§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, if we may now return to the educational issues, I think it is very important that we be quite precise in the terms that we use and quite precise in the statements that we make on this complex and important issue.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving me the opportunity to say without any equivocation that the Labour Party has never been, is not now and never will be in favour of any of the forms that she referred to of intimidation or victimisation of speakers in educational establishments. The Labour Party has never been, is not now and never will be in favour of censorship in schools, universities or colleges. The 1169 Labour Party has never been, is not now and never will be in favour of biased or doctrinaire teaching in our schools, universities and colleges. I was encouraged to hear from the noble Earl that it is the Government's position also that such indoctrination and such biased teaching is practised, in so far as we know about the practice, by a very small minority of teachers in our schools.
We are pleased to have had the opportunity to read the draft principles in the guidelines which were issued by the Secretary of State yesterday. We did not get advance notice and so I cannot make a firm commitment on behalf of my party. But the principles set out by the Secretary of State in his consultation document in which he invites the teaching associations to support him look to me entirely acceptable. I see no reason whatsoever why we on this side of the House should not support them. But that is not the case with the noble Baroness. She said that she would look for the guidelines to be made stronger. She was quoted in the Daily Telegraph on 9th October as calling on Sir Keith Joseph:to issue clear guidelines for schools aimed at keeping politics out of the classroom".That is a very different thing.
If we are talking about keeping politics out of the classroom, it is the noble Baroness who is, I believe, breaking the consensus which exists between Government and Opposition in this House and among teachers, education authorities and the vast bulk of the people in this country. I believe that it will be necessary for me to show that it is the noble Baroness and her allies—people like Roger Scruton and Dr. John Marks—who are out on a limb. The vast bulk of responsible people who are constructively concerned with the education service do not agree with the allegations that she makes, and particularly with her conclusions and her demand that politics should be kept out of the classroom. It is important—
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, may I for the record in two seconds say what my argument is? I have always argued that partisan party politics should be kept out of the classroom, but not that the word "politics" should never feature in the classroom.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, it is interesting to have that gloss on what the noble Baroness said. I did not notice her saying that in her speech, nor in what she said to the Daily Telegraph, and it was not the theme of her substantial and, if I may say so, well documented attack on that small minority in the education service.
As I said, it is important to get our definitions right. In her Motion the noble Baroness uses the word "politicisation". So far as one can tell, she appears to mean political indoctrination. But she has strayed in her speech, and previous to that, into thinking that that is the same as political education. The noble Baroness shakes her head. She has denied that once, and I shall gladly give way to her again if she thinks it appropriate.
There is a stream of thought about political education and education for citizenship which goes back a good deal longer than any of us can remember, 1170 which has an honourable history and which deserves to be defended and upheld. Aristotle said:The good citizen must possess the knowledge and the capacity requisite for ruling, as well as for being ruled".I believe that that is the fundamental principle on which we should attack the issue.
Such a requirement could be interpreted as saying that political education in our schools should be neutral, value free and descriptive; there are those who have said that. It is a respectable school of thought. But I do not believe that that has been adequate at any time in the past, and it is particularly not adequate now when the clash of ideology is as strong as it has ever been and when the possibilities through the mass media of misinformation are much stronger than in the past. If we are to fulfil the objectives that Aristotle set out for us, we have to go a good deal further.
In 1977 Her Majesty's inspectors issued a report, a section of which was called "Political Competence". It stated:Those who claim that politics should be kept out of"—whatever it is; education, the classroom the school or the lecture—are being ingenuous (or, on occasions, disingenuous and politically skilful) … Wherever there is disagreement, there lies a potential for politics, for aggregating issues, arguing, propagating, settling difficulties.That is the positive side of politics, and that is why the discussion of political issues in an inquiring and open sense is a valuable, and, indeed, an essential, part of the curriculum in our schools.
Anybody from any side who damages that possibility is doing a disservice to our education system. I say that whether it applies to Marxists who seek to indoctrinate children with one point of view, those on the far Right who might be doing the same thing or those who see themselves in the centre and who seek by looking for neutral, value-free teaching in political matters to emasculate the discussion of political issues in our schools. Those are all dangers. I am not saying that they are equal dangers, but they are all real and present dangers which it is the duty of the education service and the people of this country as users and financers of it to resist.
I do not think that it would be enormously valuable for me to spend a great deal of time discussing the abuses to which the noble Baroness referred. She said, and I believe her, that she could have made 30 speeches with 30 different sets of material on the same subject. I am slightly surprised at that, since so many of the examples that she gave came from an article that she wrote for Reader's Digest in March of last year. Be that as it may, I am even more surprised because some of the examples that she gave are capable of dispute and even, on occasion, of refutation. I think that she did herself an injustice to refer so much to circumstantial evidence on peace studies.
I understand from the previous work of the noble Baroness that she has examined the curricula of 300 peace studies courses. It would have been valuable to have a more rigorous analysis of the work that she did. It may have lent more conviction to the argument that she makes. In particular she talked about peace studies and then referred to Exeter University and comments by Teachers for Peace, as if Teachers for Peace was 1171 responsible for the curriculum of the Exeter University peace studies course. That does not carry a great deal of conviction. It is well known that Teachers for Peace is the teachers' branch of CND. It is not responsible for the curriculum. It does not lend credibility to an attack on the curriculum to have references from that group; nor would it do so if we had comments on peace studies curricula in schools from the schools arm of CND, Schools Against the Bomb.
§ Baroness Cox
I am sorry, my Lords, I did not use the word "university". I said Exeter Teachers for Peace.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
If I am wrong, my Lords, I willingly apologise. I must have misheard the noble Baroness. I still do not have it entirely clear where in Exeter the curriculum is which is so wicked.
The noble Baroness referred to the ILEA material on Auschwitz and after. She has done so in public before. When she did so the last time she was informed in a letter from the education officer to ILEA that the material had not only been prepared in conjunction with the Board of Deputies of British Jews but had been praised by the Daily Telegraph in July of last year as being excellent teaching material. I am not convinced that the argument is as open and shut as she would have us believe.
The noble Baroness referred to my old GLC colleague, George Nicholson, who certainly said some foolish things when he was appointed to look after or to be responsible for political education in schools a number of year ago. She may not know that at a meeting of ILEA this week the question was asked by the Opposition, what had Mr. George Nicholson done. The answer had to be that Mr. George Nicholson had done virtually nothing in the course of the year; the post had atrophied. It is difficult to see what damage could have been done by his activities.
The noble Baroness referred on a number of occasions in a number of contexts to the difficulties of the Polytechnic of North London. We must recognise that there have been substantial difficulties over the year. Her description of the difficulties of those who wanted to let Mr. Patrick Harrington into classes was graphic and, indeed, justified. But she did not refer to the report by Miss Sheila Browne, Professor Ralf Dahrendorf and Mr. Clive Jenkins into the management of the Polytechnic of North London, which makes some rather different points. The report concludes that although there are a number of individuals who tend to see things only in crude political terms—many Members of this House might fall foul of that accusation—there is no evidence of anything abnormal or improper in the management of the Polytechnic of North London.
The noble Baroness referred earlier to the content of the sociology degrees. I understand that she was herself responsible for sending a dossier to the Secretary of State for education at a time when the Council for National Academic Awards was considering a re- 1172 submission from the applied social studies degree course for accreditation, although, again, I understand, she had no formal position in connection with the polytechnic at the time. I am bound to say—
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I had been head of the department of sociology at the polytechnic, and, therefore, I think I know very well what I am speaking about.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the words that I used were that she had no formal position in the polytechnic at that time. I believe that at the time to which I am referring—the 1982 re-submission—the noble Baroness was at Chelsea College and not at the Polytechnic of North London. Her experience was of a previous occasion. In any case, following consideration by the Council for National Academic Awards, and despite the dossier sent by the noble Baroness to the Secretary of State, the Council for National Academic Awards in fact approved the resubmission by the applied social studies department.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I have to pick out the things that one knows about. We have to consider the matter occasionally in detail because the noble Baroness made, very properly, a detailed speech. It is proper that the accusations that she makes should be considered as objectively as possible.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I merely said, while agreeing with the points just made, that I would not question my noble friend's bona fides. That is all I was saying. What arose from it is another matter.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I did not think that I questioned the noble Baroness's bona fides. I merely pointed to the position that she held at the time and the result of her interevention.
If we are going to talk about abuses, it is proper and necessary to consider what the remedy should be for those abuses. One part of that we have dealt with already in talking about guidelines. I believe that I am satisfied with the guidelines which the Government are proposing. I am not so convinced that the noble Baroness is satisfied. We must remember that there is an honourable history of guidelines. The National Union of Teachers has guidelines for teaching politically controversial matters. Her Majesty's Inspectorate has had guidelines for many years on teaching these matters. The National Union of Teachers expressed its support to the Government only last October for such guidelines and for the Government to make these matters abundantly clear. If we are not to be satisfied with guidelines, and if we think that guidelines are not always obeyed, what is the alternative? Is the noble Baroness asking that there should be not just a strengthening of guidelines but an actual intervention by the Government in the curriculum?
The position of the Government, I understand, is that the curriculum and the choice of teaching methods is a matter for teachers in individual schools, 1173 and, following the new education Bill, no doubt in greater consultation with the governors, who will represent the parents. But unless the noble Baroness has some other remedy for the abuses that she describes than stronger guidelines or some sort of greater central control over the curriculum, it is difficult to see what positive outcome she expects from a debate of this sort. Of course, there will be many speeches—well-informed speeches—which will describe further abuses. I have no doubt that there are other abuses that the noble Baroness did not have time to uncover. I have no doubt that other noble Lords are adequately briefed on these matters and that they will be able to say so to great effect in your Lordships' House. But, after all, this is not merely the noble Baroness's Motion. It is a Motion agreed by the Association of Conservative Peers. It is the Association of Conservative Peers which has decided that, on one of its rare opportunities to set down its own subject for debate in your Lordships' House, that subject should be this one.
Although the noble Baroness may find allies on her own Benches, she is nevertheless, in terms of the intellectual argument over the years, isolated on this matter—isolated from Her Majesty's inspectors, from the Crowther Report, from the Secretary of State for Education and from the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, which has commented favourably on the Secretary of State's judgment of the matter. She is particularly isolated from the speech made by the noble Earl the Minister earlier this afternoon.
I need not go on. The history of this matter is clear. One has to ask oneself—we all have to ask ourselves—what is the motivation of the Association of Conservative Peers in their putting down this Motion? The answer surely must be that there is a great deal wrong with our educational system. There is a great deal wrong with the financing of our educational system, with the resources available to it and with the spirit of trust that used to exist between the partners in our educational system. Frankly, this Motion is a smokescreen to disguise the Government's apparent and manifest failures in dealing with the education of our nation.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, before embarking upon my speech I wish to make a number of points. I wish first to apologise to your Lordships in that I may not be able to stay until the end of this long and important debate. Secondly, I wish to express appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for introducing this subject, which has attracted so many speakers. I want to express my appreciation of the splendid delivery of her speech, but also to inform her that I am not going to join her crusade. Nor would I recommend the Alliance to do so. I should also like to make a reference to the gentleman who has been mentioned, Mr. Nicholson. I, too, happen to have heard that he has been very inactive as the political officer in charge of political education in the ILEA.
I am a little worried about this word "indoctrination". Before we use it, we should define it. My idea of indoctrination is not merely saying something to 1174 someone but conveying an idea to them repeatedly and covertly. What a child learns from its parents is in a sense indoctrination. It may be very good indoctrination. It is what the child learns without realising that he or she is learning it. I do not believe that this happens very often in schools. As an ex-teacher, I know how little children really listen to what you are saying. If they do listen but do not agree they are quite happy to say so. If you started talking, say, ultra-Left propaganda, I am sure that the child is much more likely to say, "He is an old Leftie. We won't listen to him" than have any other reaction. One can become unnecessarily worried about the sensitivities of children over this matter.
I should like to talk briefly about London schools, and I hope that I shall not repeat anything that the noble Baroness has said. However, I should like to make one or two general observations and draw your Lordships' attention to some abuses, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said no doubt other peers would be doing. I think that the first essential fact to be borne in mind about London schools is the environment within which they are situated. That environment is one of poverty, deprivation, a high rate of unemployment and one-parent families, and, in connection with this, petty crime—"Urban hustling" I believe it is called—on the part of youths particularly, both black and white, and that brings in the police. Then there is also the vast problem of the immigrant population.
The children live with these problems, and when they come to school they are not going to close the door and forget them. They bring their awareness of the environment into the school. The school is part of the community. If there is a riot in Brixton when the children come to school they will talk about it. They will want to know why it has happened. They will then ask their teachers why it has happened, and their teachers will tell them. The children may not necessarily believe them but their teachers will give their view of it. If one is a teacher one cannot be totally objective. One tries to be, no doubt, but one is bound to convey to the people one is teaching, perhaps unconsciously, the way one feels.
To speak, therefore, of keeping politics out of schools entirely, is, as has already been said, an impossibility. I think what we would agree is that politics must enter schools but that they should enter naturally, spontaneously and freely, and not by artificial injection from adults. That is what is not acceptable.
I should like to give two examples of recent events. I was in a school yesterday—an excellent school, a mixed comprehensive—where some top rank teaching was being carried out which I was privileged enough to watch for a time. However, it so happens that one of the pupils in this school is a child of Mrs. Cherry Groce, the lady who was so tragically shot in that accident with the police last year. On the morning of 10th December last year there was a march and a rally in Lambeth to protest about the tragedy. Certain children in the school, including I presume this child—the child of Mrs. Groce—asked for permission to join the rally. One or two teachers were ready to take the children. They arranged that their classes would be covered so that the school should suffer no 1175 disruption. They asked the headmistress if she would give her permission and, in these very particular circumstances, she gave her permission; and I think that she could have done nothing else. I would have supported her.
By contrast, there was another happening on the same day in connection with the same rally. A number of members of the National Union of Teachers wanted to go to the same demonstration and asked permission of their headmaster. I am talking about another school. In view of the enormous disruption to the children's education that has occurred over the last year, the headmaster's reply was that two might go provided they could find adequate cover for their classes. In response to this it seems that no fewer than 24 teachers walked out of the school at 11 o'clock in the morning and joined the rally. As a result, of course, there was a total breakdown of discipline. The headmaster did what he could by getting all the children together in the hall, so that he had hundreds of children together; but in the end he could not control the situation any longer and there was an outbreak of theft, vandalism and even arson. The kitchen staff refused to serve the children, so many of them went hungry. This seems to me to be an inexcusable action on the part of those teachers. It is not indoctrination, but it is a betrayal of their solemn trust of the children of whom they were in charge.
Some of your Lordships may have read of the events at Daneford School in Tower Hamlets. This school is near a Bangladeshi immigrant area. At the top of the school there is apparently an equal mix of white and Asian boys—this is a boys' school—but down at the bottom of the school there is a 90 per cent. element of Asian boys, and it is increasing. This is in an area of National Front activity, so it is hardly surprising that there have been racist incidents, some of which have taken place in the school, and there are some very worried parents.
In October of last year 250 members of the Inner London Teachers' Association lobbied the Inner London Education Authority at County Hall about their inadequate response to racist attacks and their lack of an effective anti-racist policy. I should explain at this point that the Inner London Teachers' Association is the largest of the NUT branches in London. There are a number; and this is the largest. There seems little doubt that a number of them, including the ILTA, is dominated by ultra Left members. There is the Socialist Teachers' Alliance which is a broad coalition of the ultra Left, and it includes the Socialist Workers' Party—of whom more in a moment. It is the Socialist Teachers' Alliance who control the ILTA to the disquiet, I might say, of the ILEA and of the NUT national executive.
However, to return to 16th October, after the official lobby at County Hall there was an unofficial picketing of the ILEA divisional office in Tower Hamlets. During the protest 11 teachers were arrested and there were allegations of police brutality. About this time there came into existence an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Racism in Schools. This body now called for a mass demonstration by teachers, students and parents, outside Highbury Magistrates' Court on Friday, 22nd November. This was to support 1176 the so-called Daneford 12 whose case came up that morning—that is, those who had been arrested. The number has gone up by one. I do not know why at this moment, but it was subtracted afterwards. I think that there was a confusion about one teacher who had been arrested on a previous occasion and at one moment the support was supposed to be for him as well.
Leaflets were printed about this gathering that was to take place on 22nd November. It will be interesting to know where they were printed. On the morning of the 22nd November at 9 a.m. members of the Socialist Workers' Party were to be found outside the gates of Haverstock School at Chalk Farm, handing the leaflets out to the pupils, some of whom were of course very young. The leaflets urged the children to play truant, to go to the demonstration, and a bus was waiting to convey them.
I have the leaflets here. Here is one headed, "All Out 22nd November". These were being handed to children. There is this one headed, "Campaign against Racism in Schools". And this is quite a juicy one, "Strike against racism". The opening paragraph of that is:School students face a future of unemployment or slave wages on YTS. The Tories' plans include forcing teachers to police us while we are in school, and arming the police with CS gas and rubber bullets to deal with any resistance to the rotten deal we're being offered by Thatcher.The Tories want to divide us. They want to see us fight each other, black against white, instead of uniting aginst those who are to blame for unemployment. They are using racism to do that—they're trying to find scapegoats for their mess",and so on.
Apparently very few of the children went, but other children from other schools did go because four secondary schools in that neighbourhood were closed for the day, as were many others all over London. I have heard the figure of 50 quoted. I believe that on this occasion the National Front was also trying to leaflet the children at the school gates, but I think that they had very little success.
I have said a little about walk-outs; I should like to say just a few words about unofficial strike action. Some schools—for example, the girls' comprehensive in Catford, about which I spoke to your Lordships approximately two weeks ago—made a strategic decision early on that they would take strike action in such a way as to minimise the disruption caused in the schools and loss of education to the children. However, that has not been so in all cases.
I have here another interesting exhibit. Noble Lords will not be able to see it, but I shall tell them what is on it. It carries the NUT logo at the top and purports to be from the Hackney Teachers' Association and to be their newsletter. However, this heading "Hackney Teachers' Association Newsletter" is overprinted with the words "Not the". So it reads:Not the Hackney Teachers' Association Newsletter",and down at the bottom in huge type are the words "But the Socialist Teachers". The Hackney Teachers' Association, which is one of the branches of the NUT, is dominated by Left-wing activists, and this document introduces some reports from schools chronicling their successes in disruption. This idea had actually been voted down in the committee of the Hackney association and also by a motion at a full 1177 meeting. However, not to be defeated, the extremists nevertheless invited the reports from schools, hence this document. The document introduces some of the reports from the schools. I have some of those here too. Perhaps I may quote one or two short extracts. Skinners School says:For example, we have been doing 'immediate no cover' action for about 18 months!In other words, they had been doing so at least six months before the strike began. They continue:We believe there is strong determination to maintain these improvements even after the end of the salaries dispute.The document then goes on to say:There is a sense of excitment and 'power' at being able to cause disruption in the school over several days and there has been wide involvement by members in planning and organising strike action. No longer is the pay strike a passive response to a centrally controlled dictat",and so on. There is one reference here which is interesting. It says that:the action has put a lot of pressure on our hierarchy".The use of the word "hierarchy" is significant because it shows that the political action is quite outside and beyond a pay dispute. The hierarchy refers to the head teacher and to the school generally. Therefore, it seems to me that here we have a small group of extremists who are manipulating the present situation in the hope of furthering their own much more generalised political ends. Much of their action is not concerned with the pay dispute at all; nor do they appear to have any true concern for the children in their charge or for their education. The children are never mentioned.
Therefore, what can be done about it? I can suggest two remedies. Of course I am sure that I can speak for the Alliance in welcoming the draft documents and consultation paper referred to earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. However, I think that the ILEA must take adequate disciplinary measures against those teachers who flout their professional responsibilities. Only yesterday I heard a head teacher express the highest opinion of their care for the education of the children in their charge. However, this aspect is ruining all their aims. I believe that the authority has now decided to tighten up on these matters, and one hopes that its measures will be effective.
To continue to beat the old banner, the other remedy is of course a comprehensive settlement of the pay dispute. I do not think that the matters which I have mentioned would be happening if it were not for the present chaotic situation. The pay dispute is being used by pressure groups and is providing an ideal seedbed for them. Meanwhile I hasten to say that the overwhelming majority of teachers remain dedicated professionals—I know because I see them at work—with less political interest than any section of the population. However, they are confused, distressed, demoralised and, I believe, sometimes intimidated. Head teachers are at the end of their tether; parents are desperately worried; and the children who have been tolerant for so long are now beginning to lose patience.
I implore the Government to abandon any spirit of confrontation and to make use of tact and diplomacy (qualities which have been conspicuously lacking on their side throughout the dispute) as well as a spirit of 1178 reconciliation in order to bring to an end a situation from which our education service might otherwise never recover.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should like to begin by apologising for the fact that soon after I complete my speech I shall have to leave the House for a while because—
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, in spite of what members of the Opposition may have assumed when I said that, I shall return immediately after my long-standing appointment. So they need not breathe any sighs of relief! First, I should like to join the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in the tribute that she paid to the many hard-working professionally conscientious teachers in the schools of this country. Nevertheless, there remains a problem. I should like to concentrate on one important aspect of that problem; namely, "peace studies". They were mentioned by the noble Baroness and have since been taken up by other speakers.
In a report on peace studies which was first published in September 1984, Dr. John Marks, who was mentioned from the Opposition Front Bench—and I can assure the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that Dr. John Marks is by no means out on a limb; he is a member of a growing body of academics who are deeply concerned about what is going on in what is called "peace studies" in our schools—wrote in his study:In some parts of the education system it is not too strong to describe what is happening as a disinformation campaign both in terms of what is included and what is left out".This is exactly what is happening. A whole generation of school children is now beginning to be systematically indoctrinated and brainwashed in a flood of disinformation designed to instil in them a belief that the word "peace" is synonymous with such concepts as unilateral nuclear disarmament, massive reductions in defence spending, withdrawal from military alliances and hatred and contempt for our major ally in the Western world, the United States of America.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord used the phrase, "a whole generation of schoolchildren". Would the noble Lord care to give us the evidence of the number of schoolchildren who he believes are subjected to that process?
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, if the noble Lord will be patient he will find that in my speech I shall give some indication of the extent to which this process is happening. I hope that I may be able to develop my argument without too much interruption, but I quite understand that at times noble Lords will want to put their own points, even in the middle of my speech.
I should like to repeat what I said, which is that there is a feeling, a precept, among the teachers to whom I refer, that outside this dogma of unilaterism, neutralism and anti-Americanism, peace cannot exist. It is (and again I use without apology the words of Dr. John 1179 Marks) "propaganda for defencelessness". It is no good, however passionately, suggesting that this is a minority activity. Peace studies are a growth industry in this country. There are already, as we know, many hundreds of peace syllabuses and the peace studies concept is moving into more and more schools and polytechnics and universities every day. It is not a subject to be diminished or ignored.
