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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1975

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Education And Science

Theatre Museum

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the future of the Theatre Museum.

I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) during the debate on the motion for the Adjournment of the House on Friday 21st March. —[Vol. 888, c. 2182-6.]

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a degree of urgency in this matter? In the debate to which he has referred he gave an assurance that he would give urgent consideration to it. Everyone agrees that the Flower Market would be a suitable place for the Theatre Museum and that it offers far more space. Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman make an early decision about this matter?

As I explained on 21st March, I am in touch with the Greater London Council and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about the possible use of the undercroft of the Flower Market at Covent Garden as alternative accommodation for the Theatre Museum and possibly at a later date for a theatre institute. I assure the hon. Gentleman that as soon as I am in a position to make a statement after the consultations have been carried out I shall make one.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the feeling in the art and theatre world that it is desirable to house the Turner Exhibition in Somerset House and the Theatre Museum and theatre institute in the Flower Market is well-night unanimous and exceedingly strong? Will he do his utmost to get the changeover effected as soon as possible?

I am aware of the strength of the views which have been expressed, but perhaps they do not entirely take account of all the difficulties and problems involved. Nevertheless, the future use of the Somerset House Fine Rooms would be a matter for discussion with the national museums and galleries, but only if Somerset House were not to house the Theatre Museum.

May I support the plea of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and ask the Under-Secretary of State to give much higher priority to these important matters? Will he call a conference of all interested parties so that we may have the best of both worlds—a worthy Theatre Museum in Covent Garden and a permanent home for Turner's pictures at Somerset House?

It is a question not of a conference or of priorities but rather of ascertaining the factual situation, which is what we are about at the moment. I am not in a position to authorise any change of plan until it is established that the Theatre Museum could open in Covent Garden at least as early as it could at Somerset House and that the Government could finance any adaptations needed, including any other capital or continuing costs which might be involved. Until the factual situation has been firmly ascertained between all the parties concerned, I shall not be in a position to make a further statement.

National Theatre

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the progress of work on the National Theatre building, indicating the proposed opening date for the auditoria and the proposed scale of operations therein.

The completion of the theatre is the responsibility of the South Bank Board. The scale of operations within the theatre is a matter for consideration between the Arts Council and the National Theatre Board. I shall announce an opening date when the South Bank Board advises me that the theatre will be ready and when agreement has been reached on the scale of operations.

Is the Minister aware that he said only last November that he had a pretty good idea when the date would be? Can he not be more forthcoming now and tell us something about the scale of operations? Is he further aware that he said in November that this was meant greatly to increase our facilities for the performing arts? Would he not look rather stupid if it all went off at half-cock?

I would, and I have no intention of looking stupid in that respect. I readily agree that the principle that the responsibility in this matter is devolved upon the appointed bodies can sometimes be irksome. One thing I have discovered is that when such devolution takes place the Minister concerned must not indulge in premature and public barking.

Is not the blame for the delay to be laid wholly on the builders and those responsible for the construction? Is it not true that in no circumstances can the Minister or the South Bank Board be blamed? Will my hon. Friend tell us whether in his opinion there will now be sufficient money, after all the allocations which the Arts Council has made, to pay for the full performance in the National Theatre, if that theatre opens, as is hoped, some time in the autumn of next year?

I would hope that my right hon. Friend's estimate is on the pessimistic rather than the optimistic side. As he rightly says, the question of money cannot be separated from that of the timing of the opening. It is precisely these monetary questions which are being discussed currently between the Arts Council and the National Theatre Board. I am keeping in close touch with those discussions. Nevertheless, I also agree with my right hon. Friend that the contractors and subcontractors cannot be divorced from responsibility in connection with the delay.

To further the Minister in his desire not to look stupid, will he ensure that the National Theatre Company has adequate funds with which to finance a realistic running-in period of about six months before the actual opening? Second, will the Minister say what assurances he can give that when the National Theatre opens it will be fully financed, so that it will not remain an empty building?

I have already said that it is not the Government's intention to allow the building on the South Bank to remain empty. It is our full intention that the theatre shall be taken into full use. As for the question of timing, and whether one or other of the auditoria should open before others, these are matters currently under discussion. Another meeting on the subject will be taking place tomorrow. As soon as I am in a position to make a statement I shall do so.

