I beg to move,
That the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation for the year ending on 31st March, 1966, which was laid before this House on 6th May, be approved.
In presenting the Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation Estimates to the House, I should like, first, to congratulate the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) on his new responsibilities and to welcome him anew to the Navy, and I should like to mention one or two of the figures in the Estimates.
It will be seen on the income side that there is a decrease in the revenue from the Northern Estates. That is explainable in part by the fact that we have done less thinning of the woodlands in those areas in the past year and less than we expect to do in the coming year. Last year, we sold the Alston Estate. It will also be noticed that on the income side there is an increase which results from the purchase of properties out of the proceeds of the Alston Estate, as well as an increase in the rental from one of our larger city properties. The net increase in income is £19,550 all told.
That gives me an opportunity to say a "Thank you" to the advisory panel on investments who work for nothing at all and who do us extremely well, the advisory panel which consists of Mr. George Ridley, Mr. Gore-Browne, and Mr. G. P. S. Macpherson—a name I knew many years ago in matters far removed from finance.
On the expenditure side, we have a reduction in respect of the Northern Estates, due again to less expenditure—we do not have to spend money on maintenance on the Alston Estates which were sold—and an increase of £27,300 in Royal Hospital School expenditure. This latter increase is in part due to the increased Burnham scales and the second increase in the superannuation payments, and it is in part due to an expenditure of £5,000 on repairs to the swimming bath, but on balance we expect to break even in the coming year. If there are any further explanations needed of these figures I shall be able to give them at the end of the debate; since I am moving a Motion I may speak a second time.
I want now for the moment to leave the figures and say a few words about the Royal Hospital School, which is the matter which normally raises the greatest interest in these debates. The Royal Hospital School, as the House perhaps knows, was founded by the charter of 1694. In that charter there are five articles of which two are particularly relevant, showing the purposes for which the charity was founded. One of those articles reads that it is for
the maintenance and education of the children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled in such sea service
and another says that it is for
the further relief and encouragement of seamen".
I should like the House to look closely at those two articles, and particularly at article 3:
the maintenance and education of the children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled in such sea servce".
It shows that from the earliest days the Royal Hospital School was not intended as an orphanage in the sense of an orphanage as an institution exclusively for the use of orphans. Specifically the charter refers to the children of seamen who are disabled and not to orphans.
I wish also to call the attention of the House to the fact that nowhere does the old charter refer either to officers or to ratings. The reference in both cases is to seamen—men who go to sea; and there is no distinction in that word between the lower deck and the quarterdeck. We have today in the officer structure the seaman branch; we even have the seaman flag list; and Admiral Cochrane—in my opinion, one of the greatest naval officers of all time—when he came to write his life story, called it "The Autobiography"—not of an officer but "of a Seaman".
So even if the present Admiralty Board, in dealing with the Royal Hospital School, were wholly bound by this 300 year old charter there is still justification in that charter for everything which has been done in the past 20 years. But in fact we are not so bound. This year is the hundredth anniversary of the Greenwich Hospital Act, and by that Act the management of the hospital was vested exclusively in the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty. I should just like that read from Section 20 of the Act:
The Government of Greenwich Hospital and of the Schools of the Hospital, including the Authority to establish from Time to Time Regulations for the Admission of Inmates into the Hospital and of Children into the Schools, shall be vested exclusively in the Admiralty, but any such Regulations shall not have effect unless and until they are approved by Her Majesty in Council".
So both by the old charter and by the 1865 Act the Admiralty Board, to which the responsibility of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty has been devolved, has the right, for example, to admit both the sons of officers and boys who are not orphans.
Further, since 1865 additional bequests have been made to Greenwich Hospital. There is the Rotely Bequest, which is specifically for the education of the sons of officers of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Marines. There is the Canada Fund which is, in part, for the education of the children of Naval officers, and, of course, there is the Reade Bequest for the benefit of officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Marines and their children, widows and dependants. Therefore, what the management committee and their Lordships in the past 20 years have been doing is fully in line with the guidance of the old charter and with the directions of the subsequent bequests.
What, in fact, has been done in the school in the past 20 years? What are the changes which have been brought about? Towards the end of the war, I think it was, the Bruntisfield Committee recommended, and the Board approved, that the standard of education at the Royal Hospital School should be improved, and it laid down only one proviso, that the school should be for the sons of seamen and that special provision should be made for orphans. There have been, following from that committee's report, three major changes.
The first was the broad and general decision that those who were responsible for this school should provide in it education up to the highest standard. That was a big decision and it has had some difficult consequences. In the first place, it has meant that we must have in the school fully qualified teachers who are paid on Burnham scales. It has meant that we have set about trying to provide education up to university entrance standard for all those who are able to benefit from it, and hence today we have two grammar streams. It has also meant we have tried to set the highest possible standard in the secondary modern streams, including the chance to take not only C.S.E. but also O-levels, and hence we have just recently developed what we call the 6D form for secondary modern, in which many boys are beginning now to take O-levels. Our aim, in fact, and the aim of the management committee and of the Board during the past 20 years, has been to make this school as fully comprehensive as we possibly could.
All that has resulted in a great increase in cost, and money to meet the increase had to be found from somewhere. It could have been found by cutting expenditure on pensions and grants, and I have seen that suggested sometimes. We decided that that was not right, that it would be unfair. Extra money could perhaps have come from the Ministry of Education, but we have tried that at least twice and been turned down both times. And so our only remaining choice in order to meet the increased expenditure was to impose fees.
At the time that decision was taken I and other colleagues on the management committee had grave doubts about the desirability of doing any such thing, but the imposition of fees has allowed us to tap some sources of income which had hitherto been closed to us. For example, there is the naval education allowance payable both to officers and to ratings whose sons are at boarding school. We are now able to tap that and get help for the financing of higher education in the school. We are also able to tap to a considerable extent grants from local education authorities. If one does not charge fees, one cannot go to the local authority and ask for grants, but if one does charge fees it is possible to do that. And, of course, in addition to those two sources there are the payments made by the parents themselves who are not exempted under the means test.
I think that the Answer on 14th July to the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) showed conclusively that without fees either Greenwich Hospital would have been seriously in the red, or the improvement in educational standards would have had to be curtailed. For example, the deficit last year without fees would have been £34,627, and the estimated deficit this year would be about £63,500.
We were, of course, all alive to the danger that charging fees might cause hardship. We therefore made a pledge to ourselves that no one who was otherwise eligible for admission to the school would be refused entry solely because of his family's shortage of money. In other words, we made sure that the means test which we were going to establish would be generous, and in fact it is slightly more generous than the scale adopted by the L.C.C. for its boarding schools, and it is regularly under review.
The third big change was the admission of the sons of officers, though this was not really a change. This had been done for a short time before, in the last century, so it was not entirely an innovation, but it was new in recent times. We did this for two reasons. First, the number of officers promoted from the lower deck is increasing. For example, Special Duties officers comprise about 20 per cent. of the total officers in the Service, and we thought that it would be altogether wrong and intolerable to penalise a man who had got on and got promotion by saying that he should be denied the privilege of having his son considered for entry into this school. We therefore said that the sons of officers who had spent a minimum of four years on the lower deck should be entitled to be considered for admission on the same basis as the sons of ratings.
But we went further than that. We also said that we were going to allow a limited number of sons of direct entry officers and upper yardmen to be considered for admission. The Board felt that an upper limit of 10 per cent. would achieve this object very well. We have tried to estimate the number of direct entry officers likely to have sons of the right age for entry to Holbrook, and to compare this with the corresponding figure for all naval personnel, and on the basis of this comparison it is clear that we are not giving the sons of direct entry officers more than their fair share of places.
The reason for allowing the sons of direct entry officers to be considered for places in the school was our desire to avoid any atmosphere of class in the school. We thought that it would be altogether wrong to continue what has been the position in the past of having schools stratified in social layers, of having segregated schools, of having some sort of social apartheid. We wanted this school to become a community. We wanted it to reflect the Navy as a whole, and not just one section of it, and I think that that decision is not only in keeping with present day thought but is completely right.
None of these changes has affected what has been, what is and what always will be the priority category for admission to the school, namely, the orphan sons of seamen. Some orphans are rejected. There are, unhappily, some orphans who are educationally sub-normal. There are some who are medically unfit or unsuited to boarding schools, such as bed wetters and so forth. It would be a waste of their time and ours, and altogether wrong, to admit them to the school. But where they are rejected the Hospital continues to make grants out of its funds towards their education in more appropriate schools. If necessary, the ordinary examination standards are lowered to ensure that orphans can be admitted, and I do not know of any orphan who is suitable for the school who has been rejected. The result of these changes in the past 20 years has been to provide for the sons of seamen an education which in my opinion is comparable with that provided by any school in the country, or maybe any school in the world.
Having said that, I think that it would be altogether wrong not to mention the extraordinarily good work that has been done over the past ten years by the present headmaster, by his second master, and by the whole staff of the school. I should also like to, and will, pay a tribute to the management committee, and especially to my two colleagues in the House, the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)—whom I am glad to see back from his illness, and who has brought his great experience in education to the help of the school—and the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) who has served this school for far longer than I have and done it with great devotion and skill. We are extremely grateful to them, to the staff and to the management committee for the way in which they have helped this school to develop.
I have one last word to say, and it is a personal one. The education that is now being given in this school is very far removed from the old idea of soup kitchen education which used to be given to orphans, to charity boys, and even to the sons of seamen. It is normal and constitutional for a Minister to assume responsibility for what has been done in his name, and it happens that this time my assumption of that responsibility is by no means formal. I, too, have served on this management committee for many years while the changes have been taking place, and, broadly, I have agreed with those that have been made, except for the introduction of fees, to which I objected at the time but which I now think was also right.
I take a responsibility for, and also a personal pride in, this very great school. I will willingly "carry the can" for any criticisms that are made of it, but if those criticisms seem to me—as some do—to be ill-informed I will not merely "carry the can"; I will use it as a weapon of offence.
I first want to thank the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy—hereinafter called "The Under-Secretary"—for the kind words he used in connection with me. The House will probably agree that he has given us a robust and encouraging account of the Royal Hospital School in the past year. Although, strictly speaking, we are considering the estimates for the school for the current year, it has been customary on these occasions to review the progress of the school at Holbrook since the last annual debate.
The Under-Secretary has been a governor of the school for the past fifteen years, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) has been a governor for 18 years, so both have great personal knowledge of the school. I am not quite sure what was the motive which underlay the first appointment of two hon. Members—it is now three hon. Members—as governors of the school—
I can enlighten the hon. Member on that point. As a result of a speech I made in this House in 1945, it was decided to change the headmaster and to set up a different board of governors, instead of having the headmaster of Harrow as the chairman of the board of governors when the school had no connection with Harrow at all.
