most desirous of securing.
Perhaps I have more knowledge of the London schools than many hon. Members of this House. I have been leader of one of the political parties in the greatest local education authority in the country for the last five years, and, consequently, when a girl named Geraldine Chalmers made a foolish speech at a peace gathering, the daily Press immediately got in touch with me and asked whether this was confirmation of widespread Communist infiltration into the schools.
I replied that so far as I knew, that particular case showed no evidence whatever of undue political influence by any member of the teaching staff of that school upon the girls. In that case, there certainly is or was a strong Communist group among the girls, but that had been created not by any wrongful behaviour on the part of the teaching staff, who, I think, were as concerned as anybody when they discovered the facts. The influence on those girls had come entirely from outside.
There are Communist forces in the country which are extremely anxious to get a hold on the minds of boys and girls in schools, but they are not just going to rely on the teaching profession and on what they can do through the teaching profession to achieve that end. On the contrary, I fancy that these forces are trying to work at the present time much more through these various apparently harmless bodies with the mendacious names which try and get the support of boys and girls. They know certain boys and girls who are already active members of the Young Communist League, and through them those other organisations, which conceal their Communist origin, manage to persuade a number of boys and girls to step in that direction.
We have got the National Student Peace Council, the International Youth Council, which publishes a magazine called "Youth for Peace" from 174, Uxbridge Road, and there is the World Federation of Democratic Youth which awarded what it calls its "Peace Badge" to a girl in my constituency. Then there is the British Peace Committee, about which we all know, which decided to initiate a Peace Week in this country starting, I thought not inappropriately, on Guy Fawkes Day.
As regards the London County Council, the Education Officer of the Council called together the secondary school headmasters and headmistresses in London in September to discuss with them measures to protect children in school against insidious propaganda of all kinds. I trust that hon. Members on all sides would agree that that was a perfectly proper action for him to take, and that it is most undesirable that teachers should not be fully aware of the kind of influence that may be exerted by ill-intentioned people. I cannot stress too strongly the danger that exists if these peace bodies with the harmless sounding names are getting hold of boys and girls, and if the teachers themselves are not aware of the evil forces which are working through these so-called peace committees.
As to the London schools generally, it is public knowledge that there are a number of Communist teachers in the London schools. Frankly, I do not think that we are going to further this inquiry at all by arguing whether or not 2,000 is the correct number of Communist teachers in the whole country. It may be 2,000 plus x, or it may be 2,000 minus x. But it is common ground that there are a number of Communist teachers. I want to say with a full sense of responsibility, as leader of one of the parties of the London County Council, that in these last five years I have had no specific evidence of Communist indoctrination of children by teachers in London schools. I am not saying that there has been none. I say there is no evidence in my hands of such a character that I would think it right to take it to the education committee and say that action must be set on foot.
I trust that if such specific evidence was produced, the London County Council, under its present rulers, would take a serious view of the matter. But, having said there is no specific evidence, let me add that I have heard stories, and we have all heard stories, that are such as to cause anxiety. Anxiety exists, particularly regarding those schools where it is not just a matter of one individual member of the staff being known to be a Communist, but where a kind of Communist cell has been built up. We are all aware that these are the normal Communist tactics—to try to get a group of people thinking similarly and working in the same place.
The stories one hears are usually about history being taught with a twist. Frankly, any of us who know the Communist Party and the Communist method must feel some sense of concern when an avowed Communist is teaching history. At the last General Election my Communist opponent in Hampstead was a member of the teaching staff of a London secondary school. I say nothing whatever against his teaching in that school, because I have no evidence on that point. Whether he is likely to teach history in an unbiased way I must leave hon. Members
opposite to judge, for in his election address he told the electors of Hampstead that:
The five years of Labour rule have been a betrayal of Socialist policy.
The Communist Party is the only party fighting for peace and Socialism.
Can we all agree that a firm duty rests upon all parents or teachers or managers to report the fact instantly if they do receive evidence, even if it may be tenuous evidence, of something having been done wrong in a school? It is not going to be easy to get anything firm, concrete and definite in these matters; but we must watch any indications that a particular individual is misusing his position. Members of the teaching profession, themselves, must be as jealous as anybody on that point.
I hope I can carry the House with me also when I say that it is not only a matter of safeguarding the freedom of a teacher but also of safeguarding the parent the parent who has a duty to send his children to school, who may have no choice as to the school to which his child goes and who may be most deeply concerned if he should find enforced on him by our educational system that his children are being subjected to an influence which he profoundly deplores.