In using the word "disinformation" I do not intend to suggest that there is any link between what is happening in our schools and the kind of active measures which are part of the Soviet Union's foreign propaganda programmes. But it is interesting to note that, for example, in a confidential internal strategy memorandum drawn up in 1983 by Dr. Dan Smith for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, he had the following to say under the heading "Basic education", in which he was suggesting the way in which the CND should penetrate and influence basic education. He said:We need to put effort into attacking Britain's propensity for war. Britain is the most warring state of the last two centuries. Building peace education is one important way of doing this".The noble Baroness mentioned in her speech that Mr. George Nicholson, when he was authorised member for political education of the Inner London Education Authority—the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench made reference to this—said (and the noble Baroness quoted this):I regard my job as mainly an organisational one. It is like a subversive campaign.But he went on to say:We're not just talking about history or geography. We're talking about the subject right the way across from music to maths to English. I don't believe there is any subject untouched by politics".The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, may dismiss this as a foolish statement. To me it is something much more sinister. It sounds to me very much like the recipe for a pattern of totalitarian-type education.
Before we leave the subject of disinformation there is one further point—perhaps a small point; perhaps to some amusing, and to some others not so amusing. Novosti Press, the Soviet news agency, maintains not in Moscow but in Watford a storehouse of pamphlets which it sends out to teachers throughout the schools of this country. One of those pamphlets argues for the role of the student in revolution. Revolution! Most of them predictably peddle the Soviet line. They are readily available, and used, in the schools of this country.
I do not want to harp on that link in this debate. Even without that kind of link the picture is an alarming one. What is happening, in my view, is that we are witnessing the progressive disintegration of a traditional British principle which keeps partisan politics out of the classroom—not politics, because you cannot keep politics out of anything, unfortunately, but partisan politics. The material which is available for teaching peace studies on a growing scale, and the statements of many of those involved in putting together the syllabuses, demonstrate clearly that there is in existence a well-organised and unscrupulous political campaign designed to destroy that traditional liberal consensus about what is acceptable in our schools.
1180 The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was somewhat worried because the noble Baroness had not gone into in enough detail what is contained in the peace studies syllabuses. I have here the peace studies syllabus of one of the leading schools in this country. It is a school noted for its high academic standards, and it could certainly not be accused in any normal way of being a breeding ground for political propaganda. Yet this peace studies syllabus—and I have studied it with great care—is a clear example (if only a relatively mild one) of the way in which peace studies provide a cloak for straightforward political propaganda.
The syllabus is full of words such as "peace", "violence", "conflict", "patterns of aggression", used over and over again; it talks of "frustration", "religious and racial minorities", "hunger, poverty and misery in the third world", "the arms build-up and the dynamics of the arms race"—all the familiar slogans of the protest industry. But there are two words which seem to be missing from the vocabulary of those who concocted the course. The word "freedom" appears once and is then forgotten. The word "defence" does not appear at all.
How can you teach a course called peace studies, which presumes, I imagine, to look into the causes of war and the origins of conflict, and not talk about defence? There is no discussion in this syllabus of the positive case for armed forces or police in the maintenance of peace, defence, or law and order. There are the familiar simplistic arguments which so often distort discussions about the North-South conflict, such as the implication that money that is currently being spent on arms could simply and without any complication be used as aid to alleviate the hunger, poverty and misery of the third world.
There is a total omission in the whole of this syllabus of any serious consideration of the nature of communist societies and those behind the Iron Curtain. There is, as the noble Baroness has said, a glib assumption that there is a moral symmetry as between East and West, and a clear implication that there are no fundamental differences, no value differences at all, between the free liberal democracies and the totalitarianism of Marxism-Leninism.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I rise only because the noble Lord mentioned my name. I should like to say a word in support of the noble Baroness. She has carried out, as I understand from her previous publications, an analysis of 300 peace studies curricula. That is what would be valuable evidence to us. Neither the points that she made nor those the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is making now are really adequate as evidence for the point that he is trying to make.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I am sorry if this is not adequate evidence. I have studied not only this one syllabus; I have studied many of the syllabuses. What I have done is to choose the mildest and most modest of them all. If that is not evidence, then I shall have to try to do better in future.
This is, in my view, whatever may be the reputation and the high standards of the school concerned, a political tract masquerading as an educational syllabus. I know—and I repeat this; I was about to say 1181 it before the noble Lord intervened—that this is not the worst by any means of what is going on. Many local authorities—and I have studied their syllabuses too—are encouraging peace studies based on broader and even more dubious assumptions than the one in this syllabus.
I should like to draw the attention of noble Lords to the words of a certain Miss Stefanie Duczek. She is an assiduous worker in the field of peace studies. She appears almost everywhere peace studies are discussed, and she was one of the authors of the course from which I quoted earlier. Miss Duczek's definition of peace education includes investigating,the causes of conflict and violence embedded within the social, political and economic structures of society".To some of us this may seem already a fairly broad and all-embracing definition of peace studies, but Miss Duczek is prepared to go further. Speaking at a conference on the subject sponsored by Exeter University—and it really was Exeter University this time—Miss Duczek outlined a concept which she described as "structural violence", and went on to say, in the context of peace studies;at the level of society this could include bad housing, poor education and medical provision, systems of apartheid and discrimination, high unemployment and poverty. At the international level, one could name systems of imperialism, the arms race, or even the international monetary system".When straight forward Left-wing political propaganda of that kind finds its way into so-called peace studies syllabuses, it seems to me that we are moving towards a very dangerous situation indeed.
I have no time to elaborate further. I could give, as could the noble Baroness, hundreds of examples of this kind. I believe that there is incontrovertible evidence that we and our children are beginning to be the victims of a growing campaign of political indoctrination. I would go so far as to suggest that peace studies is not a genuine educational discipline and should not be taught as one. I go even further and say that we ought to give very careful consideration, all of us, as to whether young children should be subjected to political education at all. The mind of a child is a very rare and precious thing; it is receptive, but it is fragile. It needs to be formed gradually and lovingly by the sort of understanding teachers who still exist, but who I believe are, tragically, a dying breed. One cannot or should not bombard the mind of a child with political rhetoric which tends to blunt the ability to comprehend and also to blunt the capacity to enjoy the real magic of learning.
I should like to conclude my remarks by asking Her Majesty's Government whether they would consider a number of specific proposals. I realise that when the Minister answers she may not be able to react to these suggestions in detail. I should not expect an answer to them today, however I ask the Government to give them serious consideration. The first is that the Government should strengthen the guidelines which they have drafted and issue them to local education authorities and others in order to define how and to what extent politically contentious subjects should be discussed in the classroom or elsewhere in the school.
It can be argued that politically contentious subjects should form no part of the curriculum of children below the age of 16 and should be completely excluded 1182 from primary schools. Some people would argue—and it has been argued to some extent already today in your Lordships' House—that no lessons or courses labelled "Peace Studies" should find a place in any school curriculum. That is an academic and a political argument on which I do not intend to dwell today, but I suggest seriously that guidelines are not enough.
In my view the Government should take urgent action to amend the existing education legislation. It should not be too difficult to ensure a duty under imaginative and serious education legislation to prevent the political indoctrination of minors in our schools. It should also give parents the right to withdraw their children from lessons or activities which do not respect their own religious or philosophical views. In other words, no session or lesson in any school containing politically contentious matter should ever be compulsory: at the moment it is.
When I think about the sheer wonder of voyages of intellectual discovery that one made in one's schooldays, I could weep for the thousands of children whose minds are now being filled with the ugly and barbarous dialectic of a band of political commissars; many of them festooned with badges of the protest industry and many of them intent only on propagating their own anarchic brand of political nihilism. I must respectfully dissent from the view expressed both by the Government and by the Opposition that the numbers and influence of these people are insignificant. They are not. Their numbers and their influence are of growing significance and it is in my view a matter of the greatest urgency that the Government should engage themselves unequivocally in this battle which is now being waged in the minds of our children in the hijacked name of peace.
I have to say that the speech of the noble Earl left me less than convinced that the Government appreciate the real dangers. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, suggested to me that, if he was speaking (as I assume he was) on behalf of the Labour Party, the Labour Party dismisses the danger as illusory. I believe that is a perilous line to take. If those of us who believe in the values of liberal education and who believe that there is no true peace without freedom do not take some action now, very soon there may be no battle left to fight.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, like so many of your Lordships, I entirely agree with the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has made. Indeed, he has enabled me to shorten my speech somewhat. My noble friend Lady Cox has performed a notable public service in choosing this subject for debate today. She moved the Motion so brilliantly. I wish to assure your Lordships that in choosing the subject and in choosing the wording of her Motion my noble friend had the full support of the Association of Conservative Peers. Having heard her, I am sure that my noble friends endorse what she said.
I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who had a very difficult speech to make, should have tried to find differences with my noble friend to the extent that he did. As I understand it, he himself was a victim of the Left Wing of the Greater London Council, and my noble friend was pointing 1183 out the things which the Left Wing have done and which, quite frankly, if they were to continue to the extent that they have been practised, will do even further damage to the Labour Party than the party has already suffered through the activities of the Left Wing.
I warmly support my noble friend Lady Cox in saying that a change in the law is required. We should amend the Education Act. We should do so to ensure that teaching in schools shall not be used for ramming party political views down children's throats, especially those of the young children. With an Education Bill coming before us I should have thought that this was a golden opportunity. I was rather surprised at my noble friend Lord Swinton saying that the legislation would create real practical difficulties of enforcement. May I say that it generally does! But there has been no great difficulty in enforcing the religious provisions of the Education Act (although one might have wished that they had been even more strongly observed) but broadly speaking they have not created great difficulties. The situation of which we have heard already today and of which we shall hear much more, points to the need for Parliament to ensure that the rot is stopped and that the rising generation of children in this country understand and support the ideals of our free democracy.
Surely we want the children in all our schools to be taught the essential subjects. Those I should say are knowledge and love of our language, mathematics, geography, history, some divinity perhaps, and eventually French, Latin, physics, chemistry and biology when they go on to secondary school. In the comprehensive schools we find that for the more senior pupils all those subjects can be taught. Those are surely the essentials of a liberal education. Above all, the children should be enabled and encouraged to think for themselves. If a considerable amount of time is to be spent in schools on political controversy, in however non-controversial a manner, it becomes a distraction from the children's academic subjects and the children then do less well in the essentials of education.
I have read the draft circular referred to by my noble friend Lord Swinton. One is able to obtain a copy of it in the Library. I am sorry to have to say that I disagree with its main trend and with its main assumption. It assumes almost unlimited discussion of political subjects in a non-controversial way. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that it is not necessary to have all children taught in that way. I should say that discussion of political subjects should be kept right out of the curricula of all primary schools and that in secondary and comprehensive schools it should be limited to an hour or, at the most, two hours a week; I should have thought two hours would be generous. Thus I join with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in hoping that the Government will not let this draft circular be the final version. I think it needs very great amendment.
The political activities already referred to by my noble friend Lady Cox are, it seems, pursued most intensively of all in London. This must surely be one of the main reasons why for some years the quarter of a million or so children in ILEA secondary schools 1184 have been achieving substandard examination results, even though ILEA spends 50 per cent. more per child on education than any other LEA.
The present tendency to divert children's attention from academic studies towards political controversy therefore places those children at an educational disadvantage; of that, I think there can be no doubt. Of course we must all acknowledge that in order to grow into good and happy citizens, children need not only to be properly educated academically and to think for themselves, but they also need to learn to behave properly. It is a most unfortunate fact that these days there is much juvenile crime, including vandalism and drug taking. This is especially so, I am afraid, in London, where the report for 1984 by the commissioner of police on page 171 in the appendix, points out that 22 per cent. of all crime in London in that year was committed by young people under the age of 17.
It is therefore really rather surprising that, whereas all teachers ought to be worried by this, it seems that many of them are not worried. One should have thought that all teachers would welcome the cooperation of the Metropolitan Police, which is willingly offered. However, what is the position? Left-wing teachers deliberately prevent the local police from entering their schools, either to give talks designed for better understanding between the police and the pupils, or to improve relations between the police and ethnic minorities, and even prevent the police, if they possibly can, from entering the schools to detect crime known to have been committed.
The reasons given for this refusal by the teachers to co-operate are mainly twofold. First, they say that the police are racist, even though we know that they are doing all they can to improve relations with coloured people, and in many quarters are succeeding. Pages 64 to 65 of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's Report for 1984 deals with this very clearly. Secondly, those teachers say that police visits to schools should have no place in our system of education; this is, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, quite rightly said, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee said, about training young people in good citizenship.
No place for the police in our system of education, for police visits or talks! Yet the Left-wing majority of the Greater London Council have had that very ill-prepared video, which I saw yesterday, mentioned by my noble friend, called "Policing London", which in a clever buts rather sinister way, shows the police in the worst possible light. Believe it or not, it ends in an emotional recitation by a Rastafarian the last two lines of which (I hope I took them down rightly; I am pretty sure I did) were:When police really smell, communities must then rebel".This video, prepared by the GLC at public expense at a cost of £35,000, has been offered to ILEA for showing in schools. I wonder whether my noble friend Lady Hooper, when she replies, can give us any Information on the extent to which that video has been shown and whether the Government have made any representations about it, bearing in mind that the Home Secretary is responsible for the Metropolitan Police and would therefore have a perfect right, without interfering in any way with the curricula in 1185 schools, to say that what he feels about this. It would be nice to know what the Government are doing about it. So there is the glaring Left-wing contradition for your Lordships: no police allowed in schools for any purpose, and a video attacking them is prepared for showing in schools and the police are not given a chance to defend themselves.
Surely we should all be trying to discover the motives of the Left-wing teachers in prejudicing the minds of young people against the forces of law and order. One is driven to the conclusion that those people who want a revolution to change our democratic society, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont said, realise that they cannot change it in the near future by violence and so they are attempting what for them is the alternative; namely, to destabilise our society over a period of years by trying to weaken the forces of law and order, creating class hatred and racial hatred, generally creating social unrest and preaching revolutionary socialism.
I do not associate the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, or any of the noble Lords I can see opposite, with those motives. They are entitled to be entirely dissociated from them. However, these are motives which spring within the Labour movement and so the noble Lord and his noble friends should be concerning themselves to see what they can do, for the sake of the country and for the sake of the rising generation, to stop this terrible process. Does the noble Lord wish to intervene?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, yes. I am grateful to the noble Lord and I am grateful to him for dissociating me and my noble friends from the views that he has been describing. But of course it is not just my noble friends here but the Labour Party as a whole which is opposed to what he described correctly as revolutionary socialism, and it is all the more poignant for us that we have this very small number of people who have come into our party and seek to distort our democratic socialist purposes to those ends.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I have great sympathy with the noble Lord but one must remember that the small minority of people to whom he refers are playing a prominent, notorious and, I am sorry to have to say, effective part in this process.
In conclusion, may I say that the vast majority of our people are law-abiding, freedom loving and anti-Marxist. For their sake we must stop this boring political rot that has crept into too many of our schools. I hope we shall find that the Government, of whom I am a keen supporter, have the will to try to do so.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
My Lords, I must first apologise because I shall not be able to stay until the end of this debate as I have a long-standing engagement to take the chair at a dinner at Eton this evening. Yes, we eat there!
I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, should be congratulated on having instituted a debate on this extremely important matter. I believe that she should also be congratulated on her opening speech, which was full of knowledge clearly expressed and, particu- 1186 larly in view of her strong convictions on this matter, delivered in terms of praiseworthy moderation. I have also listened to the speeches of other noble Lords with much interest and only wish that I could hear everything else that will be said. The debate is of great interest and importance because the projection of extreme partisan views into education, with or without the use of public funds and the interference with free speech, could threaten, and perhaps threatens, the whole fabric of our society as we know it and value it.
My contribution to this debate will not be on the same scale in content nor, I fear, in quality as those which have gone before. It will be a matter of a few bits of hors d'oeuvre compared with the main dishes; but I want to speak in particular about two examples of the indoctrination of the young which seem to me to be highly reprehensible. Before doing so, I hope as someone intimately connected with an educational establishment well known to many of your Lordships that I may be allowed to say a few words about the indoctrination of the young in education in general. In schools, this is unforgivable; because if you introduce loaded indoctrination of any kind to school curricula you can only do so at the expense of truth, and, in honest education, truth or, if you prefer it, a balanced view is absolutely essential.
This concept of education was admirably described by a wise Oxford don in 1914 when he was beginning a course on moral philosophy. He told his students that they were embarking upon a great adventure but he reminded them of one point. It was that whatever professions they entered—the Church, the Bar, politics, the army; anything except the teaching profession into which he hoped only a very few would go—nothing that they learnt in the next two years would be of the slightest use to them in after life save only this: that if they worked hard and intelligently they should be able to detect when a man is talking rot. That, he said, was in his view the main if not the sole object of education.
Unfortunately, young children and teenagers are not protected from indoctrination by having undergone a course of moral philosophy. They are not at all well equipped to know when something they are taught is rot or bogus or wholly unbalanced and prejudiced. They are often extremely idealistic with large hearts and untrained minds. They are wide open to indoctrination and that is why they are obvious targets for evil men and women who seek to destroy the foundations of our society. Those who are most at risk are young children and to indoctrinate them with pernicious ideas is simply wicked.
This brings me to my two particular examples. The first is a picture book. I do not know how many of your Lordships still hang up your Christmas stockings. This cheerful, cartoon book entitled How Racism came to Britain is just right to fit into a Christmas stocking and it is skillfully designed for the age group which normally hang up their stockings—unless of course they have already been purged by indoctrination of such maudlin and superstitious nonsense.
This pamplet is the third in a series issued by the Institute of Race Relations. It is very easy to assimilate with its format of cartoons with bubbles coming out of people's mouths, and it gives a graphic account of how black people were exploited by Britain in the colonial 1187 era, how they were sold into slavery and how Britain's opposition to slavery was motivated not by any Christian principles but by the prospect of richer pickings elsewhere.
It tells how black people were lured to come to Britain in more modern times to man our hospitals, our buses and our tubes; Indeed, how having helped to win Britain's war they were asked to win also Britain's peace. It then goes on to show in graphic detail how black people in Britain today are persecuted by the police and exploited in every possible way. Your Lordships will be glad to know, however, that in this pamplet there is at least one gleam of hope. It is to be found on the index page. Here you can see two black hands holding up a banner borne on bamboo poles upon which is written, "Here to stay! Here to fight".
This monstrous document, totally one-sided in its approach to a very real problem, this document that can speak of the abolition of slavery without mentioning Wilberforce, this hotchpotch of half truth and misrepresentation which can only have been designed to inflame racial tension by inducing a sense of guilt in white children and a sense of resentment and injustice in black ones, was produced and disseminated with the help of public funds. It is a production of the Institute of Race Relations which was founded in 1952 as an independent body to monitor race relations. I understand that in 1973 the institute was taken over by Marxists, and when as a result of this takeover it no longer received funds from charities and businesses it was in 1982 saved by the GLC, who stepped in with annual grants.
The GLC have given it £300,000 since then. The Institute of Race Relations has also been funded by the British Council of Churches and the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam), which is the international arm of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, a body whose recommended policies more usually support the Soviet's point of view than that of the West.
This cartoon book has been warmly received by an organisation known as "All London Teachers Against Racism and Fascism". In the organisation's newsletter the book is given a tremendously good write-up. It is described as,a highly readable yet serious book",and is recommended particularly for 12-year-olds. I can get rid of this beastly thing now.
The second example of indoctrination to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is taken from ITV's "Dramarama" series. I refer to what was broadcast last year on the national network on Monday, 30th June, from 4.45 to 5.15. The title of this item was "The Frog". I had read the script and found it very objectionable. I have now seen a video and this, because of the visual impact of the images, is a great deal worse. Personally I found it absolutely revolting. The scene is set in an enclosed garden which, we are told, represents the Western world. The introductory picture is of a tarantula spider and a snake. The hero is, to quote from the script,a bloody-minded stupid adolescent frog",and his battle cry is,I'm the frog that stuffs the system I'm the one they had to fear".1188 "Frog" is a punk character, who causes a drought in "Her Majesty's Imperial Garden" by filling his stomach with all the water available. The other characters are symbols of authority. There is the prime parrot minister, the lizard scientist, the crocodile press baron—"a billion pound bingo boss". All these are hideously portrayed in a manner reminiscent to me of the horror comics of the 1950s. "Frog" of course destroys all these symbols of authority.
I should have mentioned that this TV horror comic, broadcast on the national network, is specifically entitled "A Programme for Young Children"! It is, it seems to me, in its impact destructive at every level—political, social, artistic, and, when considering children, most serious of all, psychological. And of course young children would watch it with the rapt fascination with which they would look at freaks or cripples. I must confess that I do not know whether this horrible TV show for young children was designed specifically to indoctrinate them against the acceptance of authority and, by the ugliness of the symbols, to degrade the whole concept of Western culture: but I am quite sure that this is the effect it would have in the minds of young children.
I hope the Government will not underestimate the dangers that have been brought out in this debate. I hope very much that they will take it seriously and that they will do something about it. I fully associate myself with the suggestions made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others in this matter. Guidelines are well enough but it is extremely difficult to give them teeth. I think the most helpful action would be the setting up of an independent inquiry of the type Sir Humphrey in "Yes Minister" would view with fear and terror, one which actually dug into the matter and one which I hope might later lead to legislation.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, in the light of his connection with Eton perhaps I may ask him whether there is anything in the way of political education at Eton.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, in the light of the noble Lord's connection with Eton I asked whether there is anything in the way of political education at that college.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
My Lords, we have a very vigorous political society which is for people normally over the age of 16. Politicians from every possible side of the political spectrum come to talk to us. I put a plug in here. One of our miseries is that those of the Left are reluctant to come. I cannot think why. They would get a warm and loving welcome.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords who have spoken in congratulating my noble friend Lady Cox on the magnificent way in which she introduced this subject. Her speech was noteworthy for its vigour, for its intelligence and for the skill with which she deployed her arguments. I believe that I am not the only one who found the 1189 speech of my noble friend the Minister a little subdued by comparison. I trust, though, that my noble friend Lady Hooper who will be summing up, will field some of the arguments put forward with her usual skill and perhaps reassure us that the Department of Education is taking this subject very seriously indeed.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the speech by the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. The noble Lord mentioned the political society at Eton. I should perhaps mention that at Harrow there is a very strong political society also and that members of the Left are extremely welcome there. According to my two sons, they welcomed a visit recently by Mr. Eric Heifer; so perhaps the Left do not like to go to some schools but are very welcome at others.