I knew about the sequence of events. That is why I used the words "I am not quite sure what was the motive"—because post quod is not always propter quod. I was going to say that if, as has been suggested, it was to guard against any tendency that there might be to change the character of the school in certain respects—and that is where the hon. and gallant Member's speech comes in—I am glad to know that any such attempt to prevent change failed, and that the two hon. Members seem to have acted rather as a catalyst to change.
Nothing could have been sadder than that this old, large and famous school should have continued to educate nearly 1,000 boys—as, on the old basis, it would have done—in a way that was thought good enough for the sons of ratings of the past. If, in order to obtain the most rapid turnover of the largest possible number of boys, this school had continued to receive them at 11 and turn them out at 15, it would have been no more than a baited trap for the unwary, and would have loaded a disadvantage upon those boys with a sea background and very often with a family loss arising out of sea service—those very boys for whose special advantage the school was originally founded.
Instead, since the war the school has been adding to the physical prowess which it has long enjoyed, and for which it is so well equipped, an intellectual tradition which will enable its boys to play a fuller part in life, whether in the Armed Services of the Crown or in civil occupations. There are now 683 boys in the school, which is much below the number for which the buildings were designed in 1933. I imagine that the number could not be increased greatly if there is to be the sort of sixth form that there should be, and which the Under-Secretary has indicated there will be, and if boys are consequently going to stay at the school until they reach the age of 18 or 19.
I regret that not all boys who are eligible can get in. I believe that that is the position. If it were not I would think that the education was less good than it should be, for if the education there has improved in recent years in the manner which has been described, and of which I wholeheartedly approve, it ought to follow that the demand for places will rise as surely as the number who can be received is reduced.
My hon. Friend has raised a very important point. He might be interested to know that whereas in about 1947 we could not get enough boys to go to the school—there were then only about 580 boys there—it now has a capacity for approximately only one out of every four applicants who wish to go to it.
I am obliged to my hon and gallant Friend for saying that. It is important to get this fact publicly stated, and on the report. In this debate two years ago it was said that the number of applications and the number of places were in balance. On 11th July, 1963, the Civil Lord said that
the number of applications we are getting from each term at this school is roughly equivalent to the number of places available … The only check to a boy joining the school is either that he does not fulfil the necessary medical standards or … that he does not come up to the proper intelligence quotient and is therefore not suitable for education at this type of school anyway and requires probably some kind of special schooling."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1963; Vol. 680, c. 1596.]
That was the position just over two years ago, but although in the debate last year nothing specifically was said about it, a limit of 10 per cent. on the admission of sons of cadet entry officers was announced and I derived the general impression that applications were perhaps already beginning to exceed the number of places available.
Last July the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Commander Pursey), who has long—in every sense of the word—taken an interest in this subject, asked the Under-Secretary what was the number of applications for the last entry and what number failed educationally, medically, or at the interview. The Under-Secretary replied that there were 82 applicants for the May entry of this year—which at that time was the last entry—including the sons of five direct-entry officers, the sons of four officers promoted from the lower deck, and four orphans—all of whom were admitted. Then he said that of the 46 who were not admitted, which is just over half, 20 did not reach the educational standard required, and no applicant failed on medical or interview grounds. From that, I draw the conclusion that 26 did not get in because there was no room for them, and therefore that the entry was competitive. I am far from complaining about that, but if the entry is competitive, how is the choice made?
He was asked on the 8th July last in a Question for Written Answer what tests were used in connection with the admission of boys to the school. The Under-Secretary replied:
Admission is based on a confidential report from the boy's school and on simple tests of English comprehension and basic arithmetic. The object is to discover whether a boy has the character, temperament and ability to take his place in a large comprehensive boarding school. For orphans the standards for entry are considerably relaxed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1965; Vol. 715, c. 316.]
The Under-Secretary will realise that a simple test of English comprehension and basic arithmetic is really only a pons assinorum. It is not the sort of examination on which one would expect a selective entry to be based. Yet, obviously, when the governors and the headmaster, or whoever decides these things, were faced with 82 applicants in May, they had to reject 46 of them. My hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle, East has just informed me that the figure is now running at three rejections out of four applicants, and therefore the question that I ask is how that selection is now made.
Having said so much about the detail, I want to emphasise again that I am not at all worried about it. It seems to me to be an inevitable accompaniment of the improvement of the school in the way that it ought to have been improved in order to provide a proper education for the sons of naval or merchant service men. Those who are unfortunately left out will not, as in times past, especially remote times past, be left without education or be educated at some of the very poor establishments which existed before compulsory education came to England in 1870, some time after it had arrived in Scotland and Wales. They will have the choice of grammar, secondary modern and technical schools which is available now in all parts of the country.
The Under-Secretary has really done it already in his speech, and I think it best now if, for the first time, the governors of the school and the responsible Minister firmly take their stand on the right position in matters of admitting the sons of officers as well as the sons of ratings and the charging of fees, and do not any longer base them on the contention that there is room for all and that, therefore, no one is excluded. Up to last year, it was primarily put on that basis. The Under-Secretary this year, for the first time, put his main weight on a different justification and, as I say, it should be explicitly said now that that is the justification, and not the fact, which no longer applies, that there is room for all.
It is right upon the merits to have admitted to the school the sons of officers, for reasons which I need not go into in any detail because the Under-Secretary has stated them himself. It would be entirely artificial and contrary to the general attitudes of the times in which we live if the school were limited to boys coming from one class of home, if there is any element of class to be distinguished between the officers and men in the Navy.
It is absurd that if it is a good school and one to which entry is to be eagerly sought a father who has served in the Royal Navy for many years on the lower deck should lose his entitlement to submit his son for selection because, in the year before the boy reaches the appropriate age, the father is promoted from the lower deck to commissioned rank. Having planned to send his son to Holbrook, he will have good reason to believe that the boy is up to the standard to secure admission. If he were then given promotion and the sons of officers were excluded, he would lose the right to submit the boy for that school. In previous years, the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has himself said that it would be absurd if a boy already there were to be removed from the school because his father had been promoted during the boy's period at the school. It is equally absurd if a father loses the right to submit his boy because he has been promoted. The limitation of 10 per cent. on direct entry officers' children is probably justifiable on purely pragmatic grounds. It would be difficult to justify it on pure principle, but, after all, one has to have rules, and I do not quarrel with that one.
I am very glad that the Under-Secretary made the point, which I should have made more fully if he had not, that it is not inconsistent with the charter nor is it inconsistent with the initial deed of gift which followed the charter. As he said, the charter does not refer to officers nor to ratings but to seamen. I see no reason why we should interpret that word as it was used in 1694 in the most restricted sense in which it can be used today. Even today, when someone refers to a seaman without any attributive word, he does not usually mean a rating. If he says "able seaman" or "ordinary seaman", one knows what he means, but if he uses the word "seaman" in a general way he may refer to a seafaring man. He is perhaps more likely to mean a seaman, as distinct from other seafaring men; that is to say, one who is concerned in the seaman branch or the navigating and shipwork side of seafaring. But is it to be argued that an engine room artificer ought not to be able to submit his boy for Holbrook? In the most commonly accepted sense of the word, I suppose that an engine-room artificer is not a seaman, but that would be absurd. Plainly, he is meant to be included in the bounty of the original charter.
I noted that the Under-Secretary had managed to find some useful quotation. I thought a bit about it, too, and I did not have to look further than Tennyson's Ode to the Duke of Wellington:
Mighty Seamen, this is he
Was great by land as thou by sea.
That seaman was an admiral, a flag officer.
I will not read out the terms of the original deed of gift, but under it the first individuals to give out of their private resources to the endowment of this hospital, immediately after the Charter of William and Mary, used words in their deed of gift which were clearly based on the charter and echoed it but which were even wider and clearly intended to cover all those who used the sea, who were seamen in the broadest sense of going in ships. I therefore feel that no violence whatever has been done to history by the steps which have been taken, and the result is a good mixed school giving a good education and reflecting the modern community. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will permit me to say that I do not entirely accept the word "comprehensive" which he used in his answers. I do not wish to introduce any controversy into this debate.
I do not eschew controversy in other contexts, as the hon. Member has every reason to know, but we are talking about this school.
It is a selective school, doubly selective by the tests for admission, which are apparently now excluding three out of four, and also by the background of the fathers, which has to be nautical. It is a selective and not a comprehensive school, but it has three secondary modern streams and two grammar streams and it is therefore an interesting hybrid in the controversy which exists elsewhere.
I turn briefly to the question of fees. It looks a little complicated but I think that in essence it is simple. As I understand the position—and it is difficult to keep up to date on these figures because they are always being revised—the grants from naval funds available to serving officers and men if they send their children to boarding schools are for the eldest son £210 a year, for the second child £255 a year and for the third and subsequent children £300 a year. These grants can be obtained by any serving man who is sending his son or daughter to a boarding school and who gets a certificate from his commanding officer that he is not likely to be in the same place throughout the next four years The House will realise that that qualification does not exclude many people.
This must be set against the fees at present being charged for the school, which are £100 a year.
Hon. Members will see that the figure is far below the amount of the grant which can almost automatically be obtained. The effect of the scheme, therefore, is that those who are at present serving in the Royal Navy will not have themselves to pay these fees. They will be paid through the parent, but they will be fully offset by the allowance which he will be able to claim. These fees, therefore, have relevance only in respect of those parents who are no longer serving in the Royal Navy or in respect of a woman whose husband has been killed. Such people are eligible for the ordinary local authority grants. Those grants are discretionary, as the Under-Secretary of State indicated, but always in the background there are the not inconsiderable resources of the Greenwich Foundation itself, which is there to care for the needy cases in which neither the grant from naval funds nor the grant from the local authority resources is available.
I think that the House will therefore agree that if the fees were not charged the only practical effect would be that the college would get less money from public sources than it otherwise could. Let us put it as crudely as that. Instead, it would be financing the school by cutting down the number of pensions to naval widows and other naval pensioners which at present it grants. The arithmetic is as simple as that. Faced with that alternative, I cannot see how any responsible body of governors could have made a different decision from that which they made, and the Under-Secretary will know that I say that in no unkind or critical spirit, bearing in mind that he originally opposed it. I think that the position may not have been as stark then as it is now.
The average cost for a boy is £411. I started by thinking that that was rather high, and then, when I reflected that it included clothing, I began to think that it was perhaps a little low. I am not sure how I finish, on balance, but I have no doubt that the governors scrutinise the figure very carefully, and I suppose that it is about the right figure. May I ask the Under-Secretary of State whether the last Burnham award took the governors by surprise? It occurs to me that the estimates must have been published before the Burnham award was announced. Perhaps the hon. Member will tell us what he intends to do about the unexpected magnitude of the Burnham award, if indeed it were unexpected, as I suspect that it was.
These are very large assets which are being administered. I do not know the capital value, but it must be many millions of £s. Perhaps one year we could be given a little more information about the details of the administration. I am not thinking so much of the investments; that information is easily given and no doubt available. But, apart from the stock held, there are other sources of income, and one year it might be useful to have a debate not solely on the admission of sons of officers and the charging of fees, which seems to have pre-empted our whole attention for some years, but on the actual administration of these resources.