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) said just now that he had no evidence of any Communist indoctrination in any of the schools under the London local authority. He also mentioned Communist cells within the staffs of schools. Has he any evidence to show that such cells have been established in any London schools?
I am not going to throw the names of schools about in this House, because I do not think it does the schools any good. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley), a few minutes ago asked my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) whether he could give any evidence of teachers trying to get children to sign the peace petition. Let me say that there has been evidence of that kind in London, as the Minister himself is aware. I know that the teachers who were at fault were firmly dealt with. I hope I shall not be asked to mention the names of those schools, because I think that schools where that kind of thing has happened have probably received too much publicity already.
May I, in conclusion, turn to this question of Communist influence in the training colleges? I may or may not be right, but in my own mind I draw a definite distinction between the presence of a Communist on the teaching staff of a school and the presence of a Communist specifically chosen to train young men and women to become teachers. The latter seems to me to be a point of far greater danger than the former. My view is that at the present time the directive from Communist headquarters is that members of teaching staffs should take the greatest care not to put a foot wrong in the classroom, but that they should, at the same time, do all they can to bring other teachers round to their way of thinking, and I fancy that those tactics have been applied in the training colleges.
In July I made a statement in this House which was a perfectly true statement. The Minister has said that I have produced no evidence. It was not for me to produce evidence. I stated a fact and gave him a number of names, some of which I think must have been well known to him already, as corroboration of my assertion that a number of Communists had managed to get themselves appointed to key posts in emergency teaching training colleges after the war. I was not speaking of the permanent training colleges. In addition to that, a number of Communists undoubtedly managed to get themselves selected as students in the training colleges and all that, I believe, was a well thought-out plot to infiltrate into the profession.
I was about to deal with a letter which the Minister was good enough to write to me. After that speech which I made in the House I, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes, came in for a great deal of correspondence, and it was interesting to note how, in these letters, the lines all crossed on certain particular training colleges—and in most cases they were the same training colleges which I had had in mind when I
spoke in the House. May I read this letter to the House:
I have read the Report of your speech in the House of Commons last night and decided to write to you about such-and-such a training college which I have just left. Several of the students there last year were Communist Party members and had the nerve to get up and say so. They did not believe that the majority of the people had the ability or time to study the facts of a situation and then form a judgment. They therefore thought that important decisions should not be made democratically. These are dangerous people to let into our education system, and yet these are some of the people who will be in charge of classes in September.
That is all I want to say on that point—
These are dangerous people to let into our education system.
May I now turn to the point about which I was speaking to the Minister? What I said in the House was:
There are men and women coming out of training colleges who have passed under Communist influence, because the Communists were quite skilful enough to see that some of their numbers were appointed to key posts in emergency training colleges when the war was over.
Later on, I added:
Will the Minister make his own investigations and come back to the House after the Recess and give us a firm assurance that no member of the Communist Party, no one who is spreading the Communist doctrine, holds any post in any teachers' training college?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July 1950; Vol. 477, c. 1893–5.]
In substantiation of the first statement, I sent the right hon. Gentleman a number of names. I am not sure what further evidence he desired me to submit, because the emergency training colleges in question were closed at that time, for the most part, and unless his Inspectors had not been doing their work, he could not have been ignorant about some of the individuals I mentioned.
I think that the Inspectors may be able to get that evidence if the Minister asks for it. This is really the one point on which I am at issue with the Minister. He wrote me a letter, which I am sure he will not object to being read to the House, because it is obviously a statement of policy.
The letter states:
Unless and until Parliament decides that no member of the Communist Party should be employed in a teaching post or in teaching posts of certain kinds, I do not agree that it is my responsibility to assure the House that no member of that party holds any post in any teachers' training college.
The difference between this side and the other may be that we consider that in times like this the Minister of Education has a responsibility to give the House an assurance that people who hold Communist views are not selected for training men and women for the teaching profession. That is an assurance which I still hope he will give us. He has his own sources of information through the inspectorate and elsewhere, and if he will give us the promise that he has informed himself as fully as he can about the state of the teachers' training colleges, then I, for one, will be satisfied.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) has spoken from his great experience and knowledge of the London County Council. With the exception of his last few remarks, I think he will find that there is general acceptance of his views on this side of the House. His speech was in complete contrast to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish). The hon. and gallant Member made wild, sweeping and almost hysterical accusations without a scrap of evidence to support them. Where we disagree with the hon. Member for Hampstead is where he made allegations about the teachers' training colleges which he could not substantiate.
