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 Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 17th April 1951

I realise that this debate has to reach an unhappy conclusion at 7 o'clock because of the Luton Bill, and I am very sorry that education debates seem so often to be interrupted. Today we have had a most interesting debate initiated by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton), who has the gift of looking like a pleasant Methodist, who talks like an enthusiastic radical and who, I know, always votes like an ardent Tory. It is, of course, in this matter of education the ultimate decision that is important. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Brook) drew attention this afternoon to the fact that there are deep divisions on both sides of the House on this matter of education.

Education is a political issue in this country. I was rather shocked during a debate, when we were having weekly votes of censure on the Government, to hear the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), when pressed by one of my hon. Friends to say what economies hon. Members opposite would introduce in order to get 300,000 houses, say, with that gay abandon for which he is renowned, that they would deal with education. It is always education that the Conservative Party have thought of first when it comes to cuts. It is no good the hon. Member shaking his head, because if he wants to shake it until he puts the Tory Party right, he will have to shake it right off.

The question that has been brought before us today is that of the size of classes in primary schools. At a time when the world is divided on the basis of rival ideologies the content of education and the education services naturally take on a greater significance. I believe that in the defence of the British way of life, the schools are quite as important as the Royal Navy. We have to see that the rising generation is inculcated with the highest Christian ethics upon which democracy itself has been established.