Voluntary Overseas Services

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1962.

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4.13 p.m.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

I beg to move, That this House, having regard to the excellent work of the organisations concerned with sending volunteers overseas to help in underdeveloped countries, urges Her Majesty's Government to give every assistance to ensure the expansion and development of this work. For generations past it has been the custom for young men and women from this country to give their services in helping to improve the condition of the people living in the under-developed parts of the world. In the past, most of them have served in official capacities, but there has always been a steady flow of purely voluntary workers as well. Nor is it easy to separate the salaried work of officials from the voluntary work that they have so often undertaken as part of their duties. Not only the Commonwealth countries, but many under-developed and developing countries have paid tribute to the work done by men and women from these islands to help to improve conditions in those countries.

Today, when new countries are emerging so rapidly, because men would rather control their own difficult destinies than remain secure even under the most benevolent paternalism, we have to make a new approach. There are many gaps to be filled in these new countries. In education, in the health services, and in the various techniques, both industrial and social, there are not enough people to go round and even when there are competent administrators these still need help and co-operation.

This situation has offered a tremendous challenge which the country's various voluntary services have met with alacrity, and since one of the objects of this Motion is to draw attention to the work they have done, I hope that the House will forgive me if I describe some of their activities.

First, there is the United Nations Association. Since the war, the Association has set up camps, mostly in Europe, to enable volunteers to carry out short-term service—generally to combat some national emergency, or to deal with some specific object and need. It has now extended its work all over the world, and is at present engaged in sending 15 graduate volunteers overseas and to be responsible for projects in underdeveloped countries.

Next, there is the International Voluntary Service, which is the British branch of "Service Civil International", an organisation started by a Swiss engineer after the First World War. That has carried out very much the same sort of work as has the United Nations Association. It has gone in for camps, with short-service volunteers, but it, too, is extending its work, and is sending out volunteers to distant countries—longterm volunteers, by which I mean those who are going out for at least a year. Government help is being made available to these three organisations. There is also the National Union of Students which, as everyone knows its members would expect, is well in on this business, and is sending graduate volunteers overseas.

I have left till last the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation, because its activities are on a basis slightly different from the bodies whose work I have very briefly described. I should, therefore, like to describe its activities rather more fully. It is always difficult, and generally dangerous, to try to allot responsibility for a brilliant idea to any one person or to a number of persons, but I am quite certain that nobody who has knowledge of this movement could possibly fail to mention Mr. Alec Dickson, who, backed by the present Bishop of Norwich, launched this scheme in 1958.

Unlike the other bodies I have mentioned, this organisation has specialised in sending volunteers recruited from boys and girls who have just left school and have to fill in, as they so often have to do, that year before going to the universities, or who may be able to spare a year before entering their jobs or professions. From quite small beginnings, the V.S.O. has this year sent 286 young people abroad, including a proportion of industrial apprentices, who are slightly older. It is most important to realise that this growing and virile organisation could send 400 school leavers, plus 150 graduates, in 1963–64 if the necessary finance were forthcoming.

This scheme is of great value to those taking part in it. They leave this country as boys and girls, and come back as men and women. They live and work on terms of complete equality with those whom they are visiting. They learn to take as well as to give. They are employed in a hundred capacities, and nobody in his sense could say that theirs is a paternal approach. If any doubt exists that their services are not really worth while, the doubters should consult the countless letters which V.S.O. regularly receive from their hosts.

I will quote from only some of the letters which have been received and which concern the boys and girls who go out to these territories. This letter is from a chief education officer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya: I think that you will he interested to know that I met one of your lads way back of beyond and was most impressed. I can't remember his name, but he was working in a tiny village school in Kota Belud. He had so identified himself with those around him that they fairly worshipped him. His command of Malay astonished me, whilst his obvious wholehearted devotion to his work —without being a 'crank'—was really an inspiration. He was almost in tears at the thought of leaving in August and was most insistent that I ask the Director to send another to take his place. Another letter is from the British Embassy in Lomé, Togoland, and states: I would like you to know that A has been an outstanding success. His name seems to be a by-word with anyone who has been to Sokodé. All those he has come in contact with, from the Minister of Education downwards, speak extremely highly of him. The next letter is from the general secretary of the Y.M.C.A. of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It refers to one of the arpprentice recruits I mentioned earlier and states: B has been a great success. He has made a great many friends in Northern Rhodesia, and built up the Y.M.C.A. in such a way that the races mix quite naturally in the Y.M.C. Club, which he rules with a rod of iron. I do not know of a place in the Federation where the common man of our several races mixes so naturally as he does in Lusaka Y.M.C.A. This has been due to a great extent to the uninhibited charm of this broad Yorkshireman who treats all men as equals, and all men equally. This is an interesting letter from Thailand. The dean of the S.E.A.T.O. Graduate School of Engineering in Bangkok writes: I am writing to report that the two young men sponsored by your organisation to work at this school have turned out to be more helpful than we had ever hoped. Without them we could hardly have carried out our laboratory and research projects successfully this past term. They have worked willingly at all manner of jobs and with all kinds of people. My final quotation is from a letter written by the chairman of the Methodist Mission in the British Solomon Islands. It states: We have had two V.S.O.s—X and Y. They came to us through arrangements made by the Chief Education Officer of the Protectorate. They are doing a first-class job and we have been grateful for their help. The next part of the letter is particularly interesting, for it states: Because X is about the age of some of the older ones, her example often carries greater weight than the precepts of an older person. Obviously, I could go on at length quoting from letters such as these. It is clear that the secret of success is that these young people work and live with the people with whom they are working. Any authority they have and any good they do comes from their own personalities and principles—and not from any outside backing or authority.

Before I deal with the question of what we are doing and what can be done in the future, I must remind hon. Members that before he set up the Peace Corps, President Kennedy discussed the project with this organisation. We admire President Kennedy for his action in setting up the Peace Corps and we are sure that his great venture will be of immense value to mankind. However, we should sometimes remind ourselves that we in this country have for many years been doing the same kind of work.

As I mentioned, the British Government have been giving grants to these crganisations and have set up a coordinating committee to deal with their various activities under Sir John Lockwood. The Department of Technical Co-operation, the Government Department concerned, is anxious to extend this work and increase the number of overseas volunteers who have graduated either at universities or who have qualified at technical colleges or similar institutions. The Government wish to make it possible for these young men and women to work for a year or more in the under-developed parts of the world—not necessarily the Commonwealth—before entering a profession or selecting a job.

It is hoped that 250 such volunteers will be available in the coming year. This additional flow of skilled men and women should be of immense value. There will, of course, be a quick turnover in these volunteers, but I do not for a moment think that we should regard that as altogether a disadvantage. Times are changing rapidly and this means that a steady flow of new blood and new ideas in those parts of the world which really need them will be provided.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

On two occasions the hon. Member has referred to graduates. In the interests of accuracy, would he bear in mind the fact that the demand is not only for graduates, but also for undergraduates?

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

I did mention those who are not only graduates when I said that the demand was also for those qualified in technical colleges or similar institutions. In the context of what I have been saying I have been referring to people who have actually qualified. It is not altogether for undergraduates in this respect, because they come under the other scheme to which I referred. This is an extension in which the Department of Technical Co-operation is interested.

I turn now to the second part of my Motion which … urges Her Majesty's Government to give every assistance to ensure the expansion and development of this work. From what I have said it is clear that the Government are helping, but if I have succeeded in convincing the House that these activities are worth while—and, in my view, it is one of the most worth-while things we do—it is certain that a good deal more could be done to extend it.

At present, it costs about £400 to send a school leaver overseas for a year and about £800 to send a graduate overseas for a similar period. It is interesting to note that under the American Peace Corps scheme it costs more than £3,000 to send a Peace Corps young man or woman out into the world. Naturally, there is no cost to the participants, and by far the greater proportion of the costs involved must be raised from voluntary subscription.

I plead with the Government to bear at least half of this cost. They should, in fact, subscribe pound for pound to the money raised from voluntary sources. If not, it may not be possible to fill the many projects which are asking for volunteers. If the Government do not contribute more, many of the men and women who are anxious to give their services in this way will be disappointed and will lose the opportunity of performing a service which may be of value to them all their lives.

Further, we owe a duty—perhaps more than any other country—to the vast areas of the world which in the past we have guided, governed and, finally, led to independence. I do not expect the Minister to give a final answer to this appeal at this stage, but I urge him to give this matter his fullest consideration so that both the younger and older volunteers get equal treatment from the Government.

I am encouraged by the fact that the Government are already deeply committed to help the movement. The Gracious Speech which opened the Session contained the words: My Ministers will encourage men and women from this country to offer their services for work in developing countries overseas, whether in the service of the other Governments concerned, as specialist advisers, or under schemes of voluntary recruitment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 5.] Let us now see the practical application of those words.

I am often taken to task by members of the public who say that Parliament and Governments are too materialistic. Thank heaven that they are. In this difficult and complicated world we should not get far unless Governments were materialistic. Let us consider the reason for that materialism. It is surely in order to build a firm platform for our national life so that we can exercise our individual freedom to do things which are not materialistic, such things as voluntary overseas service. It is in that spirit that I commend the Motion to the House.

4.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

I suppose that I must begin, in accordance with the custom of the House, by declaring an interest, as I am a member of the Council of Voluntary Service Overseas, a position which I share with some other hon. Members. The House might allow me, as the speaker who is immediately following the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) to thank him most sincerely for raising this matter, and for the manner in which he has done it. I am sure, also, that the voluntary societies will be most grateful to him. I wish to support very briefly what he has said.

I thought that one of the hon. Member's closing paragraphs expressed extremely well the basic philosophy behind this kind of work—that while we all accept that Governments have a duty to create conditions in which this sort of work can go on, there is a need today for a voluntary effort, an idealistic effort, an unselfish effort on this basis of Government assistance. The voluntary societies, and, certainly, Voluntary Service Overseas, are engaged in a cooperative effort. This is not an operation carried out by superior people going down graciously to assist people whom they may consider inferior to themselves, Very far from it. This is a co-operative effort by people from this country with people of other countries to tackle problems which they share.

In passing, although this is going a little outside the Motion, I might say that I have personally regretted that the West and Her Majesty's Government, in particular, have not been able to build a fully professional service to fulfil these enormous demands for trained personnel all over Africa, Asia, and, indeed, South America. We have only to consider what happened in the Congo to see that the greatest and most urgent task of the Western world is to provide the skill to assist these people to run their own countries. I am not talking about providing top-level skills, but the teachers, the nurses, managers, and all the people who make up a civilised community.

We should remember the efforts made, some on a voluntary basis, to bring people from Africa and Asia for training in this country. It must be said that all this work is in a sense a process of training and, therefore, working people out of the jobs which they are at present doing. It is to enable the people of the emergent territories to conduct their affairs in the best possible way. Therefore, there is a case both for bringing people from those countries into this country and for sending people out to those territories.