The point we have to bear in mind, when it is said that the Communists' policy is to infiltrate and get themselves appointed to key positions, is who are on the appointing boards. As regards the teachers' training colleges, it is the Minister of Education and the local authorities who make the appointments. We could hardly accuse them of being Communist-dominated. Most of the school appointments are made by boards of governors, and even if there was one Communist on a board, he would find himself in a very small minority.
It is essential that we get a sense of proportion on this issue. The hon. and gallant Member opened up a wide and dangerous field into which we can be led if we institute a witch hunt against members of the teaching profession. It may be Communists today, Socialists tomorrow and Conservatives the next day, and then religion. Before we know where we are the whole educational system will have foundered. So I ask the House to keep a sense of proportion on this matter, because if we yield to any vague allegations and accusations of the hon. and gallant Member, very soon the whole of our educational life will be threatened.
The hon. and gallant Member made very great play with what he called Communist teachers. I make a very strong and clear distinction between teachers who are Communists and Communist teachers. There may be some examples here and there of Communist teachers who are deliberately trying to teach Communism to the children. If they are caught trying to do that, they deserve all the discipline that the education authority can bring on them.
It may not lead to the sack the first time. If there are Communist teachers and their Communism does not intrude into their teaching activity, it would be intolerable of this House to try to injure them in their employment. That is the real danger, and the hon. Member for Hampstead revealed this in the letters which he received. Once a man is labelled a Communist or a near Communist, then all his potential enemies will start a vendetta and try to make accusations against him to cause his dismissal. That is a very dangerous trend in our political and educational life, because the man who is accused has no means of ever catching up with the allegations that are made. It may be they come through personal disagreement, or because someone does not like the colour of his hair, or because at some time he may have been known to have expressed a progressive Left-wing view and immediately he is labelled a Communist. Today, in some quarters, such dangers are cropping up that it is almost impossible for certain people to make progressive statements at all. I believe that any discrimination on political grounds against teachers, providing they are not actually using their profession to propagate their political views, is intolerable, whether it is a Conservative preaching Conservativism, a Socialist preaching Socialism or a Communist preaching Communism. That should be ruled out, and anyone guilty of an offence of that sort ought to be dealt with sternly.
The hon. Member will agree that if a teacher teaches Socialism, Conservativism or Liberalism it is not dangerous to the same degree as Communism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] No, it is not, for Communism starts out to destroy our constitution.
A teacher is appointed for educational purposes and this is his qualification, and if he starts introducing politics of any kind he is not being a teacher. I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), as my commanding officer in the war, calling his instructors together and giving us an example by saying, "You must not put your fingers into the scale of education and try to weigh them down one way or another." That is perfectly true in the teaching profession today, and anyone guilty of doing it should be very sternly treated.
We have got to rely upon the commonsense and the judgment of the teachers. They have their own professional codes of conduct which they formulate, and anyone guilty of a breach of that code of conduct is guilty of a breach against the whole teaching profession and deserves the contempt of other teachers. The right means of dealing with this is not to penalise a man because he happens to be a Communist, but to penalise him if he teaches Communism, which is quite a different matter. It is wrong to condemn a man or a woman because of his political views.
I want to deal more with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes because it was quite revealing. He said that in the war he did not allow his men to read the A.B.C.A. pamphlets. It was that frame of mind that created more Communists than any other attitude. The people who wrote those pamphlets tried to get across what the British aim and purpose was, and that is why we had a strong morale. The reactionary commanding officers were responsible for much of the ill-feeling that arose.
Since the hon. Member has done me the honour of describing me as ridiculous—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, reactionary"]—perhaps I can explain. I was busy fighting during the war—the emphasis is on "fighting"—and I did not allow my men to use the A.B.C.A. pamphlets because, in my view, they contained party political propaganda.
The hon. and gallant Member was setting up his own personal prejudices as a guide and anything which savoured at all of being reasonable was insidious propaganda, so far as he was concerned.
I do not want to carry on any longer. I think I have made my position clear. My hon. Friends and myself are taking it upon ourselves to defend the Communists in this case, but it does not mean that our action should be interpreted as support for Communism. Far from it. We believe that the one safeguard and barrier against the spreading of Communism in this country is not to take action such as was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes, but to make sure that we have a real, healthy Social Democratic party. The teachers themselves are aware of the position now. Anyone who wilfully uses his position to spread Communism in the schools knows what he is asking for, and in due course will receive it.