Has the Arts Council made any substantial observations on the matters which we have been discussing?

Yes. The Arts Council has made a lot of private observations but it has been wise enough not to make public observations on the subject.

The Arts

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the progress made following his approaches to both sides of industry on the subject of industrial patronage of the arts.

I am still in touch with both sides of industry and I shall report further progress as soon as I can.

We have spent some time talking about the provision of money for the arts today. Does the Minister realise that this is one area in which he might he able to do something if he showed a bit more enthusiasm and drive?

Oddly enough, I believe that I have been the most enthusiastic and driving Minister ever on the question of extracting money from private enterprise. I believe that I have had great success. I am going to a performance tonight which is supported by one of those companies which in my view have received insufficient publicity about their activities in this connection. I have also had a letter this morning from the Chairman of Imperial Tobacco putting forward a suggestion which I am studying with close attention and appreciation. I hope that in due course we shall be able to say something about this. I am also expecting to hear shortly from Mr. Campbell Adamson, of the CBI, concerning some discussions I had with him on the subject recently.

Has the Minister looked at the experience of other countries, for example, Switzerland, where large concerns like Migros allocate 1 per cent. of their turnover for cultural sponsorship of the arts?

That is indeed an interesting point, which I hope to discuss with the leaders of industry in due course.

Educational Welfare (Ralphs Report)

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what study he has made of the Ralphs Report; what plans he has for expanding educational welfare and for generally strengthening the relationship between the school and the home; and if he will make a statement.

The recommendations of the report have been broadly endorsed by the Local Government Training Board. Local authorities are well aware of the importance of educational welfare and of home-school links, and I have no doubt that they will do what they can to implement the recommendations, as far as present financial constraints will permit.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is an area, like so many others, which cannot be left to local authorities? Does he realise that the educational welfare service has the feeling that it is the Cinderella service? Does he not accept that there is a need for a wider dimension in terms of the responsibility of the service's officers?

I want to make it absolutely clear that in my view the service is certainly not the Cinderella service, and that the 2,400 educational welfare officers do a first-class job of fundamental importance. As for the question whether there should be some degree of national guidance on some aspects, my right hon. Friends and I are considering this issue and hope to produce general guidance before too long.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some evidence in London that the educational welfare service is so impoverished that the Metropolitan Police is having to be brought more and more into service in an area which it was never intended to serve? Does he realise that since the building up of social service departments in local authorities the educational welfare service, for all that he says, does feel a Cinderella compared with other social services? Will he consult with his right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to make sure that differentials in salaries and conditions between these two sets of social workers can be ironed out?

Since the Seebohm Report of 1968 there has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship between the two services and whether they should be combined. This is a matter which in the Government's view is best left to local authorities, most of which prefer that the educational welfare service should be part of the education service in the locality.

Direct Grant Schools

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has now made an estimate as to the costs involved in the conversion of direct grant schools into comprehensive schools.

There will be some savings and some additional expenditure. The precise figures cannot be estimated, but the change is not likely to make much difference one way or the other to public expenditure.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how much the taxpayer and ratepayer save as a result of the parental contribution, over and above the direct grant? Will he also confirm that local education authorities will be able to send children in their areas to direct grant schools which are forced to go independent, once they do go independent?

The answer to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "Yes, Sir". The answer to the first part is that the present annual figure is £10·.3 million in respect of capitation grants. The fee remission grant, which I think the hon. Member had in mind, is £2·1 million.

Since 90,000 of the 120,000 pupils in direct grant schools are likely to need places in the maintained sector, is not the financial position much more serious than the Secretary of State has allowed for? Would it not cost about £70 million to provide these places in the maintained sector? Could not that money be used to supply about 200,000 nursery places? Surely this kind of educational priority is more worthy of Alice in Wonderland than of the Department of Education.

The hon. Gentleman is a bit wild in his arithmetic. He ignores the fact that places will continue to be available in these schools. No one is talking about the closure of schools. The hon. Gentleman also ignores the fact that many of the schools—I hope a great many—will choose to come into the maintained sector. There is no question of suddenly abolishing a number of schools, as he seems to presuppose, and then paying for places that were previously provided free. As for the reasons for doing this, we put them forward clearly when the matter was under discussion a few weeks ago. We have not heard any constructive counter-arguments from the Opposition.