I should like to support what the hon. Member for Horncastle said about the work done by students, and to emphasise that students are very keen to extend what they are doing. They are people who find it difficult to provide the money and, here again, voluntary funds and the Government may be able to help. But there is also the position of senior staff in the universities and I ask the Government to look at the possibility of allowing universities to hold a certain number of people on their books while they are loaned to Africa and Asia. It is difficult for a young university lecturer, perhaps with a family, to take a two-year appointment in Africa which he would very much like to do, when he cannot be sure that he will get a job when he returns to this country. I should be grateful if the Government would look into that.

Before supporting the hon. Member on Voluntary Service Overseas, I should like to mention Mr. William Clark, who has done a great deal of useful work in this field. I am sure that the Government are aware of his reports. If they are not, they Should study them at once. As for V.S.O., I join the hon. Member in paying tribute to Mr. Dickson. He was one of the moving spirits of the organisation and he has shown that personal drive and interest which is absolutely essential if this type of organisation is to fulfil its function.

As has been said, the Service is engaged in sending out men and women to work with people in countries overseas. The figure of 286 this year could easily go up to 1,000 if the Service had the funds and the means to send them. It is difficult to exaggerate the benefits that this would provide. The numbers are small and the amount of work accomplished, looked at in a world context, may also be small, but the spirit behind it is of incalculable value not only to the countries to which these young people go but, I emphasise, of immense value also to this country.

This is not a one-sided arrangement. We have everything to gain from it. I have talked to some of these young people, as, no doubt, has the hon. Member, who has read out some of their letters. They have all enjoyed this work and have thought it to be immensely worth while. All of those to whom I have spoken have felt that it is just the kind of opportunity which it is difficult to find sometimes in the modern world and which they so much welcome.

Voluntary Service Overseas, provided that it can get the money and machinery to handle them, would welcome more applications. It is already sending out people from all types of backgrounds, from the independent schools and the grammar schools and from industry. Here, I should say a word in praise of the way in which British industry has supported this and other organisations. The present budget of the Service is about £100,000—I shall be corrected on this if I am wrong—and I think that the Government grant for 1962–63 is £13,200.

The House will see that there is a considerable gap to be filled. The grant at which the Service aimed was £70,000 and perhaps I may draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the fact that its application was, if not presented, certainly backed by no less a person than an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer and, therefore, we may take it, had been carefully considered.

V.S.O. is carrying out an appeal which is extremely successful. It is not an organisation—and here I know the hon. Gentleman will agree with me—which wants to be dependent on Government aid; far from it. But I think it has suggested that a pound-for-pound basis against what it can raise will not be unreasonable, and I agree. It certainly does not want to become a stereotyped organisation. It does not want to become a part of what is popularly called the Establishment. As I emphasised at the beginning of my remarks, this is very much a personal effort. It is a question of getting hold of the right people who want to do this work, and putting them into the right places where they will really co-operate in the work.

Equally, it is fair to say that immense care must be taken before young people are sent overseas. Here, may I express gratitude to the British Council, which has helped enormously. V.S.O. is by no means bound up with the British Council, or with any official body, but the British Council has been most useful in checking accommodation and seeing that these people are properly received when they arrive overseas. I therefore certainly add my voice, for what it is worth, to the hon. Gentleman's plea.

I do not make this plea exclusively on behalf of this organisation. There are other very admirable organisations. There are the Churches, the Quakers, and so forth, who have been doing this work for a long time and they deserve the thanks of the House and of the country and all the support that they can get.

I should like to conclude by adding a quotation to those which have already been given. This is from Lord Mountbatten, referring to Volunteers in the West Indies. It ends in this fashion: I was able to meet the volunteers in British Guiana, Jamaica and British Honduras. Everyone is loud in praise of what they are doing, and, indeed Sir Kenneth Blackburne went as far as to say that he would sooner have his four volunteers than another £4000 on his British Information Budget I should like to impress upon the Government that they are certainly getting value for money, and that, while we all recognise the claims upon their generosity, there can be few more fruitful fields for laying out money than the one that we are discussing today.

4.42 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

I am very glad to have the opportunity, first, of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) on his choice of subject, and of following the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

I did not quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he referred to professional services. The one thing about the service which we are discussing today is that we do not send people to The various countries unless they are asked to be sent there. In professional services people have to think of their professional careers in a country, whereas the people whom we are discussing in the various voluntary organisations are not dependent on this type of work for their careers.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

I do not want unnecessarily to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I was talking about two entirely different things. I said that it was a pity that in such organisations as the United Nations we have not built up a professional service, which would not take the place of Voluntary Service Overseas, but would do a quite different job. I distinguished clearly between the two.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

I am glad that that misapprehension has been corrected. One should remember, however, that the United Nations is working in many fields all over the world.

I have been in many countries and have seen the work particularly of the V.S.O.s, and I should like to support the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about Jamaica and the saving in money to the British Information Centre. The amount involved, I believe, is £4,000; that is what I heard when I was in Jamaica.

Before I begin to discuss the subject of V.S.O., I would mention that for a number of years there have been many other organisations performing voluntary work, and they have been in the field longer. It is only fair to remember the Soroptimists, who do a great deal of work, and the business and professional women, too, who are very active. Then there is the Red Cross, which has done untold good, particularly for health and hygiene in various countries. There are the Corona Club, the Y.W.C.A., the Y.M.C.A., Toc H, the Christian Fellowship, the Women's Institutes and the Salvation Army, to mention only a few of the older organisations that have been doing voluntary work for some time.

I had an opportunity of seeing the young people in V.S.O. working overseas, and I should like particularly to refer to British Honduras in this connection. I was in Hatteville, 16 miles from Belize, which had been particularly devastated by one of the worst 'hurricanes in history. They were doing an unusual job helping in a camp village and fitting into a life that was not even the life of the 'inhabitants themselves. In other words, they had to go there and help the inhabitants to settle into a new and rather rough type of village. To see them at work, realising that each volunteer had a completely different background, was particularly inspiring. The background of these boys and girls was completely different, too, to the local people, but it did not seem to matter.

They managed to fit in. They did not particularly like the food, but that was, I think, the only difficulty. What was impressive was the spirit with which they were trying to build up this village. I read in a report a quotation from one of the volunteers. He said: It is a wonderful feeling to walk down any street in Belize and be greeted with a chorus of salutations. It's impossible to be unhappy here, if only because everyone insists on being your friend. I think that everyone insisted on being their friends because they had shown themselves to be so friendly and helpful in such difficult circumstances.

I have also had an opportunity of going to Nigeria recently and seeing the graduate V.S.O.s in the universities. To them, too, a tribute is due. They had finished their university education. Perhaps they are a little uncertain of what will happen to them in the future, but they take this risk of going overseas in a voluntary capacity. It takes a lot of courage to go to another country in these circumstances, in this uncertain state of a future career.

Mention has been made of co-operation from various business firms, and I gather that there are about 12 firms which send apprentices overseas. Rolls-Royce has given a very good lead. I hope that more firms will be willing to let apprentices go overseas, though I know that there is some difficulty. I know that we are not used to mobility of labour, as firms in America are, and when a man has been trained by a firm it does not want to lose him. I think that firms would send students and apprentices overseas if they realised the experience would be of great value. I have seen an apprentice working in a garage alongside local apprentices in Sarawak, and I think that the benefit to these young men working together is immense. I sincerely hope the Government will do all they can to encourage more firms to come into this scheme.

One of the great advantages of this scheme is that the individual does not go to a country to take charge. He goes to work alongside the people of the country concerned. The list of occupations already involved is most impressive. I would mention but a few, beginning with agriculture. I have seen a young man steering a wooden plough drawn by oxen. That is something he had never seen in this country, and yet that young man performed the task very well and kept his place in line with the others.

Another job is working in pottery and handicrafts. I think that joining the police cadets is invaluable. Community centres are being assisted by the volunteers, and one volunteer is an assistant district officer. Others—this applies particularly to the girls—are doing domestic training. One Rolls-Royce student is working in a rehabilitation centre. Other volunteers are working for the Tibetan child refugees in India, a particularly interesting and important job. Others, again, are working for the blind in Iran. Some are with the Boys' Brigade, and others are doing youth work and nursing.

There is one class of student that I wish to see encouraged to go overseas, that is, medical students. I understand that St. Mary's Hospital is very keen on this and allows its students to go out for one year. There is one student volunteer at the moment in Amman, and I think that one went out to Persia following the recent earthquake, Another is working for the Save the Children Fund.

I have a question to put to my right hon. Friend about the preparations which volunteers receive before they go overseas. I understand that they have about one week's training, and G.V.O.S.s have two weeks' training. I gather that the London County Council proposes to give about three weeks' training to those who are to help with teaching. Is the training sufficient? I have worked overseas myself in East and Central Africa, in Malaya, and in Indonesia, and I feel that, before going out to work overseas, one should know a considerable amount about the country to which one is going.

Also, I have found that the volunteers have not always had the necessary equipment. I have heard of cases in Nigeria, for instance, where a girl has been sent out with inadequate bedding equipment. It is not always easy for the volunteers to discuss these matters with the British Council representatives, who are always helpful, or to obtain the necessary equipment, especially if it is required in a rather out-of-the-way village.

The volunteers should have a knowledge of the country to which they are going, of the type of clothing to wear, the type of food which they will eat, and of the people they are to meet. If possible, a handbook of easy sentences in the language of the country they will be living in would be a very great advantage to the young people.

I understand that more girls are now going overseas. About 60 girls are working in 25 different countries, and I hope that the movement will develop among girls. The scheme was not started for them as early as it was for boys, and I hope that it will be pressed forward. In many cases, it is not always quite so important for girls as it is for boys to earn their living; at least, their need may not be quite so pressing. I know of two or three—they must have had very kind fiancés—who were going out for a year and then coming back to get married. If girls can gain experience overseas in this way, it will be invaluable to them in future life.

The education of women and girls both in schools and in club life is very important for the developing countries. I hope, therefore, that the number of girl volunteers will be brought up to the number of boys in the fairly near future.

There have been references already to the British Council. The British Council is doing excellent work, giving its services free. I should much prefer the volunteers to be in touch with the British Council rather than the High Commissioner's office. There is nothing against the High Commissioners, who are doing an excellent job in the various countries, but I believe that it is best for the voluntary organisation to keep away from the "Establishment", if possible, and, for that reason, I hope that all the work will be done through the British Council.

The main point in favour of the V.S.O. organisation is that volunteers cannot go to any country unless they are welcome. In other words, the country has to ask for them before they can be sent. For the future, I would like to make one or two suggestions.

First, how widely known is the scheme? Is anything done to visit schools, regularly, in order to tell them about this organisation and others which young people can join on leaving school? We are going through a period when there is more unemployment, and quite a number of juveniles cannot readily find jobs on leaving school. I know that school-leavers of 17 years of age cannot be taken on and must wait until they are 18, but, if more young people of 17 knew about the scheme, it might be possible for them to do a little preliminary training and go out immediately on attaining the age of 18 years.

How much encouragement is given to graduates who have language degrees? It would be good experience for them to go to the various countries and use the languages which they have learned at university, and I hope that they will be encouraged to go out so that they can be fitted into the countries whose languages they have learned. Also, will my right hon. Friend encourage more firms to realise how much apprentices can benefit from the scheme?