I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but my purpose is to ask for one or two assurances from the Minister of Education. We all have a great respect for the education authorities and for the teachers. My hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) has stated that the Communists are about one per cent. of the teachers. It might be worse, but even one per cent. is dangerous. We are in very difficult and grave times. There are four types of war going on in Asia today, and Europe is in unheaval with very difficult problems. The House is quite right to discuss this matter and to clear the air on behalf both of teachers and of parents. The House is quite right to make certain that Communism is not being taught to our children. All of us who are fathers are concerned in this matter, which affects not only council schools but even private and public schools. I believe that Communism exists there to some degree also. I had a debate about 18 months ago. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning will recall it, because he was there. It was at a school, and one of the masters who spoke at that very famous public school was far nearer to Communism than to Socialism. I think the Minister will agree with me.
We want an assurance from the Minister of Education. We obviously cannot ban all Communists from the teaching profession. I do not think that it can be done or even considered in that way. We want an assurance that men who belong to the Communist Party or have strong Communist views are not appointed to headships. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] If we are to do that, we shall lead ourselves into trouble, not immediately, as we do with the scientists, but in five, six or eight years' time. That is when the trouble will take place, and we shall suffer for it. If we screen our scientists and have a very careful check in the fighting Services, then the Government are entitled to take some cognisance of school teachers.
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman see that his argument would mean that teachers who were Communists could just keep quiet about it and remain secret members if they wished for promotion?
We know that the Communists are very patient and prepared to wait a long time, but I am happy to leave that in the hands of the Minister. If a man is to be made a head master, enough is known about him over a period of years to determine what his real political views are. My concern is that the Communist Party is making a dead set at the youth of this country. [Interruption.] I hold it against them. That may be said by hon. Members about the point which I tried to make as to whether they were Tories, Socialists or Liberals. We may have different political views but we all agree that there is only one way to govern this country, through the House of Commons; but that is not so in the case of the Communist Party. We must make clear where we differ.
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the argument which he is putting forward now was advanced by Conservative local education authorities even about the Socialists only a few years ago?
I was not involved in politics to a great extent before the war and I am more concerned with what is going on now with Communism. It is a danger and we should recognise it. I am not "getting at" hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are in the teaching profession. It is right that they should be loyal to their profession and state their case. I do not argue against that at all, but it is known that the Communists are organising camps, and hiking and cycling tours for young people. It is all done in a subtle way. I am asking the Minister to recognise this and to watch it very closely through his inspectors and staff, and I want him to give us that assurance. I do not know what the real figure is. I do not know whether the Minister knows if it is 2,000. I should not think he does. If it is 2,000, it is a very high figure, and so is the number of children who will pass through their hands over a period of years.
Communists are out to destroy all representative Government, and I want to be assured by the Minister that he will do everything in his power to keep himself well informed about this in the midst of all his other duties, and see that in the teaching profession Communism is kept at as low a level as possible. If we can have that assurance I shall be satisfied.
I want to tackle this question from another point of view. It is ironic—I hope not significant—that within a few days the other House should have been discussing the freedom of the British citizen and the interference with that freedom by the Chairman of the Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation in banning a play—in my opinion, an action against British freedom—and in this House we should, on the one hand, have a request for an alliance and friendship with Fascist Franco—I quote the words "alliance and friendship" from the recent Debate—and that, on the other, we should this evening be almost nibbling at the game, which some of us dare not bite, of tampering with British freedom because of members of the Communist Party.
I want to say at the outset that I believe the House should tackle the question before it in the spirit in which a former very distinguished Member of this House recently made his maiden speech in another place. He said that there is only one way of upholding democracy and that is by being democratic. This is a hard saying at a time when the party we are considering is a body which is anti-democratic and counter to everything we stand for.
On this side of the House we would yield to nobody in our defence of freedom. After all, political freedom and, to some extent, economic freedom is a fairly novel experience in the history of the people we represent in this House of Commons. I have had occasion to speak of the father of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, the late Keir Hardie, who was sacked, as his family were sacked, not so very long ago in English history for the crime of belonging to a trade union.
I say with some pride that my uncle at the age of 45, with a family of four, was sacked by people whose political opinions were those of the opposite side of this House merely because he was using his rights as a trade unionist. It would be a grave danger if on this side of the House we wavered at all, for whatever specious reason, in our passionate defence of democratic freedom
I say to hon. Members opposite that there is always a very good reason for tampering with an unpopular opinion and for using force to crush it. I am quite certain that Nero had the best of specious reasons for burning the Christians. I am quite certain that Charles when he attempted to arrest five Members of this House of Commons, had very good reasons which would have commended themselves to quite a number of people on the opposite side of the House.