But we are here to talk about the public sector, and I have to agree with my noble friends who have pointed out that the police, those who support our armed forces, are being used as a scapegoat in order to whip up hatred and distrust against the entire system by which this country is governed. It is very easy to pick a few motes out of the eye of the society in which we live, ignoring of course the beams in the eye of our ideological adversaries in the other half of Europe. This is what has been done with consummate skill and great determination by a number of people who have influence over our education.
I am unable to share the view of the noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition that this is just a small problem, the work of a few fanatics, and that it will go away if we do not treat it very seriously. I also read the booklet to which my noble friend who has just resumed his seat referred. It is on sale in the borough of Brent, an area which I represent in the European Parliament. I too was deeply shocked by it, and deeply shocked by the fact that London ratepayers' money was used to pay for it.
Several of us here have become students of history and have learnt about the British Empire. We have learnt about the good and the bad of it. Good heavens! in all our histories, whichever nation we come from, there is the good and the bad. We know about what went wrong in the British Empire, but this cartoon depiction of Britain's past is a travesty of the truth and a great disservice to those people, whether dead or still with us, who served the Empire when it existed. The institutions and the democratic procedures which were built up in those days in India and other countries are greatly respected in that part of the world and greatly revered, but not apparently by some of the people in this country who see virtue in slandering their own nation and their own traditions.
The main issue of this pamphlet is of course racism. I join with those who say that there can be no excuse for racism, which does exist in certain parts of this country and among some people. However, such publications offer no hope. They offer no hope to black people or to Asian people who have to contend with racism of a minority. They give no hope to white people, who are made to feel guilty, concerned and distressed because they are led to believe that their racism is the only racism that can possibly exist, and that their sins, or the sins of their ancestors, are the cause of all the ills of the world.
I will mention one or two short quotations from the pamphlet. One quotation from Mr. Roy Hattersley is 1190 depicted in large letters. It seems that in 1965 Mr. Hattersley expressed the view that immigration should be limited and that without such limitation, integration would be impossible. The conclusion drawn by the writer of this journal, set against the background of a swastika, is that the impression grew up from what was said by Mr. Hattersley, that if one has fewer numbers there would be less of a problem; and that this was just the same sort of answer that Hitler had for the Jews.
Is that really what the GLC feels about that which Mr. Hattersley said in 1965; that by advocating limitation on immigration into this country, he was as bad as Hitler? Does the GLC feel that his words need to be set against a swastika? Is that what we ratepayers of London spend our money on? I believe that this journal should be placed in the Library of your Lordships' House. I should be happy to contribute my own because I do not want public money to be spent on buying another copy. Perhaps another noble Lord would donate his copy to be placed in the Library of another place.
The bottom line of all that propaganda is, as has been mentioned by noble Lords previously, that people should rise and rebel or, as is stated in the pamphlet, defend their communities. There are pictures of National Front members, escorted by the police, marching against a community of black people. There is the clarion call to people to defend their communities because juries will let them off. No wonder some people in Tottenham and Brixton committed terrible crimes in recent months against the forces of law.
The same theme is to be found in the video "Policing London" mentioned by my noble friend Lord Renton. There is given the impression that the police are indifferent to crimes against the person and that police forces are riddled with racism; that they are at best idiotic and at worst evil. Not that one wishes to over-glamorize the police and say that they are perfect. In the past day or two we have heard of a terrible incident in which five policemen committed a vicious crime against five innocent people and were not even apprehended for what they had done. We know that such incidents occur, just as we know that racism exits in our society.
However, the nastiness of such propaganda is that it gives no hope for the eradication of the problem. It puts forward the idea that the police are beyond reform; that they will always be like that and that the only solution is to rebel. As my noble friend said, the last few words of that video are that communities must rebel and use violence against the police. That is the cry, and that is the message that comes across in all the publications.
I turn again to the borough of Brent, where there is very deep concern about indoctrination in the schools. It is not my job to represent that borough in the area of education, but since I spend a fair amount of time there—indeed, I shall be visiting that area later this evening and so apologise if I miss some of the following speeches—I understand the deep concern felt by very large numbers of people, not only about indoctrination in the schools but about the poor standard of education: this, in spite of the fact that there is a very good teacher-student ratio in secondary 1191 teaching in Brent. There is one teacher for every 12 or 13 pupils. That is a very good ratio. It is not an answer to say that more money must be spent on teaching in Brent. On the contrary, that does not seem to work. The answer is to change the way that teaching is done in Brent and in many other large parts of London.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I weep for the children and their parents who miss so much of the beauties of our heritage, arts, science, literature and poetry because those subjects are not being taught. Pupils are not able to live up to their full potential because they are being politicised and left to their own devices. The idea of true teaching is being forgotten by many teachers. Large numbers of parents are leaving various boroughs such as Brent simply because they know that they must move elsewhere if their children are to be well educated.
Recently, an investigation was launched into education in the borough of Brent. One member of the investigating team was a Professor Chris Mullard, an expert in education. More than £100,000 of ratepayers' money has so far been spent on that investigation. Professor Mullard is a well-known leader of the anti-racist movement, but the way that he expresses anti-racism is bizarre in the extreme. In a book published some years ago by Allen and Unwin, he wrote:Blacks will fight with pressure, leaflets, campaigns, demonstrations, fists and a scorching resentment, which, when peaceful means fail, will explode into street fighting, urban guerilla warfare, looting, burning and rioting … Critics will argue smugly that this cannot possibly happen here. Most of them will be white, blind to what is already happening, wrapped in cocoons of isolation and utopian dreams of multi-racialism, confident that white is might. To these I say, 'Watch out, Whitey, nigger goin' to get you!'.Those are the words of someone who is investigating education in that particular borough.
I suppose that Professor Mullard is entitled to express those views inasmuch as they do not conflict with the Race Relations Act and do not amount to incitement to racial hatred. But again I ask myself this question: Is it right that someone holding those fanatical views, expressing as they do a deep hatred of white people, should be paid out of public funds to conduct an investigation into education in Brent?
Again we see the same themes. There is a call to violence and a call to the community—in particular the black community—to rebel with violence against the established order. Not to get rid of racism, which we all want to do; not to punish the guilty, whether the guilty policeman, the guilty teacher, guilty councillor or even the guilty noble Lord for that matter—but to get rid of the whole thing. That is the call of the people who hold that particular view.
I do not see any possibility of a way out for anyone in this country, black or white, if those ideas continue to be fed into the minds of our young people in schools and universities. In this I feel very keenly the problems that black people face, particularly in our inner cities. Quite understandably, they feel that in times of high unemployment they are the ones most at risk, and that they are the ones at the bottom of the pile; but they are the ones who need the most help in order to make a decent living for themselves and for their children. It is no service to them to feed them that sort of 1192 propaganda in the schools and allow that sort of stuff to be taken home to parents. Indeed, as my noble friend Lady Cox said, many black parents are rebelling against that sort of thing themselves. They are setting up their own schools. In some cases they are sending their boys and girls to the Caribbean where they probably get a better education than in London—perhaps paying more than they can afford in order to do so.
Therefore, this type of propaganda—vicious and hateful to black people as well as white—cannot continue to be fed into schoolchildren in this country without irreparable harm being done to our society. I very much hope that my noble friend when winding up at the end of the debate will indicate what the Government hope to do about it. We need something to be done now if all of us, black or white, are to be given hope for the future.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I begin by striking a novel note and announcing that I intend to remain to the end of the debate. I shall start as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, did when she spoke very sadly about declining standards and about sloppy professionalism, selective quotations, bias and the grinding of axes. However, my target is not that of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox: it is the Government, the Minister, and her supporters in the debate tonight.
What we have seen is an attempt by the party opposite, properly timed in their view, to coincide with the continuation of a dispute which has gone on and on, and the responsibility for which, in part at least, must lie with the Government. What we have seen in this debate is an attempt tonight to divert not merely the attention of this House but the attention of the public outside from the real problems—I do not deny that there are some problems—which face education in our country today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and her supporters made introductory remarks along the lines of, "I believe that there are many fine teachers", or, "I do not believe that I am talking about a majority". They very carefully indicated, in general, that teachers are trying to do a good job. But they know that the media tomorrow, when they report this debate, will not have headlines saying,House of Lords believes"—
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, the noble Lord asks: where are the media? As far as the press is concerned, it has its means of hearing, certainly if it heard the earlier speeches. There will be that kind of imbalance and bias, and an attempt to prejudice, that will appear in the press tomorrow. There will not be a headline which says:House of Lords agrees that the teaching profession, in difficult circumstances, is doing a very good job".I do not have grounds for disputing a single case reported, but it will be those cases, which may or may not be valid, which will be regurgitated tomorrow.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and to her supporters that if they really believe that the purpose of this debate is to serve the best interests of education, 1193 with a capital "E", and of the partnership—I shall give way in a moment, although the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has not yet said he wishes me to; the noble Lord is always very helpful—which ought to exist between parents, governors, pupils and politicians, I believe that the events of tomorrow, and subsequently, will show that this debate has not served that purpose at all.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, what surprises me is what the noble Lord said. I can assure him that, speaking for myself and, I believe, for my noble friends as well—
§ Lord Renton
—it was decided to raise this matter for its own sake. I personally had no thought whatever of the dispute with the teachers. I did not mention it, and I do not think anyone else has done so. So perhaps the noble Lord will now, for the rest of his speech, apply his mind to the very real problems which have been so clearly described, and largely acknowledged by his own Front Bench.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, against the background that there is a dispute which is grinding on and on I am trying to see what the effect of this debate will be in getting a resolution of the problem. Who, in fact, is under attack? Primarily it is Certain teachers. We have sought—as I did in an intervention—to ask Members generally to quantify the size of the problem. All we have heard from is a small band; a number who are influential and insidious.
I do not have much experience in that my sons do not go to Harrow and I have no connections with Eton, but I have other claims to knowing what is going on in the state education system. Noble Lords opposite ought to be able, but have failed so far, to give the evidence which the Minister in introducing this debate said was needed: the evidence upon which the Ministry can act and upon which education committees can act. They have signally failed to provide it.
I can give only one illustration. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, read a headline from the Standard which, as I recall it, said that 28 Haringey teachers asked for early retirement because of the hassle to which they were subject. The noble Baroness quoted one of those teachers. The impression is left that someone knows that 28 teachers have left for that reason. I can tell the noble Baroness that one of those head teachers, who I know personally and to whom I spoke after the event, said, "I did not know that that was the purpose". She said, "I am not leaving for that reason. I have other reasons; not least the whole teaching profession, not just in Haringey but in every other borough, is in a process where teachers are being induced to retire early". She said, "I can speak for myself and I understand what the article says, but that was not my reason for leaving. I have two or three friends who are also leaving, but not for that reason".
In my view, what my noble friend Lord McIntosh did in a very effective speech was to demonstrate that, while there may be something in what the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said, it is certainly not sufficient 1194 either to take up the time of this House or to ask the Government to act.
When the Minister made his remarks he was very fair. He did not dispute anything that had been said. He pointed out what could be done and what could only be done if the evidence was produced. I have some experience as a governor of a school. I have some experience as a councillor, and I have some experience in pressure groups. What the noble Baroness and others are saying is that there are powerless groups in our society—powerless groups like parents, powerless groups like councillors, and powerless groups like professionals who are teachers and officers. Every time I have looked at an analysis of election results after a general election when a survey has been made the teaching profession has been shown not to have voted for Labour. It has always shown that more teachers voted Conservative than for any other party—and that includes the last general election.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, it may be the last time, and I hope it is the last time, but I am talking about history. If it is the case that most teachers in schools vote Conservative, then we must be led to the conclusion that in their professional organisations they are outnumbered, out-manoeuvred, outvoted and out-argued, or that they are taking no interest in such matters either as teachers or as trade unionists, or even as parents. I cannot believe it. I believe that the teaching profession is very caring and very understanding.
Let me read into the record a note I received from the National Union of Teachers. I am certain that others of your Lordships, on the other side of the House, must have had it as well:The union has always agreed with the Government that subjects at school should be taught in a balanced, unemotional and rational way. We believe that they are. It is readily accepted that there are differences of opinion and approach in the teaching of subjects such as history, religious education and economics, yet no-one is seriously suggesting that these subjects are being taught in an unbalanced way. Teachers are professionals and are well able to distinguish fact from opinion, as are their pupils. The so-called evidence suggesting bias in teaching is anecdotal and has not been substantiated".We have heard a lot about this argument tonight; and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whose knowledge of the defence industry and the issue of war and peace I deeply respect. In fact, he and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, say they have this mass of evidence which they disagree with. It may be right or wrong, but they disagree with it. They are seeking men and women of influence who will share their view and who have some power, and that must mean the Minister, yet apparently they have failed to move the Minister. Whatever the size, weight, number and nature of their arguments they have been unable to persuade him. I suggest that they ought to spend their time in that direction.
Reference has been made to the situation in ILEA. The noble Lord from the Alliance Benches acknowledged the unique nature of the problems in ILEA. With 400 separate dialects in the mother tongues of children who are taught in our schools, there are massive problems.
1195 One talks in terms of money and practices, but I do not believe that noble Lords who sit opposite have even a remote concept of the enormous difficulties which face not only ILEA itself but the teachers in ILEA. My attention has been drawn by ILEA to the statement which appeared today in the Telegraph. It is the press release of which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said he possessed a copy, and is the statement by the Secretary of State, where he calls for guidelines to protect the integrity of political education.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am not saying it is not available. I am simply drawing attention to the fact of its existence. As far as ILEA is concerned, I am told that no one would disagree with the draft circular on politics as outlined in the Telegraph of 5th February. Of course, some people will say that it does not go far enough, but it is going out to consultation and I assume that in time we shall receive the product of that consultation. We on this side of the House are saying to Members opposite that we believe it is grossly unfair to elevate and distort the significance of the regrettable and unacceptable practices which have been drawn to your Lordships' attention. They cannot be tolerated, certainly not by me as a democrat and as a person who believes in free speech in all places.
I live in Enfield. My wife has been a teacher there for 20 years, and she was a president of the Enfield National Union of Teachers. I left school at the age of 14 and did not have the benefit of the type of education which it is acknowledged that many of your Lordships have enjoyed. I respect that education. I am a qualified man; I received my degree from the Open University when I was 50 years old. I can tell your Lordships that the teachers in Enfield will deeply resent the implications which will flow from this debate, which are not that there are some bad practices but that bad practice is general—and that has been said by Members opposite, I repeat.
But the media will not be able to distinguish between what are generalities and the true position. I honestly believe that the debate we have engaged in tonight has been a deliberate attempt to shift the emphasis away from the real problems which face this Minister and this Government, which are not only to settle the strike but also to make sure that all children, regardless of their race or colour, will receive an education which will benefit them.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I am certainly not here to attack the teachers. I am here to attack the indoctrination that is thrust upon them. I know one or two teachers. What first drew my attention to something wrong in our schools was that one or two of the young people I employed—and this was a long time ago—were receiving very subversive propaganda. But it was not actually through the schools that they received it. I think it came direct from some Soviet agency and it appears now to have dried up.
I have had a lot to do with young people because for nearly 30 years I have been associated with NABC and 1196 especially in Kent where I have been on their executive for nearly 30 years and have been their treasurer for about the same amount of time. Apart from that, I also speak quite a lot in universities in their union debates. The extraordinary thing is that I have never had anything thrown at me and I have been well treated. I can only assume that that is because I am not important enough to have things thrown at me.
However, I should like to say that I am always extremely pleased when I hear the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, speak because I remember the days (about 25 to 30 years ago) when he used to sit on the Benches opposite and I used to say many of the things that he says now and he would roar with laughter. I used to point out communist cells in certain factories that I knew and various subversive activities that were going on in the country. I am glad to say that now he has come round to my point of view.
I should also like to take up something that the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said regarding racial education and the divers races in our country. For a short time I had an agricultural estate in Jamaica. We had a school on the estate which taught about 600 children of the workers. All the teachers were black. The children were beautifully disciplined and they could not have behaved better. I do not know whether any of them have come here, but if they have, they have maybe gone completely to pot, presumably because of our state of education and the fact that there is so little discipline in our state schools.
About 18 to 20 years ago a friend of mine was inspecting a big state school to the north of London. It took a lot of time to go round it because of its size. When the visit was over, he said to the headmaster, "I think that the school is excellent. You have wonderful buildings, playing fields and other facilities. But there is just one thing. Your students appear to be extremely bad mannered". The headmaster replied. "Manners are a relic of the feudal age and we do not teach them". That made me think. A lot of the trouble today is the great lack of discipline in our state schools. If a young man has no discipline, he is useless to society.
I try to employ young people when that is practical. Some of them are very good, but some have the most astounding ideas. I shall not propound them now. But I remember instructing one young man who I was asked to employ how to work a machine. He said, "Oh, I know all about that. If you don't like it, you can something, something off", and he just got off the machine. One cannot employ people like that. It is quite impossible.
Your Lordships may find another example interesting. I sold a cottage to a certain professor. Some young men went in before he had taken possession and completely wrecked it. I called the police and did what else I could. It would not be fair to give the professor's name in the House, but I am prepared to give it to any noble Lord who wants to know it afterwards. He wrote me very rude letters, and so I did some research and found that he had been instructing those young men in sociology and had told them that nobody should own private property—presumably apart from himself. That is indoctrination, but he was a humbug. He was all for private property for himself but presumably thought that nobody else should have it.
1197 In this country for some time public funds have been used for partisan political purposes, but I think that it has almost always been in local authority government. We can hardly have had a better example of the use of public funds for partisan political purposes than the GLC over the past two or three years. I was always of the opinion that such practices were against the law, but they go on. In Prime Minister Walpole's day, in the middle of the 18th century, some parliamentary candidates were prepared to pay up to £50,000 to get a seat, but at least it was their money. I am perhaps being rather facetious. But today some politicians will use taxpayers' money to tell the electorate that they can get more and more for doing less and less if they vote for them. I have my tongue in my cheek a little. But that is taxpayers' money. It is not dissimilar; the wish is there to perhaps subvert.
Politicisation in our schools is definitely growing. I do not necessarily blame the teachers. The propagandists are so skilful that they probably get round them, although some of the teachers may be blameworthy. The question is how to prevent it. It may be an absurd suggestion, but I have often wondered whether teachers could take an oath, in the same way as doctors, that they will not try to pollute their pupils' minds with false propaganda. What was it that Lenin said? He had so many sayings! I think he said, "Pollute the young, inflate the currency, and the state is mine". Talking of inflating the currency, I warn noble Lords opposite when they get power to be careful about that. But I remember that saying well.
I quite forgot to congratulate my noble friend on her speech; I apologise. She was magnificent in putting her points forward. I have obviously never been a teacher, but I was fortunate enough to have very good teachers and I am grateful to them. The population of our country is 90 per cent. urban, and we are vastly overpopulated. If one is brought up in a concrete jungle, as so many of our people are, it is difficult for them to resist some of the propaganda that we come across.
I do not think that the teachers are so much to blame. The media must take a great deal of the blame, with its obscenity and violence. I think that it must probably take the chief blame. But teaching is a delicate operation and, as other noble Lords have said, it is sad that all young people cannot have the advantage of a good education that some of us have had. I do not know what we can do about that. It is a fact of life; but there it is.
I have spoken for long enough. If we cannot stop this pollution—if that is the right word—of minds by false theories, I fear for the future. After all, Britain was once the home of the British Empire, a country that will go down in history as the greatest civilisation in the world, astoundingly tolerant and having always tried to uphold the cause of freedom. If, however, we cannot strike out of our society and out of our teachings these false theories, I am afraid that the world will be the loser. I doubt whether the world will ever again behold such a tolerant nation.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Butterworth
My Lords, I should like to confine myself to one aspect of my noble friend Baroness Cox's Motion—the infringement of freedom 1198 of speech and lawful assembly in universities. A few such incidents have caused widespread concern recently. While there is no general or acute problem of disruption and intimidation in universities, some of those incidents were extremely well publicised. In practice, they are few when set against the many hundreds of orderly meetings that take place in universities. Nevertheless, the universities themselves are concerned about this behaviour. As foundations devoted to teaching, research and learning they know that their pursuit of truth is dependent upon free speech and lawful assembly flourishing.
In view of the way in which the terms of the Motion are drawn, it is important that your Lordships should know that universities as free societies give their forthright and unequivocal support to freedom of speech and lawful assembly. There can be no excuse for disruptive and violent behaviour. But proper protest and heckling can so easily pass into an infringement of freedom of speech that at this point universities often find themselves the target of small groups of extremists, not necessarily students, who wish, through provocation, to create conflict and even violence.
The administration of a university, even a large one, has no group of staff remotely like a police force—generally, just a few excellent men like Dogberry and Verges, and no one would wish them to be any different. But on the occasions when violence breaks out, when meetings are disrupted and free speech infringed, universities and indeed other educational institutions do not have the means of identifying all those who take part. Moreover, the law defining the right of free speech and the law governing meetings and demonstrations abound with uncertainties. The Vice-Chancellors' Committee has prepared guidelines to assist universities in this difficult area. If new legislation is contemplated, it might be worthwhile consulting the universities. Their experience in this field could prove particularly useful.
As an example of the kind of problem that arises from the present law, may I draw your Lordships' attention to the distinction between a public meeting and a private one? The police frequently have some understandable hesitation in displaying too high a profile on a university campus or in university premises. Where the meeting is public the police may be prepared to be present to minimise the risk of disruption. But if the meeting is private the situation is much more difficult. If a potential threat to public order is known in advance, a university will generally try to secure that the meeting is a public meeting in the legal sense. Moreover, university authorities can be helped if those who organise a meeting will give reasonable notice and if speakers such as MPs or others will give advance notice of their visits. Ministers have already given an assurance that they will follow this procedure. But the politician who gives notice at ten o'clock one morning that it is his intention to speak on a potentially controversial subject on the campus that very evening gives the impression of deliberately sailing too close to the wind.
It must be recognised therefore that universities do not have the physical ability to maintain public order in the most extreme situations. Where the police are reluctant to intervene on private premises it may be 1199 impossible to fulfil the sovereign duty of maintaining the Queen's peace except by refusing permission for a controversial meeting. This would be a very exceptional situation. But there is no doubt that the duty of maintaining the Queen's peace must be the first consideration. Where an infringement of free speech or disruption of the right of assembly occurs and it amounts to a breach of the criminal law, if the police prefer charges, universities and educational institutions will co-operate fully and do all that they can to assist. If, by agreement, the matter is better dealt with by the university's own disciplinary procedures, the limits of such a system cannot be ignored.
I have already referred to the university's difficulty in identifying offenders. If the disciplinary committee, as it generally does, contains student members, it is not always an efficient body for the investigation of such political activity. Moreover, the university has no power to subpoena witnesses. It may find that witnesses are reluctant to volunteer evidence against the pressures of a close academic community.