I hope that the scheme will not remain entirely a one-way scheme. Is it possible to encourage people from overseas to come to this country? With the development of education in countries overseas, nothing but good could come from the development of a two-way traffic.

In supporting the Motion, I hope that the Government will realise that this is a scheme by which the future peace of the world may be greatly helped. The future peace of the world depends on better understanding between young people, and in this all the volunteers can help. I only wish that I were 18 again. I should love to take part in this type of work.

To illustrate what I mean, I will read an extract from a letter which came from a volunteer in the South Cameroons. This young man wrote: This seems to me to have been one of the important things I have gained—to see my life and ideas in England in a new perspective; to find certain ideas which I had always taken for granted actually questioned and denied… Deeper than this, on the expeditions I began to realise the value of human relationships, of mutual trust and faith as I had never done before. So many of my relationships with other people had been on a basis of irony … and he goes on in quite a long letter to show what a great benefit the scheme has been to him.

I would stress, also, the benefit to the countries to which the volunteers go, and I hope that the scheme will continue and grow in the future and increase its value both to ourselves and to the countries overseas which the volunteers serve.

4.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

I join with other hon. and right hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) on his choice of subject. He has done a great service to the House and to the movement in which he is interested by initiating this debate. I follow him and previous speakers in paying a tribute to the Voluntary Service Overseas and other organisations and to the volunteers themselves.

The main question to which I shall address myself, however, is whether we are setting about the work in the right way. I submit to the House that Britain ought to adopt the idea of organising a Peace Corps along the lines of the American Peace Corps. I suggest this against the background of a world situation in which the gap between the standard of living in the richer countries and the standard of living of two-thirds of the human race is widening every year. I believe that our country and every other country in the Western world has a challenge to meet and ought to be doing far more than is being done already.

We are a little too inclined, in a debate of this kind to congratulate ourselves on what is being done and on the effort being put in by these volunteers and organisations. Of course, we can congratulate ourselves as a country. We can feel proud of what is being done and can congratulate these people on what they are doing, but we must measure the total effort against the total need.

I remind the Minister that just over a year ago Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations, voted for a resolution to make the 1960s a Development Decade with the object that by 1970 the rate of growth of the poorer countries should be 5 per cent. per annum as against the present rate of just over 3 per cent. This is a modest and practical objective which must be achieved if we are to win the race between the growth of the wealth of the poorer countries and the growth of population. The population explosion with which we are faced in the rest of the century compels us to accept and to meet a target of that sort.

If we are to meet this target, we must do more in the form of capital aid and to adjust our trading policies to the needs of these countries. Above all, we must do more in technical assistance and to encourage people to go from the more developed countries to the less developed countries in considerable numbers. In concentrating on this aspect of the problem, we are doing something in line with our traditions because one of the biggest and most constructive parts of the British Empire story is the story of the people who worked in Colonies as administrators, teachers and experts and gave their skill and experience in the development of the countries to which they went.

However, as so many of our Colonies have become self-governing, which most of us think is a good thing, one of the unhappy aspects has been the large number of experts and administrators who have come home. When Malaya became independent 31 per cent. of the British personnel there came home. When Sudan became independent 86 per cent. of them came home. However, there the political situation was different. Things were more difficult for them and, therefore, the great majority left. At this moment, large numbers of people are coming back from the East African territories which are becoming, or are about to become independent.

We must, therefore, have a strategy for replacing a situation in which a small number of people devoted their lives to these territories by a new situation in which larger numbers of people spend a smaller amount of time in them—say, one, two or three years. That applies to people of various kinds—for instance, to managerial people in their forties and fifties as well as to young people filling in the gap between school and university. People of all kinds and ages and at different levels of skill are needed, but all of them must have something positive to contribute. It is against that background that I question the Government's policy in simply trying to co-ordinate the activities of the voluntary bodies. Something far more positive is required.

Before I develop the theme about the Peace Corps, I wish to join in the tributes paid to Voluntary Service Overseas and to other organisations. I have read many of the letters from people in the territories concerned, same of which have been quoted by previous speakers, and I do not wish to take time by quoting others, but the writers of them pay an eloquent tribute to the work done by these volunteers and refer to the value attached to them.

I agree with the point which the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Miss Vickers) made about apprentices going overseas. It appears from the Report which I have here that in the twelve months from the summer of 1961 to the summer of 1962 ten firms financed a total of 27 volunteer apprentices. Of that 27, 12 were sent by one firm, Rolls-Royce Limited. This is a very tiny effort for an industrial country of our size. It is good as far as it goes, but much more should be done. Apart from the good that it would do to the apprentices and to the countries to which they go, it would be of long term advantage to the firms in helping these people to become eventually more useful, capable and adaptable members of the firms in which they work. I hope that there will be a very big expansion of this sort of thing.

My main criticism is that we must adopt an entirely new strategy. The Government appear to be relying on two things. In voluntary effort by the undergraduate or by young people between 18 and the early twenties, they are to encourage and co-ordinate the activities of Voluntary Service Overseas and other similar bodies. They also have a number of schemes for people who will go out on more normal terms of contract, such as the Overseas Service Aid Scheme. My first criticism is that all this is far too complicated. The effort is not simplified and is not presented to those who might wish to go overseas in a sufficiently dramatic form.

The great success of the United States Peace Corps has captured the imagination of large numbers of idealistic young people in that country. I returned a month ago from a tour in the United States as the guest of the State Department. I was there for seven weeks. I saw many very interesting things, some of which I approved of and some of which I disapproved of. One of the things of which I most approved was the Peace Corps. I spent a morning at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington and discussed the problem with the people there. Later, in Los Angeles, I saw some of the training being carried out at the University of California of volunteers destined to go to Nigeria as teachers. On both occasions I was able to discuss some of the problems involved.

I agree with the hon. Member for Horncastle that in drawing up this scheme the United States copied, very wisely I think, many of the ideas of voluntary organisations in this country. They also copied some of the methods of the Outward Bound organisation in evolving their physical training ideas for Peace Corps volunteers. But this is typical of what happens in so many different fields. A good idea is started in Britain and is copied and developed on a bigger scale in America. We often lack the drive and the capacity to carry through our good ideas until they operate on a sufficiently big scale—or we lack them under this Government; but I do not want to introduce that note too much.

The impressive thing about the Peace Corps is the speed at which it has developed. It was only in January of last year that the original task force under Mr. Sargent Shriver was appointed by the President to draw up plans for a Peace Corps. In March, 1961, the President made an executive order setting up the Peace Corps on a temporary basis. It was not until the autumn of 1961 that the necessary legislation was passed through Congress, Yet by June this year there were already 1,000 volunteers at work in fifteen different countries and another 3,000 were in training. With the progress being made then and the plans in hand it was being said that by the end of this year there would be 5,000 people either at work or in training destined to go to 37 different countries. The objective is to double that to 10,000 if possible by next year.

When the idea of the Peace Carps was originally put forward during the Presidential election campaign and immediately afterwards there was a great deal of scepticism in the United States about it. Many doubts were expressed. Similar doubts were expressed in this country. I do not think that it can be contradicted that most of those doubts have been found to be false. The Peace Corps has been a very great success.

Because there were doubts originally about how it might work, the plan in 1961 was to concentrate simply on having a pilot scheme and 300 to 500 volunteers working in different countries for a year or two and then to judge the results to whether it should expand. It has expanded much more quickly in the way that I have described because of the original success of volunteers who went overseas and the flood of demands from all over the world for more Peace Corps volunteers, including a great many demands from Commonwealth countries who cannot get enough of the people that they want to do this sort of work.

A great deal of care was taken in the planning and training of the Peace Corps to ensure that it was realistic. As with our own voluntary organisations, the people concerned go only to countries where they are invited to take part in their programmes. They work for the host Government or for a voluntary organisation in their country.

Those who work there do not receive any salary. They receive a living allowance to enable them to live on a comparable level with the people with whom they are working. The lessons brought out in that famous book, The Ugly American, of the way in which certain Americans overseas did more harm than good because they lived on a level so much higher than local people have been learned and applied in this respect.

One thing that the Americans do for these volunteers—and it is a good thing which I should like to be considered—is to pay them on their return a kind of rehabilitation allowance at the rate of 75 dollars for every month they have spent overseas. It could be considered by purists that this was in some way inconsistent with the voluntary spirit of the organisation. I do not agree. Those who volunteer and make a considerable sacrifice of their time and undertake this tremendously effective work should be helped by the community to rehabilitate themselves, in exactly the same way as we recognise this principle for those who volunteer for our armed forces. When people go from Britain, they do a tremendously good job for us and we should help them in this way, not necessarily copying the precise rules of the Peace Corps, but in a similar form.

A great deal of care has been taken in the United States to select personnel by the application of rigorous standards. I very much agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport about the need to give more comprehensive training to those who go overseas. My view is that under the kind of proposal which I have in mind, a more comprehensive training system should be provided with fairly rigorous selection procedures, too. In the American scheme, only a minority of those who apply are selected. Great care is taken to have people who are physically fit, who have the right personal qualities for the job and who have some kind of skill relevant to the country in question.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

There are far more volunteers from this country than are selected. It is not easy to get selected. The boys and girls who are accepted undergo a close examination before they are chosen. It is impossible to give the proportion of acceptances, but selection is tough, as it should be.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

I accept that. I did not want to suggest that it was not so in our case. Probably the more valid criticism concerning our voluntary organisations is the lack of a sufficient training period. In the American scheme, they combine the two aspects and within the training period they reject those who do not respond properly to training.

I understood at Los Angeles that about 15 per cent. of those who began training either opted out of it or were dismissed because they were not suitable. An aspect of the American system which merits study on our part is training in the language and social customs of the country to which people go and intensive training in adapting the skill that is to be used, whether it is in teaching or anything else, to the needs of the host country, as well as a great deal of physical training.

At the U.C.L.A., where I saw some of the training in progress, I attended a staff conference of those concerned with organising the training. Great care was taken by a large number of people of the faculty at the university. Many highly-placed people gave their time and great thought to the problems of adapting the training to the needs of the country concerned.

About 50 American universities are co-operating in this programme. That is a considerable number bearing in mind that the whole idea was started only in 1961. Not only universities are doing it, but other bodies, too. The Caterpillar Tractor Company is training a number of diesel mechanics who will go to Tunisia. The Tennessee Valley Authority is training people to work on a similar scheme in Brazil. Given the right leadership, we in this country could mobilise groups in the universities and in industry to take part in training schemes of this nature.

Briefly, the advantages of a scheme of this kind would be as follows. First, if we were able to do this, we could offer aid on a bigger scale. Only by the Government providing organisation and public money on the scale that is required can we get an expansion of this work to the extent that is needed. Secondly, it would provide a central clearing house. One of the difficulties of the existing system is that so many organisations are interested in it. I do not suggest that they should be driven out. They could operate beside the British Peace Corps, as in America other organisations operate alongside the Peace Corps and in co-operation with it.