Fascism begins by the persecution of Communists and Jews. It goes on destroying Social Democrats, Liberals, Christians and even the wrong kind of Fascists, and it finishes by attacking Jehovah's Witnesses. Communism begins by attacking Fascists and it runs in reverse order through Liberals, Social Democrats, Trotskyites and even the wrong kind of Communists, and apparently finishes by imprisoning Jehovah's Witnesses. Franco, with whom we were asked to ally ourselves last week, went through the same pattern of Communists, Liberals, Socialists, Conservatives and finished by attacking Protestants and Royalists.
The view of hon. Members on this side of the House is that in a fight to preserve democracy in our world we must hesitate before we use any undemocratic method.
I shall deal with what I will do in a moment. I want this House to take in its attitude to the Communist Party of this country, and to those members of the teaching profession who hold Communist Party views, the traditional view of a free, democratic people—" I hate your opinion, but will fight for your right to express it." The outrage that Fascist schoolmasters and Communist schoolmasters have perpetrated on education in the unfree parts of the world does not justify similar outrage, any more than the North Korean crimes against civilians justify the South Korean atrocities reported in our Press.
It is not easy to hold these views, especially in dealing with those who deny every liberty to opposing ideas, but I note with some dismay that in the panic against Communism the Fascists of the world are crawling out of their hide-outs. For instance, 2,000 Fascists assembled within the last two days in Rome, and even in our own country Fascists are beginning to rear their heads again.
I want to say a word of protest against the smears which have been cast this evening, particularly in the first speech, on the good name of the teaching profession.
I cast no aspersions at all on the teaching profession as a whole, for which I have the deepest, utmost admiration. I hope that the hon. Member will do me the courtesy of apologising and withdrawing what he has just said.
When the hon. and gallant Member hears what I have to say, he will see that I am perfectly right in making this charge. The teaching profession would at once agree that anybody who used the privileged position of teaching the young to advance his own party political doctrine should be punished. I am quite certain that I speak for the whole of the teaching profession in saying that. The teacher's job is to provide the child with the instruments for acquiring knowledge, to teach him to think, to examine, to criticise and to form his own judgment. I say to the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) that if we are to guard against insidious propaganda, both of the Right and of the Left, the teaching profession, in training the young folk of this country to think for themselves, are rendering an invaluable service in that fight.
Teachers are human beings and they err, but my own experience is that the teacher who holds very distinct political opinions would tend to lean over the other way rather than impose any of those political opinions on the children he teaches. If there were any evidence that Communist teachers have taught Communism in the classrooms, I am quite certain that the headmaster of the school would have dealt with it in the first place. I say to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) that if there was a Communist headmaster in a school he would not be able to do any of the things which it is feared he would do, because of the non-Communist staff surrounding him.
I remember once having to reprimand a young reactionary student master who gave a lesson on "Julius Caesar" and tried to make it a propaganda talk by identifying Julius Caesar, whom he liked, with Mussolini, and the noble Brutus, whom, strangely enough, he did not like, with Members of these benches. It was a bad lesson, and it was even bad propaganda for a bad cause, but he was a very raw lad. I assure hon. Members opposite, and on these benches also, that the teach- ing profession is competent to do its own teaching job objectively in the classrooms.
The question of the security of tenure to members of the teaching profession is a serious one. It is within the recollection of members of the teaching profession that their tenure was not so secure a very few years ago. There still live members of that profession who lost promotion and lost their jobs, not because they were Communists, not even because they were Socialists, but because they wanted to go to chapel when the local parish council was the church.
In a Debate on the Education Act of 1901, a Member in this Chamber said that teachers were subject to irresponsible boards and if they went to church or chapel, if they played the organ or refused to do it, if they accepted the Eastern position—which Anglicans will understand—or they did not, they were liable to dismissal and had no appeal. I am quite certain that the teaching profession is not prepared in these days to hand over the right of dismissal to a local authority on political judgments of the calibre with which this Debate was opened.
It is worth recalling to the House that when I was a young grammar school master I was made more than uncomfortable by my employer because my wife stood as a Labour candidate for the borough council in the town in which I lived, and that I had to seek the protection——
I had to seek the protection of my professional union when local Tories made false charges to my employer about what I taught their pupils. I say to the hon. Member for Hampstead that it would be a bad atmosphere to introduce into the schools of this country if we invited children to carry home to parents condemnations of the alleged political teachings of teachers in schools. The teacher is a human being as well as a member of a profession. As a citizen a teacher should have the full human rights of a citizen and, among these, should be the full civil rights that most citizens in this country enjoy; the right to seek to serve his country or town in whatever capacity he feels called upon to perform it and the citizens think him fit to perform. He has by no means all the full civic rights of a citizen yet, but in these last years he has had the right to hold political views and to express them after his day's work is done.