The only point which I noted from the details available was that £30,000 seemed rather a lot for heating. It was £50 per boy per year, which I would have thought extravagant were it not for the fact that the school is in Suffolk, and, having spent the last six weeks of the war at a naval air station in Suffolk, I feel that perhaps I should not be surprised if one needed £30,000 to keep one person warm for one day in February in that county.
I am sure that the whole House feels that the school makes a most valuable contribution to the national life. It must surely be the only school which gets a separate debate to itself every year in Parliament. Perhaps it is as well that we do not generalise this habit. But everything there is most closely scrutinised because it is debated at considerable length here every year. I believe that the boys still wear naval uniform—I have not had the pleasure of visiting the school—but I believe that the Under-Secretary of State will confirm that it is a general school educating boys for life in the general community. The undertaking which, in retrospect, seems a little shocking, which all the boys and their parents had to sign—that in return for the education given the boy pledged himself to enter the Royal Navy—was abolished in 1944, and I am glad that it was, but I am also glad that without the undertaking, which was a dreadful tie to put on a boy at the age of 10, one-third of the boys still, in fact, go from the school into the Royal Navy. I hope that that is still the position. One-half of them go into either the Royal Navy or Merchant Navy or the dockyards, and therefore, into a maritime occupation. This shows that the school is not only giving the boys the kind of general education the House would want them to have but that it is playing a particularly valuable part in the naval preparations of the Kingdom—which, the charter makes clear, was one of the prime objectives of the Sovereigns who instituted this Foundation.
This is the first occasion in 20 years that the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of this Foundation has been discussed at the beginning of a Parliamentary day. In the past we have had to debate the subject either late at night or early in the morning.
As an old boy of the Royal Hospital School, I made my maiden speech in the House on a similar Statement in 1945 at one o'clock in the morning. To be truthful, I did so because there were very few people in the Press Gallery, the Public Gallery and in the Chamber. Indeed, apart from the one or two Ministers who had to be present on the Front Bench, the Chamber was empty at the time. There was not even an Adjournment debate that night. Today the position has improved and there are greater numbers, both in the Press and Public Galleries. There are also a larger number of hon. Members present, though apparently some who were here not long ago have left, possibly because I rose to speak.
My second introductory remark is that two hon. Members who have had Questions on the Order Paper about the Royal Hospital School—the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes)—are unable to be here today. The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), who usually takes part in these debates, is abroad on a Parliamentary mission. The other hon. Members who have regularly taken part in these debates—my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds)—are now Junior Ministers concerned with other Departments and, from the point of view of today's debate, are in purdah. In view of these absentees, I must endeavour to make up for them and so justify the use of a reasonable amount of the House's time. I welcome the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), a relative newcomer to this place.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary referred to the Act of 1865. What an Act! What an Admiralty! Until then Greenwich Hospital had been the Chelsea Hospital of the Navy. The Admiralty wanted to get the buildings for the Royal Naval College. First of all the Admiralty offered the pensioners a pittance of an extra 3d. a day as a pension. That offer was raised to 5d. a day—and so the naval pensioners were bought out for penny pensions. Consequently, Greenwich Hospital, which had been given by William and Mary, was lost to the pensioners.
There are two main factors to be considered when we discuss these annual estimates. The first is that we are discussing an ancient, wealthy, nautical charity, Greenwich Hospital, with a capital of more than £4 million and an income of nearly £500,000. We are talking of funds for the giving of charity pensions, by selection, to a limited number of retired officers, ratings and widows. I will have something to say about that later, because it would be interesting to know what proportion of these pensions are paid to former naval personnel.
The second factor is the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, in Suffolk, which is for the entry at the age of 11 of the sons of seafarers. The most important human interest factor is, of course, the Royal Hospital School. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) did not refer to this, but it should be known that "brass-hats" with a salary of £2,000 a year can have their sons educated free whereas ratings' widows who have meagre pensions of only £4 a week and allowances—or one-tenth of the income of these "brass-hats"—must pay for their orphan sons to be educated at what has been for 250 years the Navy's orphanage.
We have had this argument before. There is no question but that the school was an orphanage. The old school at Greenwich has a plaque attached to it stating that the site was the site of an orphanage. The school was indeed an orphanage. In any case, I am entitled to put my interpretation on the charter, and if my hon. Friend wishes to give it his interpretation he is entitled to do that, too.
As I say, for 250 years it was the Navy's orphanage. It has always been understood to have been such. I can go back to my grandfather's time. After service in the Crimea War he was a Greenwich Hospital pensioner. My father was in the Service and I was educated at the school. My hon. Friend will see, therefore, why I cannot accept what he says. His intervention was an entirely false hare.
I was in the process of pointing out that whereas ratings' widows with meagre pensions of only £4 a week and allowances—or one-tenth of the "brass-hats'" income—must pay for their sons to be educated at what has been the Navy's orphanage for more than 250 years—
If what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying were exactly true it would, of course, be shocking, but is it not the case that the sort of widow he has mentioned would apply to the local education authority for a grant for the education of her child and would almost certainly be given it—and that if she were not the Foundation itself would pay whatever proportion of the fees, or all the fees, was necessary, according to the financial circumstances of the widow?
I am grateful for that intervention, because I was tempted to intervene earlier to ask what proportion of such applications to local education authorities receive nothing at all. The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's intervention is therefore, "Nonsense". The point he made not being the exact position, he must therefore accept that what is happening is a scandal.
I will quote cases to prove what I say. Does the hon. Gentleman consider that a widow receiving a pension of £4 a week should pay the fees for educating her son at the Navy's orphanage—an orphanage for naval orphans? Even ratings' widows with several young children who are forced to go out to work because of their low income and who have to pay another woman to look after the children are dunned by the Admiralty and Greenwich Hospital to pay fees and so contribute their pound of flesh to this massive seamen's charity which ought itself, as the hon. Member says, to pay these widows' fees.
We are doing very well with interruptions today, and I am quite happy with that one. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be as keen to deal with the cases which I shall quote in a moment as he is to interrupt me to try to put me off my stride. I assure him that I am not being put off my stride today, and certainly not by the Minister.
I shall give the examples. Patience is a virtue.
Moreover, because of the post-war entry of commissioned officers' sons, numerous ratings' sons, particularly orphans, are unable to secure entry into this school which was originally established for the sons of seamen, preferably orphans. The remarkable feature of this debate so far is the emphasis put by the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South on justifying what has happened and putting an entirely new construction on the Royal Charter quite different from what was accepted less than 20 years ago. I shall come to that in a moment.
What are the facts regarding Greenwich Hospital, the Chelsea Hospital of the Navy, which is now the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, which for two centuries was on the opposite site where the National Maritime Museum now is? I was educated at this school, so I can speak with first-hand knowledge, with 20 years' experience in the House, and with much documentary evidence from earlier HANSARDS and numerous answers to my Questions over the years. The Greenwich Hospital Royal Charter of William and Mary, dated 1694, provided for three objects: one, the support of disabled seamen; two, the sustenance of widows. Incidentally, I challenge the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South, who both quoted from the charter. Why did they not quote that second object, the sustenance of widows? shall tell the House why—because Greenwich Hospital's attitude today is, "We are not looking for widows", in other words, "We are not looking for orphans".
The third object was the maintenance and education of the children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled in sea service. In other words, Greenwich Hospital was to deal specifically with destitute seamen, widows and orphans, both Royal Navy and Merchant Service. Obviously, the school was not intended for the sons of serving officers, and for it to be so used today is a serious misappropriation of charitable funds.
I come now to the argument about seamen and officers. There is no doubt at all but that at that time it was a matter of dealing with seamen, widows and orphans, that is, ratings' widows and orphans. But I take the point that at one period officers' sons were entered. What sort of officers' sons? Not the sons of serving officers. An officer, in order to get his son into the school, had to obtain from the clergyman of the parish, with supporting signatures, a certificate to say that the officer was an object of charity. Can either the Under-Secretary of State or the hon. Gentleman opposite argue that the present-day officer with £2,000 a year income is an object of charity? Of course not, yet the whole purpose of the school all along was for charitable objects and for people lacking income.
The regulations for the Greenwich school of 1,000 boys provided for seven classes of entry. The first four were the various categories of orphans: (1) both parents dead; (2) father killed on duty; (3) father dead, mother living; (4) mother dead, father living. There is no question but that the school was to be mainly an orphanage. What else could it be if the four main categories for preferential selection were orphans?
The school was transferred from Greenwich to Holbrook in 1933, but the number of boys has been cut down by one-third, from 1,000 to only 675. Although the site was a free gift from the wealthy New Zealand shipowner, Mr. G. S. Reade, and over £1 million was spent on buildings and equipment, two planned hostels were not built. Before the hostels were built, it was decided to build the church, so the school has the most expensive church and the most expensive organ of any school in the land. It has got the largest swimming bath. It has all the largest overheads. Why? The plans were for 1,120 boys, but the two missing hostels meant that the number was cut down, and it is still cut down. So we have these expensive, massive buildings taking only half the complement originally intended. Holbrook is known locally as the "million pound folly". The reason is that a village was built instead of a school, and now, due to this lavish and wasteful expenditure, widows have to pay fees. That is where the money was lost.
The regulations for the new Holbrook school were the same as those for the old Greenwich school, that is, it continued as a school for ratings' sons, preferably the four classes of orphans, for the first 16 years of its existence, from 1933 to 1949. Never mind the question of education at the moment. I am not dealing with that today because I do not want to take too long. There is no question whatever but that Holbrook school followed the Greenwich school with the same regulations, and, right up to 1949, those regulations were for the entry of orphans. This fact cannot be disputed. The regulations were published in the current Navy List, and there are copies in the Commons Library.
Unfortunately, during the last 16 years—and here I am on common ground because it has been stated earlier—there have been two serious breaches in the Royal Foundation Charter, and both of them have had disastrous results for the type of boys who were previously accepted. In fact, the school is now so posh that I, as the son of a poor Devon fisherman, and my classmates of those days would not be accepted, yet three of my contemporaries became admirals and one a rear-admiral.
So what was wrong with the school? There was not anything wrong with it. All this talk to denigrate the Greenwich school to build up Holbrook is nonsense. I am not saying that in the process of time education should not be improved; that, however, is outwith my argument A number of men obtained commissions, as I did, and a number gave creditable and distinguished service in peacetime and in war.