I wrote to the Minister of State a few months ago about a girl aged 18 who wanted to do a year's work in a developing country between leaving school and starting at university. I do not criticise the Minister for the reply he sent me, because in the context of the present system it was probably the only reply that he could give. He said, however: I regret that there are no vacancies here"— that was, in the Department— for which so young a person could be considered. My Department only recruits graduates … The only thing I can suggest is that she should apply to one or two more of the bodies interested in sending volunteers overseas He then gave addresses of some of the voluntary organisations. There should be a central clearing house for this kind of work where the whole effort could be co-ordinated and to which people could apply. It should not be made too difficult for a young person who suddenly decides to do this work to be put in touch with one of the proper channels without delay.

Another great advantage of having a British Peace Corps would be the simplicity of the title. The words Peace Corps" convey something dramatic to people. I remember, as a young man of 17, joining the Local Defence Volunteers and later being greatly cheered when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) decided that they should be known instead as the Home Guard, which was a more simple, dramatic and less bureaucratic title. We must think in terms of capturing people's imagination in this way. A Peace Corps could capture people's imagination, whereas a host of separate organisations with different names would not have the same effect.

My final point is that by doing work of this nature the whole nation would be taking part. We would be taking part financially, as we ought to be. Whereas the greater part of the effort and sacrifice is, and must continue to be, made by those who volunteer, this us an effort in which all of us and all the people of the country should be involved to a far greater extent.

I do not know what arguments will be brought forward by the Minister of State against what I am saying, but perhaps I can anticipate two possible lines. The right hon. Gentleman might suggest that the idea of a Peace Corps on the American lines is somehow an offence against the British tradition of voluntary service. We get a little bit too sentimental about our traditions of voluntary service. I hope that I will not be misunderstood—I am paying tribute to the volunteers, and the scheme which I am suggesting would require volunteers—but there comes a point at which the whole community must take a more positive rôle.

Just as in welfare services at home we had to move from relying entirely on voluntary services to building the framework of the Welfare State, in which the voluntary service still has its part to play but with the State itself planning the strategy, equally in the scheme which I envisage the State must move in on a more positive scale.

The other possible objection by the Minister might be that what I am proposing would cost a lot more money. That argument, however, should not be advanced. By our vote at the United Nations for the Development Decade, we are committed to spend more money in any event. I do not believe that Britain or most of the other countries who voted for that resolution are fulfilling the obligations which they undertook in voting for it. Countries as rich as ours should be doing far more than we are doing in positive help for the developing countries in a number of different ways. To help upon these lines would produce more effective results than in other ways.

For that reason, I urge the Government seriously to consider the point of view which I have been putting forward.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

May I join with other hon. Members in thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) for his choice of subject in this Motion and for the way in which he has dealt with it? I think the House ought to be grateful that among its Members there are people who have deep and sincere interest in a voluntary organisation of this kind.

I listened with the most careful interest to the speech just made by the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), and I aim bound to say that although there was some apparent and prima facie cogency in what he said, and he said it, if I may say so, with authority, because he has just returned from America, I am wholly opposed to what he suggested, namely, that this country should emulate the American Peace Corps. I shall give my reasons for that in a moment, but, first, I wish to follow what my hon. Friend the Member far Horncastle said about the origins of Voluntary Service Overseas.

I appreciate, of course, as everyone in the House must appreciate, that Voluntary Service Overseas is just one of a number of organisations, and I hope it will not be thought that I am unduly emphasising the work of this organisation if I give more time to it than to other organisations. It so happens that my knowledge of Voluntary Service Overseas is greater than that of the other organisations.

I was reminded during the speech of my hon. Friend about what, I suppose, is not very widely known of the origins of Voluntary Service Overseas. As I understand it, the idea came from Singapore in the middle 1950s when there was formed there an organisation called the Singapore League of Youth. This organisation was formed to counter the Communist activities there among young people and to get the young people of all races working and living together. It had, I am proud to say, as its president a young Englishman, and I hope that I shall not be thought to be introducing into this debate any party political spirit if I say—a fact of which I am proud—that he was a Young Conservative.

The idea attracted the attention of an English journalist named Mr. George Edinger who reported on the possibilities of extending the idea. This report was read by Mr. Alec Dickson, one of the founders, who in 1956 was working on the Hungarian border, and two years later Mr. Dickson, with the help of others, founded the Service. As my hon. Friend reminded the House, this organisation has among its virtues the fact that its members live on the same level as the people whom they are serving and with whom they are working. They have no special houses, no special food and no special motor cars. This seems to me to be one of the secrets of the success of Voluntary Service Overseas.

Another reason—and this, if he will forgive me for saying so, appears to have been overlooked by the hon. Member for East Ham, North—for the success of Voluntary Service Overseas is the fact that its members have as their prime qualifications character, intelligence and, above all, youth. They are all in their teens. It seems to me to be an immeasurable advantage to have doing this work young people who can understand their fellows no matter to what race they belong or what may be the colour of their skins.

This is a feature of Voluntary Service Overseas, and it is something which is not matched by any other organisation in the world. It is certainly not matched, for all the advantages there may be in that organisation, by the American Peace Corps.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

The Peace Corps volunteers are aged 18 and over just as are the volunteers of V.S.O., although I think that a higher proportion of the members of the Peace Corps may be over 20 rather than below that age. As I say, they range from 18 upwards.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

I should be very cautious about attempting to correct the hon. Gentleman because, as we know, he has just returned from a visit to Washington and has studied this problem, but I think he will agree that if one compares the Peace Corps with, shall we say, Voluntary Service Overseas, some very obvious, striking, and dramatic differences are apparent. One of them, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is that the members of Voluntary Service Overseas have, as I have just attempted to explain, no special training. They must have character and they must have youth. The members of the American Peace Corps, on the other hand, have to have what I believe is technically described as M.A. graduate status.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

I stand corrected if that be so, but the majority of the members of the Peace Corps are people who have reached the standard of M.A. graduate status and who are in their twenties rather than in their 'teens.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

A lot of them are, but not all.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

This, of course, means that instead of going out as very young school-leavers or straight from the workshops and their apprenticships, they go out after training with the special qualifications. This gives them by itself an initial status. Our young people go out with nothing but their youth and their friendship and what they can offer. They build up, and succeed remarkably in building up, their own reputation. They run youth centres, they teach, they nurse.

In Vietnam and in Laos they took part in helping the wounded- and doing what they could to resolve the distresses of open warfare. In Siam, for example, there are four of our volunteers at the present time. The American Peace Corps has somewhere in the region of fifteen or twenty volunteers, yet the Siamese Government are asking for another twenty volunteers from this country, members of Voluntary Service Overseas. In British Guiana last year, in the jungle near the Kaiture Falls, I was speaking to some Amerindians and was surprised and delighted to hear the praise of these people for the members of Voluntary Service Overseas. This bears out exactly what Lord Mountbatten said about the effect which these young men and women have. We find the same thing in Nigeria and wherever else we go. In Central Africa, in Central Asia, South-East Asia, South America and the Pacific one hears praise for these young men and men from this country. I think that is a very wonderful thing.

I now come to the point made by the hon. Member for East Ham, North, namely, that we in this country ought to build up an organisation comparable to the American Peace Corps, a proposition with which, if I may say so, I profoundly disagree. Firstly, for the reason I have already given, namely, that most of the American volunteers are trained people, as against our untrained people; and I believe it is the young who can speak the language of the young; I believe it is the zest, the vitality, the enthusiasm of the young which can overcome the barriers of racial prejudice and misunderstanding. Secondly, the Americans, of course, give two years of service when they go overseas. Our young boys and girls give only one year. When the Americans go overseas to the under-developed countries the receiving country knows that all their expenses are paid for. It has no costs to underwrite. In the case of the Voluntary Service Overseas, as I say, our young men and girls are 18 and 19, and they go for only a year, and the expenses which they have to undertake are paid for by the receiving country. They get £1 a week and their food and clothes. But I see nothing very wrong, nothing very shameful, in this; in fact, I say it does good.

Not only America sends out these volunteers, but also Germany sends out technicians, the Swedes send out scientists, the Israelis send out instructors of one kind and another. Of course, if we are going to accept—what I certainly do not for one moment accept, but if we accept—that what these underdeveloped countries want are only people who are trained technicians, radiographers, harbour masters, managers, specialists in prestressed concrete, then the American organisation of the Peace Corps prevails: but if, on the other hand, as I profoundly believe, what the under-developed countries need is understanding, a new approach which only the young can give, then I believe that Voluntary Service Overseas and similar organisations which send cut young people win the argument.

The Peace Corps, when it sends out its representatives, is sending out representatives who represent the American Government, and that has a disadvantage, a gross disadvantage, and a practical disadvantage, because in many cases countries will not receive a representative who is regarded as being in a political context. For example, Mali will not have a member of the American Peace Corps. On the other hand, the volunteers from this country, the British volunteers, represent British youth, and they can go in where the Americans are stopped. They can go into Mali, for example, which will not receive the Americans and this is because it is understood that our people are not connected with the Government as such, but they come out as the representatives, as it were, of the people themselves.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

I cannot follow all the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments, obviously, but will he take it from me that I am not arguing against V.O.S., I am not arguing that it ought to be abandoned, but arguing for its establishing a peace corps as well, just as the American voluntary organisations which preceded the Peace Corps still exist and still do valuable work?

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

I am very grateful to the hon. Member. Let me make this clear, that I am not suggesting for a moment that he is arguing that we should abandon our voluntary service. I follow his argument all too well, I hope; but I am still against it.

I do not want this to be a Government agency. I want it to be continued as a voluntary effort. I am fully aware of the nature of the Peace Corps, and I have a great admiration, and, maybe, some envy, for some of its qualities and some of its opportunities. It is a Government agency. It is supported by massive fiancial and technical assistance. Its aim emotionally, if not expressly, is to expunge from Africa, from Asia, from other countries where it goes, the image of the ugly American, and to soften, and, as it were, to humanise, the impact of technical patronage. This is not the aim of Voluntary Service Overseas. It is to promote a new understanding and a new basis between the races—the different countries, and, eventually, all the people with whom it comes into contact.

They are a class of people in Voluntary Service Overseas who would resent, and strongly resent, any suggestion that they were "do-gooders" or that they were idealists. They will tell you, as they have told me on many occasions, that the reason they go out is because they have—thank goodness—a love of adventure. There have been many letters referred to in the House this afternoon, but the one which attracts me most is the letter which came from a young boy of 18 who had gone out to act as the headmaster of a school on a remote island. After he had been there a fortnight he wrote back to the headmaster of his old school and said Dear Headmaster, As one headmaster to another"— and the spirit of that letter showed that he was there enjoying the adventure; and was there also doing a tremendous amount of good.

I cannot help feeling that the impact of these young people has an influence more potent than all the propaganda we can buy, and I was delighted, as I am sure many other Members of the House were delighted, to see the encouragement in the Gracious Speech, the promise that these volunteers will receive encouragement from the Government, and I ask, as my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle has asked, the Government to make this encouragement practical. I would ask that this help should be in the form of providing transport in naval ships, by Royal Air Force aircraft, for up to one thousand volunteers a year, taking them to the countries which are seeking their help. I believe that we can still continue to do this work on a voluntary basis, and I believe that the Government can enable this work to be carried out successfully on a voluntary basis; and furthermore I believe that only if it is carried out on a voluntary basis will it succeed in the way that we wish it to succeed.

