Sir Richard Pilkington asked the Minister of Education what consideration was given at the recent Commonwealth Education Conference at Delhi to a gradual reform of English spelling.
Sir Richard Pilkington: “Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be the biggest boost to the English language if spelling were simplified? In view of the fact that the Government are taking the initiative in so many different things these days, will he not do so in this matter?”
Sir D Eccles: “I must tell my hon. Friend that I have a certain prejudice in favour of English as she is spelled now.”
Mr I J Pitman (Bath): “[…]This is an investigation to discover improved methods of teaching reading in a comprehensive field so that teachers throughout the country may get better results. The present results are so deplorable that this House and the Minister must take notice of them. Some 400,000 to 500,000 five-year-olds begin their schooling every year and some 120,000 to 150,000 are destined to come out of the school system at the other end unable to read properly. They start as good, healthy children and come out unable to read.”
A D D Broughton (Batley and Morley): “[…] I believe that the adoption of simplified spelling would debase and impoverish the character of the English language. Therefore, I rise today to plead for caution and to issue a note of warning. I admit that the English language is illogical and wayward in its spelling, but that is because it is the language of an illogical people. But it is a living language of a living people and its spelling cannot be transfixed without the language becoming petrified. The promoter of this Bill is a distinguished linguist. He has written books on simplified spelling expounding what I heard him describe in this House four years ago as ‘a streamlined alphabet.’ The idea has not met with ready and great response. It has not fired the imagination of the English speaking people. That is because they have no wish for their language to become streamlined, stereotyped and soulless. From what I have seen of suggestions for a new form of spelling, I greatly fear that there would be a danger of the simplified spelling being far too crude for our expressive language […]”
The House divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 53.
Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee.
Mr Follick (Loughborough): “I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Mr Hollis (Devizes): “I have never heard a Bill introduced into this House in a more disarming fashion than this one. I think it must be unique in the history of Parliament that the mover and seconder of a Bill should explain that they are only too ready to scrap 23 out of its 26 Clauses. Really one cannot but remember the rhyme about the child who died in infancy: If I was so soon to be done for, I wonder what I was ever begun for.”
Second Reading put off for six months.
“To set up a committee to introduce a rational system of spelling with a view to making English a world-language and to eliminate unnecessary drudgery and waste of time at school,” presented by Mr. Follick […]
Mr Lewis asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether it is proposed to appoint a committee to consider the question of spelling reform?
Mr Ramsbotham: “No, I do not think I have.”