Finally, I should like in this connection to refer briefly to the position of student unions in these matters. The official view was recently put forward by the Vice-Chancellors' Committee in its recent paper, The Future of the Universities. I should like to quote a paragraph of that paper:Student unions provide a framework for the intellectual, sporting, political and recreational activities that complement academic pursuits. The gathering together of a large number of young people is bound, on occasions, to lead to difficulties and from time to time the behaviour of student unions will need firm direction. But without the possibility of error, there can be no chance of learning to behave responsibly. There are, in any case, a number of safeguards which act as a check on foolish or extreme behaviour. All registered students are members of student unions and this should continue to be the case. It ensures the widest possible electorate and the likelihood of a good choice of candidates for union offices. The constitutions of the student unions normally do, and always should, require the approval of the university authorities. The Vice-Chancellors' Committee has issued detailed guidance about the elimination of ultra vires expenditure and is satisfied that, in conjunction with the university authorities, student unions are implementing that advice.I take a somewhat different view about student unions. That is why I have taken the trouble to quote that paragraph. But I should like to preface what I am about to say by recording that as a vice-chancellor I have received the greatest help from many presidents of the students union who have conscientiously participated in the activities of the university and served devotedly upon many of its committees.
In some universities the union building has been provided either by old members or by external sources and is held on trust either for the union or for the students. In the majority of universities, however, the building has been built out of public funds and handed over to the union. In both cases the responsibility for running the building and what occurs in it rests with the union. The building itself becomes invested with a kind of diplomatic immunity; and the union enjoys a form of autonomy. This system is reinforced by the practice of making all students automatically members of the student union on their matriculation.
The proposal has been made from time to time that compulsory membership of all students should be converted into voluntary membership. The majority of students generally play little part in the student 1200 union's political activities, and on rare occasions of crisis many resent the suggestion that they should spend hours in tedious, elongated meetings to frustrate an active minority having its own way. Some argue that the university itself should ensure that conditions exist in which academic work can be pursued, and that it is no part of a student's contract that he should spend hours in union meetings to prevent, or bring to an end, a sit-in or other disruption of the university's life.
The decision to make all students compulsory members of the union was doubtless coloured by the consideration that a compulsory universal subscription would become part of the fee and therefore be paid mostly by the local authorities. This was a bad system because the level of subscription was negotiated between the university and the union and created an open-ended commitment for the local authorities. A few years ago that system was changed and, instead of the local authorities, each university became responsible for paying out of its UGC grant to its union a sum representing the total student subscriptions for the year.
The statistics for 1983–84, which are the latest available, show that in that year the universities in the United Kingdom handed over to their student unions a total of £16.8 million. In addition some £7.8 million was spent on the maintenance of athletic facilities and a further £3.7 million on other student facilities and amenities.
Of course, some of what was handed over to the unions was returned to universities as payment for necessary outgoings such as heat, light, power et cetera. On the other hand, most unions ran bars, or run bars, some catering, and frequently shops, all of which provide further substantial income for the unions.
At a time when the erosion of student grants is causing increasing financial hardship I suspect that many students would prefer to see their compulsory membership of the union replaced by voluntary membership, if part of what is currently paid on their behalf by the university to the union were used to increase the student grant, thereby enabling them to decide for themselves how it should be spent.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, for the first time in my parliamentary life—and I would choose tonight—I have to leave before the end of a debate in which I am taking part. I did offer to scratch, but it was felt that that would be an even worse alternative. I shall therefore try to compensate your Lordships by being brief.
Listening to the interesting opening speech of the noble Baroness I thought I perceived a way of thinking. For example, if we take the wording of the Motion, "politicisation"—what a dreadful word!—is something which takes place when the constitution is criticised; but it does not occur if the established order is merely explained or defended. Politicisation therefore is something which is critical. Defence of a status quo is not politicisation. That seems to be the way of thinking.
Perhaps I may take this a little further. Partisan political purposes are those purposes which question 1201 the acquisitive society. It is not partisan to explain that parties which uphold the established order are desirable, and all others undesirable.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way in the interests of accuracy, please? The noble Lord will see when he reads Hansard in the morning, that I specifically made a point of saying that education should encourage young people to think critically and rigorously, on the basis of all available evidence, about the problems in our own society as well as its achievements. I endorse the need for criticism as part of education.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right in saying that she said that. But it seems to me to follow from the examples that she gave afterwards that in practice what she found objectionable was precisely what I have described; and not the other type of criticism or defence of which she approves.
It seems to me that it is not partisan to explain that parties which uphold the established order are desirable. But to suggest the contrary is, I think, not only partisan but positively subversive. In foreign affairs, for example, it is not partisan to criticise the Soviet Union, but it is very partisan to criticise the United States. Furthermore, it is not done, and if one does it one will be in trouble, as has been discovered in Government circles recently.
The principle of freedom of speech is, I think, violated in this thinking when advocacy of racism or warfare is discouraged or prevented. Freedom of speech is not violated by suppression of peace studies, for example; it is violated by the discouragement of racism.
I noticed that on this occasion the only university department in Britain exclusively concerned with the study of peace escapes its usual lambasting at the hands of the noble Baroness. But peace studies generally were still a bad thing with her, and therefore we have in this case an example to which my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton referred; that is to say, general opposition but withdrawing from specific examples.
It may be that the university of Bradford is now "all right" with the noble Baroness, or it may be that she still has her reservations about it—the noble Baroness is nodding so that is obviously the explanation. I had hoped as a matter of fact that she had found out that Bradford was really not quite so bad as she thought. I see that the noble Baroness still thinks that it is as bad, which is rather sad because it is true that under the original head of the department, Professor Curle, there was possibly a linkage between theory and practice, although I think that it was a small one. However, it could be said that under that regime a clear distinction was not always made between understanding the nature of peace and doing something to bring it about.
However, under the present regime of Professor O'Connell, the academic standards are very high. I readily admit that my way of thinking may seem as odd to the noble Baroness as hers is to me. Professor O'Connell was of course a Catholic priest, and it occurs that that may be considered to be no great recommendation these days. There was a time when 1202 Catholicism was considered to be extremely subversive and, if we are not very careful, we could be heading in that direction again. However, under Professor O'Connell it seems to me that a very high standard is being maintained at Bradford, which, as I say, is our only school in a university exclusively concerned with the study of peace.
On 11th October an article in The Times Higher Educational Supplement found the same. I thought it was this article which might have converted the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, but there I had no luck. If The Times cannot do it, I do not think that I shall succeed where they failed. The article in The Times said:Contrary to misleading information which is regularly disseminated by the school's opponents—notably Roger Scruton, professor of aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London—the peace studies department is mainly financed by the Government, just like any other university school. Scruton and his allies claim that it does not attract Government funds because it is too unconventional".I am happy to say that it does, and I hope that nothing which takes place here this evening will alter that happy state of affairs, because in my judgment the department of peace studies at Bradford University does a valuable job. I shall not claim that it does a completely impartial job, because in this area it is almost impossible to be impartial, however hard one may try. However, at Bradford I think that they try to provide a variety of approach.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, will probably tell us, it is quite true that at least one of their leading lecturers is a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has written for that campaign and has, I think, made a highly intellectual advocacy of the idea of nuclear disarmament. However, that is not true of all the people who teach at this university. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will decide that this particular part of the peace studies movement will escape her wrath in future.
I promised to be brief and I intend to carry out that promise. This has been an interesting but a rather worrying debate. In our education system we have some elements of which we are not proud. I believe that tonight we have heard too much about those elements of which we are not proud, and not enough about the elements of which we have reason to be proud. In spite of areas where events take place which please none of us, in my view on the whole our education system is a good one. It is my hope that, by the Government applying a little leniency and by the Secretary of State himself indicating that he may be prepared to take another look at the whole situation, it will not be too long before this damaging dispute in the schools, which is bad for everyone—it is bad for teachers, the children and the parents—will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion for both sides.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I too should like to apologise for doing the same as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. Had the unnatural break of 65 minutes for a Statement about Welsh water and other matters not taken place, I might have been able to stay to the end of the debate. However, I promised to take my wife to the Swiss Embassy, and I would not wish to insult His Excellency who represents that wonderful democratic country which has always been very friendly towards us.
1203 I should like to add my congratulations to those which have already been paid to my noble friend Lady Cox. I am sorry that a previous speaker spoke about the tremendous publicity that we shall receive in this debate. I wish that were so. As the ITA or the BBC decided to televise the Labour Party's day a fortnight ago, which was also a debate on schools—the cameras were set up with all the lights on—and as they televised the SDP debate just a week ago, I felt sure that, under their charter obligation to maintain a balance, they would be present and televising today. Although we put down this Motion on the Order Paper three weeks ago, they have found themselves unable to keep that balance and have absented themselves. I hope that there is nothing more sinister in that absence.
I was very surprised and deeply shocked by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I have always regarded him as one of the best spin-offs from the takeover of the GLC by the hard Left. When the noble Lord arrived in our House I thought, "Thank God, we have a really nice chap who must be solidly against the hard Left", who kicked him out 24 hours after he had been elected the leader of that body. I do not think that the noble Lord did himself justice. I know that he is in a very awkward position because of that; but he did not do himself justice by making a personal attack on the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and saying that she was quite unrepresentative of Conservative Peers. I have the honour of being deputy chairman to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who is chairman of that august body which represents all the Conservative Peers, and there is quite a number of them. I guarantee that the noble Baroness was speaking for the solid majority. I have not heard a single person object to her Motion on the Order Paper. Everyone supports it. I would also suggest that the noble Baroness speaks for Conservative parents in all parts of the country, and perhaps particularly for parents whose children have to go to ILEA schools. Therefore, the debate is timely and I thought that the noble Baroness introduced it with great moderation. My blood pressure would have been much higher than hers on that occasion.
It is the ILEA where the example is most alarming, and I could quote sections from John Marks' admirable book. The ILEA is the biggest branch of the NUT, and what is strange is that within the ILEA even the Communists are now beginning to give up because the extreme hard Left of Trotskyists—what they call "new" Communism—has taken over from them. There are no SDP members, no Liberals, no crossbenchers, no Tories, no moderates, only the hard Left. I never quite understood why this Government gave way and left the ILEA in existence, denying them the right of even proportional representation, thus making sure that there would not be a minority to expose some of their goings-on.
In October 1983 Mr. Ken Jones, who is a Trotskyist member of the National Union of Teachers but on its national executive (so there are those type of people there) said:About half the NUT associations in the Greater London area now have Left (i.e. 'new' Communist) leaderships. The Left's position get a consistent 40 per cent. of the vote at the [NUT] Annual Conference".1204 That is pretty alarming. We cannot have people from the Labour Benches saying that this is a small minority. These people look after the education of 250,000 children in the centre of London, and therefore they are not a small minority. I suggest since 1983 that 40 per cent. has grown substantially. It was in 1984 that that same element which, in 1981, regretted that the Brixton riots were not better organised, said of the IRA bombing, "What's four dead Tories? A start". That is a pretty ignominious and extreme view of a dastardly project.
The extreme people, one regrets to say, are there. It is true, as a previous speaker said, that some of the head teachers have been encouraged to take early retirement of that 28, but there are a lot of good, solid teachers who have abandoned, as the Labour Party have abandoned, trying to stand for NUT elections. No decent replacements are readily available, and this is a shame because some good people are being lost.
Like others, I do not believe that the primary schools—and this is going very far, because the Hitler Jugend is in the minds of my generation—should give political instruction. After the 11-plus is plenty soon enough. Goodness knows! they have enough conventional subjects to take on. With the expansion of science—and I speak as a scientist—the knowledge of science is so great that there is more and more for the young to learn in their early and formative years.
I want to quote a north London school. I have in my hand a typical document. I have many much worse documents than this, but it is symptomatic. This curriculum is in line with the GLC's new curriculum as outlined in a booklet called, Improved Secondary Education. This concentrates on the rights of children. It is aimed at the 13 to 14 year-old bracket on the rights of children at all different ages. Parents cannot opt out of this. They can opt out of religious education, English, or history, but they cannot opt out of this subject called "Social Awareness". It is compulsory in schools.
Here we have some examples. It is just your rights; not your responsibilities or duties. I asked about that. I said, "Is there a comparable document about responsibilities and duties?" "No, it is your rights". At five you can drink alcohol legally in private. At 14 you can own an air rifle and, under certain conditions, a shot-gun. At the same age you can go into a pub and not drink. At the same age you can be found guilty of rape (boys only). At 16 you can consent to sexual intercourse (girls). You can drink beer, wine, cider, or perry in a pub, hotel, or restaurant. You can buy cigarettes or tobacco.
Incidentally, we understood that it was the tobacco lobby which was pushing tobacco. Here it is compulsory instruction in the schools drawing attention to the fact that at 16 you can buy them. Perhaps the most disturbing of all, you can at this age enter a brothel, or live there. Do not pretend that this is something that does not turn our stomachs. The Government must wake up if this is a typical example of what is going on.
Then still with 16-year olds, you can leave home whether or not your parents agree. Why draw it to their attention? You can change your name without your parents' consent. You can sign contracts, sue and be sued in the courts. You can buy drinks in pubs and 1205 drink them there. You can enter a betting shop and make a bet. Then at 17 you can buy or hire any firearm or ammunition. At 21 it is your right to engage in homosexual activities in private. It is a pretty despicable document to give to 13 or 14-year-olds, and, as I say, that is based on a GLC code.
I want to be short because of other arrangements and in order not to keep the House sitting too late. I hope that the Government will take many of the criticisms very seriously indeed. One must try to be constructive in a debate of this sort. I wonder whether Her Majesty's inspectors could be strengthened and themselves be given a new code. As I understand it, currently they give many weeks' warning to a school that they are coming to inspect. What happens? I have at first-hand that all the posters—all the anti-police posters; all the stirring up racial conflict posters—are taken down.
Everything is taken down for the inspectors. They come in, and then there is tremendous laughter by all the staff as they pin all the posters back in position, and the schoolchildren have to see them for the rest of the term. Surely if you can have ad hoc stopping of cars to see whether drivers are drinking, you can have an ad hoc visit or two to a school to see whether the discipline, the teaching, the general instruction and the general atmosphere are orderly and proper.
I would hope that we could include something in legislation. A lot has happened since 1944. Everyone shelters behind saying, "Don't disturb the coalition Rab Butler Act of 1944". Surely in 1986, 42 years later, there has been such a change that we ought to start looking at this again and perhaps legislate. It may be that the Government—many governments do—would wish to set up an inquiry or even a Royal Commission. If it is a Royal Commission, I hope that they will urge some speed. I have sat on Royal Commissions and they go on interminably. This is so serious that we do not want to see the minds of our children rotted any further before something is done.
I would hope, as other speakers have said, that we would firm up on the Sir Keith Joseph draft, which I have in my hand. There is no reason why, if you have to have political instruction in schools—although I do not think that it should be given in primary schools—that the parents should not have the ability to opt their children out. You can opt out of other things. Why should you not opt out of indoctrination, or social studies, or whatever it is called?
I thought that the Sir Keith Joseph document was a useful, honest one. I would have thought that it was harmless, but I also thought it was bland and did not face the problems. I should have liked to quote from the large number of samples that I have received which are deeply disturbing. I shall send to Lord Swinton's private office copies just in case some of them have not filtered up through the department and he is not aware of just how serious the samples are.
I hope that most people in this debate will support Lady Cox's excellent initiative. I am sure it will have the support of some of the SDP. I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, speaking for the Alliance Party, condemned the view taken by my noble friend Lady Cox. I should think that at least the 1206 Liberals born in the last century must be rotating in their graves.
I was surprised that even a spokesman for the SDP should say that. I thought that most of the people who went from the Labour Benches to the SDP Benches went because of the threat of the extreme Left. I should not have thought that they would have held the belief that ILEA should continue on its desperate course. My plea to my noble friend is to be firm, get the maximum amount of information, and persuade your colleague who is to wind up to give us some hope that this matter is going to be attended to.
My Lords, I consider that the reason for this debate is that my noble friend Lady Cox wanted to bring this subject before the House in order to try to save the future education of new generations. I think she has done a great service in doing that and in pointing out matters in which we can take an interest today, and perhaps see that what the Motion refers to does not happen in the future.
I should like to say a few words about the closed shop. I consider that it is the very violation of freedom of speech. It denies freedom of association, freedom of action and freedom of speech. It is assumed that the closed shop applies only to industry and that it has nothing to do with education. It has something to do with education. Not only is it wrong but it is a dangerous assumption, because it gives teachers a false sense of security. Even teachers believe, "It couldn't happen to us". I understand that attempts are being made at the present time to make it happen.
Already, in the field of further education, it is understood that two or three local authorities have conceded sole negotiating rights to NATFHE. This stands for the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. In other areas, this union puts pressure on non-members and actively discourages recruitment by other unions. The NATFHE, which is affiliated to the NUT, is not merely a teachers' union; it is a pressure group. It is only necessary to read its literature to confirm this.
In the schools, the NUT has not yet managed to gain sole rights with any employing authority, although there is little doubt that it could with pressure and that it would like to. A continual call from the NUT is for one union. It sees the existence of several unions in the teaching profession as a great weakness and membership of no union is considered devastating. Again, anyone knowing anything about local organisations, for example ILEA, which has been mentioned already, will know of the highly political Left-wing input. One only has to look back a few years to the antics of the Trotskyite members at Little Ilford school, in getting rid of Reg Prentice, one of the then Labour Members.
NUT, NAS and NATFHE are all members of the TUC. It follows then that if a closed shop came about in education, these would be the "correct" unions. The "approved" unions, which teachers would be compelled to join—the NUT and the NAS—are militant, disruptive unions. This is clearly shown by the events which have been taking place in the past year in schools throughout the country.
Why would the closed shop in education be so dangerous, and in what way could it result in the 1207 violation of freedom of speech? If all teachers were obliged to join a particular union the effects on children would be devastating. They would be used as pawns even more than they are being used now. If a teacher disobeyed the union's instruction to strike, a teacher could be disciplined. He or she could be expelled from the union and, since a closed shop existed, the LEA would be forced to sack that teacher. Similarly, if a teacher even criticised the union the same thing could happen: "Joint the union or you will not get a job"; "Agree with the union or lose your job"; "Obey the union, or you will not be employed". The position could exist, as Trotsky described it.where opposition is a slow form of starvation".Once the Left-wing had achieved a complete grip on the teaching profession it could then become even more political, and this would be an ideal way to subvert their way of life. By ensuring that children were only taught by those teachers approved of by Left-wing dominated unions, the most important object would be achieved: the control of the minds of our young children. This could be done, I have no doubt, with a ruthlessness that has not yet been seen in this country and certainly not in the schools.
This is a less obvious way of looking at the violation of the freedom of speech. It is far less obvious than the crude attempts which were made to prevent Ray Honeyford, the Bradford headmaster, from expressing his views. Nevertheless, it is at least as dangerous, probably because it is less obvious.
The forces of subversion work best in the dark. I hope that light can be shed on these subversive activities so that everyone—parents, children, teachers, school governors, local authorities, Members of this House, union members, voters; indeed, anyone who has an interest in children and our future society and anyone who could possibly have any influence for good in our society—must be made aware of the dangers. The debate is about being made aware of the dangers.
We have the responsibility to ensure that our basic freedoms are never taken away; that the mass of ordinary men and women know what is happening in their midst and in their name; and that by knowing, they will be in a position to fight it and stop it, and thus preserve our democratic way of life.
I should like to draw attention to two other points. I am in constant touch with the Association of Career Teachers, which was formed in Leeds in 1975. I have taken an interest in this organisation and I always provide a reception for them to meet Members of both Houses at Christmas. These members are pledged not to strike. It is a small association at present but it believes and says, "We must set a personal example which our children can follow". Therefore its members never strike.
I should also like to pay a tribute to the Church of England. The National Society, which is now 175 years old, founded the first parochial schools in parishes in 1790. The National Society, with national schools, aimed to plant in those days a Church school in every parish. At one time there were 6,724 pupils. There are now a number of Church of England schools. At one time they had 1½ million children. From 1870 to 1944 the relations between Church and 1208 state were far from easy and the difficulty today is the proposal for the reduction of student training centres and colleges and the possible closure of some of the Church of England colleges.
The governor of one of these colleges which takes international education students has given me the figures. They have 180 full-time pupils from 20 different countries. To shut one of these colleges would be a disaster. These students live locally with permanent residents. The college I am thinking about is in Plymouth and I go there quite often. The students get to know and understand life in England and they benefit greatly from their knowledge of how we live, how we really respect them and do not have all the feelings about them that were expressed in this House today.
I should like to have a positive partnership between Church and state. By this means they could help each other to give a lead and help to put this Motion into being. The Motion has been moved excellently by my noble friend Lady Cox and I hope everybody will agree that the debate is to safeguard the future. Unless we bring out all the various points which we consider are dangerous we cannot build up and safeguard our education in the future.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, must be congratulated on having started what has proved to be a wide-ranging debate. Indeed the title of it ranged fairly widely, including the two perhaps allied but quite distinct subjects: the politicisation of education and the violation of the principle of freedom of speech.
Talking of the violation of the freedom of speech, I can remember when I was a Minister of the Crown in the 1960s being shouted down at the Oxford Union, being nearly thrown down a flight of stairs at another university, and several similar experiences. I found that what are regarded sometimes as the quality newspapers, such as The Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian, although they reported those events they never said anything that suggested there was anything reprehensible about it! Still less, I may say, was there any debate in this noble House about it.
I do not fuss about this for it is the kind of thing that one must expect if one goes in for politics, especially on the Labour side, but I notice that it is an almost universal characteristic of Conservative Peers that they think something is an abuse only if it offends them or their opinions. It can violate the freedom of speech of people of other parties without evoking any more than a remark, but there is no comment with any vigour in it.
Certainly the debate itself has ranged even wider than that. If we listen to all the suggestions made, the Government are being asked to revise the curricula of secondary schools and to pass a new Education Act. Well, they will do that. They seem to do that once every Session almost without prompting. Personally, I noticed the Minister spoke of "this Session's" Education Act, as if we must regard an Education Act as a sessional occurrence. Personally, I think teachers and all those engaged in education have had rather enough of this. However, apparently we are being 1209 urged—and urged not merely by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, but by the serried ranks of the Association of Conservative Peers—to have an Act which would increase the powers, possibly of teachers and possibly of governors on the school governing bodies. One would affect the curricula of the schools, and the kind of literature that could be used. One would also be engaged in reforming the teachers' trade unions, and even the student unions as well.
