I should like to apologise to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman for misunderstanding a supplementary question which he put to me last week when I gave him details of the Dartmouth Committee when he was inquiring about the interviewing board. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity of putting things right.
There are four naval officers and four civilians. The President is a Flag Officer and the Vice-President an Executive Captain. There are also Captains from the Engineering and Supply and Secretariat Branches. The civilian members are a director of education from a local education authority, a headmaster, a psychologist or testing officer, and a member nominated by myself.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some public disquiet at the reduction in the percentage of secondary schoolboys now going to Dartmouth and also at such cases as the Croom case which received great publicity recently? Will he assure the House that no directive has been issued by this Government altering the policy advocated and carried into force by the last Government?
I do not think that we should exaggerate the difference in the entries mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—the difference between an average of seven and an average of nine in entries. As to the Croom case, I see that the boy was turned down twice by the previous Government and twice by the present Government. As for any fresh directive going out to the Dartmouth interviewing board, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing of the sort has occurred. In fact, he may be glad to hear that I have sent a letter to the board in which I have stressed the importance of the interviewing board looking well below the surface for potential officer-like quality.
The headmaster at the last interviewing board was Mr. Hardy whose very valuable services were constantly used both by the previous Government and by this one. He was headmaster of Cheltenham and Shrewsbury.
May I ask whether the psychologist to whom my right hon. Friend referred has sea-going experience, because people react somewhat differently under the stress of heavy weather at sea to the way they react on shore?
I am afraid I must have notice of that question. But I should like to inform the House that I have seen this psychologist at work; and he struck me as the kind of person equally admirable for both ashore and afloat.
I think that the hon. Member is wrong. I attended a full meeting of the board and certainly the psychologist put his marks into the full sum, as did all other members of the board.
The right hon. Gentleman asked us not to exaggerate, so may I ask him if he still holds that view when grammar school boys have done at least as well this year as ever before and their places have been reduced by 50 per cent.?
I ask the House to believe that we are not making a distinction between possible would-be cadets according to the places where they were educated. The fact remains that the general all-round quality this year has not been quite as satisfactory as it was last year. I hope for an improvement in the coming 12 months.