The first serious breach of the Royal Foundation Charter was made as recently as 1949, when the Admiralty decided to break faith with their own ex-ratings, widows and orphans, for whom the school was founded, and accept the sons of serving officers, probably for the first time, who certainly were not objects of charity, at the expense of ratings' sons and orphans. One of the reasons given by the Admiralty for the entry of commissioned officers' sons at that time was a shortage of applications from ratings' sons. For years this has been nonsense, as I will show by figures. There is no lack of applications even from boys of the required unnecessarily high standard. I want to get on record the fact that the entry examination is higher than for any comparable school in its category in this country, the object being to take the "cream" and not to take the poor boys for whom the school was founded. In fact, the current Greenwich Hospital letter of refusal to ratings' sons states:
An altogether exceptional number of applicants, far in excess of the vacancies available, were received for the entries for May and September, 1965, and January, 1966. In the circumstances, it has been unavoidably necessary to reject not only a few boys who
did not reach the required educational standard, but also a number who did quite well at the examination.
That is the official statement. I underline
a number who did quite well at the examination
because this official statement of a surfeit of ratings' applications makes nonsense of the Admiralty argument of a shortage of applications from ratings' sons when such boys are being kept out to enable officers' sons to be entered.
What has been the result of the entry of commissioned officers' sons. In these second 16 years of the new school, 463 officers' sons have been entered, to the exclusion of a similar number of ratings' sons, because, obviously, every officer's son who is entered prevents a rating's son from getting a place. What is worse is that ratings' orphans are refused entry to the Navy's orphanage because of officers' sons entering.
The result is that today there are only 48 orphans out of 675 boys, or only one in 14. The number of ratings' sons unable to gain admission during the last school year was 81—and here, I think, I have the same figures as the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. South, so we are batting on the same wicket. If this were an average year, it means that in the 16 years since commissioned officers' sons have entered nearly 1,300 ratings' sons have been denied entry. Of the 36 boys entered at the beginning of the 1964–65 year three were sons of officers and 33 were sons of ratings. Why enter three officers' sons when there is such a large number of applications from ratings' sons? Why not have a full entry of ratings' sons? For the May entry this year, 46 out of 82 applicants—or over 50 per cent.—were not admitted. No applicant failed on medical or interview grounds, so the failures were all educational. I have, however, stated that in the current quarter it is admitted that those who have passed the educational standard are not being admitted.
I will give three examples of ratings' sons being refused admission from one naval port area—Portsmouth—although the same argument applies to Devonport, Chatham and elsewhere. In the first case, the father is a leading seaman who has re-engaged to complete time for pension and to make the Navy his career. This is just the type of father whose son should be admitted, instead of an officer's son. The boy passed his medical examination. His headmaster gave him a good report and was most surprised that he was rejected and wrote to Greenwich Hospital emphasising his opinion that the boy should have been accepted. There is a second boy at the same school who has been rejected, but I need not give details as they are largely a repetition of the other two cases.
In my third case, the father is a petty officer who had served for 26 years. The boy had a perfect report in his medicai examination. His school stated that he did very well indeed in his educational examination. Last term, he was third in his class and his report stated that he had worked hard and done well, was keenly interested in cricket, football, swimming and dramatic work and his conduct was excellent. Yet he was rejected. Why? This youth might well have become a good leader of men.
What more does the Admiralty want? Does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, now that he is chairman of the Board of Governors, want a boy of 11 to be a senior wrangler with a rugby blue and to be the son of a "brass-hat" before he can be accepted for this posh school, which is becoming posher and posher? The present position is that one-third of the boys—namely, 214 out of 675—are officers' sons. The board of governors and all the fathers concerned should hang their heads in shame at the thought of 214 ratings' sons being kept out of the school at Holbrook because of these entries of officers' sons.
I turn now to the question of fees. The second serious breach in the Royal Foundation Charter was made only eight years ago, as recently as 1957. Greenwich Hospital, in spite of its millions of capital but because of bad administration—because the assets are worth far more and the income should be far more—then had another financial crisis, as it has done previously down the centuries. At previous crises, however, the Admiralty has taken over payment of some of the Greenwich Hospital charity pensions in order that entries into the school should remain. Someone, however, should ask: why pay these pensions at all today?
At one time, Greenwich Hospital pensions were the only pensions there were. Today, we have pensions under the National Insurance Scheme. Serving officers and ratings who complete their time are paid naval pensions, all naval officers' widows get naval pensions and some ratings' widows get pensions. What is the justification, in this age of social welfare services, for paying selected Greenwich Hospital pensions to a few people of whom we know nothing? Formerly, when these pensions were paid to serving officers, that fact appeared in the Navy List—now it seems to be done by black magic.
In the previous crisis the Admiralty took over the payment so that entry should be free. That was not the case this time. If the pensions are justified they should be naval pensions and not charitable pensions at the expense of the school. To the horror of everyone who knows the history of the orphanage it was decided to charge an annual fee of £100 for all new entrants, including orphans. The then Under-Secretary had been a governor for seven years and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) for longer, so they were two of the board responsible for this reprehensible decision. The Admiralty argument rested on rising costs at the orphanage. What is to happen with further rising costs? Are we to have higher and higher fees, more and more officers' children and fewer and fewer ratings' sons and ratings' orphans?
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South gave some large figures of moneys available to officers to educate their children anywhere in the country, but a rating cannot get that kind of pension—
The chances of a rating's son paying the higher fees is very remote, so the chances of the ratings getting the higher standard are very small. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State asks, "What do you mean?" I will tell him. The chance of a rating's son going to one of the expensive schools, and so justifying a higher payment, is remote. That is what I mean, and I shall not elaborate on it.
There is another Greenwich Hospital crisis at present, but the Admiralty has recently decided to increase the fee to £120 from January, 1966. This time, the increased fee is not to be limited to new entrants; it is also to be charged for boys now at the school—another scandal. What was the position in 1957? As the hon. Gentleman has said, the Admiralty already had a Forces' children education and maintenance allowance which would pay the fees for serving officers and ratings. We are therefore batting on a lot of common ground today. The Admiralty's object was that ex-Service fathers and widows should try to get local education authorities to pay the whole or part of the fees. I should like to know how many education authorities pay fees in full, how many pay part and how many refuse to pay at all.
The result is a marvellous combination of permutations. Serving officers and ratings themselves pay nothing. Ex-Service ratings and widows may get a full grant, a part grant or nothing at all from the education authorities. The Admiralty may remit part, or nothing, of the fee, and the parent has to pay the balance. What a game! Finally, ratings' widows have to pay fees out of their own pockets. What a scandal!
I want now to try to satisfy the Under-Secretary by giving three examples of this national scandal of naval ratings' widows having to pay for the education of their orphaned sons at the Navy's own orphanage while the sons of "brass-hats" are educated at no cost to their families. The first case is that of a widow whose husband was a chief petty officer. He had served for over 24 years, and died on foreign service. This widow has a naval widow's pension of £70 a year, and is charged £70 a year in school fees. The Admiralty has paid her £70 in pension with one hand, and has taken it away with the other for the education of her orphaned son. What an Admiralty! What a charity—out for its pound of flesh from the widows of the Navy's own Service men. What an advertisement for recruits.
I have with me this widow's receipts for the school fees. At first she was charged the petty sum of £2 per term—to add £6 a year to Greenwich Hospital's £½ million annual income. Then, because she went out to work, she was charged £70 per annum, so that the Admiralty could take back her naval widow's pension. For some time afterwards she was charged the full widow's rate of £100, and finally the fee came down again to £70. Who would expect such pettifogging action by a great State Department like the Admiralty in dealing with one of its own rating's widows?
In the second case, the husband was a petty officer who died after 12 years' service, including war service. That means that his widow does not receive a naval widow's pension. She was suddenly left to bring up three young children aged 9, 6 and 3. Later, the eldest boy entered Holbrook but, in spite of the widow having the burden of the other two young children, she was charged £15 per annum. A sum of £15 may not be a lot of money to the Admiralty or to Greenwich Hospital, but to any rating's widow it is an appreciable sum which she can ill-afford to lose.
The third case concerns another petty officer's widow—this time with six young children. Incredible though it may sound she has to pay fees for the education of one of her sons. Her husband served for 20 years—nearly a full career for pension—but he was invalided out, and died five months later. This was just the type of case to comply with the Royal Foundation Charter for free maintenance and education. The ages of the children were 15, 12, 10, 9, 7 and 6, yet this heavily handicapped widow was charged £26 per annum fees. This 10s. a week is an injustice for any rating's widow with six children. Surely this case if no other should be accepted as a wholly compassionate case on two counts: one, that the father was invalided from the Service, a precise case from the Royal Charter and, two, the number of orphan children, boys and girls. No fees should have been taken from the widow herself. But the Admiralty must have its pound of flesh, to the detriment of the mother and her six children.
Admittedly, all three widows have taken up full employment, but let us picture a widow having to go out to work and then pay these fees. The widows of ratings must work to pay their expenses, but that means paying another woman to look after their children. What are deemed to be the net wages in these cases? What is the Admiralty's assessment of the income of a widow who is charged £70 fees? Is it gross or net wages? Is a rating's widow who has to do a full day's work and then return and deal with home and children assessed on gross income, or in the same way as an officer's widow whose income is from pensions and investments and does not have to go out to work? The House has a right to know how this mysterious naval charity swindle is manipulated.
I have given the Under-Secretary details of these cases so that there is no attempt to take him by surprise. What is his reply? Quite incredibly, he attempts to justify the fees charged to these widows. He argues that the widows have not complained of the fees charged. What nonsense! Obviously, he has no experience of dealing with poverty. One needs to have been poor to appreciate the value of every penny for children. Does he expect the widows of petty officers to be pleading poverty in order to get the charity to which they are entitled under the Royal Foundation Charter? Does he not realise that these widows have some sense of pride? What rating's widow, once she becomes an object of charity, complains of the few crumbs she receives? How many of them realise that the object of the Royal Foundation Charter was to provide free education for their orphan sons? If they all did, there would be merry hell to pay, with public meetings of protest in the naval ports, Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham and Rosyth and in the fishing ports, because all seafarers are entitled to have their sons considered for this orphanage.
Who are the guilty men who have refused the entry of the sons of ratings in order to take the sons of commissioned officers and who have charged fees to the widows of these ratings, fees which they should never have been asked to pay? The answer is the Admiralty and the board of governors. The Under-Secretary is now the chairman and, as we have been told, two hon. Members, one from each side, are on the board. The Under-Secretary has now been the chairman for a year. What has he done to remedy these injustices which are a blot on the escutcheon of the Senior Service? Precisely nothing. He continues to support the Tory policy of keeping the poor poor.
The Under-Secretary is a member of the Labour Government. The Government have abolished the earnings rule for widows. Whenever the social services have been discussed, hon. Members on both sides of the House have argued the case for widows, particularly for widows with young children, as the most compassionate case and that for first consideration.
I throw down this challenge to the Under-Secretary now; when he replies to the debate, will be announce from that Dispatch Box, "The Admiralty and Greenwich Hospital have decided to abolish the earnings rule for ratings' widows in considering the fees for the Royal Hospital School"? If not, I challenge him to justify this iniquitous practice which his own Government have discarded.