Comprehensive Education

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities have now submitted plans to him in response to Circular 4/74 issued by his Department;and how many have refused to do so.

Of 96 local education authorities in England, 86 have delivered a substantive reply and a further five an interim one. No authority has refused to respond.

I am delighted by my hon. Friend's reply, but is he not aware that some authorities have said that they will not go comprehensive? Is he also aware that in respect of some authorities which have said that they will go comprehensive there is considerable doubt about the precise time when they will do so? Has not my hon. Friend a good precedent in the Education (Milk) Act 1971, which was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, to coerce recalcitrant local education authorities?

Yes, I am aware of the situation, and we are making a close analysis of all responses from the local authorities. The Government are determined to have genuine comprehensive reorganisation in every part of the country. We shall not stand aside and allow local authorities to prejudice the best educational interests of children by perpetuating the wasteful arid unfair system of selecting and rejecting children. The Government will take all necessary steps to implement national policy as agreed by the House.

Will the Minister deny recent reports that the Government intend to introduce compulsive legislation in the near future? Would it not be much wiser to act gently to allow for the evolution of public opinion and the greater availability of resources, rather than try to force the pace in the way the Minister indicated, with all the bitterness and distraction that that would involve?

This controversy has been going on for a long time. In going round the country I have found that even local authorities which are in genuine difficulty about going comprehensive are gratified that the Government have indicated firmly that they will implement the national policy. Far from repudiating any statements that have been made, we want to persuade local authorities. We are arranging meetings with local authorities which say that they will defy national policy. We shall talk to them and explore all the possibilities, but in the end, if legislation is necessary it will certainly be brought forward.

Without massive finance, how does the Minister propose to provide comprehensive schools of a viable size out of schools that are viable because they are selective and are of an average size of about 500 or 600 pupils—a size that we are told by the pundits of the comprehensive system is unthinkable for a viable comprehensive school?

We are not prepared to tolerate for a day longer than necessary a situation in which many thousands of children are rejected and sent to schools that are for children who are not clever enough to be selected for grammar school places. I commend to the hon. Gentleman the situation in Birmingham, for instance. I could take him to many other areas where, without the injection of extra resources, many thousands of children are being given a real educational opportunity.

Careers Advice Service

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many staff are employed per 1,000 children in classes of 15-year-olds upwards on careers advice.

There is no regular return of teachers employed within the various subject areas of the school curriculum and this information is, therefore, not available.

I much regret the Minister's answer. In view of the vital importance of extending careers opportunities, does not the Minister think that it is time that we collected the statistics and established specialised careers teaching posts, with exchanges with industry? Might not that help to solve some of the problems of youth unemployment?

I hope that the hon. Lady has not taken my reply as an indication that we minimise the importance of careers guidance in schools. We have an expanding careers guidance service involving a great number of teachers who may also undertake other duties. The Department gives every possible help.

Day Release

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in view of his acceptance of the need to undertake curriculum development before the extension of day release for young workers, if he will propose establishing an appropriate body to undertake this function and make financial arrangements therefor.

As I stated in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) on 4th March—[Vol. 887, c. 358.]—I have no plans at present to change the existing arrangements for further education curriculum development, but this matter is being further studied by my Department as part of a wider review of the needs of 16-to-19year-olds.

My right hon. Friend will understand that I find that reply disappointing, in view of the declared policy aim of trying to increase the level of educational resources for those who are particularly disadvantaged. Does not my right hon. Friend realise that although we spend a great deal of money on curriculum development in schools in which children stay on beyond the age of 16, for the 16-to-19-year-olds who leave school there is little in the way of curriculum development?

My hon. Friend should not underestimate the amount of curriculum development work that goes on under the auspices of the Technical Education Council, the Business Education Council, and several of the regional technical examination boards, in technical colleges of education and elsewhere. There may be a gap here, particularly in relation to the 16-to-19-year-olds who are not being directed into further education or released from their jobs for further education, in respect of those whom we wish to receive further education. I referred to that problem in my reply and said that we were studying it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great need among the 16-to-19-year-old group, in areas that are not highly developed industrially, for much greater facilities to be made available, particularly for the development of skills for industry? There is also a vacuum which needs to be filled in relation to young people—before they become eligible for jobs—who need provision to be made for their education after they leave school?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. One of our great difficulties is that the majority of day release or block release which occurs now is linked specifically to industrial training courses which qualify for grants under the Industrial Training Act. That is unfair between groups of boys and girls and uneven between different parts of the country. Our problem is to find a method of extending further education opportunities to wider groups of boys and girls. This matter is under intense study, and I am consulting a large number of organisations with expertise in this area.