5.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dick Taverne Mr Dick Taverne , Lincoln

I want to start by raising one particular point. I very much agree with what was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) that a knowledge of the background of the countries concerned does enable the people who go to work overseas to do it more successfully. In some of these countries it is people who are able to work with their hands who may be the more welcome, or people who have little more to offer than the goodwill to which the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) referred; while in other places it may be people with specialist qualifications who may be needed.

However, what I want in particular to do this afternoon is to draw attention to some very valuable information gained by six Cambridge graduates who spent a year in Pakistan. I happened to find out about it because one of them is a constituent of mine who came to see me and to tell me about it. They are to publish a full report soon; as yet they have produced only a summary. I hope that when the full report comes out the right hon. Gentleman will look at it. I want to summarise, very briefly, the summary itself.

It says that the aim of the party was to investigate the possibilities of voluntary service in Pakistan. They did this by making a field study of village life in the Punjab. Six of them covered six different fields of study, including, for instance, agriculture, sociology, education, health. As a consequence of their work and study they came to certain conclusions, as the summary says.

In some of the places in Pakistan, particularly the smaller towns, work could usefully be done by voluntary organisations, whereas in the large cities some of them might be rather lost, and in some of the rural districts they might sometimes come across a certain apathy. The kind of work which was most desired and most useful in these areas includes that in agriculture, nursing, teaching in high schools, and that of veterinary surgeons, which is very useful there, and, for women, in addition to the other qualifications which they may have, help with child welfare clinics and handicrafts, which are particularly valuable in the smaller communities. They found that in regard to qualifications, in India and Pakistan, only people with special skills were wanted, not necessarily people with degrees but people with some practical experience in their own field.

Again, another of their conclusions is that the time factor is important, and that the minimum period for a useful stay in Pakistan was a year or more. I think that arrangements should be made so that there is an overlap of a year and a half or two years in order to ensure more continuity. A further con-elusion to which they came was that organisation is essential, because people are not equally welcome in all places, or, if welcome, are not equally useful. For instance, they report: In particular, young Pakistanis are eager to meet other young people, but their viewpoints are on very different planes. Student groups are notoriously difficult to work with, and most students are uninterested in voluntary work. This is a challenge which should be taken up by any volunteer at all times. This is also something which applies to students all over the world. It was thought essential to have some sort of permanent representative or voluntary leader in any organisation of voluntary services for people going out to this kind of area. Lastly, one other conclusion was that, in regard to training, one week in Pakistan was worth more than one month in Britain. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take notice of their valuable experience and of some of the observations which they have made when their report comes out.

Secondly, I want to support very strongly indeed what my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said earlier when he suggested that there should be something in the nature of a Peace Corps. I see no reason whatever why a Peace Corps should not work side by side with the workers of these voluntary organisations. At the moment, it is not just a question of altruism or of being an outlet for idealism on the part of young people. For instance, I should imagine that a great many of those who march to Aldermaston and who have the necessary qualifications might care to serve in something like a Peace Corps, and indeed might be rather more usefully employed in that sort of activity.

But the point I want to make is that this is not just a question of altruism, but a question of self-interest and of the effect it will have in this country, because we in this country are terribly insular. Perhaps in the days of empire we were less insular. But the empire has now gone, fortunately, despite what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was saying the other night. The empire has gone and there has been since an ever-increasing amount of insularity. It is not just a case of being able to help others, but also of our becoming aware of and understanding their problems. Every interest combines to urge an imaginative policy on the Government of the kind which the American Government has pioneered, which would not only give opportunity for an enormous amount of experience and enjoyment for young people, and would make a considerable contribution to the development of their countries, but would also be something which, at relatively low cost, would do a great deal to improve the relations between Britain and the countries concerned and widen our own horizons, which very much need widening.

5.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Hornby Mr Richard Hornby , Tonbridge

There are very few points that have not already been made in this debate and which I wanted to make, so that I will keep my remarks brief.

I should, like others, like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir. J. Maitland) for raising this subject, which is one that is attracting growing attention and growing enthusiasm. I will come in a few moments to the rate of growth of enthusiasm and interest in these schemes, because it affects the view we take about the Government's rôle in these services.

As others, and not least the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne), have said, the value of these services is twofold—to those who give, as well as to those who receive them—and I want to say a word or two about the value to those who give them. Of course, it is immensely valuable to a boy or girl of about 18 to be able to go out to some part of the world, which, very likely, he or she would never have the opportunity, for domestic reasons or for reasons of employment, to visit later in their lives, and that is immensely valuable. I believe that it is particularly valuable for precisely the reasons which the hon. Member has just given. We hear a lot about making Europe an outward-looking community, and I sometimes wonder, when I am talking to some people, how well qualified we are to do it. Of course, we have a noble history of contact with many parts of the world, but from time to time, many of us have been guilty of a good deal of arrogance in talking of— Lesser breeds without the law and same such phrases which ring through the pages of our history. We need to be a little bit mare humble about what we know or do not know about other lands, whose peoples we can help and whom we should like to help, but about whose problems we know singularly little and should want to know more.

I welcome these schemes for the effect which they might perhaps have on the character of our own people, and not less on the development of the countries to which they go. The services which we can bring to bear through educated, partly educated, trained and partly-trained people who go out under these schemes are just part of the benefits that we can give. The other part of the service is the sheer willingness of the people who want to go out to do this sort of work. In other words, these schemes are built up on their voluntary character. Secondly is the fact, as others have stated, that where they go they are specifically wanted and asked for.

When I heard that this debate was to take place, though I welcomed it, I had one anxiety, and that was that we, as politicians, might inject politics into it, and start talking about the value of schemes such as this to the Western world and so on. I believe, as others have said in this debate, that the real value of these schemes, many of which we are discussing today, is their very personal, rather than their political, character, and it is in this context that I should like to say a word or two about what the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said about the Peace Corps and that type of organisation.

How much should we be doing in this field? I will give two answers to that question. First, as much as we can in order to fulfil the needs that are made known to us. In other words, we should try to fill the places that we are asked to fill, and that must be the first criterion. Secondly, I would say, as much as we can, while preserving our standards so far as the voluntary nature of the people who go out and the standards of selection, when we are talking about young people. It is important that there should be selection, and quite severe selective processes, through which those going out should go, and it should not be just a matter of trying to recruit the maximum number without any regard to standards.

My impression is that the numbers of pre-university students — the younger people, if I may so describe them—will grow very fast because this scheme is arousing enthusiasm and is being talked about extremely widely. I believe it is a scheme for which many more volunteers will appear. I believe that the rate of recruitment or willingness to be recruited will be assisted by the rapidly growing size of sixth forms in schools and the continuing dearth of university places. If there is a problem about getting a university place, or delay about it, I believe that many people will find that this is a means by which they can usefully fill a well-advertised need and at the same time add greatly to their experience.

I also believe that my right hon. Friend and his Department, the voluntary organisations, the Ministry of Education and others can greatly help in publicising these schemes by expressing their approval of and admiration for them and by telling the young people what is being done through them. I believe that the voluntary organisations and the returning volunteers are by far the best publicists of the schemes, together with the reports coming back from overseas territories, some of which we have heard about today. I would prefer to see the numbers of younger people building up in this way rather than through any massive Government-sponsored campaign, which I feel would carry some of the taint of politics, and I should like to avoid that if possible.

In talking of volunteers for service overseas, we have discussed mainly the 18, 19 and 20 years old age group. I believe that one should equally consider as volunteers older trained people of many different ages and occupations who are willing to interrupt the normal course of their career in industry or one of the professions to meet a need in an overseas country and fill a vacancy where their skill and training can be of very great value. One thinks of such people as trained teachers, administrators, agricultural advisers, statisticians and so on, people who are scarce in countries where the educational build-up is in its early stages and on a narrow basis, countries where, in spite of our own shortages in those categories, we could contribute greatly as a result of our relative wealth compared with their needs.

In that sphere the Government have a considerable rôle to play, one in which my right hon. Friend has been very active, in sending out representatives to discuss with overseas countries what their manpower needs are. They have a rôle in trying to persuade Government Departments, local authorities, trade unions and others that there is an opportunity for service in such fields, and a rôle particularly in persuading employers, both private and local authority, that interruption of service should not be regarded as a handicap to the subsequent career of those who go out.

These are the main points that I wish to emphasise. First, while welcoming the most rapid possible build-up in the numbers of those going overseas, we should do nothing which would impair among the younger age groups the voluntary capacity in which they go. Secondly, with regard to the older and more specialised and trained people the Government Should do all they can to discuss with overseas countries what they want that we can help them by providing, and then at this end we should do all we can to smooth the passage of those who are willing to go.

Lastly, with regard to money, in their relationship with the voluntary organisa- tions the Government should act as the clearing centre. They should try to ensure that as these services expand the ability of the voluntary organisations to handle them is not inhibited through lack of funds. In other ways they should prime the pump where necessary, but they should not—A take the point that others have made about a Peace Corps working side by side with voluntary services in certain fields—in any sense at all try to take over and run this work entirely on their own, because thereby they would detract from the voluntary capacity and the ideal of personal service which is at the back of the minds of those who wish to do the work and is the chief attraction of the scheme, particularly among the younger ones, in the countries receiving this help.

5.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Realising that others wish to speak, I will briefly focus attention on that part of the Motion which calls for the expansion and development of overseas services and argue three propositions.

The first proposition is that in India and Pakistan there is a very special need for secondary students of 16 to 18 years of age to become familiar with spoken—I emphasise "spoken"—English. The second is that many of our potential undergraduates, after they have finished their scholarship or entrance examinations to universities in December, would like to do something other than go back to school before they take their university place at the beginning of October the following year. The third is that many of our university faculties, with the exception, I must admit—it is an important exception—of the faculties of mathematics, would welcome people who have some varied and different experience from school, before they join the university in October.

As to the first proposition, the trouble is that in India and Pakistan at the moment those who go to university are not all familiar with spoken English. In a way it is for a reason that one welcomes, that many are the first representatives of their families having an opportunity to go to university. It is all very well for families such as the Nehru's, the Bhagwati's and others with generations of English speaking behind them to turn up at university and understand things, but those who come as the first representatives of their families are faced with an entirely different situation. For them English is the only lingua franca; it is their only common language and the only exact language in which they have a chance to catch up with science and technology. In the light of this situation, would it not be sensible for three or four pupils forming a link between, say, Bristol Grammar School and a school in Lahore to go and mingle as pupils with the upper forms of the secondary schools in India and Pakistan?

The second proposition concerns the pupils themselves. Until a few years ago in our grammar schools and public schools, there was a very great temptation for pupils to go back for nine months after their university entrance examination in order to become a dignitary or grandee in the school and supposedly gain experience that way. Now, headmasters are agreed that many of their best pupils want to leave to find some other experience. This is particularly true among the girls. For that reason I welcome the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). Undoubtedly there is the will among these young people to get out and gain some varied experience. It may be asked how one can expect these developing countries to take these youngsters who may be very immature. But perhaps their very immaturity and unself-consciousness would be of help. If they are unselfconscious it may be that they will be more able to co-operate with those they go to serve, in contrast with the Peace Corps which two hon. Members opposite have criticised.

