Orders of the Day — Educational Expenditure (Priorities)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th April 1951.

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Photo of Sir Sydney Marshall Sir Sydney Marshall , Sutton and Cheam 12:00 am, 17th April 1951

I was hopeful of preparing some notes for my speech in this debate today. I started making some this morning, but what I did prepare I left at home, and I am quite sure the House will find in that fact some relief. The question before us is the provision of sufficient primary education, and I hope that today the House will really direct its attention, as far as possible, to that particular subject. To my mind it is a comparatively simple matter, but I, perhaps look upon it in a too practical fashion. It can only be resolved by the provision of buildings and teachers. Unfortunately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when looking for ways in which to save some money—after he had asked for £251 million for education—said that he had consulted with his right hon. Friends to this end, but that all they could do was to put a penny on school meals. He had also considered the question of raising the entrance age to six or to some later age, but had decided that that was not possible.

I wish to say right away that I should like to see some change in the Exchequer method of computing expenditure on education. The nation is told that it is faced with a bill for education of £251 million, but, in very truth, it is not faced with a bill for that sum. I am one of those people who do not think that the meals service should be charged to education. Nor do I think that school milk should be charged to education. I know, of course, that the Minister will tell me in a moment that this last item is included in the Vote of the Ministry of Food. I quite agree, but I am not sure—and have not been able to find out—on which Vote the meals allocation is charged. As I say, I do not think it should be entered as education. Again, I do not think that the medical services should appear as a charge on the education funds.

I know very well, and am quite prepared to argue it at great length, as I know are many other hon. Members, where these particular services are in regard to the educational set-up. In my opinion, they are not truly educational charges. The country is faced with this tremendous expenditure of £251 million. People are saying that the costs of education are always going up, and when the local ratepayers get their demands, they find on the back of them that they are being asked for something like 5s. in the pound for educational purposes. But, in very truth, it is not for education that they are being asked to pay this 5s. in the pound.

I suggest to the Minister that my allegation that the total cost of education is not a true one, as shown by Exchequer figures, might be gone into, so that the nation may really know what is being spent on education. We are always being told in this House and elsewhere that it is very seldom indeed that we really debate education proper, but that we debate administration and all the ancillary services most frequently. That is perfectly true, because so much of our money goes in that direction. I am in perfect sympathy with the proposal made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) that more provision should be made for primary education, but I think it is education and education alone to which we must address ourselves today—that is, to the provision of schools and teachers.

We have been told by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley), of the very great progress which he claims has been made by the Labour Government. I quite agree, but I do not believe that a Socialist Government could do any more for education than we on this side of the House have done for years past. The hon. Gentleman told us that they have built more primary schools in the last five years than have ever been built in a similar period. That, also, is perfectly true, but I think the solution really lies in, first, the training of more teachers which the hon. Member for Itchen pointed out could only be provided in a certain fashion, that is, by increasing the number of emergency trained teachers, or, rather, by continuing the very wonderful work done in the last few years.