When my right hon. Friend considers the problems of the 16-to 19-year-olds in further education colleges, will he also consider the discretionary grants, which are so abysmally low that young persons cannot continue their studies? The fees charged and the cost of travelling for the purpose of industrial visits are so exorbitant that young people have to discontinue their studies. Will my right hon. Friend please consider that matter?

We have been looking closely at the whole question of student grants. We have made some modest improvements in monetary grants to HND students and to certain others. Progress is limited, for financial reasons, but I am well aware of the problem to which my hon. Friend refers.

Teacher Exchanges (France Andgermany)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many post-to-post teacher exchanges, expressed in terms, have taken place with France and Germany in the academic years 1972–73 and 1973–74; and what his forecasts are for the future.

In 1972–73 exchanges between French and British teachers totalled 118 terms, those between German and British teachers 38. The corresponding figures for 1973–74 were 105 and 27. In the current year they total 95 and three, and I expect 115 and 21 in 1975–76.

Does the Minister accept that these are disappointing figures when set against the high hopes of a few years ago? I seem to remember that there were hopes that about 1,000 teachers a year would be involved in these exchanges. At a time when the House is actively considering the whole question of Europe, is it not of importance that the education service should play its part? Does the Minister see any way of improving these figures?

I share the hon. Gentleman's disappointment. The scheme started with high hopes, as it was thought that it would be of mutual benefit to teachers and pupils. At the end of this month we shall be discussing with the French authorities how we may stimulate interest in the scheme. I assure the hon. Gentleman of our continuing determination to make the scheme succeed.

Does my hon. Friend recognise the enormous importance of the exchange of teachers between countries in terms of developing world understanding? Does he also recognise the importance of the work of organisations such as the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers?

Yes. I am glad that my hon. Friend has reminded the House of the important work that is done in that area. We are arranging short-term visits in the hope that they will stimulate teachers to apply for much longer exchanges. We think that they will be of great benefit to all concerned.

Schoolchildren (Concessionary Travel)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is now in a position to announce his decisions following the review of concessionary travel arrangements for schoolchildren.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will announce his decisions following the review of concessionary travel arrangements for schoolchildren.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he intends to bring in changes in the regulations governing school transport before 1st September 1975.

My right hon. Friend is now considering the comments of the local authority associations and other interested bodies which were consulted about the report of the Working Party on School Transport. While there is widespread criticism of present arrangements there is no agreement as to the changes that should be made.

Does not the Minister recognise that that answer indicates yet once again that the Government seem to have no idea what to do about this difficult problem? I suggest to the Minister that the real answer is to abolish the out-dated and unfair statutory walking distance and to pass back to the local education authorities total discretion in respect of whatever assistance they can give within the resources available to them.

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern, and I apologise for the great delay. This is a very difficult problem. The real difficulty is to reconcile the reasonable and growing demand of parents for some assistance towards school travelling expenses and our anxiety not to impose extra financial burdens on local authorities. This is a very expensive matter.

Will my hon. Friend consider this matter sympathetically and urgently? Does he realise that parents with two or three schoolchildren are having great difficulty in getting their children to school by school bus, and that some of them are compelled to ask their children to walk to school? Is he aware that such children often have to walk to school in inclement weather and sit in wet clothes in the classroom? Does he agree that that is good neither for their health nor for their education?

I accept entirely what my hon. Friend says. As a matter of fact, local authorities are committed to approximately £50 million on travel expenditure in each year. My officers have been visiting different areas in the country, because no two areas have the same problem. We are trying desperately to come forward with an acceptable solution.

As the Government are finding it difficult to make a decision, will they not, as an interim measure, reduce the three-mile limit to a two-mile limit? Will the Minister please take note of the fact that bus fares have recently increased quite steeply for millions of people and are liable to increase again before the beginning of the next academic year? Bearing in mind that the report has been with the Government since December 1973, must there be any further delay?