The third proposition comes from the universities. The mathematicians insist that, because one year in university mathematics before the age of 25 is perhaps worth five years afterwards, they will not hear of their students breaking their studies. But the other faculties where there is a degree of judgment involved—economics, law, history and even physicists themselves—say, "Let us have those who have experiences other than mere school." Far be it from me to argue here that on this ground we should continue National Service, but one must listen to those university teachers who argue that pupils who have been in National Service are better for it, particularly in subjects such as economics and law, which demand maturity of judgment.

In that respect, would it not be sensible to finance these youngsters so that they might go out to developing territories for a year or even just for nine months? This is particularly important in the case of East Africa, because there the term begins in January, and if the boys and girls were there from January to September they would serve during the most important terms of the year, while their presence in badly needed East African schools, or their absence from school there, would not matter all that much when it came to the third term of the year—October-December.

In the light of this, I want to put forward the concrete proposal that, in December, 1963, the right hon. Gentleman's Department having contacted the Pakistan and Indian High Commissions, and having circularised all schools serving children between 15 and 18, should get together some 800 pupils willing to spend nine months in secondary schools in India and Pakistan. It could send them out by ship, sailing perhaps on the 27th December in order to reach India and Pakistan in time for the school term at the beginning of 1964.

I suggest a ship not merely because of the "Dunera" and "Devonia", which are extremely suitable for the purpose, but also because, during the voyage, the British young people could receive acclimatisation courses and overcome the sort of difficulties mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport.

But there is one objection to all this —finance. Since one cannot expect developing countries to pay for the unskilled services of 17 year-olds, cost must be borne by us, especially as the greatest benefit may be to British pupils. Let it suffice, however, if I say that those who sent me to Parliament are, I am sure, willing to foot the bill for their share. I do not think it is inappropriate to say that in each of my forty-four election meetings, and at the selection conference that chose me as candidate, one of the moist important points which I stressed was educational aid to under-developed countries. Therefore, I feel I am talking as a Member of this House who has a mandate from his electors to utter these perhaps expensive but certainly worthwhile schemes.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I begin by endorsing what my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has said. I believe that it is true not only of his constituency that the electors would welcome an announcement—which, I hope, we shall have from the right hon. Gentleman—that the Government will not skimp the cost involved in the full development of the schemes discussed in the debate.

I want to urge on the Government, as did the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland), the necessity and duty of the Government to give every assistance —and I emphasise the word "every" so as to include financial assistance—to ensure the expansion and development of this work of voluntary overseas service. I do not believe that there is a shortage of manpower, both graduate and undergraduate, men and women, willing to go out and give their best if they feel they have a duty. I think that they have the training. I think that there is great demand for this work and that, in many respects, British education is geared to enabling people to devote a period of their lives to impart-Mg some of the wisdom of this country and some of the benefits of British education to overseas countries. There is an enormous demand for it overseas.

The manpower is available. What we want is financial backing and encouragement from the Government to enable the volunteers to be sent in sufficient numbers and thus give the fullest possible benefit to the overseas services. Ultimately, this is a question of finance. The hon. Member for Horncastle referred to Sir John Lockwood, who is a friend of mine and who is doing noble work in recruiting and promoting voluntary overseas service. I have discussed this matter with Sir John, who has told me that he is having to appeal for voluntary contributions from independent bodies. This is an uphill task these days. Why should he have to do it? The amount of money involved is not all that great and this is a task in which the Government should give much more assistance.

I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Act which set up the right hon. Gentleman's Department and I welcomed his appointment as Secretary of the Department. I believe him to be a man of vision. I believe that he is aware of the immense opportunities. I hope that he will not be slow in his efforts to persuade the Treasury to give him the necessary funds to enable the work to be done. He has a large Department and his opportunities are immense. There is no shortage of manpower, so I hope we shall hear from him that he will do what is necessary, as a Minister of the Crown, conscious of the opportunities, of his duty to humanity, of the special obligations of our country, with all its resources and educational facilities, its traditions and heritage, and of the momentous contribution to the life, culture and welfare of overseas countries which it can make.

This great task should not be stinted by lack of finance. It is not good enough for Sir John Lockwood to have to go cap in hand to various voluntary bodies asking for subscriptions. Naturally, they are subscribing according to their means, but we shall not reap the full benefit of this great work unless we get far more financial backing from the Government than has yet been assured to us. I hope, if nothing else emerges from this debate, that it will at any rate convince the country of the earnestness and worth-whileness of the task, of the immense opportunities, and of the fact that there are large numbers of boys and girls from our schools and universities anxious to go abroad and make their contributions.

6.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The House owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) for moving this Motion. He has initiated the first debate, but by no means the last of its kind, on what will become an increasingly important subject. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) finished his speech as he did, because it is important to realise that what we are discussing is not simply an appeal for greater generosity from the Government to individual voluntary organisations, however worthy—and we all agree that they are—but a new kind of approach to what in many ways is the greatest moral challenge of the times, a challenge to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) referred, the growing gap, despite all our efforts, between the richer and the poorer nations.

What we have been discussing is how to enlist the spirit of adventure of the people of this country, especially the young people, but many more than the young people, the spirit of idealism which is latent in these islands, to help in this battle to close this gap. We cannot have a peaceful world unless we close the gap, and we cannot have a decent world which will satisfy the conscience of any of us unless we make continual efforts towards this end.

Although the record of this country and even of the present Government will compare with that of other countries, we have no right to feel complacent about what we do. We now give about £180 million of public funds a year in this international war on want. That is about half the sum which we give in agricultural subsidies, and it is what we give as our contribution towards trying to raise the living standards of the two-thirds of the human race who live close to the poverty, and often close to the starvation, line.

We are a country with a great history of overseas responsibilities. One of the features of recent years, as the hon. Member for Horncastle said, has been the fact that those responsibilities have been running down quickly. One of the unfortunate features of that has been that the membership of our colonial services, including many dedicated and devoted people, has been reduced extremely quickly, with a good deal of unnecessary chaos in the process. Emerging countries, desperately needing special skills of various sorts, have been finding that on the whole we have been withdrawing more skill than we have been sending out. That is the background against which we have to consider the Motion.

Faced with this situation, there is a need for new techniques in bringing help from this country to the developing countries. Beyond doubt, one of the most exciting innovations in this respect has been the work of Voluntary Service Overseas. Like other hon. Members, I have to declare an interest, because I am a member of its council and of its executive. Like other hon. Members, I should not like to miss this opportunity of paying tribute to the tremendous work and, indeed, the genius of Alec Dickson in bringing this organisation into being.

I have had the good fortune to see it operate in the field in various parts of the world. I remember one remarkable young man whom I saw among the Amerindians on the frontiers of British Guiana a year or two ago. He was exercising a responsibility and concern for that small aboriginal community which would not have been shared by the local democratically elected politicians, and he was doing a fine job. I thing, too, of a young woman graduate I saw in Nsukka University in Nigeria, the newest university when I was there last year, who was doing splendid work among the women students of the university. The work of V.S.O. has been generally very successful, but in talking in detail about its work, I pay equal tribute to the other organisations which are doing the same kind of job, such as I.V.S.P., the United Nations Association, the National Union of Students and others.

The hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) was quite right when he said that the main contribution of the 18-year-olds, who have been the distinctive group with which V.S.O. has dealt, has been to overcome barriers almost impossible for the adult official, however devoted, to surmount. I am sure that these young men and women have been an immensely exciting leaven in the communities to which they have gone. For one thing, they have set a very useful example to the small educated minority of their contemporaries in the countries to which they have gone and who have often had the feeling that, because education is such a privilege, an educated person degrades himself by engaging in manual work. In character and leadership training these young men have done immensely useful work.

A number of people have quoted comments about Voluntary Service Overseas and I should like to give one other quotation, although from a rather different point of view. It comes from one of the volunteers who served in Northern Rhodesia a few years ago and who said: My only regret is that Africa has given me so much much more than I have given Africa. That remark is characteristic of these volunteers, but it is also illuminating, because it shows that in many ways the advantages of the work of V.S.O. come more to this country, which sends the volunteers, than to those countries which receive them, useful though their work there is. It gives these young men and women a sense of responsibility and the feeling that they can do different things. I am sure that in due course many of the V.S.O. people will take very fine positions in the national life of this country.

But what the emerging countries need more than anything else is not so much labour as skill, and we have to keep that in mind when we are dealing with this problem. It is here that the challenge of the American Peace Corps comes in. In many ways, the Peace Corps is the most dramatic of President Kennedy's "new frontier" policies. It was enacted by executive order in only March, 1961, and ye I recollect that in September, 1961, I had the privilege, with the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), of helping to entertain a group of young Peace Corps teachers who was spending some weeks here on a London Institute of Education course preparing themselves to go to Makerere College for a two-year period of service in the schools of East Africa.

I recollect questioning the then Colonial Secretary, now the Leader of the House, about our part in this operation, because these American Peace Corps teachers were going to take part in an Anglo-American enterprise to supply teachers to East Africa. I recollect that when that began the American Peace Corps was contributing 160 teachers in the first year, while we in the United Kingdom were contributing only ten. When I raised it in the House, I was told that it was really unfair to make this kind of comparison because we had so many people in the field already, and that in many ways we were using everybody who was ready to volunteer. I did not believe it, and I am glad to relate that due to the work done by the Minister in his new Depart- ment next year in this Anglo-American teachers for East Africa scheme we will roughly match the American contribution.

This shows that if we make the right sort of approach, if we make the right appeal to people in this country, we evoke the necessary response. I hope, therefore, that when the Minister concludes this debate he will not seek refuge by telling us that the Government cannot do any more to help the voluntary organisations, far less move ahead to do the kind of things which we on this side of the House are urging him to do today, because we are already doing so much in the normal and conventional ways of technical assistance and similar directions.

The lesson of the teachers for East Africa episode is that if the Government are prepared to give the drive and find the money there is undoubtedly the response from the British people. One has to remember that the American Peace Corps is over and above the conventional forms of technical assistance which the Americans run under the Point Four schemes, contributions to the United Nations, and other ways. We ought to look at this problem in the same way.

I think that the hon. and learned Member for Billericay was under a misapprehension on a number of points about the way in which the American Peace Corps operates. It is true that the largest number of volunteers comes from the 22 to 28 age group. It is also true that a large number of them are college graduates. This is partly because the United States succeeds in offering opportunities of university education to a larger proportion of young people than our Government have found themselves able to do. But even allowing for that, I am told that the age range of the Peace Corps volunteers runs from 18 at one end to about 67 at the other, so it covers a wide variety of people and meets the point made by the hon. Member for Tom-bridge. It includes not only university people but people from trade unions a ad farmers' organisations whose "know-how" is extremely useful in the emerging countries.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

Would the hon. Gentleman agree with the point that I attempted to make, namely, that the majority of the members of the American Peace Corps are in their twenties? I know that there are extremes up to 67 and down to 18, but the majority are in their twenties.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes. I confess that I could not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman when he seemed to suggest that at the age of 18, before a person went to college, he was full of zest and zeal and enthusiasm, but by the age of 22 when he emerged from college these qualities seem to have vanished.