All this has been urged on the Minister, who showed, if I may say so, an admirable disinclination to do anything of the kind in any of those fields. I really think the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, must agree with us that, quite frankly, she did not receive massive support from the Front Bench. The Front Bench is a little more aware of what is involved in trying to turn these general diatribes into something like workable legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, I think quite rightly—and I hope I do not misquote him; I do not think I do—that we want our children to respect our democractic heritage. I think we would all agree with that. But let us note just what that involves. It means that education is not merely the imparting of facts—the multiplication tables, the principles of Euclidean geometry, or whatever. There are also certain matters in relation to which we want to say to children, "This is right; that is wrong". We believe that it is right to indoctrinate in certain fields. If we say we want our children to respect democracy, we are not merely telling them a fact: we are holding up to them a value, just as if we teach them rules of elementary hygiene we are telling them, "These are things you ought to do". We must accept that this is part of education.
I hope I carry the whole House with me when I say that we want our children taught to respect democracy. That would mean, among other matters, particularly today, that we must get them to accept the principle of equal rights for people of all races; to believe that it is wrong to hurt or discriminate against anybody because of his or her race or skin colour. I think we should regard that as necessary, and, of course, more necessary now than it was a generation ago because in this country the problem is more acute.
Similarly, with the increasing part played by women in society I think we should also take the view that as part of the good upbringing of a child, we should teach him not to engage in sexual discrimination; to regard a member of the opposite sex as inferior simply because he or she is a member of the opposite sex—or, at least, if one does hold that opinion, to keep it to oneself.
These are matters in which ILEA has been engaged. I have studied the documents provided by ILEA for study by teachers on the problems of sex discrimination and race discrimination. Although I did not agree with everything that was said, I thought they were serious and important contributions to a problem that we have to consider. You cannot know how to handle this problem of encouraging right attitudes towards sex and race in school by merely innate kindness and goodwill alone. It is a problem that needs thought, care and consideration; and ILEA has been 1210 quite right to encourage its teachers to do that kind of thing.
That is the kind of matter, it seems to me, that speakers from the Benches opposite ought to have concentrated on. What they have done is to look for every example of people who have handled the topic of sex or of race wrongly and maliciously. I do not deny at all that the examples quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, were vicious and undesirable. However, that puts all the more on those who criticise that kind of thing a duty to consider how we ought to handle this problem of education about matters of race and sex. We cannot say that the problem does not exist. We cannot say that the school ought not to do anything about it. As every other agency in the country, such as the press and the advertising media, and so on, is going to try to influence children's opinions, the school has a duty to try to get people to develop civilised attitudes of thought to democracy and to matters of race and of sex. That is why, I think, ILEA has been right to pursue these topics and why the attitude of so many noble Lords opposite has been obstructive and has offered no real solution to the kind of problems with which we are concerned today.
I noticed the frequent references to ILEA. The question has been raised why this topic has become the topic for our debate today. Surely there is one reason which has not yet been mentioned but which I am going to be indelicate enough to mention. That is the gradual approach of the elections in the Inner London Education Authority. The Conservative Party will be in some difficulty in fighting elections on an education issue, because it is not one of the topics on which the Government are doing awfully well. As I think I pointed out when we debated this subject a fortnight ago, they will want something to try to divert the public's mind away both from the inept way in which the teachers' dispute has been handled and from the starving of education of necessary resources. To do that, an attack on ILEA might hold out some promise. I think this is why we are having this debate at the present time.
I trust that noble Lords, any more than the country at large, will not be over-influenced by this, because we are dealing with a real problem; that is, the problem of how to help the educational system perform one of its duties, which is to help children live properly in a civilised, democratic society.
It is not the first time that that has been attempted. I remember many years ago, shortly before the war, co-operating with the then Principal of Morley College, Dr. Eva Hubback, in setting on foot a body called the Association for Education in Citizenship, where we studied the problems of how one promotes political education in the schools and at the same time avoids the imputations of bias. I think we made some progress. I think it can be done. I wish there had been a more co-operative and positive approach to that task from the Benches opposite than that which we have seen this evening.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. I am sorry that he was thrown down the steps of the Oxford Union, but I have to say that it did not really seem to do him any harm.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, excuse me, but that was not at Oxford. That was on another occasion in Scotland.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, in either case it seems to have done no harm, and indeed imbued him with a sense of humour.
I should also like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, that I have the privilege to serve under my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter on the Committee of the Conservative Peers. I have to say to him quite categorically that there was no discussion at all that this debate should be held to blot out or to take people's minds off the teachers' strike. In fact, I would say this. I wanted a debate on a slightly different subject and when I heard that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, had got this subject, I gave way to her and did not fight for my subject.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, Your Lordships might not have liked it! In fact, I think that you would like it less were I to tell you what it was. But let me say that at no time was it ever mentioned that this debate should be a smoke-screen for the strike. I think that we ought to have that absolutely clear for the record.
I propose to stick entirely to facts and I wish to pass into the world of training of social workers. In order to speak to the Motion so brilliantly and so ably moved by my noble friend Lady Cox, I think it is necessry, if your Lordships will allow me and forgive me, for me just to say in what areas social workers must be trained. Briefly, they must be trained to administer the Children and Children and Young Persons Acts dealing with children with from 0 to 18. This is an enormous subject, as noble Lords must well know. Not only must there be a knowledge of the needs, physical, emotional and mental, of children; there must be a knowledge of the law and there must be a knowledge of family law: divorce, separation and so on.
Social workers must administer the Disabled Persons Act 1968, and that means that they must have a very real and detailed knowledge of the needs of disabled and impaired people; and that, in itself, is a very wide subject. Then again, they must be trained to work with the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped under the Mental Health Acts. As is well known to your Lordships, there have been debates on this subject and we even had one debate on just the one subject of mental illness and the mentally handicapped. Then again, they must deal, under the Health, Services and Public Health Acts, with the needs of the elderly. And there is, too, the sector of probation. And then, I digress slightly, in many social services departments there are what are called welfare rights officers. They must know the whole of the supplementary benefit system and insurance. Perhaps I may say here that I disagree with welfare rights officers being in social services departments. I think that we ought to have welfare rights officers but I think that they should be based in the supplementary benefits offices. Then there is the wide spectrum of housing and of homelessness, and there is the need to know of the working of central and local government.
In the report of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, it is laid down that 1212 among the things that should be taught to students are the institutions of central and local government, including their political and administrative dimensions, methods of financing local government services and relationships between central and local government. I do not say that Marxism should not be taught, but if Marxism is going to be taught then it should be taught in the context of all political systems. I am not saying that it should not be taught, I am saying that it should be taught in the context of the policies of the Liberal Party, of the Labour Party, of the Conservative Party and, when they print it, of the SDP Party. In fact, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, would go further, as I discovered when I was talking to him today. He would say that we ought to teach anthropology, as to how people live in foreign lands.
What I do object to is when only Marxism is taught. There is no choice for students. I have to say—and I am not going to embark on personalities—that the curriculum issued by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, as I have said, does not specifically say what kind of system should be taught. But I am given to under tand that there are many tutors who infiltrate into their teaching and into the curriculum their own points of view. Fair enough! Why should they not? So long as they are strictly honest and infiltrate other points of view.
There is one particular professor who has written books. I have them here, so that I know that this is correct. He is the professor of the Applied Social Studies course at a very well known university and hissynthesis of Marxism and feminism"—and I am reading from The Times Educational Supplement in which there is a review of his book—will be reverentially laboured over by those for whom ideology has an escapist attraction. For the rest, particularly those social workers who prefer to understand their clients as complex human beings rather than 'gendered class subjects', the book will have neither appeal nor relevance".The article says:One must reluctantly assume that his book will soon find its way on to the essential reading lists of the social work courses around the country".The training of social workers is carried out in universities, in polytechnics and colleges of further education. I have served as a governor on a college of further education and it is my belief, and it is stated by a number of other people, that the colleges of further education are so geared to the actual vocational courses that they do not adopt in any way teachings on any kind of particular form of ideology. But in the universities and polytechnics, I regret to have to say that I believe—and I have evidence of this—that there is a certain amount of infiltration into the social work courses.
Professor Julius Gould has said:There is a clear and explicit commitment amongst certain Marxist factions to politicise social work students in an attempt to feed Marxist activists into the welfare services. For, if the provision of welfare and the practice of social work are seen as mere tranquillisers operating in the interests of the ruling class to perpetuate an inherently unjust and iniquitous social system, then one of the most effective strategies will be to work within the welfare services in ways which subvert them in their everyday functioning".So again, I make the plea that if Marxism is to be taught—and, I hope, taught well—then other political systems must also be taught. I would also say this. 1213 With all the work that social workers must do, with the training that they must have, despite the fact of the curriculum issued by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, I sometimes wonder whether they have the time in the allotted two years (which is now going to be made into three years) to spend so much time on the systems of government.
In the areas of practical training, social work students must work in social services departments. This presents a difficulty because, inevitably and rightly, the different departments have different councils—some are Labour, some are Conservative, and some are hung councils. The Association of Directors of Social Services, giving evidence to the Widdicombe Committee on the role of officers, particularly chief officers, said:There is no easy answer to the question of Officer "neutrality" or "commitment". As indicated, stability is more likely to arise from the appointment of "neutral" professionals, and it would be the preference of A.D.S.S. that the tradition of the non aligned Chief Officer appointed solely for his/her professional management skills should be continued".I was a chief officer in a local authority: at no time did I ever let anyone know to which political party I belonged and for whom I voted. When I came to your Lordships' House it was to some a shock—shall we say?—when I came on to these Benches. But I have to say that at no time did I or my staff let anybody know to which political party we belonged. I believe that that is how it should be, and I regret sadly that so many officers either in central government or in local government are no longer completely non-political. I believe that if you are non-political in serving your council, or in serving your Minister, you concentrate on your profession, on your professional skills and your professional outlook.
I consider that this has been a good debate and that we have covered a wide range, but I hope we preserve a sense of balance and that we look at this subject in the round. I do not ask the Minister to change the present curriculum of the Council for Education and Training in Social Work. I simply ask all those who are tutors, lecturers and professors in the social work world to be objective in their teaching to the social workers, and to provide them with the necesssary skills to serve the most vulnerable in our society.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, I, too, should like to express pleasure, which is diminishing by the hour, in supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in this Motion. I have been astonished how far Labour speakers appear to have gone in minimising the mischief in schools and universities. They spoke as though the whole thing was got up by some secret society apparently called the Association of Conservative Peers. I must say that, like my two noble colleagues on the Cross-Benches, I take a rather different view. I agree with those speakers who have said that the Minister's interim reply was pretty feeble.
I must admit that I first met the noble Baroness more than ten years ago, when she was even younger than she is now. I met her in connection with the book Rape of Reason which she had written with two academic colleagues, Dr. John Marks and Keith Jacka, from the Polytechnic of North London. The 1214 subtitle of the Rape of Reason was a straight description. It was, The Corruption of the Polytechnic of North London. After declaring an interest as her amateur publisher in the name of Churchill Press, I would say that it is still a good read and copies are still available.
As an indication of the relevance to this debate, I offer some of the chapter headings, such as, "Seeds of Subversion", "Attack on Knowledge", "Intimidation", "Bias and Confrontation" and "Trojan Horses". It may not sound very imaginative, but this was not a work of fiction, though parts of it read like a horror story.
Alas, the Polytechnic of North London appears to be past saving. Perhaps I may enliven the debate by indulging my own modest leak. I have in my hand a letter from the present director of the polytechnic, Dr. John Beishon, dated 21st January. In it this presumed leader of the academic community appeals to his colleagues, to all staff and students, for such unimportant events as lectures to be re-arranged so that staff can join students in a demonstration against the Government's social services review. I regard that as simply the latest example of the attempt to overrule demos by demos.
There are no grounds for complacency about extremist political activities in some of our 44 universities, 31 polytechnics and hundreds of colleges of further education. I dare say that many of us have in our time been connected with perfectly respectable institutions that harbour unstable and obsessive individuals with bees (or more malignant pests) buzzing in their bonnets. Mostly they can be disregarded as freaks or harmless eccentrics. They are rendered ineffective by their isolation and lack of resources to propagate their fads and fantasies. But when these scattered extremists are brought together daily within a large institution and armed with "free" resources to organise and conduct propaganda, I think you have a devil's recipe for instability and disruption.
There is a lot of talk about the exaggeration of these dangers. The antics of some of these juvenile revolutionaries in universities go rather deep. Indeed, their leaders make no secret of their somewhat sinister if rather far-fetched aims. Thus, in 1969 Blackburn and Cockburn wrote a textbook sometimes described as a bible for agitators. It was called Student Power and was obligingly published in large numbers by Penguin. In this volume they fantasise as follows:The emergent student revolutionaries aim to turn the tables on the system by using its universities and colleges as base areas from which to undermine the key institutions of the social order … So long as the universities and colleges provide some sort of space which cannot be permanently policed they can become 'red bases' of revolutionary agitation and preparation".There are too many examples of unrepresentative minorities of students who exploit the political apathy and academic devotion of the vast majority to gain control of public money and to gain control of meeting facilities and propaganda machinery, all of which they daily pervert for their partisan and often primitive purposes. Sheltering behind the cloak of the university as an educational charity, they indulge in blatantly uncharitable and often illegal activities. In the name of the students' union they suppress freedom of speech, as we heard, and they lend aid and comfort to such murderous fanatics as the Angry Brigade, the Brighton bombers and Northern Ireland terrorists.
1215 They hire coaches to bus demonstrators and pickets around the country and make donations to freak organisations from publicly-provided funds intended for the benefit of students. They deny meeting rooms and subscriptions to Jewish students on the strictly racial grounds that the Jews are pro-Zionists, and they deny funds to Conservative students on the phoney pretext that they in turn are racialist. They elect delegates to NUS conferences, often with 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of students voting, and then pass cranky resolutions in the name of their phantom membership of more than a million. The leverage of these extremists can be measured by the legal quorum for students' union meetings, which is often less than 5 per cent. and is sometimes nearer to 1 per cent. of their involuntary membership.
Through the press gang of the closed shop, student unions can collect up to £50 or £60 a year for every captive member, receiving in all well over £20 million of public funds a year. Much is spent on so-called sabbatical officers, who are freed from the fatigue of study to indulge in the joys of political troublemaking. The Polytechnic of North London has six sabbatical officers, and from a recent budget of £150,000 I see that the students' union spent £80,000 on administration compared with £18,000 on student societies and welfare.
I was even more shocked to note from the accounts that the polytechnic students made a loss on the bar. This raises the question: what kind of education are those people getting if they cannot make a decent profit from selling beer to thirsty students?
More seriously, what kind of preparation is it for the responsibilities of the real world outside when unrepresentative minorities can rule the roost over their fellow students at the taxpayers' expense? Over recent years, British experience demonstrates that the Attorney-General's department, as the guardian of legal charities, is unable to check determined and devious abuse of charitable funds for political purposes. Likewise, the Australian legislation against student closed shops has failed in turn to prevent the compulsory levies earmarked for "services and amenities" from being diverted to crackpot causes or worse.
I have reached the conclusion that halfway houses provide no remedy, for reasons seen in Liverpool, the GLC, and other local authorities, where sectarian cranks gain control of public money because they do not have direct or effective accountability to those who provide the money.
I conclude that there is no solution short of making the membership of student unions voluntary. One could go further, by making the provision of student services and facilities dependent on direct, personal payment by the customers. The only principled method of achieving that objective and of purging politics from the academy is by a system of student loans that would give our young men and women a decisive interest in getting value for money from higher education, including sporting, leisure, living and, not least, educational facilities.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, I should like to say a few words about a few of the observations that have been 1216 made in some of the speeches in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, took us to task in his speech because, in his opinion, we were not hitting the nail on the head and trying to improve the curricula in schools. My reply to that criticism is that we must first deal with militancy in order to create the situation in which studies can be undertaken and in which both teachers and students can carry out their duties in a happy atmosphere. That is my first point.
There was a reference made to various ideologies and in respect of Karl Marx, by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. I remember an occasion during the last war when I was in prison in Malaysia when the Chinese Communists were in the jungle and the people who were suffering from suppression from occupation over a period of many months. The Chinese Communists looked after those people in a very decent way, giving them food and trying to treat the illnesses that were all too prevalent at that particular time.
One evening, an Indian arrived who was trying to escape from oppression. The Chinese Communists tried to make him swear allegiance to Chinese Communism. He was not prepared to do so. He was bayoneted and shot. Thai is one example of an ideology that I put before your Lordships' House.
Also during that particular time, the Japanese were excessive in the rule that they imposed upon the country. On one occasion, some people arrived in ships from Australia and sank a lot of Japanese shipping in the port of Singapore. The Japanese called in the head of their secret police from Tokyo and installed him in the gaol where I was imprisoned, having been accused of passing out information that helped to sink the ships. In such circumstances, the Japanese practice was to say that people were guilty before they had been proven guilty. They carried out excessive tortures from which people died. Those are two examples of ideologies of which I have had some experience. I should not like any of that to fall to the fate of people in this country.
This is a serious debate and we are discussing some very serious incidents. There are wide issues covered by the Motion proposed by my noble friend Lady Cox. I congratulate her on moving it. I wish to concentrate on the youth in our universities, on the case for avoiding the politicisation that is going on in education for party political purposes—and I emphasise the words "party political purposes"—and in that connection the violation of the principle of freedom generally, which of course includes free speech.
I have an interest to declare in this matter. I am a former chairman of the board of governors of a girls' school, and I served for a short time as a governor of a London state school. That was some years ago. It was during that period that I became aware that educationists in the highest positions in our country were tending to propound the idea that some of the principles that have supported our democracy for so many years, and which we value, were now to become permissible of argument and not blind acceptance.
It is possible to state that in the event, by the introduction of universal education at the end of the Second World War—presumably to reward our people for the sacrifices that they made to achieve victory, it has not been a particularly happy time for 1217 our youth. Even those who were benefiting by greater intelligence have been unable to find anything better than the accepted principles hitherto universally accepted as supporting our democratic system and our democratic way of life.
I submit that that is on the plus side. But it has been an unpleasant experience for some of our youth, who suffer from a lesser experience; failing to understand that the whole of universal education gives each boy and girl in our society the opportunity to scale the heights and does not deny to them the highest positions in our country. That opportunity is threatened by propaganda peddled by unscrupulous elements. That is the situation as I see it existing today.
Today, in 1986, we are considering my noble friend's Motion, which correctly draws attention to a very serious state of affairs. I have to say that five years ago, in 1981, that state of affairs existed then. It still exists five years later. How much longer is it to continue? It existed in 1981, and it is reported in Hansard for 22nd October, 1981 at cols. 878 to 892, when I asked an Unstarred Question. I asked the Government:Whether in the interests of democracy they will take action to stop the distribution of literature to the public, to schools and to colleges where such literature is extremist, a threat to authority and an invitation to public disorder".It is my intention, in a moment or two, to compare some of the evidence which I submitted in 1981 with the evidence I propose in support of my noble friend's Motion today, in 1986. For what was going on in schools in 1981, when our boys and girls were presumably 12 years of age, exists now when some of the same pupils today may well be at an age of 17 years, and upwards. Obviously I cannot weary your Lordships with all the reports in my possession which illustrate the examples of militancy and intimidation which has existed in 11 red brick universities today and 14 polytechnics. However, I propose to show the link between 1981 and 1986 in three or four cases, late as it is.
It was in 1981 that I called the attention of the Government to the production of a newspaper by the Socialist Workers Party and targeted at schools. The paper is called Blot. I quote:To change schools we have to organise ourselves independently of teachers and parents and rely on … militant action to change things.As I said, I have this in my possession. I have a second document. In 1985 it was reported to me that Trent polytechnic members of the Socialist Workers Party—the same people who were active in 1981—approached a stall shouting abuse and attacking people who were manning the stall. They punched a female member of the Conservative student association, after which it was possible to restore order. Militant action in 1981 was being carried out again in 1985.
In 1981 I produced a pamphlet which had been passed to me possibly indicating at that time the type of argument being used in the teaching of social sciences in schools. It seemed to me blatantly political accusing the status quo of responsibility for the calamities named in the pamphlet—that is, vandalism, flood, the dropping of bombs, and poverty. There then follows on this document the people to 1218 blame and with individual drawings of them. They were named as a boss, a trade unionist, a churchman, a politician, a terrorist, a teacher, and, finally, a parent. Again, I have the document here.
In 1985 it was reported that a leaflet was circulated to the Bournemouth and Poole Further Education College. I have it in my possession. It is headed:Wanted for crimes against the state.There then follows cyclostyled copies of photographs. There is a photograph of the Prime Minister and another of a girl named Nicola Dunsford who I assume has some political status at that college. The following words appear under the photographs:Wanted dead or alive—preferably dead".There then follows some political jargon. That pamphlet is not dissimilar to pamphlets I saw which had been seized from terrorists when I visited Rhodesia (as it was then) during the Lancaster House Conference in 1976.
Again, in 1985 produced at the University of Leicester during the Freshers' Fair is a pamphlet which was circulated among the crowd. It bears another photograph of the Prime Minister. It is headed with a four letter word which I shall omit to state. The following sentence reads, "Tory scum out". It is clearly political and vilifying in the words that follow:The Tory scum have raised their ugly head at Leicester once again—they want to recruit mini-fascists to their banner while staying outside the student union .. either they stay in the student union and we'll let them sign people up, or they stay outside and stretch our decent humanitarian .. principles too far .. If you want peace—prepare for war on the Tory scum.I have no direct evidence on who actually disseminated that leaflet but it is believed that the pamphlet was issued by and on behalf of the National Students Executive Committee, to which there is not one Tory student elected.
Up to the present, I have stated the situation on the militancy that existed in 1981 and in the ensuing years to 1985 and the present. The militancy displayed now is worse than it was five years ago. Militancy creates fear and the violence which follows. It is here now and it is intended that it should continue by the purveyors of this violence.
I have seen the documents issued in a letter by the Secretary of State for Education and Science headed:The Treatment of Politically Controversial Issues in Schools.It is in the Library. I have also seen the draft statement attached by the Secretary of State reminding authorities of their duties under the circular. My noble friend Lord Swinton, following the speech of my noble friend Lady Cox, referred to these documents now deposited in the Library of this House. Examining them I am, with respect, of the opinion that they do not meet the serious situation existing in colleges, polytechnics and some universities today.
The fact is that at many universities, polytechnics and colleges the authorities are too frightened, I assume, where militancy and intimidation exists, to act on and observe the advice given by the Secretary of State in his letter and circular. I submit in all seriousness that other action should be considered even if it means that the Government must seek greater powers under the Education Act 1944. The present situation is not only tragic for our youth and their future, it would also be tragic, if it were to persist, for the future of our country.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, as one who has taught at every level of the educational system in this country, and in administration, and who has had experience in the educational systems of three other continents, I have spent most of my life very close to the world of education. Like my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, I wonder to what extent this debate has been concerned with education or with the problems of education. Why is it that so many noble Lords opposite have made their headline-attracting speeches and then gone home, even before their Minister can wind up?