So much for the present. What about the future? Despite its millions, Greenwich Hospital is again in one of its periodic financial crises. Why does the Admiralty not now take over some of the pensions and use Greenwich Hospital fund for the school and orphans? Instead the Admiralty has decided to increase fees from £100 to £120. Let me make this point clear: I am not arguing about getting money from local education authorities or other sources; my argument is that what is fish for the goose is flesh for the gander—my own analogy. If a commissioned officer has to pay nothing for his son, certainly the widow of a rating should pay nothing out of her own pocket for her orphaned son.
I have a copy of the current letter which reads:
Many of the parents of boys at the School are of course able to obtain assistance with the fees from their Local Education Authorities but some, like yourself, are not receiving assistance from this source.
These are the cases with which I want hon. Members to deal and which I want investigated. The letter goes on:
In order that we may review the amount of your contribution from next January I
should be glad if you would complete and return the enclosed confidential form of income.
Here is another means test for ratings' poor widows with no help from the local education authority. It is another attempt to increase the pound of flesh from the widows of these ratings.
Yet no such means test is applied to serving officers and ratings. That is another scandal. The Admiralty argues that it does not receive many applications from the widows of ratings. The reason is that it does not make any real attempt to get them by informing widows about the school. The plain fact is that despite protestations to the contrary, the Admiralty does not seriously want orphans.
In June, I had a letter published in several newspapers all over the country asking for information from parents, including widows, who had been unable to get their sons into Holbrook. The outstanding feature of the replies was the number of parents, including widows, who said that they had no knowledge of the school. One letter came from Norwich, only a few miles from Holbrook. The Cruse Clubs, the "Counselling Service for Widows", stated:
The situation following our inquiries is widows are not informed about education available at the Royal Hospital School unless they themselves make a point of inquiring.
Obviously widows cannot inquire if they are not aware of the school. Why does the Admiralty not announce the dates for application for each term in a Press release to the agencies and to the national and naval port Press as it does with other announcements? There is no question that the object of the Admiralty is to obtain as many sons of serving officers and ratings as possible. Then, whatever the fee may be, it can be paid from naval funds. They want to take less and less boys of ex-Service men and less and less orphans. That is the exact reverse of the original regulations. The present regulations give four classes. They are:
(a) Serving or former commissioned officers"—
in other words serving or former comissioned officers first—
Non-commissioned officers, both officers or men of the Royal Navy and Marines; (b) Officers or men of the Royal Naval Reserves;
(c) Other sea-faring men; and (d) Men on lifeboat services.
Claims for admission to the school will be determined in such a manner as the Admiralty Board may decide but the selectors will give special consderation to orphans, and have regard to the length and merit of the fathers' sea-service.
Special consideration is not given to the orphans in practice. It is not stated in those regulations what is meant by orphans, as it was in the old regulations when the four categories were quoted. This year the headmaster and members of his staff have addressed meetings of officers and men at the ports to encourage them to apply for their sons' entry into the school. This shows that the aim is to obtain sons of serving officers, who are able to obtain the full £100 fee from the Services.' Fund. The grapevine at the ports suggests that the official attitude is, "We do not want widows," which must in turn mean "We do not want orphans".
The second Admiralty object is to take more and more commissioned officers' sons. At present the proportion is onethird—214 out of 675. How long will it be before the proportion is two-thirds? How long before it is three-thirds? The intention is that Holbrook should be a class preserve for officers' sons and the prep school of the Navy for the entry of cadets into Dartmouth College. This would take us back to the equivalent of the previous prep school main entry into the Navy, and should be fought tooth and nail.
What do these arguments of mine add up to? First, the entry of commissioned officers' sons into Holbrook should cease and all places should be for ratings and ex-ratings' sons, with first preference for orphans. Secondly, the earnings rule for ratings' widows should be abolished and no fees should be charged to them. The Admiralty, which gains the advantage of the school for recruits, should pay for the school. The object should be to train boys as ratings for the specialist branches of the Navy, as well as for seamen entries and all the advantages to be gained after service on the lower decks.
A decision not to enter officers' sons would cause no hardship at all to them. They can get their sons educated anyway, and it would be an advantage to the Navy to have more lower deck entries. The Services educational allowance enables an officer to enter his son in any school of his choice. Why try for education on the cheap at the ratings' orphanage? The Navy is not short of officer entries, but they are short of rating entries, particularly in the specialist branches such as the engine room and other artificers and technical ratings.
When I left Greenwich School 60 years ago to be a second-class boy in the Royal Navy no one with any knowledge of the school's achievements with ratings' sons would have ever dreamt that it would be necessary for the first "old boy" to become an hon. Member of this House to have to stand up here today, in 1965, under a Labour Government, and plead for the entry of the sons of poor seamen, and particularly orphans, into this orphanage and ask that a widow should not be charged fees. That is the position today.
I must apologise to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) for not being here, quite a long time ago, when he started his speech. I have heard enough of it to be able to comment upon it quickly. Everyone has sympathy with a very distinguished old boy of Holbrook, anti the first thing I would say is that I think he is not correct in trying to compare the Greenwich Hospital School of his day, which was an absolutely first-class school for its period,—
It is quite useless to compare that with the sort of education which one must offer today. I think that a lot of his comparisons drawn on those lines are quite unfair. There has been a good deal of publicity in the form of articles and letters to newspapers, for which perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been responsible, criticising this great school. Naturally, we on the committee of management some months ago endeavoured to find out what these cases were. I am informed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not tell the Minister about these cases, so that we could investigate them. I hope that is not true.
We must get the facts right. I have said nothing about the education. The particular points I have spoken about is that the statement that I have not communicated with the Minister was in July. Since then I have given him the full details of the six cases I quoted. He wrote to me justifying the charge of the fees to the three widows in the cases which I had given. I specifically said I have not quoted these cases behind his back.
I expect that the Minister will have some comments upon that when he makes his speech, because I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we have been as anxious and as worried about the criticisms he has found it necessary to make as anyone else. I must rebut one of his criticisms, and that is that we did not do our best to get across full details to all people concerned, including widows, who are eligible to send their sons to this great school—that we did not try to contact them. We are always considering new ways, and one of the methods we have recently introduced in order to see that the information does get to the widows, who admittedly are not so well able to have the information as if their husbands were alive, is by SSAFA. That organisation has done very good work and helped us in telling naval widows about what can be done in regard to Holbrook. That is just one example of the things we are trying to do. We shall definitely continue to do them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion that we should announce in the Press the dates by which application should be made might well be a good one although it would have to be done in so many papers, local papers as well as nationals, that I am not sure whether it would be quite as practical as it sounds. I am sure that we will consider that point.
I have been a member of the committee of management for, I think, 18 years. This is, in some ways, a swansong because, after all, this Government is not very securely placed and this may be the last time that I shall have an opportunity of speaking on this matter. I want very briefly to tell the House something about the school as it really exists.
When Members come into the House it is absolutely vital that they should have very strong convictions about certain things. They should come with an urge to do something about something. I think that the majority do. It is true that through the years some of our convictions get rubbed a little thin because, perhaps, the other side of the picture makes us realise that some of our ideas are not as good as we thought they were before we became Members. I have always had one very strong conviction and belief which has remained strong all the years that I have been here, and that is the importance of equality of opportunity in education. I have always passionately believed in that. In my view Holbrook provides a perfect example.
When I first went on the committee in 1947 we had a magnificent building and, I must admit, a rather low educational standard. In offering education to anybody in any circumstances these days, we must and can only offer the best opportunities. We have no right to offer an education which does not give a boy capable of taking it the opportunity to go to the top of the education tree. It is no good limiting one's charitable desires to educating a few children unless one can offer them the very best education possible, at least equivalent to the best they could obtain through the State. It is not right to limit a boy's opportunities.
At Holbrook we have tried to give boys the opportunity of having the best education possible. It is true that at one time the standard of education was low, but it has gradually improved. I have some figures which might interest the House. In 1947, only six boys in the school reached O-level. In 1965, 25 reached A-level and 97 reached O-level, making a total of 122. Eight boys were accepted into universities or colleges of advanced technology. We had four cadetships on the general list and one on the supplementary list.
That is a proud record for any school. We can really say that we are offering boys from all sorts of homes and backgrounds as good and I believe, in many ways, a better education than they could receive in any other school in the country. Our record shows that.
We have had our difficulties. Of course, we have been open to criticism. One cannot carry out what amounts to a revolution without being open to criticism. One thing which I am surprised the hon. and gallant Member has not criticised is the fact that one of the first things we did was to say that education and opportunity must be free. In the old days one had more or less to sign on the dotted line to the effect that a boy would go into the Navy. We cut that out. We were criticised for so doing. But it meant that a boy could come to the school and not be bound to go into the Navy but could undertake any career for which he was fitted. It is enormously to the credit of the Navy that such a very high proportion of boys still go into the Navy and do well in it.
Then there is the question about officers. I am proud that it was on my proposal, when a Labour Government was in power, that it was agreed that we should allow the sons of officers to have opportunities equal to those of the sons of ratings. The hon. and gallant Member said something about the "flesh of the goose and the gander". That is just what this means. All boys, from whatever sorts of homes they come, should have the same opportunity. I can think of no better sort of school than one where boys from all sorts of homes are brought together to realise that above everything else they should become decent men. So we allowed in the sons of officers on exactly the same terms as anybody else, and I am very proud that we did. It is not true that we are increasing the number of sons of officers who are accepted. Rather the reverse is the case. We are reducing the number of sons of officers whom we are accepting.
Then we had to consider the question of opportunities in education. There was no grammar stream in 1947. We introduced two grammar streams to give the opportunities which were needed. They have been a tremendous success, as hon. Members will have gathered from the results which I have given briefly. But this involved expense. We had to have more highly qualified masters and teachers. There was a need for laboratories, for science training, and so on. This is extremely expensive but, as in national education, entirely justified.
How was the expense to be met? I do not think that I am giving any secrets away when I say that the Under-Secretary of State and myself voted against the introduction of fees. We felt very strongly about that. But both of us now believe that they were necessary. We have looked very carefully into the way in which the question of fees has been administered. This is something which we on the committee have watched more carefully than practically anything else to ensure that undue pressure was not brought to bear and that there was not unfairness in the way in which it was administered. As has been said, our charges are less than those of the G.L.C. in similar circumstances.
Then there was the question of an admission standard. Because we did these things, the school became enormously popular. Today it is one of the most popular schools of its sort in the country. Therefore, we had either to increase the size of the school and the expense, or in some fair way to limit it. We decided to limit it by introducing a very simple examination. I do not accept the hon. and gallant Member's statement that this examination is tougher than any other similar examination. We have to try to choose the boys who are capable of assimilating a first-class education. We also have to choose boys capable of assimilating boarding school life. There are many reasons why boys are not suitable for boarding schools, why the life makes them unhappy, and why boys who have never previously left home are homesick. If boys really cannot take it, we let them go. There are all sorts of considerations which have to be taken into account in our admissions. They are not merely academic. It is an embarrassment to us how many want to go to Holbrook School. If desire to go to a school means that the school is posh, I hope that our school will become, as the hon. and gallant Member said, posher and posher.