I understand and share the hon. Gentleman's impatience. We are trying to arrive at an equable solution. I shall come forward with proposals as quickly as possible.

If experts are examining certain areas where there are difficulties, will my hon. Friend consider sending some of them to the Mile Oak and Fazeley areas, just outside Tamworth, where children are making journeys to school of just under three miles, and where parents are frequently faced with school transport costs of £2 or £3 a week when they have a number of children at school? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that if the children of those parents did what the law at present expects them to do—namely, walk to school—they would be involved in walking down the A5, in the Midlands, in probably one of the busiest parts of that very busy road?

I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says. It is another illustration of the great difficulty in coming to the proper answer. If he has any detailed suggestions to make I shall be glad to have them from him.

University Teachers (Pay)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress there has been in the negotiations on university teachers' pay; and whether he will make a statement.

The negotiating committee met at the end of February and will be resuming its discussions later this month.

I accept that the Secretary of State is personally sympathetic, but does he accept that university teachers are upset not only by the delay but by the fact that the universities may soon become the poor relations of the polytechnics? Will the right hon. Gentleman exert all his personal influence to get a speedy and generous settlement and then to maintain a fair relationship between university and polytechnic salaries?

I accept the general principle which was outlined in the Houghton Report, namely, that there should be parity in pay between teachers in universities and teachers undertaking comparable work in other institutions of higher education. I would not wish to comment in any more detail than that while the negotiations are continuing.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the bitterness felt by university teachers since the Government have treated schoolteachers and polytechnic teachers as special cases? Is he aware that university teachers feel that they have not been given the same priority? Will he explain why the Department of Education and Science has been so unwilling to bring in an arbitrator in this case? Is he aware that that provision is laid down in the social contract?

I can understand the feelings of university teachers. However, for many years polytechnic teachers were at a disadvantage compared with university teachers. During that period they had reason to feel discontented with the arrangements. The Houghton Report's general proposition for broad parity is the right answer. I do not think that we are at the point of arbitration and I hope that we shall not reach it. I hope that the negotiations now taking place will result in an agreement.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that quite apart from the basis of comparison with the polytechnic teachers, which is causing increasing concern among many teachers at universities, there is a feeling that university teachers are falling behind generally in relation to those with comparable salaries and that they are particularly concerned that there should be greater speed in reaching an agreement? Will my right hon. Friend bear those points in mind?

I think that all these points will be borne in mind by the negotiating committee which is considering these problems.

Open University

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he proposes to take in order to preserve the "openness" of the Open University, in view of proposals under discussion that the same principles in respect of undergraduate tuition fees at conventional universities should govern future fee increases at the Open University.

The present tuition fee at the Open University has applied since the academic year 1973. The proposed increase now under discussion would take effect from the academic year 1976 and is intended to maintain the value of the university's fee income in relation to grant. I do not think that this would change the character of the Open University.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that reply will be received with very great disappointment? Is he further aware that during the past five years the Open University has been attracting an increasing number of applications from what are termed the "manual occupation" groups? That is a welcome sign of the Open University's reaching out to the educationally underprivileged. Is my right hon. Friend aware that to increase the fees as is suggested— fees which are already high, and unsupported by grant—will be one of the greatest threats that the Open University has yet faced?

I agree completely with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. I believe that the Open University is doing a tremendous job and making a unique contribution to British education. I do not think that its fees can be exempted from the effects of inflation, any more than can anything else in our national life. However, our efforts are being directed towards finding the right answers. My noble Friend discussed this matter with the representatives of the Open University on 25th March. I assure my hon. Friend that no final decision has been made on the figure.

Canada

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will pay an official visit to Canada to study educational developments there.

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least study the Canadian experience in allowing pupils to leave school early? Does he recall the sad case of two young constituents of mine who were forced back to school after an administrative mistake over the precise time of their birth, and after one of them had almost entered employment? Is he aware that that mistake could not be remedied, because of the inflexible law of the school leaving age? Will the right hon. Gentleman's Department think again about this matter?