I would tremble at the thought that any of those rights should be taken away from the teachers of this country, who are citizens as well as teachers. Teaching is at once an art, a science, and a vocation, and the best teachers I have known have included among them rank Tories and rabid Socialists, outside the classroom. It is only in a totalitarian State that we can find a Fascist science lesson or a Communist lesson in mathematics. If political maturity were to be the test of the lawyer, the doctor, the clergyman, the engineer, or the teacher, many would be sacked and reinstated according to the political complexion of the Government then in power. The Americans do a bit of this; Franco, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin have done a lot of it. It is a sin against knowledge, it is an outrage against noble profesions and in some ways it may be called a sin against the Holy Ghost. Law is law, not Tory law, not Socialist law medicine is medicine, and education is education, whatever the totalitarians say.
I am one of those who view with dismay the attitude of Middlesex County Council in not promoting teachers if they are Communists, no matter how excellent they may be as professional teachers and members of the profession. I would support the punishment of a doctor if he refused medical aid to political opponents, but I would willingly put myself in the medical hands of the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), whose political opinions I think are shocking.
In the same way I would punish the Communist teacher who taught Communist dectrines in the schools of a democratic State, but, as long as his professional competence was not in question, I would vigorously protest against his persecution by dismissal or victimisation. Power corrupts, and no power corrupts more than the power to take away a man's living merely because one does not like the way he votes, or speaks, or thinks as a free citizen in a society which millions of men have died to keep a free society. I hope the Minister will express his disapproval of the reactionary and anti-libertarian persecution of the Middlesex County Council and I hope he will consult the professional organisations of the teaching profession with a view to protecting them against political persecution.
I am very happy to find that I am able to agree with a very considerable portion, at any rate, of the remarks made by the three hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate from the other side of the House. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) that we must keep our sense of proportion in discussing this problem and that the last thing we want is a witch hunt or the introduction of McCarthyism into the educational world or any other aspect of our life in this country.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for the Test Division (Dr. King), when he says that we wish to tolerate a variety of opinions to the last limit of what is tolerable, but I think that he has a little underestimated the difficulty of the situation. The trouble surely is, as my hon. Friend has said, not that we object in the least to a variety of opinion as such, but that the country at the moment happens to be in very great danger from the holders of those doctrines. Therefore, while I bear in mind the abjuration of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees to remember our sense of proportion, I would say that we cannot deal with the matter entirely on general principles along Liberal lines. That is my reservation on the hon. Member's speech, which I very much enjoyed.
I associate myself with the general tribute paid to the teaching profession by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test. Whatever may be the number of Communists within the teaching profession—it might be slightly more or slightly less than 2,000—we all understand that that is a very small proportion of the members of that great profession. Also, like my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) I am certain that an overwhelming majority, if not all Communist teachers, do not use their position in order directly to teach Communist doctrines. I have no doubt about that being a fact. Their motive is another matter. What they would do if Communism was to establish itself here is another story.
The only point that really has not been made, and which does worry me-I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary could give us some observations upon it—is the opposite of that made by many hon. Members. The Debate has been very much on the question of whether or not teachers indulge in improper political propaganda in the classroom. I have no doubt whatever that in only an infinitesimal number of cases does that happen, but I think there is a certain danger in that very tradition of honour in the teaching profession for the opposite reason.
We have had a lot of talk tonight about the phrase "Communist propaganda," but no one has yet analysed what we mean by it. It seems to me that there are at present extremely few schools in which people are teaching the economic doctrines of Karl Marx. I wish there were more. I think it would be a good thing if more was taught both in schools and the universities about the economic doctrines of Karl Marx so that people would know more about what they were. What Communist propaganda means at the moment is not talking very much about Communism in a scientific sense, or even about Russia, but of talking a great deal of dangerous, bogus and oversimplified stuff about peace. That is the card the Communists are playing, and the great danger at the moment is that children may be got at by over-simplified propaganda about peace, and that the very tradition of honour of the profession may prevent teachers from countering that bogus propaganda. My fear is not that which some other hon. Members have felt.