We were fortified in making our charges by the fact that the Government of the day had introduced these allowances so that ratings and officers could have their boys educated while they were serving. We have also obtained the help and co-operation of many local authorities, and we want to get more, if they will agree to it, to help boys from their own areas to take advantage of the school. The burden of the fees is not, I believe, nearly as heavy as the hon. and gallant Gentleman gave us to understand. I have no right to give an assurance, but I know I am speaking for the Parliamentary Secretary when I say that we investigate as toughly as we properly can any cases sent to us.
I turn to the future of the school. It is true that we are facing to some extent a crisis because there is and has been shown to be in the last few years, an increasing desire for the type of education that we are supplying. This applies not only to the boys from whom we draw our school. It applies all over the country, and I think it will make itself felt in the educational world in the coming years. There is no doubt that at Holbrook we are faced either with having to provide a much larger school at the expense of the existing Greenwich Hospital commitment or—and I think this is the answer—having closer liaison with the Ministry of Education in this magnificent educational experiment and method that we have succeeded in producing, because it is unlike almost any other school in the country. It would be a pity to divide into two close subsections the functions of Government. Surely this is a matter in which we could have help from the Ministry of Education. I can give the Government a warning on this, and I know that the Minister will support me and be the spearhead of our attack to get the Ministry of Education to help us in this experiment.
I have enjoyed my service on the school committee of management more than almost any other extra-mural activity that I have had to indulge in while I have been in Parliament. It has been a very great pleasure to me to see the great surge forward in the success of the school. It is only in very small degree the responsibility of the committee. It is very largely the responsibility of the headmaster and his staff and the boys of the school who have managed to keep the tradition going so well and are very proud of their school.
I said that this may well be the last time when I shall speak on this subject. I should like to hope that after I leave Parliament the House will continue the work that we have done and that the school will continue to be the magnificent place that it is, and grow ever stronger, a place to which ordinary seamen or dukes will be proud to send their sons.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland), who has made a very interesting and happy swansong, if it is indeed a swansong. He may find himself taking part in the debate again next year. He must not underrate the capacity of the Prime Minister for going on and on.
It has been a pleasure to listen to the hon. Gentleman because we are colleagues on the board of management of the school. He has a long record of 18 years' service, while I have just a few months' service. I want to make one or two observations which will be rather tentative because they come from someone new to the interests of the school and new to the study of the matters which crop up in this annual debate.
I should like to give two of my strongest impressions gained during the first few months of what I hope may be a reasonably long period as a member of the board of management. The first is that the school has a highly distinctive individuality. It is not like a dozen other places round about. It is not like scores of other places scattered over the country. It is a school of its own sort. I nearly used a Latin phrase then, but perhaps that would not be in the naval tradition and so I will avoid doing so.
Here we have a school which in the days to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) was referring to was very largely producing people for the dockyard apprenticeships or the various lower deck activities of the Navy—it was aimed directly at the Navy—and it has now turned, in a very short space of time when one considers how slowly changes mature, into a school of a much broader sort giving an academic education of a high standard and in general developing itself from quite a narrow starting base.
Another impression is of the sheer physical characteristic of the school. It must have one of the most wonderful sites in the United Kingdom—the Valley of the Stour—with its access to the swimming and boating in the river. It is a magnificent site. I must admit that the buildings are slightly odd. If one were putting up buildings now for any school of this sort I do not think that one would do quite what was done in those days. When one bears in mind that it is the one school in the country which is debated here every year, it all adds up to an institution of most striking individuality. There is no other place like it or even approaching strong similarity to it.
This, of course, brings its own problems. It is not one of the closely-knit family of secondary schools run by a local education committee, although certainly it is far from being divorced from the local education committee, with which it has a close and friendly link, but, on the other hand, for example, its headmaster is not a member of any such strong, professionally interested body as the Headmasters' Conference. It is, in fact, not merely an individual organisation but to a large extent is left to make its own decisions which, in the case of other schools, would be made in co-operation with other similar institutions, and that must lead, I suppose, to a certain amount of controversy from time to time on matters like finance, entry, and that kind of thing. But there it is; the fact that it is individual, the fact that it does have its own road to cut out, gives it, of course, a good deal of strength. One may suffer some certain disadvantages when one is not a member of a closely-knit family, but, of course, one has certain compensating advantages.
That, at any rate, is one main impression I have got from my first few months. The other big and strong impression I have got is simply that in this school the process of education goes on happily and successfully. One can immerse onself in details of fees and of entry, of heating, ventilation, meals, all that kind of thing, and forget, perhaps, to notice that all the time the appropriate business of education is going on, and going on well and successfully.
The hon. Member for Horncastle quoted one or two figures, the figures over the last dozen years or so, of examination successes, university entrants, and that kind of thing. They show a striking increase, a very striking increase. The same thing, of course, we get all over the country, but I should have thought that the figures for this school showed an energy in the development of the whole educational life of the school—educational in the narrower sense—which certainly reflects credit on its board of management and the staff. Of course, there are other things, apart from these results educationally in the narrower sense. There are the non-measurable things. The hon. Member for Horncastle could talk about this, obviously, from his long experience and knowledge, a great deal more fully than I can. This is the kind of thing of which one can obtain knowledge only by a fairly considerable experience, but so far as I can observe the non-measurable qualities, the things one expects a school to have and to do and which cannot be estimated in terms of the number of G.C.E. passes, A-levels, and so on, mean that the quality of that school is, as I think one would expect, very high indeed.
There has been a considerable change, a considerable building up of the school in all the appropriate ways in recent years, and it would be just as well that the House should debate it and should recognise this as the years go by. We tend, especially because in most years we have these debates fairly late at night, which limits any debate, to concentrate on controversial aspects—fees, entry, that kind of thing. I shall not do any more than offer one or two very short observations on these.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) pointed out that the school is not comprehensive. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State did not claim that it was comprehensive. The phrase he used was that it was "as fully comprehensive as we can possibly make it", and this is, I think, a fair description. The principle of the school is comprehensive—two grammar streams, three secondary modern streams. Broadly speaking, the idea behind it is that of a comprehensive school, but, of course, it is not in the strict sense fully comprehensive. Certain people are excluded on the grounds of temperament, on grounds of character, on grounds of intellectual attainment, in a way that a comprehensive school would not normally exclude them, so that it is not in the very strict sense of the term a comprehensive school, but in everything but that it is.
I do not suppose that one can really make any boarding school a fully and completely 100 per cent. comprehensive school. As has been pointed out, there are, for instance, some simple medical qualifications which may make it undesirable to have a pupil in a boarding school, and when one begins to bring in that kind of exclusion one tends to make it not a comprehensive school, and to that extent I think it is true to say that it is not completely a comprehensive school, but I think it would be wrong to say that there is anything in its make-up or its way of life which is hostile to the comprehensive principle.
On the question of the entry of officers' sons and on the question of entry generally, I do not want to put in my amateur word among the words of those of so many people like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East and the hon. Member for Horncastle and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who can speak of these things more fully than I can, but I should like to say that in this day and age it seems to me sensible not to make a distinction between officers and ratings in so far as it is possible. There has been a distinction made in the actual numbers of officers' sons going in—not on a basis of exact proportion but on a pragmatic basis, as I suppose the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South would say—and it may be necessary, but I should think that today our outlook is to say that we are all socially one unit, we are all socially, if at all possible, one class. Make the distinction, certainly, on the grounds of whether a certain person can pay fees or not. I am jolly sure that if fees have to be paid but cannot be found from the parent's pocket someone will see the fees are paid, but in this respect the officer's widow or the retired officer should be treated in just the same way as the rating's widow. We ought to make the distinction on the practical grounds of financial difficulties and not on any consideration far away from that, whether the parent was an officer or a rating.
To some extent, when the number of applications becomes greater than the number of places—this is another point in connection with entry which has been raised—there is bound to be competition, and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South stressed the change in this respect comparatively recently. This is not an easy problem. I should imagine that there will continue to be a bigger number of applications, notably bigger, than there are places, and there may be some quite difficult decisions on the policy to be made, but I should have thought that the record of the management committee over recent years in meeting the problems which it has had to meet has shown its wisdom and common sense, and I would expect these qualities would show themselves in the meeting of the further problems which may be arising now.
I certainly do not wish to intervene in the argument between the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) and the Under-Secretary of State as to the administration of Holbrook School, because I am not competent to do so, but I think that probably it would be acceptable to hon. Members in all parts of the House if I were to pay tribute to the long service of my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) who for 18 years has served on the committee of Holbrook School.
My interest in this matter is a totally different one. It is an historical one, partly on a constituency basis and partly, in a very remote way, on a family basis, and I want to explain to the House why.
The accounts that we are debating this afternoon are entitled "Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation", but I wonder whether, or how many, hon. Members know why the name "Travers' Foundation" comes in? Mr. Samuel Travers, who was Auditor-General to the Prince of Wales, died in 1724. In his will he left a sum of money for the endowment of accommodation of what became known as the Naval Knights of Windsor, but he imposed rather rigid qualifications.
The Naval Knights were limited to seven in number. They had to be superannuated or disabled lieutenants of men o'war, and then there were the following qualifications, in this order: first, to qualify, Naval Knights were obliged to be single and, secondly, to have no children; thirdly, they were required to lead a virtuous life, and, lastly, they were to be removed if their method of living gave rise to scandal. It did. By 1892 it was not possible to find sufficient lieutenants of the Royal Navy who fulfilled all these qualifications. Indeed the House may well marvel that it was possible from 1724 to 1892 to continue to find seven Naval Knights of Windsor. Anyway, in 1892 the Naval Knights were, so to speak, wound up by the Naval Knights of Windsor Dissolution Act, and the assets of the Samuel Travers bequest went into the funds of the administration of Greenwich Hospital, and that is why the accounts we are debating today called the Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation.
I do not know what the income from the Travers Foundation is now. My recollection is that about 10 to 15 years ago it was £3,000 a year. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will be kind enough to tell us what it is now because I cannot find it in the accounts. Let me add that I am not complaining about that.
I turn now to my second interest. If hon. Members turn to page 6 of the Accounts they will see the entry, "Estates in the North of England, Rents and Royalties, Estimated £38,450, Actual £42,200." What are these estates? Behind these rather bare figures there is a story with which for many years this House was intimately involved.
A distant and remote ancestor of mine, James Radclyffe, Third Earl of Derwentwater, was beheaded on Tower Hill for the part he played in the 1715 Rebellion. It is true that there was a Motion for his reprieve which was only narrowly defeated in this House by 162 votes to 155, but he was beheaded, and following his execution the Derwentwater estates were seized.