What the Government have to face on this issue is the scale of the American Peace Carps compared with the scale of what we are doing in this country either through voluntary organisations or with the backing of Government finance. I understand that by June of next year the American Peace Corps, hardly more than two years old, will have 10,000 volunteers in the field. It has an annual budget 41 £10 million, and no doubt this will rise as the numbers increase.

What is our response to this? I am afraid that it is characteristic of our traditions of voluntary and charitable work, with all its many virtues but with its greater limitations when dealing with a problem of this magnitude. What the Minister has done so far is to set up a co-ordinating committee of the various voluntary organisations. I understand that he has made available to them a sum which might be of the order of £75,000, depending on what is matched by the voluntary organisations. This Committee has a target not of 10,000, or 5,000, or even 1,000, but a target by next year of only 250 graduates from all the voluntary organisations. When one looks at V.S.O. itself and the age group in which it has been most active, the 18year-olds, to which the hon. and learned Member for Billericay referred, one discovers that it has about 280 volunteers in the field and hopes by next year to have 350.

What help are the Government providing? I am told that last year they promised about £17,000, but, in fact, they gave about £15,000. This year, far from the sum being increased, it has gone down to about £13,000. When one considers that this is to help a voluntary organisation which is doing such tremendously useful work, this sum is utterly disgraceful, and I hope that the Minister will tell us that the Government are going to do very much better than that.

My main purpose in intervening in this debate, however, is to say—and I hope the House will not misunderstand me—that I think that there has been some danger of turning this debate, which in my view is a debate on a new national challenge which demands new national policies, into a Parliamentary edition of the Week's Good Cause". This problem is much bigger than that. There are no better causes than V.S.O., the United Nations Association, I.V.S.P., but the issues raised here are very much larger. I take issue with the hon. and learned Member for Billericay when he says that as a country we ought to concentrate entirely on the purely voluntary type of approach which is exemplified by V.S.O.

The hon. and learned Gentleman gave one bit of evidence, that in Siam where the volunteers had done as well as they always do, the Siamese wanted twenty instead of four next year. But they are not likely to get that figure on the financial policies adopted by the Minister with regard to V.S.O. In Malaya the difficulty being experienced by V.S.O. is that it may not be able to find accommodation for the few volunteers it is able to send because all the available accommodation will have been taken by the much larger number of Peace Corps workers who will be there by that time.

I do not see any contradiction in giving maximum encouragement to these voluntary bodies and at the same time trying to set a new and more imaginative national framework within which they will operate and which will provide the drive to raise our sights higher than has so far been the case. What is needed is an overall strategy in terms of sending people from this country to do useful jobs in the emerging countries overseas. It seems to me that there are probably four separate streams of people with whom we are dealing here.

First, there are the 18-year-olds, and I hope that the Government, or if not this Government perhaps a more imaginative one, will in due course take up again a proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). Why should not we help the depressed areas by using surplus shipping to take 18-year-olds to the developing countries of the world where they can do a good job of work? This can be done if there is the necessary drive and idealism. A year or two ago a proposal was put forward that we ought to have in this country "Adventure Scholarships" provided by local authorities. These scholarships could be given to boys at the secondary modern schools who are sometimes left to feel that because they are not academically bright they are second-class citizens. Many of them have great qualities of leadership. Why not give them adventure scholarships to encourage them to go out and work for such bodies as V.S.O.?

All that we have had from the Government has been repeated obstruction. For example, a year or two ago the Southampton local authority wanted to give a scholarship to a boy to send him on a V.S.O. mission. We were told that this was against the law as it stood at this time because this was not considered an educational purpose within the meaning of the Statute. Let us try to do something about that.

The second very important group consists of the 22-years-olds—the people coming out of university, who have not settled themselves in their careers and have not married and had families. They are ready to carry out a period of service overseas. I commend the example of the Hampshire education authority in offering teacher places in Hampshire for young teachers who are willing first to serve abroad.

Thirdly, there is the group of people in mid-career. In this case we require a widespread system of secondment under which people will go from all sorts of professions and trades for a year or two on secondment to give service overseas. In this respect, I am thinking not only of teachers but of, for example, journalists. We have to commend Mr. Roy Thomson's imaginative proposal to set up a foundation in this field. It would be a tremendous thing if the Government set an example by showing that promotion inside Government Departments would be considerably helped by going to Africa and spending a year or two in the planning departments of the new Governments out there. The same is true of the people in the town clerks' departments of local authorities. I should like to see big schemes of this nature going on in the years ahead.

Finally, there is room for some sort of full-time Commonwealth Service—a career service—quite small, perhaps 200 or 300 people at the outside, acting as the spearhead of the experts. That is the overall picture that I put before the House. I hope that we shall have a lead from the Government on this matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North reminded the House that the Government were pledged to give the maximum support to the United Nations Development Decade. This is one way in which we could show that we mean business. We are a great nation, with a great imperial past. The real challenge which faces us is that of transforming this imperial past into new methods of exercising our sense of responsibility for people overseas. We shall not match the kind of history which this country has behind it simply by concentrating on a few worth-while voluntary organisations. We need a national scheme, a much more imaginative scheme and one on a much wider scale. I hope that we shall be given some sign tonight that the Minister is thinking on these lines.

6.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dennis Vosper Mr Dennis Vosper , Runcorn

This has been a valuable debate. I join in thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) for initiating the debate—both because it enables me to hear the views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on a subject of current interest at the appropriate time, and also because it gives me an opportunity to say a few words about a subject which was mentioned in the Gracious Speech.

The Government accept my hon. Friend's Motion. He and I have been associated in the past with efforts to provide for the needs of our young people, and I agree with everything said by him and by other hon. Members about the beneficial effects that the challenge of overseas service can make. Equally, there is no doubt that a period of voluntary service spent overseas by our young people does give encouragement to the developing nations, quite apart from the material contribution that they make. Furthermore—and this point has not been made, although it is an important one—the 18-year-olds who go overseas when they are young, in my experience are more likely to offer their services when they are fully trained. They are more likely to come to my Department and others and offer their services to meet the challenge overseas.

This debate was no doubt inspired partly by our Voluntary Service Overseas and partly by the American Peace Corps, to which reference has also been made in the debate. Both organisations have been highly successful. I have been to many places in the field this year, and I have heard nothing but praise for both organisations. But it must be remembered that they are very different in their approach. Voluntary Service Overseas sponsors, almost entirely, school-leavers or those of an equivalent age. They are largely untrained and inexperienced, and they contribute not more than one year's service overseas. Her Majesty's Government contribute to this organistion — but I shall return to the question of finance later.

I have met many of these volunteers in the field and in this country, and I have been encouraged by what I have seen and heard from Ministers and Her Majesty's representatives in the field. I join in paying tribute to Mr. Alec Dickson, who inspired so much of this and other movements. Voluntary Service Overseas is also fortunate in having had as its last chairman an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as its present chairman an ex-Colonial Secretary. Many hon. Members have played a part in this movement. It may be of interest to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) to know that no one has played a greater part in the past year than the Headmaster of Eton. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) clearly described the aims and objectives of Voluntary Service Overseas—which are very different from those of the Peace Corps—and I do not need to repeat them.

I have never met anyone below the age of 21 in the Peace Corps, but I accept the word of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) that there are some. It is the pride of the Peace Corps that the people it sends are trained and experienced. Not only do many of them have university degrees but a large proportion has actual experience in the field, as doctors in hospitals, nurses, teachers and so on. That is the great difference. The Peace Corps is trained. Its members also have experience of the language of the country to which they go.

Except that both organisations give their services voluntarily, the two cannot really be compared. Like the hon. Member for East Haan, North, I was at the Peace Corps headquarters only 10 days ago, and in October I attended a three-day conference sponsored by the Corps, which I found most stimulating, if exhausting. I agree that the Corps has proved itself, and in the United States one now finds few, if any, critics, whereas there were many only a year ago.

We agree that we need to engage in the task of helping to supply the manpower needs of developing countries, but before we decide how far we should emulate the Peace Corps we should first examine the needs of the developing countries and also the contribution that this country has been accustomed to make. By reason of history alone our contribution is very different from that of the United States. The hon. Member for East Ham, North referred to the total effort in this field, and it is in this context that I want to discuss the matter.

My concern, as Secretary for Technical Co-operation, is' with the needs of developing countries to whom we provide technical assistance, which may be defined as the provision of training, experts and equipment. That part of technical assistance which is relevant to this debate is our contribution to the manpower needs of the developing countries, and there are three ways in which Britain helps. Our approach in each case is to seek to meet the requests of the developing country, and not to impose upon it what we think it should have.

The first of the three methods is by the direct supply of trained men and women—and I emphasise the word "trained"—from Britain, both to undertake skilled tasks and to train others in those skills. During the five years from 1957 to 1961 over 5.000 men and women were recruited for Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service, which has endeavoured to meet this need. They include teachers, administrators, doctors, nurses, agriculturists, engineers and veterinarians, among many other types of skilled persons, all of whom when recruited enter the service of the Government whom they now serve.

In addition, it has been possible to assist certain Commonwealth countries to afford the services of the trained and experienced men and women whom they require to help carry on the essential services of government until they can train their own local staff. Under this Overseas Service Aid Scheme the costs are shared between the overseas Government and ourselves, and at the beginning of this year no fewer than 16,000 officers were working under the scheme. This has been and remains our principal contribution. The United States has no comparable effort—again, by reason of history. But I agree that with the rapidly changing Commonwealth it is a diminishing form of service.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who has apologised for having to leave the debate, raised the question of professional service, as did the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson). I can only refer to the White Paper, which my Department published earlier this year, explaining the difficulties; that with the changing demands of the developing countries professional service —although this possibly does not apply to the scheme that he had in mind—is not a possibility. I think that we must meet the needs as we find them from day to day.

This running down of the permanent service means a major change, in that it is no longer possible to offer a permanent and pensionable career overseas for many splendid young men and women who have chosen to devote their lives to this service. This change—I think this is not always understood—is inevitable, because we cannot offer a permanent career overseas with promotion prospects, and also because technical and constitutional advance means a constant change in the type of person required. The requests from, say, Nigeria this year may be totally different from those received last year, and, therefore, again one must meet the requests according to the state of development of the country concerned.

We therefore face a change from permanent service overseas to short-term service of various kinds by people who normally work and live in this country. This change from permanent to short-term service was explained in the White Paper which we published earlier this year. We are thus then moving to a new type of overseas service which requires the co-operation of organisations and employers throughout the country, who are asked to release their employees for a period of overseas service, with some assurance of re-entry on their return.

This is the second method of meeting the manpower needs of developing countries—the short-term service or secondment, or other forms of relief from service based in this country. For this short-term service, and for the same period-1957–61—about 6,500 personnel have been recruited in this country, teachers predominating, followed, I should think, by the medical profession. None of this service is voluntary in that those concerned are engaged on normal terms, but, of course, to uproot oneself from an established post in this country requires something of the spirit of adventure and a desire to work with others less fortunately placed.