We are concerned tonight with the code of honour and the integrity of the teaching profession. We are concerned also with the liberty of that profession, and I am quite certain that if many of the opinions expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) were put into legislative or administrative action, there would be a grave feeling of distrust throughout the whole profession. As I listened to his speech, although he may not have intended to imply this feeling—I say this with great respect—I could not help feeling a sense of that great fear known at a certain period in the late 'thirties in Nazi Germany regarding the relations of the Nazi Government and the teaching profession.
There is really no telling where this kind of thing would stop if it were ever given credence by a Minister in any Government of any political party. After all, there are many of us who remember occasions when members of the Labour Party were stigmatised. One instance I recall of the moral stigmatising of a member of the Labour Party by an education committee. I am happy to recall that that particular individual is now a staff inspector. He was in those days an exceedingly successful teacher. There was no hint whatever of any propaganda being found in his lessons, and he has been, and still is, an extremely successful inspector. I understand that before the First World War the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley), who has spoken in this Debate, took part in a bakers' strike meeting, and was later declared not to be a fit and proper person to be a teacher, because he was a member of the Labour Party. There is no telling where this kind of thing would end, and therefore I suggest that we are concerned with something completely fundamental to members of the teaching profession in discussing this subject tonight.
I now turn to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. He introduced a great many topics into what he had to say—atheism, Fascism, Communism, what Stalin said and what the Bishop of Chichester said. I did not in fact know about the Woodland Folk, and my curiosity has certainly been stimulated by what he said about that particular organisation. But when he went on to speak of the Bureau of Current Affairs, I confess I became more alert, because during the war I personally had a great deal to do with the director of that really excellent and patriotic organisation. I say categorically it is my opinion that there has been no political bias in any of the documents which that Bureau has published, either under another name during the war, or since the war when it became the Bureau of Current Affairs.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the work done by A.B.C.A. during the war and we have derived great educational advantages from the publications issuing from the Bureau of Current Affairs since the war.
Many subjects were dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member, but the thing which is really serious is that no tithe of evidence has been given by any hon. Member speaking from the opposite side of the House which would enable my right hon. Friend, or myself, or a local authority, to take any action against a particular individual.
Any local authority, whether it is a Tory local authority or a Labour local authority. We have not had a tithe of evidence.
A number of questions were asked which I should now like to try to answer. As regards the members of the teaching profession who are also members of the Communist Party, we have no evidence at all. Nor do I consider it our duty to seek information on this point. In my opinion, the political views of teachers are their own private affair, so long as they do not use their position to propagate those views in the schools.
Now we come to the crux of this Debate. If any evidence of a teacher abusing his or her position were brought to my notice by anybody, either outside this House or in this House, then immediate investigation would take place. So far, however—and surely this must be regarded as a remarkable and significant fact—not a shred of evidence that this is happening has been brought to our notice at the Ministry of Education.
Would the hon. Gentleman address himself to the text book "Inside the U.S.S.R." written by a well-known Communist, Mrs. Beatrice King, of which 25,000 copies are in circulation, and other Communist literature which is used by school teachers throughout the country in their current affairs lectures?
I did not know that it was illegal for school teachers or adults in any profession in this country to read what they like. There is no evidence that, because teachers may read from Liberal pamphlets, pamphlets from the Tory Central Office or Transport House, or pamphlets about Russia written by Communists, they have allowed the information they have taken from them to influence their work.
Is the Minister aware that one of the test papers used in a classroom was one where a sentence had to be split up in a grammar lesson, and the sentence was:
It costs a lot to keep a king.
Does the Minister think that that is a good platform for anyone with Communist leanings to take advantage of in a classroom?
I certainly approve of quotations from the classics, even if they happen to be quotations that deny my own faith or my own political beliefs. I should have thought that there was nothing at all harmful in a quotation of that kind, or any sentence of that kind, appearing in a grammar paper. I must say that if Members of the Opposition are afraid of that kind cc thing, then their case is an extremely weak one.
As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, so long as a teacher carries out his professional duties as a teacher conscientiously, his loyalty and trustworthiness in relation to his professional duties as a teacher not to propogate his Communist views need not be called into question. It is not illegal for citizens of this country to be members of a political party known as the Communist Party. If this House of Commons is to make new legislation which makes such a prohibition possible, then I certainly think that we have started on the downward path that will interfere with the great traditions of British liberty which are always being talked about by hon. Members opposite.