:Whatever age is laid down by law for school leaving purposes, there is always the possibility of an administrative mistake. I do not think that such a mistake arises from a particular age being fixed by law. As for the Canadian experience, only in the Province of Ontario have they gone in for the new option of leaving at 14. Other provinces have rejected that policy. This House has also rejected it. Both sides of the House are committed to a school leaving age of 16 years. I believe that we were right to come to that conclusion. Since the school leaving age was raised, experience has shown that the raising has been to the benefit of the majority of children concerned.

Sacred Heart School, Redcar

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a further statement about the situation at the Sacred Heart School, Redcar.

As my right hon. Friend stated yesterlay in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), it is understood that the governors have suspended the headmaster following his unwillingness to integrate the eight teachers who had been on strike.

Does the Minister join me in welcoming the initiative of the Chairman of the Cleveland County Education Committee in calling a meeting of interested parties in an endeavour to reach a solution to this protracted dispute? Will he give some reassurance to the teachers who are in dispute about their future if they accept other posts in the area, since otherwise they might be extremely concerned about their situation?

I understand that the teachers concerned have been offered permanent posts within the authority. In this long and seemingly intractable dispute, it is surely now time for all the parties to consider what they can do in the best interests of the children. If they were to sit down in that spirit, they might be able to resolve the dispute. We are willing at all times to help in any way possible.

Does the Minister accept that there is the gravest disquiet locally because of the fact that just when it appears that the dispute may be coming to an end, the matter is taking another and yet more serious twist? Since the dispute has been going on for so long, will the Minister personally arrange a meeting with the parties concerned—governors, the local education authority, parents and teachers—to see whether a fresh initiative can be taken by a totally disinterested person, so as to lead to a new approach to a solution?

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern and I shall consider his suggestion. I believe that we should make progress if all parties, rather than considering who was right and who was wrong, asked themselves what was in the best interests of the children.

Colleges Of Education

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the effect which his decision to reduce the number of teacher training places will have on the closure and reorganisation of colleges of education.

I have nothing to add, at present, to the reply that I made on 20th March last to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson). [Vol 888, c. 471-21

Does the Secretary of State agree that his proposed cut in teacher-training places amounts to a dramatic and damaging reversal of policy pursued by successive Secretaries of State since 1958? Does he realise that few demographers are crazy enough to believe that current demographic trends will continue, yet is it not on that basis that he is abolishing a provision which will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace?

No, Sir. These policies were carefully worked out after full discussion in the advisory committee on the supply and training of teachers. If the hon. Gentleman will study the "Report on Education" which we issued the week before last and which gives details of our demographic studies, he will see that we are assuming that there will be some increase in birth rate in the years ahead. We are working out our figures on that assumption.

Does the Secretary of State not agree that although at one time the view was that large schools and large universities were advisable, the movement is now the other way? When he is considering which training colleges or colleges of education are to close, will he remember that smallness is sometimes a good thing, and will he bear in mind that these matters should not be decided on geographical area only? Does he not agree that if colleges are popular and well-subscribed, those are the institutions which should be allowed to continue and which certainly should not be closed just for administrative convenience?

We shall not take action simply on the basis of administrative convenience. We shall consider the quality of a college among all the relevant factors. There will not be a unilateral decision taken by my Department. There will be discussions in detail with local education authorities, with voluntary bodies concerned and with the colleges themselves. For this reason 1 said in my original answer that I could not go further than my recent reply on this subject. However, I hope that by the summer most of the decisions will have been taken.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people appreciate the thought which he and his Department have given to this important problem? However, does he appreciate that there is great feeling throughout the country over the reduction in the number of teacher training places, since it is thought that this course will not bring about a reduction in the number of pupils per class, which is what we should be aiming at?

The reduction in teacher training places, because of the age profile of the profession, is consistent with an increase in the number of teaching posts. The target figure of between 480,000 and 490,000 in 1981 represents an increase in the number of teaching posts and is an improvement in the staffing position—to such an extent that in the early 1980s we should reach the position in which no class in the country should contain more than 30 pupils.

Blackpool

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay a visit to Blackpool before the Whitsun Parliamentary Recess.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Secretary of State for Education said in Blackpool last week that if inflation is not kept under control every aspect of national life will be ruined? Is he also aware that the Government have said that the pay settlements for the Post Office workers and electricity supply workers breach the social contract? Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's own criticisms, during the election campaign, of rogue employers in the private sector, how does the right hon. Gentleman now justify the fact that settlements now being made by the Government in the public sector breach the social contract?