I suggest to noble Lords that if there had been a genuine concern for education in the debate this afternoon the chaos of our educational system throughout this country would have been foremost and the minutiae of the bizarre examples given by noble Lords opposite would have been seen to be comparatively irrelevant. Not one word has been said from the opposite Benches on the year-long dispute between the teachers and the Government and local authorities which is bleeding to death our educational system and the educational opportunities for our children.
I am not suggesting that the noble Baroness who introduced this Motion is guilty of any of these intentions, but they may very well be used in what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, has pointed out is a very difficult situation for the Government when it comes to the elections for ILEA. May I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that when she speaks about freedom of speech in our educational system and criticises any question of censorship, I agree with her wholeheartedly. I agree with her because I have had some experience of it myself, not least in this House, where only 12 months ago noble Lords opposite combined to prevent me continuing to speak; but for a much deeper reason also, because any invasion of freedom of speech is an invasion of the basic arguments on which our democracy rests. Those of us who are confident that when reason and argument is put fully then our philosophy will be seen to be rational, inevitably oppose any form of interference with freedom of speech.
I would suggest to the noble Baroness that she might consider, when reading Hansard tomorrow, whether certain of the implications of her speech did not come very close to the doctrine that when people believe something that you yourself do not believe then they should be censured and their freedom to speak should be removed. I would simply suggest to the noble Baroness that she takes this point into consideration. She gave us a set of bizarre examples, all of which we would reject, but they were actual incidents and if we on this side of the House had been prepared to waste time we, too, could have given a similar set of examples coming from Right-wing forces in this country. After all, those of us like the noble Lord, Lord Stewart—and I include myself also—who have been accustomed to speaking in Conservative strongholds and National Front strongholds, are quite accustomed at least to the attempt at being shouted down. Fortunately, both the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and myself have too much experience in public speaking to be shouted down, but that has happened and still does 1220 go on. We condemn it, from whichever side it comes, as much from our side (and from people I would not even include in our side), from people who call themselves Left-wing, as people from the Right-wing.
I am worried about the framing of this Motion, and I am worried that the noble Baroness has included in the framing of the Motion the politicisation of education along with partisan political purposes, because I think that the noble Baroness is there confusing two separate issues. I believe that all of us would agree that at every point in the education system a person who is in the position of teacher, whatever rank of teacher it may be, should not put over party political dogma. But that is different from politicisation of education, from politics within the education system. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, included in his speech the phrase "unbiased education". I suggest that, certainly in the social sciences, there is no such thing as unbiased education. I would call in support of that statement the thoughts and the writings of educationists throughout history, going back to Plato and Socrates.
Yet what noble Lords opposite do not seem to understand is that when they talk about the status quo they consider that anything which supports the continuation of the status quo is non-political. I should like to suggest to noble Lords that they should consider the period when no doubt most of us in this Chamber were brought up. We were brought up before the war in an education system which was essentially based upon classic public school ethics in which the Empire, the armed forces and the capitalist system were nonpolitical. Those who taught those ethics were considered not to be politicians but to be putting over an objective unbiased form of education.
What I suggest is worthy of consideration is the fact that that system and the people within that system were shocked out of their complacency and those assumptions by the war, and during the war not least by the organisation which I believe has had a bigger impact on post-war thought about education than any other, and that is the organisation known as ABCA (the Army Bureau of Current Affairs). I used to lecture for that body on naval ships in Gairloch, in army barracks and in air force hangers during and after the war. What happened as a result not of indoctrination but of the raising of issues was that adult students, young men and women could think for themselves for the first time and question that pre-war system; and once it was questioned there was a current of debate and unconventional views spread right through the country.
Noble Lords opposite might very well say to themselves, "Yes, that is what brought the Labour Government into office in 1945", and I believe that to be very largely true. They should not regret it because it is only when there is the questioning of the assumptions of society that you do get innovation, new ideas and progress, and whether they consider that the 1945 Labour Government was progress or not, society was changed and it was changed as a result of people's changed attitudes.
Those young men and women became the teachers and the parents of the post-war generation. What they were saying was, "We do not the way in which we were brought up. There is something wrong with it. It 1221 brought unemployment, poverty, bad housing and eventually war, and we want to find out how to prevent that happening again". So they questioned and argued. There never was a generation, certainly in my experience in the university world, such as that in the five years after the war, when the ex-servicemen and women came into the universities. It went right across the country. In adult education one only had to set up any kind of current affairs class and people flocked to it.
What a shame that the spirit of those days has gone! Because the result of it has been that, as parents and as teachers, there is a great deal more questioning throughout the education system today. But the new young generation appear to be more interested in flower arrangements or motor-mechanics than they are in talking about the world in which they live and the values of that world. Before the war the noble Earl's "unbiased education" supported that assumption. It was not deliberate indoctrination; it was the assumption that these were the right things and were the values of Britain.
Well, they were not. They were not the values of Jarrow; they were not the values of Glasgow; and they have been questioned since. I say to noble Lords that if there is any suggestion in this debate that we should take politics out of education, then we are doing a disservice to the future of this country, and particularly to the future of the younger generation in this country.
I suggest that the purpose of education is two-fold. It is, first, to give young people the opportunity to control their personal destiny, and, secondly, to fit them to participate fully and equally in determining the kind of society in which they will live. This House should support without question those principles of education. We can do so only if we recognise that within the education system there must be political education in raising issues and getting people to think about them, and not in indoctrination. That is a very different thing.
The noble Baroness mentioned peace studies as an example in her argument, but she did not mention the institution of which I have had the honour to be an honorary member for many years, the Bradford School of Peace Studies. It is the only department of a university in this country specifically devoted to peace studies. It was described on one occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, as a training ground for urban guerrillas. My first experience of peace studies was in the United States, not in this country. But that department was set up in 1973 to give students the opportunity to learn and explore the techniques of negotiation as an alternative to violence. It has been devoted to that task ever since its first leader, Adam Curie, set it up.
If the noble Earl or his companions on the Front Bench want to know more about the contribution made by that department and its members to negotiations in difficult situations in various parts of the world, they have only to ask the Foreign Office. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Stewart can also inform them of the skill, patience and quietness devoted to negotiation on behalf not only of this country but on behalf of various areas where conflicts 1222 have occurred, such as, for example, Nigeria, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. That is one way in which young people are being fitted to contribute to the world in which they live.
I ask one question of the noble Baroness who is to wind up: Do the Government believe that political education within our education system is a vital element; and, if so, how do they believe that it should be fostered?
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, my theme is the politicisation of music in schools. Music is an international language that should mean harmony, and harmony among all races and creeds. Indeed, one of my earlier musical experiences was meeting a young Russian orchestra whom Yehudi Menuhin had brought to the Bath Festival in 1963 and discovering, to my amazement, that communist and capitalist thought in harmony when it came to Schubert.
Here is a modern attempt at harmony by some Lambeth schoolteachers in a nursery rhyme booklet:Baa, baa, white sheep, have you any wool?Yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am, three bags full".It is "white sheep" and not "black sheep"; "Yes, ma'am" and not "Yes, sir". It is an attempt to promote racial and sexual harmony. It is well meaning, indeed, but misguided, I feel.
Music is harmony, but I would argue that there are three elements in music teaching that foster not harmony but discord. The first is anti-class: the lower class are as good as the middle class. The second is anti-sexist: girls are as good as boys. The third is anti-racist: blacks are as good as whites. No one could argue that there was anything wrong with those as premises, and no one has so argued today. But it is in their implementation, I suggest, that education authorities are sometimes doing more harm than good.
For instance, the first, the anti-class premise, means that in Nottingham and Leicester fee-paying pupils are excluded from county school orchestras and state school music teachers cannot coach private pupils, and vice versa. Inevitably musical standards fall. Nearer to home, ILEA criticises the piano as a bourgeois instrument, since, it maintains, only middle-class homes have one. That is destructive thinking and, worse, it is muddled thinking. Perhaps ILEA still regards society as a pyramid, with the rich at the top and the poor at the bottom. But we heard only a week ago that that is no longer so in this country. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, in an excellent speech, described our society now as diamond-shaped, with the huge middle class at the broad centre and the diminishing lower class towards the narrow bottom. To discourage piano playing because it is bourgeois is to deny that instrument to the largest sector of our community.
Moving to my second element, anti-sexism, I turn again to another useful nursery rhyme. I have the booklet here. It is:Richy put the kettle on,Richy put the kettle on,Richy put the kettle on,We'll all have tea.Michelle take it off again,Michelle take it off again,Michelle take it off again,They've all gone away".1223 Fair enough, it is a boy who now brews the tea, and of course we should not discriminate against girls and say that they are good only for putting the kettle on and other household chores. But I question whether that is the best way to do it.
I have also the ILEA Schools Anti-Sexist Policy Guide. In that, teachers are told to watch out for what is called "Gender stereotyped language": for instance, "strong lads" or "giggly girls". They are asked to evaluate school reports for sex stereotyping under various heads, of which one is: "To what extent does the ascribed behaviour of girls fit into the female stereotype of girls lacking in confidence, being quiet and understanding, being neat in the presentation of their work, etc?". The next is: "To what extent does the ascribed behaviour of boys fit into the male stereo-type of boys being boisterous, untidy, capable but not prepared to make the effort, etc?".
A new Labour party research document which I noticed in The Times the other day and which was published on 3rd February suggests that fathers should serve refreshments on prize days and mothers should make the speeches and look after financial matters; similarly, girl pupils should show the guests round the school, while boy pupils present posies to the VIPs. That is going a little too far. I have yet another handy nursery rhyme. It is simply:Old Macdonald had a farm e i e i o,And on that farm she had some pigs e i e i o".More seriously, this anti-sexism has backfired on a dynamic group of young children called the Young Recorder Players of London. They used to rehearse in a hall in Islington. Now they have been banned and will have to be bused out to Beaconsfield because some of the players are boys. Furthermore, when their teacher wished to record a song for the BBC television programme "You and Me" she was banned again. So she reapplied with an orchestra consisting entirely of girls. But it was not good enough. ILEA said, "But the BBC sound recordists may be men". This really is sad. Where once there were 60 or 70 young recorder players in that hall there are now a mere six or seven girls doing what are called cultural studies. These girls happen to be Asian girls.
That leads me to the third element that I mentioned at the start of my speech. It is once more illustrated in the Lambeth nursery rhyme:Caleb put the kettle on,We'll all have tea.Nese take it off again".This is the racial element. I do not deny, and no noble Lord in the House would, I think, deny that Calebs and Neses suffer racial discrimination. I am certain that we all deplore it. But is the solution for ILEA to ban from the curriculum Le Petit Negre and The Golliwog's cake walk?
It is going even further than that. It is seeking to increase the ethnic content of music. So, withdraw the bourgeois piano and advance the sita, the tabla, the Indonesian nose flute and the 64-string Chinese zither. I doubt that children of different races really want to learn ethnic instruments in London. London is the world capital of Western music. There is no other city in the world better at Western music than we are. Nowhere can children better learn the works of 1224 Beethoven, Bach, Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev. Nowhere in the world can they be better instructed in the clarinet, the bassoon or the harpsicord—you name it.
Suppose, conversely, we went to Delhi. Surely, we would like to hear and to learn there the sitar. Or if we went to Rangoon, we might like to study Burmese pitched gongs. I should have thought that we would be rather disappointed if, in Rangoon, we found that we were going to be taught simply European music—and rather badly at that.
A young English music graduate bears out all this. She has just taught her London primary school class the music of the great Indian Duvali Festival of Light. As it happens, there was only one Indian child in her class. That does not matter. What worried me a little, however, was her reply to our question: "Have you ever done a Kyrie Eleison?" She said, "Kyrie? What's that?" This is an English music graduate with patently no knowledge of the great masses by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Verdi or Fauré, and, it would seem, more knowledge of Hinduism than of Christianity. Certainly we have class problems. We have sexist problems. We have racist problems. My belief is that our local education authorities go over the top and, in trying to solve them, often only increase them.
I mentioned at the start of my speech that extraordinary breakdown of barriers that Yehudi Menuhin achieved at Bath 25 years ago. I believe that it is that same Yehudi who is solving the music problem in his school today. I would certainly urge music staff throughout the country to visit it. There, they will find pupils of every colour, nation and creed living and playing together. There, they will find African boys, Indian girls, Chinese boys and Korean girls playing Western music with joy and excellence. No one can surpass us, the British, in the teaching of Western music. So that is the field that we should pursue. ILEA policy causes a musical dissonance and discord. It is Menuhin who produces the true harmony, a harmony of Western music in a Western country. Surely, in Rome do as the Romans do. ILEA policy veers towards, "In Rome do as the Carthaginians do", and rather badly, and thereby falls the standard of music in our schools.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I support my noble friend's Motion and congratulate her on all the study and work she has done for many years in this important area. I do not believe that my noble friend ever meant or even said—she has, I believe, made this clear—that politics would not feature in education. The word "politicisation" is possibly capable of being taken more than one way. But I am quite sure that she and all those who have supported her regard the idea of "no politics in education" as a ninepin which has been put up and successfully demolished by certain noble Lords opposite. It is great fun knocking down one's own ninepins. I am sure that we all accept that politics comes into education, a little at early ages and more fully later. There are politics and economic courses at A-level which I am sure we all regard as an important part of the syllabus.
I found myself in this respect in total agreement with my noble friend Lady Faithfull. Just as when, for a short time, I was a Minister, we never asked our civil 1225 servants what their politics were, and in most cases never knew, so a mark of a good teacher is that one does not know his politics. A good teacher is a seeker after truth. A good teacher is one who knows that the truth has many sides.
I found that for once in this very important debate I was disappointed—in contrast to my normal reaction—with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, whose many speeches in many areas of national importance I have listened to with great respect. I thought that for once he took a rather narrow contemporary political line. If I may say this to him for a start, I think all of us who support this Motion are not saying that there should not be indoctrination one way round, or are even thinking of it. I believe that communism in theory and in practice should be taught, and, as children get older, in the political and economic classes. I believe that all other forms of political way or simply do not know what goes on and how widespread it is.
I think there was absolutely no difference between what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said and what my noble friend Lady Cox said, in terms of the problem of the National Front. My noble friend has no sympathy, and said so—in fact, complete antipathy with the National Front. No; I do not think that this can be written off as a political device for those on these Benches to try to prevent communism, socialism, being taught and taught thoroughly in theory and in practice at the right times and at the right levels in schools.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made great play of words, saying that his party never had believed never did believe and never would believe or countenance certain of the things which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, mentioned in her speech. I hope that the noble Lord is right. However, I think that we have to say to noble Lords opposite that we have noticed certain major changes. For many years between 1933 and 1972 a large number of organisations, and particularly front organisations like the World Peace Council, were proscribed. One could not be a member of the Labour Party and belong to them. That stopped in 1972, and it has encouraged the activities of these front organisations. This, in turn, has now had time to have an effect in many areas of our society, but by no means least in the areas of teachers.
The situation is not as it was in the days of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, in the other place. There are 20 parliamentarians for peace—and it is about peace studies that I want to make some remarks in a moment—led by Mr. James Lamond, who is a vice-president of the World Peace Council. Perhaps if communism were not such a counter-productive word we might have 20 Communist Members of Parliament in Parliament today.
There is a new constitution in the Labour Party, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, took account of it when he forecast what the Labour Party would never allow. But the leadership of the party today is no longer elected as the last step in our universally recognised democracy, but is elected to a considerable extent by the trade unions and their block votes, and by the constituency parties. That leads one 1226 naturally to point out the problems of reselection that are arising.
I feel that the great names of Gaitskell, Bevan and Bevin, of trade union leaders like Carron, and of my many friends in the party opposite whom I have met during my period with industry and who have been Ministers responsible for areas with which I have had a good deal to do, would have been worried as to whether the promises of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about the future could be relied upon. Those who write off this whole area as a fantasy of the extreme Right are either trying to make light of it in a political way or simply do not know what goes on and how widespread it is.
One of my sons who was going through the usual unhealthy rebellious stage once said to me when I was arguing about the organisation of his school, "Dad, I don't think you know what goes on". He may have been right, and I believe that many of us do not know what goes on.
I can remember enough of the events leading up to the war to remember the kind of things that were said about Churchill and about Vansittart, who I used to listen to sitting on the steps of that Throne. I remember my own father's prophesy made in 1933 that war would start in 1939. I remember the sort of remarks that were made about people who studied deeply, who visited Germany often, as my father did throughout those years, and they were brushed aside.
In the area that we are discussing today I believe that my noble friend Lady Cox, Dr. John Marks and many others are in a similar position; and I believe that in the area of defence, peace studies and misinformation the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is in a similar position. They have studied in enormous depth what is going on. When I was at the Ministry of Defence and I occasionally used to question my civil servants about speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I sensed a certain, "Well, that is Lord Chalfont again" kind of approach. However, when I pinned them down to the noble Lord's remarks, as human beings go I found him to be extraordinarily accurate on nearly every count.
If we need to teach peace studies in schools, we should teach what goes on here and what goes on in Russia and in China in theory as well as in practice. When I was at the Department of Industry I tried to speed up the introduction of computers in our education system. When I suggested that we must get this new discipline into the teacher training colleges in a big way—and I think that there is a reason for new disciplines in relation to computers, which did not exist in previous generations—I remember being told by quite a senior civil servant, whose politics I did not know, "That is no good, Minister, the teacher training colleges have been red for years; they want to introduce other subjects; they will not pay any attention to this". That is a factual story. I believed that assessment to be an exaggeration and I continued my efforts. Today there are computers in schools and they are working well.
In a moment I want to introduce a public opinion poll carried out by Gallup for a conference which I was asked to chair, because it bears on the question whether the peace studies as they are taught 1227 today—and in my opinion they are not taught in a balanced way—have had a greater effect on the young than other forms of propaganda are having on the population as a whole. Before doing so, let me say that it is extremely hard to separate the effects on the young of what is actually in the curriculum and what is the subject of other propaganda.
But let me, if I may, before introducing that public opinion poll and conference—and it is too late to give many examples of the question of balance in peace studies—quote from a chart (I cannot remember whether it was prepared by Dr. John Marks or the noble Baroness, Lady Cox) of seven reputable educational organisations: the Avon education committee; the Newcastle education committee; the Schools' Council; the Centre for Peace Studies, Lancaster; the National Union of Teachers; World Studies Teacher Training Centre, York; and Teachers for Peace. A chart was set out of the references which people studying peace should look at and study.
Of the pro-NATO organisations, which perhaps the majority of us on all sides of the House believe is the foundation for defence, if we first take the two government departments—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence—they received only three mentions each from the seven institutes as being authorities worth consulting and worth reading their literature. The pro-NATO campaigning organisations did not get a single mention throughout. There is a much higher intensity of reference for all other organisations, particularly those in the unilateralist and pacifist campaigning world.
I mentioned that there were other influences on the young. These of course include music, which my noble friend Lord Mersey has just mentioned. But I am talking of things like punk music. As I am deaf and quite unmusical—although I got a credit in music in my school certificate, which I did not take because my examiners had been called up for the war—I read the words on the flyleaves which large numbers of these groups, often helped by anarchist organisations, have written into their songs—and they amount to some tens or possible hundreds.
Of course the young at that age always want the latest trend in music. I can only tell your Lordships that they are worse, if anything, than the many examples that have been given today of written pamphlets and literature. I found that anarchist pamphlets reached even into public schools and crammers in county towns. They are anti-everything—monarch, police, defence, colonialism, race, sex, the law. You name it, they are "agin" it. They are cleverly produced. I found that many of them had sufficient strands of truth, and examples of true things, to convince the fairly gullible young at that age. The objective clearly was to de-stabilise the minds of youth.
In one case I happened to meet a boy who was sacked by a major public school for finally going beyond the bounds. He had, to my knowledge, because I had read his pamphlets, been supplied by various anarchist organisations with all sorts of literature, and produced on a monthly basis pamphlets which were also anti-everything.
1228 After he was sacked, I asked him whether the headmaster, his housemaster or anyone else had discussed the pamphlets with him. The answer was "Only after I was sacked". He was sacked for something quite different. They ignored the pamphlets. They neither banned them (in this liberal age in which we live) nor did they do the other thing, which one should do in a liberal age such as this, challenge and discuss fully and openly. Do not let us run away with the idea that this kind of destabilising propaganda is only going into the areas of the ILEA or the inner cities.
I shall mention quickly the opinion poll produced for a conference at Kings College run by two foundations for study in the defence field. It was commissioned by the Foundation for Defence Studies. While I must admit that the poll shows enormous ignorance of the facts at all ages, in virtually every case the misunderstanding and misapprehensions were greater in the 16 to 24 age group of a full Gallup sample than in any others. For example, of conventional armaments—tanks, aircraft, artillery and infantry—the public was asked who had the most, Warsaw Pact or NATO. There were high "don't knows" throughout, but of the 16 to 24 year-olds 26 thought NATO had the most and 24 thought the Warsaw Pact. Your Lordships will know that the truth on those armaments is between 2:1 and 3:1, and even in the case of artillery, 4:1.
Another question was asked whether it was true or false that before the arrival of United States cruise missiles in Britain there were no significant numbers of American nuclear weapons. Again the 16 to 24 year-old group were most wrong with 39 believing the statement to be true and 36 believing it to be false.
In another area where peace studies either neglect the subject altogether or talk about cost in an exaggerated way and how much money could be spent on other things, we asked the question: what percentage of our annual defence budget is spent on Britain's nuclear forces? The reality is about 3 per cent. The highest answers by far were in the 16 to 24 age group. There was quite a high "don't know" figure; and 52 per cent. thought the figure was above 15 per cent., and 42 per cent. above 25 per cent.
I shall not weary your Lordships further and I do not want to over-exaggerate the significance of that. As I have said before, there was great ignorance in all parts of the population, not least because a great deal of misinformation passes through our free society like a knife passes through butter.
If I were to teach or to have a say-so as to what should be taught in peace studies, if there were to be such a subject taught with which I would not fully agree, I would teach the actual balances of the forces of the main countries and powers in this world. I would teach their costs as fact. I would teach the facts and trends on the so-called arms race, with the progress of the weaponry of both sides during détente and after and before various agreements. I would teach the details of the dozen or so pacts which have been signed in 25 years, and I would teach the major efforts at agreement which failed and the various accounts by both sides of the reasons for breakdown. I would suggest literature such as the Ministry of Defence 1229 suggested to me to read on the causes of war, and I hope I would get a balance of this kind.
At this conference—and the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, mentioned him—Professor O'Connell, the vice-chancellor of Bradford University and the head of the peace studies faculty at Bradford, from which much of peace studies head, spoke. There were a good number of points on which I was interested in what his philosophy was and I had sympathy with it.