The House may think that that was the end of the story, but, in fact, it was only the beginning, because it was discovered rather late in the day that Lord Derwentwater had only a life interest in these estates, or at least in most of them, and therefore his infant son John was entitled to make his claim for the life interest of his father's estates, and did so, or at least the trustees did it for him.
The claim was perfectly valid, so the Commissioner for Forfeited Estates handed back the Derwentwater estates to the infant John Radclyffe, or rather to his trustees, but not completely. There were, as we would call it today, some strings attached. It was a kind of lease-lend in reverse, and the strings attached arose in this way.
If the infant John Radclyffe were to die before he achieved the age of 21, or before he married and had a son, and if the next heir in the male line, his uncle Charles Radclyffe who was attainted for the part he played alongside his brother Lord Derwentwater in the 1715 Rebellion and was living in exile in France, were to die unmarried there would be no legitimate heir to the estates and the whole of the reversion of the estate would come back to the Government.
The problem was what to do in the meantime because John Radclyffe was not going to come of age until 1734. The Commissioner for Forfeited Estates proceeded to sell the reversionary interest on the Derwentwater estates by auction. I am not suggesting that there was anything wrong in that. In fact, I believe that he was obliged to do so by Statute. He offered the reversionary interest by auction, and it was knocked down to a gentleman called William Smith of Billiter Square, London, for the princely sum of £1,060. The only problem was that the Commissioner for Forfeited Estates never bothered to tell the Government what he was doing.
Mr. Smith was a pretty shrewd operator. In modern parlance, he was a tycoon. He was taking a very long gamble that by the end of the day there would not be any legitimate Radclyffe heir to lay claim to the estates. But things began to happen, because in 1724 Charles Radclyffe, who was an exile living abroad, got married in Brussels and in the following year the news leaked through to the English Press that he had a son and heir.
Mr. Smith's chances did not look so good, and a little later the Government of the day became nervous for quite different reasons. They introduced special legislation of a retrospective nature into this House, and I think it is likely, though I am not sure, that it was one of the first Acts of retrospective legislation passed by this House.
It was a simple Act. All it did, in short terms, was to debar from the benefit of Queen Anne's Act of Naturalisation of 1708 anyone born abroad whose father was attainted at the time of his birth. The sole purpose of this rather shabby piece of legislation was to prevent Charles Radclyffe's infant son from laying claim to the estates, on the one hand, and, in the event of the other claimant's death, to make certain that the reversionary interest came back to the Government.
Within a couple of years of the passing of this retrospective legislation John Radclyffe died under age and unmarried, and that was that. The Law Officers of the Crown were rubbing their hands with delight, but they were reckoning without Mr. Smith, who then piped up. They did not know anything about him. He asked, "What about me?" He had pulled off a long chance. He had got the Tote double—John Radclyffe who had died under age was not married, and Charles Radclyffe's infant son was excluded by the retrospective legislation. Thus, for the princely sum of £1,060, he could claim estates worth about £1¼ million.
One can imagine the tremendous outcry that arose in this House at the time—how came it that for such a small stake a man could achieve such a large prize? The outcry might almost be described as the forerunner of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer introducing the Capital Gains Tax in the Finance Bill, and a Committee of Inquiry of both Houses was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Gage to inquire into how this astonishing transaction had ever taken place. Mr. Smith was not questioned by the Gage Committee. He was invited to attend, but he sent a reply saying that he hoped that the Committee
would not take it amiss if he declined such examination".
Legislation was subsequently introduced and passed by which the whole transaction was declared null and void. It was only after that that the funds of the Derwentwater Estates were passed over in order to complete the building of the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. At a much later date—100 years ago this year—it came under the administration of the Admiralty. None the less, a good deal more legislation was involved, because, under various Acts, the family successfully claimed interest from the Derwentwater Estates and the Lords of Admiralty had to pay the widow of the last male heir of Charles Radclyffe an annuity which continued up to 1861.
The remains of James Radclyffe were not to be left undisturbed, because during a visit by the Greenwich Hospital Commissioners to the Northumberland estate in the nineteenth century one of the Commissioners ordered one of the coffins in the family vault to be opened. The remains of Lord Derwentwater were found to be in a remarkable state of preservation. A blacksmith drew out several teeth, and hit upon the brilliant idea of selling them locally at half a crown each.
In 1735 the acreage of the estate was 37,000 and the rent roll was £6,000. By 1816 the rent had increased to £43,000, although this included mining royalties, and I am not sure whether I am comparing like with like. In 1952 the rent roll was £24,000 and the acreage was about 20,000, but some land had been sold and other land bought in the intervening years. I should like to know what the acreage is today, in respect of the rent revenue of £49,000. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can tell us who administers the estates locally. There is a biggish sum in the accounts in respect of the sale of timber. Can the hon. Gentleman also tell us whether there has been a replanting programme?
There was one rather unusual feature of the Northumberland estate. Many farms were let not under the ordinary agricultural tenancy agreement but for a very small ground rent and for long periods—in some cases up to 100 years. This situation existed until 1950, at any rate. Is it still in existence? The accounts of the Greenwich Hospital and Travers Foundation may make dry reading, but I have tried to show that the history woven into the figures is both colourful and dramatic.
I am sure that the House has been fascinated by the historical account given by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) of the Northern Estates of the Travers Foundation. From what he said I am inclined to think that certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in times past have not been as averse to the confiscation of wealth as some of their descendants seem to be today.
I was also interested in the earlier speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey). Listening to the exchanges between him, the Opposition Front Bench, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, I began to think that this was a kind of private fight, in which no other hon. Gentleman ought to take part, but I hope that I may be permitted to make one or two comments, not only about the Statement of Account that we have in front of us, but also about the general question of the education of the sons and daughters of men and women in the Services.
There is a general case for a complete inquiry into foundations of this sort. This is a charitable foundation, which has been in existence for a long time. Earlier today arguments were put forward concerning the basis of the original foundation, and its original purpose. I could not care less what the original foundation or original purpose was, because circumstances have changed. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was on weak ground when he tried to reinterpret some of the words of the original Statute, and when he talked about seamen. Does it really matter? As I have said, circumstances have changed. Present Service demands ought not to be limited too narrowly by what some people may have said nearly 200 years ago.
If my hon. Friend's case is right and the intention never was to restrict entry to ratings, perhaps he will tell the House how many sons of officers were assisted by this foundation in those days. I have a notion that he will find that none were, and that all the beneficiaries were the sons of ordinary ratings. But does it really matter?
How many of the boys in this school today are the sons of officers or ratings slain or disabled in the service of the sea? I am sure that the answer would be interesting. The Under-Secretary said that the limitations of the original foundation had been changed by subsequent bequests, and he mentioned the Reade Foundation. That foundation deals with the children, and not necessarily only the sons, of officers and ratings in the Service. My hon. Friend concluded his review of the history of this foundation by saying that what we have is a fully comprehensive boarding school, and that its purpose is not confined to the original purpose of the foundation but now provides for the education of the sons of men serving in the Royal Navy who, because of the nature of their service—because they are abroad so much, and move about so much—require a special kind of educational provision to be made for their sons. Is it not the fact that their daughters also require similar provision? The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) says "Grants". If there are to be grants in one case, why not grants in the other? If the justification for the foundation is that the boys require a special kind of provision, why not the girls? Why does the Service not provide an educational institution for the daughters of serving men in the same way as they do for the sons, or is that just another example of the inequality of the sexes that we have not yet managed to overcome in the middle of the twentieth century?
If its purpose is to provide for education in a way that it cannot otherwise be provided, is the foundation the right way of doing the job? I would submit that it is not. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) admitted as much when he said two things. First of all, he pointed out that three applicants for the school are rejected for every one accepted, and his point at the conclusion of his speech was that the Royal Hospital School faces a crisis in as much as they cannot meet the demands to which they are subjected. I hope very much that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will draw the attention of the Navy Board and of the Minister of Defence to that. Quite clearly, if the foundation cannot meet the Service demand, something ought to be done about it.
The second point that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle made was that he thought that there should be a much closer relationship between the Department of Education and Science and the Navy Board concerning the school. I would ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State if the school is subject to inspection by Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. I imagine that he will say "No".
That indicates that, from an educational point of view, it comes under the Department of Education and Science, and that emboldens me to argue still more strongly that if it is meeting an educational purpose which cannot be provided in the normal sort of school, there is an even stronger criticism of the foundation in that it does not do the job properly because it does not meet all the cases that ought to fall within its purview.
A great deal has been made during the debate about how the expenses of the school are to be met, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has said a great deal about fees. I am strongly opposed to the payment of fees for that sort of school. If, through the exigencies of the Service, the education of the sons and daughters of serving men and women—because this should apply to the sons and daughters of serving women as well as serving men—is neglected and they are not getting the sort of education that they ought to get, it ought to be a direct charge upon the State in some way or another. We ought not to say that the parents should be expected to pay fees. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that we cannot expect the Department of Education and Science to pay for it. Why not? If it is meeting an educational purpose, why should not the Department of Education and Science pay for it? If the answer is that it is a special Service consideration, I would argue that the cost ought to be met by the Navy Board. It ought to be met out of the Navy Estimates, and the education of these children ought not to be half-met by a half-baked answer such as this foundation.
My hon. Friend asked whether the charging of fees causes hardship and answered his own question by saying that there was a very generous means test, slightly more generous than the G.L.C. scheme. It is reasonable to argue that there are a great many parents living in the area of the G.L.C. who, even with this generous G.L.C. scheme, could not contemplate a boarding education for their children. There is still an expense, however generous the grant may be. When people talk about local education grants they should be in mind that there are wide disparities between various local education authorities. Some local education authorities are much more generous than others. We have known cases of some local education authorities which are very niggardly in this respect.
Having listened to the exchanges today, I am not entirely satisfied that there are no cases of hardship or that there may not be many parents who are hindered from making application for the entry of their children to this school because of the existence of a fee, even though there may be grants to meet that fee. Those of us who are in education know very well that a great many people are put off by such statements as, "The fees will be £120 a year", even though there may be grants to meet them. I notice that the prospectus which I have here says that "some" local education authorities give grants, but it does not say that all do so.
Is this a comprehensive school, or what sort of school is it? I believe that we are entitled in the debate to discuss the educational aspects of this foundation. We have been told that there are grammar streams and secondary modern streams. Is there any transfer from one stream to another, as is the case in comprehensive schools within my experience? Is it possible for boys who are put in the secondary modern streams in the lower forms later to switch to the grammar stream? Is it possible for some of the boys who are thought to be of an academic turn of mind when they first go to the school later to be transferred to the other stream? Is this a fully comprehensive school in that sense? The fact that it caters only for boys shows that it cannot be fully comprehensive. That is obvious.