I was asked a specific question by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. That question concerned the recent action of the Middlesex County Council. I remind the House that the County Council decided that persons known to be members of the Communist or Fascist Parties, or associated with them, should be debarred from certain key teaching posts under their control. We recognise the strength of the case that can be made against the appointment of Communist or Fascist teachers on the ground that the Communist Party differs from other political parties in having for its ultimate aim the disruption of the democratic way of life; and that the children who are compelled by law to attend school should not, at an age when they are most susceptible to adult influence and not mature enough to detect propaganda, be exposed to the influence of teachers who are Communists.
Since they cannot be, and should not be, supervised all the time, teachers may have some opportunity for attempting to propagate their views, but people holding these views still enjoy the same general freedom as others, and we do not consider, particularly in view of the lack of evidence of this so-called abuse, that there is warrant for such a serious interference with the freedom of the individual teacher to hold any political views he likes that the Middlesex resolution will entail.
On the contrary, we believe that the Middlesex local education authority's proposal to debar from certain teaching posts persons known to be members of the Communist or Fascist parties, or known to be associated with either of them in such a way as to raise doubts about their reliability, may in practice be fraught with the most dangerous possibilities of abuse. Thus, although discrimination may now be confined to Communist or Fascist adherents, there is, in my opinion, a very serious danger that, before long, those of less extreme views on both Right or Left would find them- selves proscribed. History, both past and contemporary, is not without its lessons of the dangers of heresy-hunting.
This Debate may have cleared the air in one respect. I believe it has certainly done so. Questions have been asked in this House about Communist infiltration into the schools. My right hon. Friend and myself have asked time and time again for factual evidence. This Debate has cleared the air, because, in fact, we have not had that factual evidence. The evidence we want, and the only evidence upon which we can act in a country which we can all claim adheres to democratic freedom, is proof that certain teachers, of any political opinions, are influencing the young minds in the class rooms and influencing them in such a way that they become adherents of a particular political party or creed, whatever it may be. Until that evidence is forthcoming, I claim that my right hon. Friend and myself have been taking the only just and democratic course in dealing with this problem.
The hon. and gallant Member did raise the question of the training colleges and suggested that there were Communists who were members of the staffs of the training colleges. We get periodic reports from His Majesty's inspectors, and their inspections are extremely thorough. We have as yet had no proof whatever, or even the suggestion, that in the training colleges or in the schools there has been any evidence of training college teachers or teachers in the schools influencing students along party lines.
I want to make a very brief contribution. The point has been made that, because we do not put the medical profession and the legal profession under very careful examination as to any Communist tendency, we ought not to put the school teachers through a very stern test. I suggest that that is a rather dangerous outlook to take on this question, because there is all the difference in the world between the doctor visiting one for a five minutes' visit, or a person visiting a solicitor's office for 10 minutes, and placing one's children under the control of a schoolmaster for several hours a day, during which time he has control of that child and that child's mind.
Whilst I have no desire to "witch hunt" or to bring about any dismissals, I suggest that the Minister of Education ought to impress upon the important members of that vital profession that their sheet must be cleaner than that of other professions because of the important hold they have of children at a most impressionable age.
The second point I wanted to make was in answer to suggestions made by hon. Members opposite, that all the victimisation which has gone on in the past has been from Tory controlled educational authorities alone. I wish to place on record the fact that in areas where we have Socialist controlled authorities, very much the same sort of pressure appears to have been brought to bear. But the fact that the two blacks are there does not make either a white. I would like it known that when I fought my first election in the Nelson and Colne Division, where they have had Socialist control for many years, I had the experience of a school teacher there having to come to the back door of my committee room offering to do work in a private capacity saying that he had to do it as surreptitiously as that because if his Tory leanings were known he feared the possible consequences regarding his job. I place that on record to balance up to some extent——
On a point of order. I know precisely the period during which the hon. Gentleman was, in point of fact, a candidate for that constituency. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for an hon. Member of this House to make an accusation against a local authority and to accuse it of being guilty of the gross illegality, for which penalties are provided, of threatening teachers because of their political sympathies?
I want to make my point perfectly clear. The teacher who came to the back door of my committee room had the feeling that he would be treated in such a way; that was the feeling impressed upon him through working in that particular area—whether justified or no, I do not know.
My last point is to come back to this particular question in the test paper. I think it is wrong, in a country where the whole basis of our constitution rests upon the monarchy, for a test paper to be allowed to go into the class-room for the eight years old with the sentence:
It costs a lot to keep a king.
We do not expect the Communist master to go into the school room waving a red flag or draw the hammer and sickle on the blackboard. They are much more cunning and subtle than that. I suggest that that particular sentence ought to be withdrawn from the test paper in order to take away their opportunity to put over their Communism under the guise of it being officially sponsored.