These, then, are the two principal ways in which this country contributes to the manpower needs of developing countries, and, at the present time, there are about 20,000 people serving overseas in one or other of these capacities. The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked me not to take refuge in what we are doing in this particular way, and I do not wish to do that, but the country is making very considerable effort, and it must go on record as being our main approach even at this time.

All these are trained people, and they have gone overseas as trained people to fill a definite post required by the overseas country. It is my experience from visiting many of these countries that the first requirement of the overseas country is for the trained man and woman. The hon. Member for East Ham, North said that he saw some Peace Corps volunteers trained for Nigeria. They are very welcome, but I think that if he went to Nigeria the Nigerians would tell him that they would sooner have a trained, experienced teacher or doctor. The trained man is the one requested by many of the developing countries which I have visited.

The hon. Member challenged me about the arguments against the Peace Corps. I think the answer is simply this, that our main effort is to provide trained people to fill definite posts, and that voluntary service must be supplementary to this particular effort, at any rate at the present time. I have no doubt that the Peace Corps is right for the United States, but I think that at the present time the Peace Corps would not be right for this country.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

The United States in the A.I.D. scheme is sending a lot of trained people in addition to the Peace Corps effort. It is not a question of one or the other, they are doing both. We suggest that this country should do both.

Photo of Mr Dennis Vosper Mr Dennis Vosper , Runcorn

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that point, because I was at the A.I.D. the week before last and I think that the Peace Corps is rapidly going to overwhelm and overtake other efforts. Possibly in a year or two we may find that the Peace Corps is filling most if not all of the overseas vacancies filled by the A.I.D., except in the highly advanced and skilled fields.

I come to the main topic of the debate, the volunteer. Against this background, with its rapid change from permanent service to short-time service, hitherto the provision of volunteers has been a small and supplementary part of the whole operation to meet overseas needs —just how small the hon. Member for Dundee, East stated quite clearly. But I expect that with the change in the nature of the service, the run-down of the permanent service, and the building up of the short service together with the obvious gaps which anyone can see in the developing countries in the manpower field, volunteers can and should play an increasing part.

I have referred to the excellent work of Voluntary Service Overseas, which, of course, was in the field even before the Peace Corps, but other voluntary organi- sations have also played their part. I have in mind the United Nations Association, International Voluntary Service, the National Union of Students and there are others. The National Council of Social Service has recently been cooperating with my Department to promote social service work overseas, particularly in the direction mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Miss Vickers).

Earlier this year, following the creation of my Department, and this rapid change in the nature of service, I felt the need to promote further activity in the field of voluntary service and several meetings of the interested parties and organisations were held under my auspices. These resulted in the setting up of the Lockwood Committee, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Lockwood, and comprising representatives of the interested organisations, together with representatives from my own and other Departments.

Their objective was twofold. The first aim, as has been said in more than one speech, was to co-ordinate the activities of the organisations at present in the field, and I submit that this was necessary. The second—and I think that this has not been made fully—was to fill the gap and provide for graduate volunteers to go overseas. The rôle of the Lockwood Committee is not only to co-ordinate but to supplement and expand. This provision of graduates seems to me to be most important, because as I have tried to explain to the House the need of the overseas countries is for trained people, and the nearer one can get to that stage with a volunteer, and this is the great success of the Peace Corps, so much the better. Quite obviously, the graduate comes nearer to that idea than the school leaver.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Has the Minister considered the possibility of bringing people to this country for training, rather than sending so many people from here to train Africans? I had occasion to entertain a few Africans at the request of the Home Department, and I was greatly impressed by the fact that they were of the opinion that it would be very much better if the trade union movement, the local authority movement, the Federation of British Industries, and so forth, tried bo encourage Africans to come into the movement far a period of training here and then go back to work in their own country.

Photo of Mr Dennis Vosper Mr Dennis Vosper , Runcorn

I fully agree. Reference has been made to two-way traffic. There are about 60,000 students from overseas in this country at the present time, and most of them are from developing countries. I appreciate the point which the hon. Member makes, but I think that we must stick to the theme of providing for the overseas manpower needs which have to be met from developed countries until their own people are fully trained.

In forming the Lockwood Committee, we looked first to a co-ordination of the existing activities. The hon. Member said there was no clearing house. In fact, the Lockwood Committee, or its secretariat, provides just that clearing house. At the time when I wrote the letter to the hon. Member the Committee did not exist. The second thing is the filling of the "graduate gap", which is comparable to the Peace Corps; and eventually, I hope, that the formation of the Lockwood Committee will lead to an overall expansion of the voluntary element of overseas service.

Most of the volunteers, be they Peace Corps, graduates or Voluntary Service Overseas are in the teaching sphere. That is where the gap remains. I was attracted by the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian. We hope that many volunteers will take up teaching English as it is spoken. I noted the attractive and imaginative proposal of the hon. Member. But, having regard to the needs of the developing countries, I feel that it would have a comparatively low priority, particularly with regard to India and Pakistan where the needs and pressures on my Department are very great.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Is the Minister aware of how crucial is the language problem? Dr. George Salt, a Fellow of the Royal Society and an entymologist, went out to Pakistan universities to lecture on insects with special reference to pest control in Pakistan. What did he find? The undergraduates did not understand the spoken word and therefore reaped little benefit from his lectures. Whether language as such is a priority is debatable. But is not it certain that, without an understanding of language, scientific ad- vance in under-developed countries will be frustrated? Would not the Minister agree that this is where familiarity with spoken English assumes such importance?

Photo of Mr Dennis Vosper Mr Dennis Vosper , Runcorn

I agree. In fact, we are doing this. I merely issued the warning that such an expensive and imaginative proposal would be unacceptable to my Department in view of the other needs of the Indian sub-continent.

The purpose of the voluntary bodies has been well covered in the speeches which have been made. The House has been told that this year Voluntary Service Overseas has sent 286 volunteers abroad, and I am in full support of its wish and intention to increase this number next year. I will come back to the question of finance in a moment.

On the graduate side, for the first time this year, in co-operation with Voluntary Service Overseas, we have sent 36 graduate volunteers to Africa; and the Lockwood Committee proposes that next year this figure should be increased to 250. These graduate volunteers, the new element in all this, will go overseas for one year. They will be paid a salary, or be given pocket money, with board and lodging, by the receiving organisation. In addition, fares will be paid and volunteers will receive various allowances, including an outfit allowance and a modest terminal grant of £150. These latter expenses will be paid for from United Kingdom public and private funds, and Her Majesty's Government have undertaken to provide half of these funds.

The response from the universities—this is in recent weeks—is, I think, encouraging Nearly 500 applications have been received from graduates, or from people who are graduating at the moment, and applications are coming in at the rate of six a day The relevant Committee has started to interview applicants and I shall be pleased to supply any hon. Member who is interested with a copy of the leaflet sent to universities in this connection. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport raised the question of publicity for this movement. In these matters which are my responsibility I do not think that we have been at fault. But I cannot speak for the efforts of Voluntary Service Overseas.

It is difficult to make forecasts about numbers, but I anticipate that by this time next year there will be upwards of 650 volunteers of all kinds serving overseas in developing countries. This would be at least more than double the number now serving. My hon. Friend and Member for Devonport asked about training. I find that a most difficult subject because the more time spent in training, the less time there is for the volunteer to serve overseas. Graduates in a pilot scheme in West Africa had one week's training, mainly an orientation course with a certain amount of education about teaching in schools. It would be my idea that the 250 to come next year would receive that amount of training and no more. But I am always open to reconsider this aspect.

I come now to what has been one of the main issues of the debate, the question of financing these operations. This is a voluntary service both by the nature of the service of the volunteers and by the manner in which it is organised and financed. I hope that it will always remain so, and I hope also that that is the majority view of the House. This seems an excellent opportunity to draw public attention to the existence of this service and to the fact that it provides an admirable opportunity for the many who have traditionally supported and financed voluntary service in all its forms in this country. Some industries and individuals have given their support and it is one of the main tasks of the Lockwood Committee to explore new sources of voluntary finance.

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) complained that Sir John Lockwood had to go and find money. He has been guaranteed half the money he needs from Government funds, and I do not think that that is too bad a beginning for a voluntary effort. For some years the Government have made a small contribution to the funds of Voluntary Service Overseas. This year I calculate that Government funds have provided probably about a quarter of the funds of Voluntary Service Overseas. I am well aware of the needs for the coming year. I cannot at this point announce what sum will be the contribution for next year. But I have said that I am anxious to see an increase in the total numbers for next year, and it must follow that the grant to Voluntary Service Overseas will at least be increased. But I cannot say by what amount.

This year, for the first time, Her Majesty's Government have made a financial contribution to the funds of other organisations, the United Nations Association and so on. Regarding graduates, I have already said that the Government are committed to meeting half of their costs next year and this commitment alone might work out at about £100,000. I think it may be said, in answer to the inquiries which have ben made, that the contribution from public funds has increased, is increasing and is more than likely to increase again considerably next year. The hon. Member for Islington, East asked me not to be skimpy in this matter, and I can assure him that the Government intend to increase their contribution to all forms of voluntary service very considerably.

My hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle asked for equality of treatment. That is to say, that the Government should contribute £ to £ for Voluntary Service Overseas in the same way as for the graduate scheme. Here the difficulty is that this has been an organisation financed initially and successfully almost entirely from voluntary funds, whereas the graduate scheme was initiated and sponsored by the Government. It was a priming operation. This year the Government paid the whole amount. For next year it is our proposal to provide half the money for the graduates. I too look to the day when the two schemes will be treated equally by the Government. But until the graduate scheme is fully afloat, it will be necessary for the Government to provide a bigger subvention for that scheme than for the school leavers. I hope that eventually there will be equality.

There remains the question as to what extent this should be a Government enterprise. Should it be a Peace Corps or left as a voluntary organisation? As our voluntary effort is supplementary to the main effort overseas, it seems that this is an enterprise well handled by the voluntary bodies which have an excellent tradition in our country and a good record in this field. I hope the House will agree with me that the rôle of the Government should be to co-ordinate these bodies without sapping their initiative, but at the same time providing them with encouragement and finance and otherwise fill the gaps in the programme and expand their operations. That has been our intention during the last few months and I welcome this debate, which has come at a time when we must take decisions for the future. I shall pay particular regard to all the suggestions which have been made.

I do not think that we have any reason to be ashamed of our efforts overseas to meet manpower needs. I am sure that the new rôle of short-term service overseas, coupled with voluntary service, will commend itself as much to our young men and women as did the permanent service which is now coming to an end. The thing that matters is that there should be a willingness to serve and a desire to help the developing nations. To this we must add the undoubted benefit which young people, particularly, derive from mixing and working with people overseas and the experience and ideas which they spread around when they return to this country.

This debate has been helpful to me and comes at a vital time in the making of plans for the future. I hope the knowledge that these opportunities exist for graduates as well as school leavers will come to the notice of all concerned, with the fact that this House wishes them well.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That this House, having regard to the excellent work of the organisations concerned with sending volunteers overseas to help in underdeveloped countries, urges Her Majesty's Government to give every assistance to ensure the expansion and development of this work.