How many of the boys in the grammar streams are the sons of officers and how many are the sons of ratings? How many in the secondary modern streams are the sons of officers and how many are the sons of ratings? The answers to those questions might give a little more information to some hon. and gallant Members. We have been told that not every applicant can get into the school. The hon. Member for Horncastle said that the school has a capacity for only one in four of all the applicants. I should like to know who are all these applicants. How many are the sons of officers and how many are the sons of ratings? I would like to know more about how the choice is made.
We are told, for example, that selection is based on a confidential report from the boys' previous headmasters and that a simple test in English comprehension and arithmetic is given. From my experience over many years as a schoolmaster, I have seldom found a test in English comprehension to be particularly simple.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said that boys left out would not be deprived of an education. But they will be deprived of this sort of education. They will be deprived of a comprehensive boarding school education and, although the hon. Gentleman said that they might go to secondary modern, secondary technical or secondary grammar schools, if the argument is that the purpose of this school is to meet the special needs of serving men, then one cannot at the same time argue that the children who are left out, who are not selected, are having their needs met by going to the ordinary secondary modern school. One cannot have it both ways.
Today's debate on the educational needs of serving men and women should be considered against the general background of the educational policy of Her Majesty's Government. We have been told by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that we need to change our attitude towards boarding schools. We have been told often enough by hon. Members on this side of the House that we should readapt the public school system, that we should send to public schools the boys and girls who, for educational reasons, need a boarding school type of education. We have in this hospital school a school of exactly that nature.
We have learned from this debate that there are not sufficient places at this school for all the boys who want to go there. I am certain that if we started thinking of all the girls who needed this type of education we would find that we need not four such schools but many more. We have also learned from the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East his conviction that not sufficient ratings know about this school and the chances offered by this type of education.
The implication of all this is that we need a vast expansion of this type of education for men and women in the Royal Navy. It would be outside the bounds of this debate to speak about the educational needs of those serving in the R.A.F. and the Army, but others can read into this whatever implication they like. It implies that this school is completely inadequate to meet the purposes which the Under-Secretary said were the purposes of this school. If that is so, I hope that he will convey that to the Secretary of State for Defence and ask him what he intends to do about it.
I agree with the concluding remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), provided that he understands clearly what he means by the present foundation being inadequate to the need. What this foundation has done is a tremendous pioneering work. It has been so successful that it has created its own demand and now, because of its very success, it has become inadequate. My hon. Friend pointed out that among the inadequacies is the fact that we do not take girls at the Royal Hospital School. I wish we did. Leaving aside my present job, I am strongly in favour of co-educational schools. But we cannot cater at the school for all the boys who want to come, so, unhappily, we certainly have not room for girls. As various hon. Members have said, there really is a case now, given the success of the renewed and changed Royal Hospital School during the past 20 years, for the Minister of Education coming to have a jolly good look at it to see whether he can expand the sort of thing we are doing, but do it out of public funds.
I cannot answer all the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West. For example, we do not make an analysis of whether a boy's father is an officer or a rating when it comes to streams. The only point I can make in this connection is that last year's captain of the school was the son of a rating and this new year's captain of the school is the orphan son of a rating. That may or may not be relevant, but it gives me a good deal of pleasure.
My hon. Friend asked how many of the sons of men slain or disabled are in the school at present. We do not keep a record of disabled, for some reason. The total number of orphans in the school now is not 44, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) said, but 79. I do not want to get into too much argument about whether this is or is not a fully comprehensive school. It is not, of course, again because of administration, but in the academic sense it is to the extent that there is a passing to and fro within the grammar and secondary modern streams.
I was most intrigued, as the House was, by the historical reminiscences of the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). We are greatly indebted to members of his family who suffered not a capital gain but a capital loss to provide us with means to help build up the foundation as it is today. I am very sad that his ancestors lost their heads, but I hope that that will not inhibit him from contributing to our funds if he feels so moved.
The hon. Gentleman asked one or two specific questions. First, he inquired about the income from the Travers Foundation. This is to be found on the last page of the estimates, where the figure of £3,665 is shown. He asked also about the Northern Estates. We are continuing a scheme of reafforestation. This certainly ought to be done, and we are doing it. The acreage of the Northern Estates at present—if I can read my handwriting aright—is 7,786 acres, and they are administered locally by a receiver and agent.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) asked whether we were caught on the hop by the amount of the Burnham award. The answer is "Yes, slightly". We were estimating for a 10 per cent. increase and the increase, in fact, was 13 per cent. We shall be able to take care of it by means of contingency funds and so on, but it was rather more than we had bargained for.
I come for a moment to some of the points put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East. I am afraid that he does not listen to what is said. It may well be that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West has said, it does not matter what was intended by the old Charters of long ago—there is a very strong point in that—but I felt it necessary to show that, by what seemed to be any reasonable interpretation of the Charter, what we were doing was not in conflict with it. But I might just as well not have said anything. My hon. and gallant Friend had prepared his speech and was ready to dish it out to the House regardless of what was said.
It does not matter a great deal—we all know my hon. and gallant Friend in this House—except when he makes assertions which get into the headlines, such as that it is perfectly clear that Greenwich Hospital does not want orphans. That is a monstrous thing to say, when speaker after speaker who knows what is happening in the school has shown that orphans are given first priority, and that every possible effort in the way of reducing examination levels and the rest is made to bring orphans into the school. It really is not good enough for my hon. and gallant Friend to say over and over again in this House and in the papers that we do not want orphans.
Another of his assertions was that we are going after serving officers and ratings solely because we can get the fees from them out of the naval education allowance. That is not true. We give a preference—I shall come in a minute to the scheme of admission—to serving officers and ratings for the very reason that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West suggested, that it is they who are moved about all over the world and all over the country and have a special need for the type of boarding school facility that we offer.
My hon. and gallant Friend produced a number of cases in support of something for which I have immense sympathy. He feels that widows are suffering hardship. I can assure him that if we could find any case of real hardship we should deal with it. I have asked him in writing five times to let me have examples of widows suffering hardship from the mass of cases which I understood he has been gathering. I have been able to get from him only three cases, which he mentioned today.
The first concerns a widow who was paying fees of £70 a year. He said that the Greenwich Hospital was "dunning"
the lady for the fees. I challenged him on that but got no reply. I have looked up the facts. The lady wrote to the Director of Greenwich Hospital and said that she had had considerable expense with regard to her home during the last few months. The Director at once replied:
If you will kindly let me have details of this expense, I will look into the matter again.
How dare anybody say that that is "dunning"? That was a straight offer to look at the case to see whether there was hardship. The lady wrote back and said:
I regret the fact that my recent letter insinuated that I was suffering hardship. I did not mean to infer this.
She made it quite clear that she did not want to press the matter any further, and that there was no great hardship—indeed, no hardship at all. I believe that my hon. and gallant Friend referred the case to the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust, which said that it thought that the sum assessed for the lady was by no means exorbitant.
The second case was that of the lady who was being charged £15 a year. She has made no suggestion to us that she is suffering hardship but, if she really is, I earnestly beg my hon. and gallant Friend to tell her to get in touch with us at once. I can understand this business of not asking for what one is entitled to because of pride, but it would be silly, if this payment of £5 a term or £15 a year was causing hardship, for her not to get on to us right away. The fact is that this widow has not done so.
Then there was the third case, where the local education authority was originally paying all but £48 of the fees and is now paying all but £26 of them. The difficulty here, from the lady's point of view, was that she wrote to say that the one thing that worried her was that the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance might stop her widowed mother's allowance when her son went to Holbrook. She asked whether, if that allowance were stopped, we would consider reducing the fees. I replied that if that were to happen we would certainly look at the case again. In the event, the widowed mother's allowance was not stopped, and the lady wrote "I find I am now able to meet my son's fees without further assistance."
I know that my hon. and gallant Friend feels passionately about this matter—he has shown it in this House and we all understand it—but the fact is that we have not had a single case brought to us where there has been any suggestion of hardship, even when hardship is defined in the most generous possible terms. I do wish that my hon. and gallant Friend would not sound off in this sort of way. I wish that he would not suggest to the world through the newspapers that we are a lot of Scrooges who are doing people down. I wish that he would not do it while providing us with no concrete evidence at all on which we could act if, by any chance, through any slip-up, we were being too severe and were demanding too much from individuals.
We have set ourselves out to ensure that there shall not be hardship. Even though we have to charge fees, we have set ourselves out to try to ensure that no hardship results. If anyone—not only my hon. and gallant Friend but anyone in the House—hears of anyone whom he feels really has a case of hardship and will let us know of it, we will look at that case as sympathetically as we possibly can.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South asked me to say just a little more about the methods of admission into the school. Every boy has to pass a medical examination, and they all have to take this examination to which reference has been made. A special lowering of the standard is, as I have repeated over and over again, made for orphan children, where it is necessary, to try to get them into the school. In addition to that, such things as the length of the father's service and whether he is still serving are taken into account on a slightly complicated points system, and it seems to us, although we are continually looking at it, that we are getting somewhere near the kind of all-round test which provides us with the boys to whom we should be giving our educational services.
Do I understand that the educational test is one they either pass or do not pass and that that is the end of it, or is there some kind of selection upon the performance of the applicant in the educational test?
Yes, that is right. Part of the points system is the place he gets in the education test, which is competitive to that extent.
The debate has lasted a very long time and, while personally I have found it extremely interesting, I do not wish to prolong it; but I want to make one or two more comments. A number of hon. Members, including my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, have suggested that people do not know about this school and that there has not been enough publicity, and that all sorts of people who would like to be sending their children to the school do not do so because they have not heard of it. That may have been true some years ago, but it is certainly not true now, as is witnessed by the over-application for the places available.
In recent years, we have done a tremendous amount of publicity. There is a film of the school which is shown to ships' companies and schools and naval establishments and so on. The film is now getting a bit old, and we are about to produce another and shorter film which will help to let people know about what the school stands for. We send out Defence Council Instructions. I know perfectly well that no one reads D.C.I.s, but the Notice Board Issues are read, and we make sure that there is a Notice Board Issue in chatty terms directing the attention of both serving officers and ratings to the school.
The headmaster himself has made a number of visits to naval ports and has now started what I regard as the ex- tremely good idea of inviting headmasters of what one might call feeder schools, schools which have been sending boys to us, to come and have a look at the school and spend a day or two there to see what it is like.
The school is frequently mentioned on television, certainly on the local television, and recently in the series "Songs of Praise" the school was featured and gave a magnificent performance. We are doing everything we possibly can to let everyone whose children might conceivably be eligible to go to the school know what the school's facilities are, when he should apply and how the method of selection is carried out.
With our resources, which are pretty limited considering the demands now made upon them, no one can get an organisation like this going without criticism and without fear that some people are being shut out when they ought to be in. That is an argument, not against the school itself, but for having many more schools like it. My last words to the House are that if hon. Members on the whole feel that this is the sort of school and a type of education which is worth while, they should bring what pressure they can to bear on the Ministry of Education to emulate the work being done at Holbrook.