It had been raised by Lady Cox and others at the conference, that the criticism of the different schools of argument in defence was not being taught in a balanced way. I quote Professor O'Connell:Let me take up the issue of asymmetry of criticism. I think that is a criticism which the peace studies people should take on board and I think there is a certain truth in it. But let me explain why I think it exists without thereby justifying it. I think that in point of fact most youngsters in school and most of those who come even into my own department are thoroughly convinced that the Soviet Union is not a very agreeable place. They know that it is an autocracy. Many beyond that are convinced that it is a totalitarian society, although I think that is simply not true and that there is plenty of evidence now to that effect. I think some of the criticism we have received this morning is misplaced".I have less quarrel with Professor O'Connell than with what obviously happens well down the field of the teaching of peace studies in many areas. They are not yet universal and, on the figures that I have given your Lordships of the opinion poll, disaster has not yet struck us. However, misunderstanding is widespread and there is evidence that it is worse among youth than it is in the older ages. I beg to support this Motion, and I hope that the Government will have an inquiry and will get some principles into our education Acts.
§ 9.38 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lady Cox feels rewarded. Her Motion, which she so admirably introduced, has led to one of the best informed debates that I have heard in this House—and that is saying quite a lot. It has attracted speakers of real authority, with knowledge and experience. One cannot often say of a debate that nearly every speech—and this is true of speeches from all sides of the House—will be worth reading in Hansard, but is is certainly true of this one. She could scarcely have selected a topic of more importance to the future of Britain.
Nostalgia is a dangerous drug. My noble friend Lord Chalfont allowed himself about 30 seconds of it. However, while my noble friend Lady Cox and your Lordships were speaking. I could not but recall the pattern of education in the villages and towns of Scotland, as I was closely connected with that at one time, and not so very long ago.
The education then was supplied by three partners: the mother in the home, the dominie or schoolmaster in the school, and the minister of religion. In the home, the mother taught the basic disciplines which ensure that brothers and sisters contribute to a harmonious home. But she did much more. In the evenings, she would supplement the teaching in the school, particularly in the reading and writing in the early years when the child had to learn to understand and to be understood.
1230 The schoolmaster accepted responsibility for the curriculum, but he did much more than that. He taught those tolerances which it is desirable for the young to observe in the early days of community living as an apprentice to life later in a democratic society; while the minister of the church reinforced that area of learning with instruction in the code of conduct for life on earth laid down by the founder of the Christian religion which, in its insistence on man's duty to his neighbour, has a close affinity to the obligations inherent in the citizenship of a democracy.
I suppose all that could be called indoctrination; but it was education then designed to balance knowledge and values which were thought to be true in terms of democratic life. Two of those influences on education have been weakened. The great majority of young mothers leave home to work and are away for most of the day. It is asking too much of a young mother when she comes home from work in the evening to pay the same attention to the child as mothers were wont to do in those days. It is much easier to give the children some money to go and amuse themselves.
The churches are so stretched in manpower and the school curriculum so overloaded that the teaching of religion is at best perfunctory. That being so, a greater responsibility than ever before now falls upon the teacher in the school. I would not be a party in any circumstances to the wholesale criticism of the teaching profession—it is a fine profession—nor to the public section of education, so called, which is full, too, of dedicated people. But this Motion is not directed at those; it is directed at those teachers who, in teaching politics in school, carry personal bias to the point of indoctrination.
The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, did very well to remind us that indoctrination can easily be carried to the point of distorting the truth. It is against those that this Motion is directed and it must surely follow, must it not? that in so far as a teacher deliberately uses indoctrination and distortion of the truth and allows his personal political prejudice to colour the teaching of his pupils, he is guilty, first, of betraying the trust placed in him by the parents; and, secondly, in conspicuously lacking the responsibility which he ought to exercise towards the boys and girls under his charge and care.
There are two ways in which political education can be taught. It can be taught with objectivity and it can be taught with distortion and the aim to indoctrinate. Many examples of indoctrination have been given by your Lordships this afternoon, and I shall add only two. The first is of one teacher and it is in literature supplied to me by my noble friend Lady Cox. This is first-hand evidence, and it is a speech by a teacher stating what he believes, and what he conveyed to his pupils. He said this:America's power is the source of all the world's evils. America must be regarded as the enemy of democracy".Not a word about the fact that America had come to fight and to help the democracies win two wars against dictatorship. Not a word. That is what I call distorted politics.
But I was rather more disturbed by the highly selective and grossly over-simplified cases which teacher after teacher gave as justification for violence. 1231 I have lately been concerned—and I dare say that others of your Lordships have, too—with evidence that an increasing number of our young and potential citizens seem to look upon the law as their enemy and the instruments of the law—the courts of justice and the police—as automatic objects for confrontation. Should that trend develop it will be catastrophic for the future of our democracy. Indeed, anyone with experience can testify that there is no halfway house between dictatorship and democracy, and that the law is the sole guarantor of the individual's rights and freedoms. Who tells that today to the young?
When I read the categories of action which quite a number of teachers in this literature recommend as just violence, I cannot blame the young students who take to the street. I confess that I see little case for political education in the primary school. In the secondary school it is different. There I think the young ought to be taught, to begin to learn about comparative constitutions, comparative political systems, comparative government. But there are two ways of conveying such knowledge—again, by 1232 objectivity or by deliberate indoctrination. I am bound to say that this debate—and I have listened to the whole of it—has proved that indoctrination is developing to a point of danger to the nation. I am bound to come to that conclusion on the evidence of what has been said today in this House.
What should be done? Guidelines are certainly needed and will be welcome. It is good that parents are given more influence in the governing bodies of schools. They should use it. But I listened to the whole of this debate and I have come to the conclusion that there will have to be something more. I have sometimes thought that education has reached such a point that we ought to have a Royal Commission into it; but a Royal Commission takes a very long time and seldom are the findings of a Royal Commission acted upon with any sense of urgency. I am quite certain that there ought to be some inquiry to clarify the facts and to suggest how best to handle them. Whatever the form of the inquiry, I hope that the Secretary of State for Education will agree to one, and it should be set up soon and with urgency.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Home, with whose speech I found myself in almost total agreement, particularly on the last point he made, to which I shall come later. I can say without hesitation that this has been one of the most interesting debates in which I have participated, and that we all owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for having introduced this subject today. I fear that that view of mine does not appear to be shared by the Opposition Front Bench, but nevertheless the noble Baroness will no doubt contain her sorrow with her customary fortitude.
The noble Baroness will not be surprised to learn that on a number of other occasions when issues of this kind have been raised it has been made clear by the Opposition Front Bench that they would have preferred that a different matter altogether had been raised. I remember raising nearly two years ago, together with my noble friend Lord Evans of Claughton, the question of what was going on in Liverpool. That was their reaction on that occasion. A few weeks ago we raised the question of Liverpool yet again. The response of the Opposition Front Bench was identical.
The common feature of these two debates—the debate that we had yesterday on the Local Government Bill and the debate we are having tonight—is simply the infiltration of extremists into the Labour Party. In reality, that is the subject we are discussing. As the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said a few moments ago, the reason for that is the abandonment of the list of proscribed organisations. If that had not been done then some of the problems, if not all of them, would not have occurred. We should recognise that at the outset.
There are two particular legs to the Motion that we are debating today. The first is the question of freedom of speech, the second is the question of the politicisation, as it is described, of parts of our education system. On the question of freedom of speech, I of course share very nearly all the views that have been expressed on both sides of the House. I am perhaps a little more sceptical as to whether it is a totally new problem. I remember visiting with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer a university in 1968 where there were substantial demonstrations by students, despite the fact that it was a televised programme that was open-ended in order to give students the opportunity of expressing their point of view. Indeed, it was so long ago that Robin Day was then Mr. Robin Day rather than Sir Robin Day.
On that occasion, I found it deeply depressing that so many people had gone there simply in order to shout and bawl, and not to ask any intelligent questions. That seemed to me to be a negation of what university education is supposed to be about. I found that situation distressing, and I am bound to say that I find some of the more recent manifestations of the same type of conduct equally distressing. It is most unpleasant, but I repeat that I do not regard such behaviour as an entirely new problem.
1234 The second issue raised in the Motion concerns the degree of politicisation of our education system. There are, for reasons I have already touched upon, some very disturbing elements. We can put the problem into two categories. First there is what can be described as unreasonable behaviour by some teachers. Secondly, there is the matter of unreasonable behaviour by some local education authorities. I will first touch first on the question of teachers.
Teachers obviously have civil rights, just like everybody else. They should be free to express their point of view as vigorously as they want. Before I develop this particular part of my argument, I must say that I believe that the teachers have not been well treated by the present Government. The present impasse over their pay claim has been deeply damaging to the cause of education in this country. I hope very much, as one who is certainly not an unqualified supporter of the position of the National Union of Teachers in this matter, that this unhappy episode will be brought to a conclusion as rapidly as possible. The only people who are suffering are schoolchildren.
Having said that, I think we must recognise that although the overwhelming majority of teachers, whatever their political views may be, do the very best they can to provide quality education, we have a new situation—I think it is a relatively new situation—of a determined militant minority in the education profession who are prepared to treat children as political playthings. I think that the problem is at its worst in inner London. There are manifestations of the same difficulties in other parts of the country, but it is in inner London that we see it at its worst.
We know, of course, that in inner London there are serious and most difficult problems. There is the inner city cycle of deprivation: bad housing, bad schools in many cases, and a high level of unemployment. We have the educational problems of disadvantaged ethnic minorities and we have the new and serious problem of racist attacks directed both at children and at adults. It is a matter which is occupying a great deal of attention by the police in many communities in East London and elsewhere. We have to take these matters extremely seriously and recognise that they are to some extent the background to some of the problems that we have been debating this evening.
A number of examples have been given tonight about some of the more unattractive behaviour of the militant minority of school teachers. Part of the speech of my noble friend Lord Ritchie of Dundee was related entirely to that. I should like, for a moment, to touch on this subject of the increasing power of this minority of extremists in the Inner London Teachers' Association, which has about half the teachers in the area among its members. It is run and dominated by the Socialist Teachers Alliance, which includes a substantial number of Trotskyists—believers in permanent revolution. It was set up 10 years ago with groups ranging from the International Marxist Group, the Workers League, and the Socialist Workers Party.
At the NUT annual conference this coalition can sometimes get up to 100,000 votes out of the roughly 1235 235,000 votes which are recorded. Their power base is primarily in London. The majority of their leaders, including the general secretary, Mr. Loosley, and the president, Mr. Esterson, were members of the International Marxist Group. Seven years ago the International Marxist Group, then led by Mr. Tariq Ali, disbanded and very nearly all its members joined the Labour Party. They thought that to infiltrate one of the existing major political parties was a more productive use of their power. That has led, I think, to some of the problems—not all, of course—that we have been debating today.
One of the Socialist Teachers Alliance's principal figures, Mr. Bernard Regan, criticised the decision—I give this as an example—of the teachers' unions to fight redundancy notices in Liverpool through the courts. Despite the fact that his own members were in fact being threatened with total deprivation of their income this gentleman felt that it was entirely wrong that the teachers' organisations had gone to the courts in order to protect their own members. That gives some rough idea of his political position.
Mr. Regan says that the STA is campaigning to change the aims and objectives of the National Union of Teachers in order to allow it to take on, as he describes it, a wider political role. He wants to change Rule 8 under which industrial action has to be sanctioned by the national executive of the NUT. He says, and I refer to The Times Educational Supplement of January 10th this year, that this puts a limitation on what he describes as union democracy. His colleague Mr. Ken Jones, whom the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, mentioned a few moments ago, says that there is an unresolved conflict between the union's national rules and "particular local experience". He says that London is a special case (and I again quote) "because of the volatility of the politics of race".
I believe that the interpretation of that phrase "the politics of race" is of absolutely fundamental importance to what we are debating this evening. Certainly, as I have indicated, there is an issue of high importance here. As we are all well aware, there is a highly sensitive problem in many areas of London. In fact, there are deeply objectionable racist attitudes held by a number of people. Of course there are; we are well aware of it. But let me just give an illustration of what happened when Mr. Jones and his friends decided to develop their ideas on the politics of race.
My noble friend Lord Ritchie of Dundee mentioned right at the beginning of our debate the events which occurred only a relatively short time ago at Daneford School. My colleague Mrs. Anne Sofer raised this precise question at a meeting of the Inner London Education Authority, when a series of episodes occurred following an incident in which an Asian boy was attacked by four other youths. These boys were expelled. Nevertheless, extremist members of the staff then took over and with some colleagues mounted a picket at the divisional office of the ILEA, where there was a series of incidents and the divisional inspector was at the receiving end of a great deal of angry abuse. He happens to be black, I may say, but that made no difference whatsoever.
1236 As a result of a number of incidents which took place, several arrests were made and the heroic "Daneford Twelve", as they rather pretentiously described themselves, found themselves before the Highbury magistrates. A series of strikes were called in addition to all the dislocation which was taking place as a result of the teachers' pay claim, and we had 50 schools in London either closed or partially closed as a result. That is just one example.
My noble friend Lord Ritchie raised a second example of what happened at the Dick Sheppard school, when a number of teachers asked the head-master for permission to attend a march and rally following the lamentable death of Cherry Groce. Many lessons had been missed because of the teachers' pay claim, but the headmaster, aware of the sensitivity of the situation, agreed that a few pupils and two members of staff could attend. Twenty-five per cent. of the staff of the school then walked out, all of them of course well known Left-wing activists on the teaching staff, and there was a series of disgraceful episodes of vandalism, of criminal damage, theft and attempted arson within that school.
What happened to the perpetrators? Nothing happened to the perpetrators. Why did nothing happen? Because the Inner London Education Authority would take no action because of the suspension of its own disciplinary rules. When we examine episodes of this sort some of the arguments that have been put forward in this debate, which suggest that the problem is in some way being exaggerated, seem to me to raise serious questions about the judgment of those who make such statements.
I think we have to recognise that in incidents of this sort—and there are plenty of others which could be cited, unhappily—there is a situation where, because of the suspension of the disciplinary rules of the authority, the instigators of incidents of this sort know that they are entirely free to continue their campaign of disruption. The authority of head teachers is constantly being undermined. What is worse, some of the most deprived children in Inner London are, as a result, being denied a chance of quality education.
Then there is the determined campaign against the Metropolitan Police. That matter was touched on by the noble Baroness at the beginning of the debate, and by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. The police have been banned by militant teachers, led in the first instance by the Hackney Teachers' Association, from a number of schools in Inner London. My colleague, Mr. Robert Maclennan, the Member of Parliament for Caithness and Sutherland, has had correspondence with the Secretary of State for Education, who told him that such rules had been applied in a number of boroughs, including Westminster, Islington of course, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham. Last week my honourable friend obtained an answer from the Minister of State in another place giving a list of the schools to which the police are banned from going for any purpose. They include the North Westminster Community School, Gainsborough Junior and Mixed Infants School, Millfields Junior School, and William Patten Junior School. There are over 20 schools in London applying this policy.
1237 What is the purpose of visits by the police? First, as we all know, there is a most alarming drug problem in London. It is serious in Merseyside and in other parts of the country, but in some areas of Inner London it has reached epidemic proportions. That is a fair way to describe the situation. In limited areas of Inner London it is as easy to obtain drugs, and heroin in particular, as in some areas of the United States. That is the gravity of the situation.
What do parents therefore want? I should think that they want one thing above all. They want their children to be warned of the risks that they run, and yet in Inner London the police are not able to go to many schools and discuss the problem. That is scandalous. What has ILEA done about that? It has done precisely nothing. That is a monstrous act of irresponsibility on the part of the education authority.
Only a few weeks ago a number of us raised the question of the notorious video made by the GLC at a cost to the ratepayers of London of £35,000. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, said that he saw it only yesterday; I saw it a few months ago. It is a sophisticated piece of extremist propaganda, developed by Mr. Paul Boateng and his colleagues on the so-called Police Committee of the GLC. One wonders about the sense of responsibility of people in public life who are prepared to make such films which are designed, as in my view this one is, to poison relations between young people and the police and among various other sectors of the community.
I hoped that ILEA, incapable as it is apparently of ensuring that the police are able to go into schools in parts of its area, would at least take some action to ensure that the video did not go to the schools; but, strangely enough, it has found itself quite incapable of doing that. In other words, we have a situation in some schools where the video can be shown with this highly sophisticated onslaught on the Metropolitan Police and the police themselves are deprived of the opportunity of going into those schools to discuss highly important issues with the pupils in those schools. Behaviour of that sort by the ILEA is deplorable. I hope very much that as a result of this debate it will now be shamed into doing something.
I wish to make only two additional points. First, I agree with many of the criticisms of noble Lords about these and other acts by the Inner London Education Authority. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, pointed out, we had an opportunity of doing something about this a few months ago. On that occasion, this House had the opportunity of passing an amendment to the Bill relating to the Greater London Council which would have introduced proportional representation in the Inner London Education Authority. That amendment was defeated. I can understand the attitude of the Labour Party without any difficulty. I find it rather more difficult to understand the position of some noble Lords opposite. If they are as concerned as I am sure they are about extremism in the Inner London Education Authority, I am surprised that they found their way into the Government Lobby on that occasion which ensured continuation of that form of conduct. In the future, when matters of this sort arise—if any noble Lord on 1238 the Opposition Front Bench wishes to intervene, I shall gladly resume my seat—all I hope is that they will consider this matter anew so that they will have the opportunity of taking action that will limit the risk of a continuation of the sort of conduct we have seen from the ILEA.
Secondly, there is the point on which the noble Lord, Lord Home, concluded his speech and on which I propose to conclude mine. I believe that there is need for an inquiry. The case for one is now overwhelming. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Home, that Royal Commissions are rather ponderous organisations. They tend to sit for an immense period of time. I believe that a committee of inquiry with a fairly based membership is highly desirable.
A whole series of examples has been given during the debate of the way in which a determined effort has been made to indoctrinate young people. It seems to me, especially following the appeal of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, at the beginning of the debate, that we should give the Department of Education and Science some examples (and quite a large number have been provided in the debate) that if such a committee was appointed, a substantial amount of information would become available. It seems to me that this is now an urgent priority. Given the fact that there has, I believe, been very nearly overwhelming support for this proposition, I hope that the point will be put to the Secretary of State with the utmost vigour.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, in my innocence, I must say that I was really rather puzzled by the Motion that the noble Baroness put before us today. It seemed a bit of a hotchpotch. My puzzlement was made greater because the wording changed from time to time. First, it was more related to local authorities and their responsibilities and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was going to respond for the Government. That appeared on the Order Paper. Then it changed and became more an education debate with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, having the responsibility—
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, may I, with respect, explain this to the noble Baroness and put her out of her perplexity? Originally, the Motion was to have been on local government, but as the Second Reading of the Local Government Bill was due to come through yesterday it was thought inappropriate to have a debate on that subject on two successive days. It was nothing more sinister than that.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I did not suggest that it was sinister. It seemed a little odd because I knew for quite a considerable time—I think quite as soon as the noble Baroness's Motion was on the Order Paper—that the Local Government Bill was coming on yesterday.
Lord On-Ewing said that they decided what was best for the party. That has become abundantly clear in the course of this debate. Of course, my innocence was enlightened particularly by the speech of my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham when he pointed out that the ILEA elections are not too far away. This 1239 debate has been more about ILEA than about anything else. I think that all the illustrations which have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and most of the noble Peers from the Conservative Benches, have been from the Inner London Education Authority
We have the ILEA elections—and the Fulham by-election—coming along. Lord Home said that there had been a very good distribution of briefing by the noble Baroness. That we had suspected from our side of the House for a considerable time. It was very well distributed among the noble Peers who were speaking from the Benches opposite.
The real issue in education at the moment—and what I should have hoped people would be worried about—is the condition of state education, the denigration that is happening, and the dismantling of the whole state service with the disruption, lack of finance and demoralisation which is going on both among officers, councillors, teachers and indeed parents. Even in today's papers we have headlines saying, "Secondary teachers in exodus"; and the teachers who are leaving are the teachers of mathematics and science and so on, which are the subjects we most desperately need.
However, having said that, I should at once like to congratulate the noble Baroness on the clarity and brilliance of her opening speech. I admired it very much. She has very great talents. I just wish that they were directed at a more worthwhile subject. The noble Baroness shows enormous moderation and good sense when she is dealing with health, the health service, nursing and so on, but she seems to have a King Charles' head about peace studies and the education service. I think that that is rather a pity and I hope that she will be converted in time.
Turning to the campaign to expose the hidden indoctrination of our children by hard Left teachers, that is a fairly new lobby and, I thought, a fairly small one, but after tonight it seems to have increased its lobby. However, I still think that this lobby is really a handful of the far Right. What is so pleasing is that they do not have the total backing of the Secretary of State, who is himself supposed to be quite Right wing. His speech in March 1984 to the National Council of Women was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, whose balanced, cool speech I was very gratified to hear, and which I thought poured a little cold water on the efforts of some noble Peers opposite.
In this speech to the National Council of Women, the Secretary of State accepted that teachers are responsible for the school curriculum and teaching methods. Many critics of peace education do not accept that position and would appear to prefer that the state should dictate what is taught in schools and how it is taught. Sir Keith said that a key role for teachers,is to develop the reasoning power of all pupils",and accepted that there would be occasions when questions of the morality of war and the conditions which lie behind war and other aspects of international affairs will crop up.
How people could teach history and current affairs without reference to peace and war is rather difficult to 1240 understand. However, this consideration did not prevent quite savage attacks on Sir Keith during educational debates at the Conservative Party Conference. I thought I had the feel of Conservative Party Conferences occasionally today. There was a sort of baying from the Benches opposite, which I thought was quite extraordinary. And when we look down the list of Conservative Peers who are speaking the noble Baroness was the only one who had not attended a public school—I mean an independent school—rather than a state school. Somehow this seemed rather odd in this debate. However, I see in today's papers that Sir Keith has said that it is right for controversial issues to be discussed but that pupils and students should be allowed to form their own conclusions.
We have heard about the draft circular, from which that was taken, but this Front Bench was not sent copies of it beforehand, which seems rather odd. We were able to send a Whip to get a copy from the Library, but it would of course have been nice to have it beforehand. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said, the draft circular is fair enough. However, it does not go far enough for a good many noble Lords opposite. I believe that it is a perfectly reasonable document.
Apart from the reasonable attitude of the Secretary of State, the attitude of Her Majesty's inspectors should also be considered. In Education Observed No. 2: A review of published reports by Her Majesty's inspectorate, which was published in 1984, they call for greater weight to be given to political literacy in the school curriculum. There have been calls for an inquiry from various parts of the House tonight. I think that very little attention has been paid to Her Majesty's inspectorate. After all, they are the people who are responsible for ensuring what the curriculum is and how teaching is progressing in state schools. When the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Renton, and even the noble Lord, Lord Hams, who ought to know better, have called for an inquiry, I think that part of the inspectorate has been very much ignored.
In their paper on the 11 to 16 curriculum they say:Although the idea of political education is suspect to many people, there are nevertheless compelling reasons for asserting its importance in the 11–16 curriculum. It is of course already present in many subjects of the curriculum: in history, geography, economics, even English and religious education classes; work done under such headings as 'social' and 'environmental' studies is often concerned with issues that are political. So political education does not necessarily mean the addition of a new subject to the curriculum. But its importance to society requires a clearer definition of its objectives, and of the knowledge and skills and attitudes which are necessary to support it".I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is paying attention to that because he implied that a special subject had to be set up. In fact, I think that the modern idea is that this spreads throughout the whole curriculum, the whole number of subjects.
There are some other quotations which I should like to make. The Minister, Mr. Robert Dunn, speaking at the 1984 annual conference of the Politics Association, said:Political education, sensibly structured, has a valid place in the curriculum.Political literacy is one of the prerequisites of adult citizenship".He then went on to say: 1241Society, I believe, expects certain approaches to be maintained in our schools. These will include integrity and consideration for the views of others, and a respect for the process of democracy itself.Many of these issues dealt with in political education, however organised, are inevitably sensitive and controversial. We cannot avoid discussion of such issues and we should not seek to do so".On the occasion when he made that speech there was a quotation from the Hansard Society's survey into the political awareness of the school-leaver and this revealed a,'truly appalling' state of affairs in which, for example, 44 of fifteen year-olds interviewed thought the IRA was a protestant organisation and that nationalisation was a Conservative policy".I hope that after all this political education is not thought to be quite so peculiar. There is certainly a need for it. Roger Scruton suggests a medieval curriculum; I suppose that rhetoric and that sort of thing is better than an attempt to grapple with the problems of the real world because it can develop the powers of logic and reasoning. That may be all right for the scholars of Eton, but not perhaps for pupils in the state sector in the real world of today. Education ought to be about the real world, and it is almost bound to be controversial. Children cannot be taken in. They know what is going on.
The central issue from this debate is the teaching of peace studies in certain schools. Perhaps the critics have a narrow idea of what peace studies involve. Maybe it is an unfortunate name. In their document, Peace Studies: a Critical Survey, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and Roger Scruton, portray the new disciplines as not genuinely educational, and encouraging prejudice. They go on to say:Peace, war and disarmament should have no place in the school curriculum.And they ask for legislation.
I think I have quoted from the HMI to show that there is a place for political education in the school curriculum, and I have also given the Secretary of State's and the HMI's attitude to that. I think legislation is entirely unnecessary, and I am glad to say that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said the same and that it would be difficult, and that the HMI really can do the job. I think it was H. G. Wells in 1951 in his Outline of History who said:Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.Well, let us hope that education wins.
How much evidence of indoctrination is there which is not merely anecdotal? We had a certain amount today, but I also think that much of the criticism is ill-founded. Sometimes it comes from rather unexpected quarters. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, is not here today. She gave the Dimbleby Lecture in 1985. She caused a certain amount of anxiety. She made a certain number of accusations about ILEA, and she said that ILEA departed from professional standards which she exhorted teachers to observe.
That caused a letter to be written to The Listener by Mr. William Stubbs, the much respected chief officer of the Inner London Education Authority.After warning against the dangers of teachers seeking to engage in political indoctrination Baroness Warnock then chose to criticise what she referred to as political education in the ILEA. 'It has', she says, 'aroused enormous hostility among parents, and not only those to the right of centre. I think the parents are right; the ILEA are 1242 abusing their powers for political ends.' This is a serious allegation to make about a responsible public body.I was going to read quite a lot about the advice which is given by ILEA to its teachers and its inspectors, but I shall not read all that because time is getting on. I shall read this part:Unlike Baroness Warnock I am unaware that these developments have aroused 'enormous hostility among parents'. The Authority, in contrast to most other local education authorities, has an extensive network of local and central committees for consulting parents. Not once has there been any criticism of political education in ILEA schools in meetings of these committees. And I can assure readers that parents are not slow to criticise action of which they disapprove.As Education Officer I cannot recall having received one complaint from a parent expressing concern about political education in the curriculum of their child's school. This in an Authority which has a school population of over 300,000.I think criticisms are sometimes ill-founded. Maybe some tonight are correct, and that is sad because I disapprove of what I have heard if it is true.
There has also been discussion about Government departments other than the DES distributing literature about politically-sensitive topics to schools. I understand that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have drawn up an agreement with the NUT about the procedure for making such literature available. But the Ministry of Defence have not ratified it and there are reports that unsolicited pro-nuclear pamphlets are still being sent out to schools. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that no such leaflets or pamphlets, or whatever, are sent direct to schools but always to the chief education officer for his inspection and decision.
I am told by a head in Manchester that he asked for leaflets from the Ministry of Defence but when he received them he did not think that they were very good. I was surprised to read elsewhere that Lady Cox and Roger Scruton criticised activists sending floods of information to schools by way of propaganda, and that one of the organisations that they criticised was the United Nations Association. Is that really true, I wonder?
We have not heard much about the universities' schools of peace studies. I want to say something about Bradford, Lancaster and York. Dr. Selby, at York, vigorously defends the courses that he runs. I shall not read some of what he said, but I shall have mercy on the House and go straight on to Bradford. There were some justified criticisms of the department when it started in the mid-1970s as not being of a satisfactory academic standard, but these criticisms should have been stilled by the arrival of Professor O'Connell (who was referred to by my noble friend Lord Jenkins) when he came to head the department in 1978. He has enforced his beliefs that the true activism of university work is scholarship.
The department is gaining a reputation as one of the most productive in the university as well as being the most successful in attracting funds. It has recently launched its second appeal for donations in its 13-year history. The Quaker Peace Studies Trust, which plays a big part in financing the school, is leading the appeal for £250,000, which is specifically to fund disarmament and peace research. The fund is sponsored by a range of the great and the good which spans all the Churches, most political parties (with the 1243 exception of the Conservatives) a retired rear-admiral and Lord Zuckerman. It would be a brave person, I think, who questioned the integrity and motives of the Quakers. It was on their initiative that the Chair of Peace Studies was founded. To get the whole thing in proportion, the school offers an undergraduate course with an intake of 25 students a year, about half of whom are usually mature students. It recruits from the police force, and a few from the armed forces. Its lecturers are regularly invited to speak to various branches of the armed forces.
The school hopes that its recruitment of overseas research students on to its MA and doctoral programmes will have a significant effect abroad. Several Palestinians seconded from their own university have had time to reflect, the school claims, on peaceful solutions to their conflict. Nigerians have come to study development issues, and there is a small Soviet exchange scheme operating.
I intended to say something about Lancaster as well, but I shall cut my speech short and say that that, too, has support from the Quakers. Its school is funded only a third from the university and two-thirds from external sources.
About America, there was criticism that some of the peace studies courses criticised America, but I understand that the United States of America has dozens of universities with peace studies chairs—Catholic universities as well as others. The people who hold the chairs are not members of CND, or pacifists. In fact, one leading theorist is a Republican, Professor Kenneth Boulding.
I wanted to speak about part of the debate which dealt with funds not being used for a political purpose, but I believe it was well explored in the debate yesterday, so I can leave that out.
About the violation of the principle of freedom of speech in the universities, we are all for freedom of speech and the Labour Party would be totally against any attempt to prevent it. We totally condemn it, as my noble friend Lord McIntosh said in his opening speech.
I was going to criticise the police. I am normally very much in favour of the police, but I really think that in one of the cases—at Manchester, where Leon Brittan was attacked—the police perhaps did not behave very well. There were a great number of arrests. Of 38 arrests and 36 charges brought, 17 were dismissed and a further three were dismissed on appeal; and there were a number of complaints about the behaviour of the police. Thus maybe sometimes it is not the students who are to blame, though if they are I should condemn them.
The noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, who is still in his place, spoke about student unions. I was also going to speak about those, and I was going to quote the same paragraph as he did; but I see that I have already spoken for 21 minutes, and I am sure that at the end of a debate that is quite long enough.
I should say that we are not against political education in schools and universities. In fact, we think it is extremely important. We are against the kind of thing which has been mentioned today, the really partisan indoctrination—and I hope it is really a very 1244 small percentage of what takes place in schools. I think that the local education authorities, the inspectorate and the parents have a part to play there, and that freedom of speech is all-important.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lady Cox for introducing a debate which has been wide-ranging, fascinating and at times disturbing. However, both in consideration of the heavy snow falling outside your Lordships' House and because of the extreme lateness of the hour, I cannot hope to respond to all the many important points touched upon, which cover so wide a spectrum of the education service.
My noble friend Lord Swinton, in his speech earlier this afternoon, set out the Government's views on the main issues relating to schools, about which my noble friend Lady Cox and many others have spoken; so although I shall return a little later to certain points about schools I do not wish to duplicate his comments in any way and I ought first to spend some time on the Government's response to those questions relating to higher education, on which the debate has touched.
Much of the concern expressed about freedom of speech has focused upon higher education. The Government are greatly concerned about the number of occasions in recent months when invited speakers have faced uncouth behaviour and worse on university campuses; and, more subtle but no less insidious, about the indications that some student bodies have sought to impose a ban on invitations to certain organisations or individuals. The Government see freedom of speech as a fundamental right in a democratic society and it is, above all, fundamental in an institution of advanced learning. All young people should be helped to develop minds that are open to opposing arguments and capable of discrimination and judgment. No one should be forced to listen to debate irrelevant to his interests; but no one should be denied the opportunity to deepen his understanding of issues that concern him. It is right that universities should hear speakers on all subjects of general interest; and members and societies of a university should be able to invite such speakers in the confidence that they will receive a hearing.
I recognise that, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, reminded us, this is not a new problem. Nevertheless, the Government are most concerned that university authorities should take firm action to ensure that full recognition is accorded to the principle of freedom of speech on their campuses and that the principle should be applied in practice. They welcome, therefore, the publication by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of guidance on free speech and lawful assembly.
My noble friend Lady Cox expressed her concern that part of the guidance implies that universities could on occasion justify denying a hearing on grounds of security. The guidance in fact refers to "cases of very high risk" in this respect and the Government would not be content to see this plea become an excuse for failure to pursue vigorously a policy of support for freedom of speech. The Government therefore hope to see universities building on that guidance by setting up 1245 their own procedures to ensure that all possible precautions are taken to avoid disruption, so that no invited speaker is denied a hearing.
Not only this, but universities should also take steps to ensure that they learn of any case where a student union refuses a platform sought by an interest group among its membership. It would seem right in any such case that the university should itself consider offering a platform. Issues like these are being discussed between the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the authorities of institutions of higher education; and in this respect I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Butterworth for his helpful and clear contribution from his wide experience which helped to answer some questions which were raised by other noble Lords.
Reference has also been made, not surprisingly, to the occasion in Manchester last November when the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mr. Waddington, was denied a hearing by members of a student audience. The Government have made clear how serious a view they take of such incidents and are glad to note that the Manchester University authorities have instituted disciplinary proceedings against certain students identified as having been actively involved.
The reported failure of the students union either to express regret at what happened or to co-operate in the disciplinary process, provides evidence of the attitude of its leaders. It is to be hoped that this factor will not be ignored by the body of students responsible for electing their successors. Disruption of the kind that we have seen on a number of occasions in recent months may well, as is claimed, be essentially the work of a small extremist minority; and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, who specifically deplored this.
So how do we remedy the situation? The easy, theoretical answer is that all students should exercise their democratic responsibilities within the union to ensure that the leadership is constrained by the collective will. But the majority of students see their main purpose at university in other terms, which we hope include the desire to concentrate on acquiring a good qualification. But their view of higher education will generally not include participation in what has become political activity, the more so as abuse and intimidation can be the lot of those who so involve themselves.
Many who have written to their Members of Parliament have said that they cannot afford to spend the time that would be needed to defeat the minority whose main interest is not in study but in the acquisition of power by manipulation of the democratic process. In many of the situations that we have heard discussed today it is this minority who bring all students into disrepute.
The Government would be most reluctant to disturb the provisions that give to student bodies the dignity of responsible partnership in our institutions of higher education, and in broad terms they accept the view recently expressed by the CVCP that, "without the possibility of error there can be no chance of behaving responsibility," but they have difficulty in contemplating the travesty of that ideal of partnership 1246 which too often obtains today. They will therefore continue to keep a watchful eye on student union activities, mindful that a radical solution may eventually be required giving students the right to decide individually whether they wish to be represented by what is termed a student union.
The question of the use of public funds for partisan political purposes by individual student unions has also been raised. Student unions, as they are now constituted, receive public funds in trust. That is, such funds may only be spent in accordance with the student union's essential objectives. In general terms, these are to further the objectives of their institution as a place of advanced learning and to further the welfare of all members of the student body. In 1983, the Attorney-General sent guidance to institutions of higher education setting out the limitations placed by charity law upon how student unions may spend their money. It is plain that there is much for student unions to do that is both legitimate and valuable.
Many, for example, offer their members help with a variety of personal problems that young people may encounter over, for example, housing, money and relationships. Unions run common rooms and bars where students can meet and relax; they run sports facilities, and the majority of funds of most unions are spent on these things.
But this is not the expenditure which has aroused public concern. There have been complaints, a number of them well founded, of expenditure by student unions on political causes of no direct relevance to students. The Attorney-General acknowledges that judging the propriety of such expenditure is difficult. The touchstone is whether the issue affects the interests of students as such or the affairs of the institution as such. So it is legitimate for students to hold meetings to debate political issues. Such debate furthers their education. But expenditure in support of a political campaign not affecting the interests of students as such is not likely to be legitimate.
A fine line has to be drawn in many cases, and unions are well advised to seek the help of college authorities. Continuing vigilance is certainly needed. I should not like to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, that all misuse of student union funds has ceased, and it is of course impossible to prove that such misuse is less than it would have been had the Attorney-General not issued his guidance, while just because of it such misuse as is reported is likely to receive the greater publicity. But I would repeat that the Government believe that the guidance has been of use, and it continues to be the case that any allegation offering convincing prima facie evidence of abuse will be investigated by the Attorney-General.
There have been references also to the activities of the National Union of Students in connection with the use of public funds. An important fact to be recognised is that the National Union of Students is not itself in direct receipt of public funds. At the same time, the main part of its income is certainly derived from public funds. The 1984–85 accounts show that the affiliation fees of its member unions accounted for more than 90 per cent. of its income, and those unions receive their funding from the public funds administered by their institutions. The Government and the 1247 public and Members of this House cannot fail to be concerned when they see tactics being employed which they know many students themselves would not support and, in addition, NUS funds being applied to political activities which are not directly the concern of students as students.
The simple solution is the same as that which I have already indicated in the case of the individual student union—the exercise of active influence by the majority of students upon the policies of the NUS. The practical obstacles to this solution are in this case the same, but perhaps even greater. Moreover, the NUS is not, as most individual student unions are, subject to the law of charity. Its policies are determined in the light of its own members' perceptions of the organisation's purposes. Be this as it may, the fact remains that the NUS as presently constituted depends to an overwhelming degree on the availability of public funds to support its work. It should be seen to be concentrating on the essential role for which it exists. The point could otherwise come when the Government felt bound to consider limiting the availability.
Before turning from higher education I should perhaps refer to the School of Peace Studies at Bradford University, since the noble Baroness, Lady David, gave this considerable mention, and it was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. It is perhaps not surprising that this university department, whose work focuses on controversial topics, should attract criticisms. However, allegations that the staff are ideologically committed in a way that may be incompatible with academic detachment and impartial teaching have not been substantiated. Students on the courses concerned, who include seconded police officers, appear properly to have full and fair opportunities to consider both sides of the tricky issues covered.
I turn now to subjects relating more to schools. My noble friend Lady Cox quoted a number of examples of what she regarded as biased and distorted teaching, which she viewed with great concern. Other examples have been quoted by other noble Lords during this debate, and none more notably and convincingly than by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel. I recognise the depth of concern that has been expressed about examples such as these.
It would be premature, perhaps, to comment on an individual case on behalf of the Government before it has been fully investigated. However, I invite those who have mentioned individual cases to supply details of them to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and I hope that they will do so. My noble friend Lord Swinton has already made it clear that my right honourable friend is concerned to investigate most fully and carefully all complaints of that nature.
I turn to the draft circular and statement issued yesterday, which my noble friend Lord Swinton dealt with in his opening remarks. I am pleased to note that it was welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and subsequently by the noble Baroness, Lady David, on behalf of the Labour Party; and that it was welcomed also by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, on behalf of the Alliance. Perhaps their welcome 1248 should have prepared me for the comments of other noble Lords who feel that it does not go far enough. Among them are my noble friends Lady Cox, Lord Renton, Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Home, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. They all suggested that the Government should perhaps institute an inquiry or further legislation, or both.
The only reassurance I can give at this stage is that my right honourable friends will, I am sure, consider the views of noble Lords most carefully together with other views received as part of the consultation process. I must say that it was refreshing when that subject was mentioned to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, comment that we should desist from further legislation.
There have been other suggestions for action relating to such diverse matters as, for example, the training of social workers, a closed shop, and the teaching of music. Inevitably, there have also been references made to the teachers' dispute. However, I must beg the forgiveness of the noble Lords if I do not respond in more than general terms. In attempting to reply to specific points, I shall concentrate on those that fall most directly within the terms of the Motion being debated.
First, I must refer to the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, that this debate was, more than anything, about ILEA and the coming elections. While I cannot agree with her, those waters have been adequately stirred by my noble friend Lord Swinton.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and other noble Lords on both sides of the House expressed and illustrated their concern about the subject of peace studies. I feel that it is important to restate the Government's policy on this subject. The Government believe that there is a place for the discussion of sensitive political issues such as peace, war and disarmament. Indeed, such issues can hardly be avoided in the teaching of such subjects as part of regular history, religious education, physics, English, and other lessons.
However, when those issues are being discussed it is of first importance that the teacher should deal with them in a balanced and impartial way, encouraging pupils to weigh the evidence and arrive at their own conclusions, and the Government so encourage teachers. Nevertheless, I do not underestimate the significance of the topic, and I have no doubt that your Lordships' views will be taken very seriously by my right honourable friends.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked specifically whether a leaflet had been sent to schools on those subjects. I cannot give her any assurance at this point—or reassurance, as the case may be—but will follow up that matter for her. My noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, were among those who dwelt upon the subject of schools and the police. All sensible and responsible people must see the benefits of establishing a closer understanding of the role of the police, and of establishing a good relationship between the police and young people.
When the police go into the classroom it is with the long-term aim of making our society better, safer and 1249 more law-abiding. This must be particularly so in high-risk areas. To suggest, as some people have done, that the police go into schools to indoctrinate the young is as absurd as it is to suggest that they go there to spy on the community. It is for that reason that I very much regret the action taken by the Hackney branch of the National Union of Teachers in publishing their document, Police out of School. It encourages teachers not to co-operate with liaison arrangements between schools and the police and that is downright irresponsible when there is so much that teachers and police officers, acting together, can do to educate and protect children.
However, I am glad to be able to say that the Hackney teachers' action has been firmly disowned on all sides. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has recently condemned such attempts to keep the police out of schools. The Inner London Education Authority has said that there is no question of the authority refusing to admit police officers to schools and the National Union of Teachers has made it clear that it wishes to see a proper working relationship between the police and education services.
Discussions are taking place between teachers and police officers in London on ways to improve liaison and the indications are that those who want to foster distrust and hostility will find themselves increasingly isolated. That must be good news.
As regards the police videos to which my noble friend Lord Renton specifically referred, I can only say that no complaints have been received about these videos. From inquiry to HMI I understand that there is no evidence of these videos being used in schools.
Many noble Lords referred to racism and deplored its incidence in our schools. I wish to reassure them, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, among others, that the Government abhor racial prejudice and discrimination of any sort and are determined to give ethnic minority pupils the same opportunity as all others to profit from what schools can offer.
The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, and my noble friend Lord Bethell both referred specifically and rather obviously to a publication called How Racism came to Britain. On this topic I can say that the Government have emphasised their concern that where sensitive and controversial issues such as race relations and racial prejudice are addressed in schools they should not be presented in a one-sided or misleading way. The Government believe that this book could give children a distorted picture and we would be concerned were it to be used in schools. It is not in the Government's power to have the book withdrawn from general circulation and we have received no evidence that it is finding its way into classrooms, but we will certainly want to follow up with the local authority concerned any complaints about its use in a particular school.
The concern expressed in this debate is that there is a serious danger in some schools and colleges of a type of creeping politicisation of what goes on in the classroom in an attempt to influence the minds of pupils and students by biased teaching and distortion of the facts. The Government share that concern. 1250 Several noble Lords have criticised us for not taking sufficient action on these matters. However, I have to say, as many speakers have recognised, that the number of teachers who approach their work in this way is small. It is important to remember this in order to keep the problem in context.
I also reiterate that the Government have taken action. On the one hand, as my noble friend Lord Swinton explained, they are making proposals in the forthcoming education Bill that will allow the governing bodies of schools to become the focus for their identity and direction free of undue political influence. On the other hand, my right honourable friends have published for circulation yesterday their draft circular and statement of principles. That statement sets out afresh the principles which the partners of the education service have long adopted in discharging their function. What my right honourable friends are calling for is that the partners should endorse such a statement and commend it to their members.
I believe that it was my noble friend Lady Vickers who said that the importance of this debate has been to create awareness of the dangers. In once again voicing my gratitude to all those noble Lords who have contributed, I would say that in this respect the debate has been amply justified.
§ 11 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, it only remains for me to say a very sincere "Thank you" to all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have contributed this afternoon and this evening to the discussion. It has been a very worthwhile and, as my noble friend the Minister, Lady Hooper, has said, a very fascinating debate—and a long one, so I will not prolong my concluding remarks.
I should just like to say how grateful I am to those who share my concerns for endorsing them, for adding the benefit of their wisdom and experience to the discussion and for providing further analyses and evidence which must be taken seriously. Also, I thank my noble friends the Ministers for their contributions and for the ray of hope, however faint, which they have been able to cast on the dark horizon of our concerns. For this relief some thanks; but I hope that they will agree that the arguments and evidence which have been adduced today will enable them to take further steps to remedy the unacceptable situations which confront us.
To noble Lords who have been critical of my stance, I also say "Thank you". It is always salutary to receive valid criticism. But for the record I must correct at least one of the allegations, which has been made too often: that the choice of topic for this debate was motivated to serve as a distraction from the present problems of the teachers' strike or was concerned with the ILEA elections. That was not the case. In fact, the very suggestion reflects the Opposition's machiavellian disposition and not ours. The topic was chosen for its own sake because it is so serious and because it merits consideration on its own terms. There can hardly be any subject more serious than the wellbeing of our children and the future of our society. I am indeed most grateful to all your Lordships for your 1251 contributions. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.