In that supplementary question the hon. Gentleman has come a long way from Blackpool, no doubt to the delight of his constituents. In regard to the statement made in Blackpool by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, I congratulate the hon. Member for so anticipating that statement that his Question was tabled long before my right hon. Friend visited Blackpool. What my right hon. Friend said then was said on behalf of the Government, and it has been said by myself and by other Ministers. I agree with what my right hon. Friend said in Blackpool.

When my right hon. Friend next goes to Blackpool, to the Labour Party conference, will he recall the resolution which was passed and which called for an equal allocation of opportunity for everybody to take part in the great debate on the Common Market? Will he say why approximately 30 Ministers who are anti-Marketeers will not be allowed to speak in the current debate?

I have not noticed any inability on the part of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party or, indeed, of Labour Party members as a whole, to take part fully in the debate on Ministers speeches in the House, this was a perfectly appropriate decision taken by the Cabinet.

Scotland

02.

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to pay an official visit to Scotland.

I visited Scotland on 27th and 28th February and again on 22nd March. I have no plans for a further visit before July.

Will the Prime Minister seek an opportunity before July to make clear to the Scottish people—particularly to certain members of his own party and to the Scottish TUC—the disastrous results for Scotland if the United Kingdom leaves the European Community? Will he confirm that 12,000 jobs in Scotland would be put at risk if the United Kingdom were to leave the EEC, and that Scotland would be deprived of about £65 million each year from Community sources?

I am not in a position to check the accuracy of the hon. Gentleman's figure in regard to jobs, or his other figure, but I spoke on the subject of the renegotiations which we have held on the Common Market when I was in his own city of Aberdeen just before Easter.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the last time he was in Scotland he promised that there would be an open debate on the Common Market, without rancour? Will he also remember that freedom is indivisible, and that this principle should also apply to Ministers in this House? Does he agree that if that pledge were properly fulfilled, he and the rest of us would gain credit for it?

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I appealed for a comradely debate, free from rancour, and so far this is what we have had—with one or two significant, or insignificant, exceptions. I trust that this will continue. The agreement to differ, which I announced, referred to a total freedom —within the normal rules of etiquette, friendly behaviour, and gentlemanly courtesy—to campaign in the country on the referendum. The situation governing a parliamentary debate is quite different. and has always been so considered.

European Community

3.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a ministerial broadcast on Europe.

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asked the Prime Minister if he will make a ministerial broadcast on Europe.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a ministerial broadcast on British membership of the European Community.

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asked the Prime Minister if he will make a ministerial broadcast on British membership of the European Economic Community.

I refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) on 20th March — [Vol. 888, c. 469.]

Will not the Prime Minister accept that, since the future credibility of our country in international negotiations now depends upon our remaining a member of the European Community, it is important that he should show greater determination in these matters by means of a ministerial broadcast, not least by virtue of the right of reply which, given to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, would be a helpful way of advancing matters a stage further?

The hon. Member will have noted from the Order Paper that we are currently engaged in a three-day debate on the European situation, during which I managed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon. The hon. Member can make his point in the debate.

With regard to ministerial broadcasts, I think that we must to some extent have regard to the problems of the broadcasting authorities in this campaign. [Interruption] I regard the hon. Gentleman's question as serious, even if his neighbours do not.

The broadcasting authorities are enjoined, and have agreed, to maintain a balance. Ministerial broadcasts made by the three party leaders might appear to be rather on one side of the debate. However, to set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest, since my statement in the House on 18th March I have made four national television broadcasts—not ministerial broadcasts—in addition to that which I made at the end of the Dublin conference before my statement to the House.

In view of what the Prime Minister said about freedom of debate, is he aware that on 4th May 1932 Sir Herbert Samuel spoke as Home Secretary, from the Treasury Bench, expressing the views of those in the Cabinet who disagreed with the Government's policy?

Yes, Sir. I assure my right hon. Friend that I consulted those precedents and that speech, possibly before my right hon. Friend, and, indeed, before the end of last year. In that situation the only possibility of agreement to differ in a Conservative, Liberal and minuscule Labour coalition was through debate in the House. In the present situation there is a referendum campaign, which is of a totally different order, because all Ministers who have availed themselves of the unprecedented offer of agreement to differ are free to campaign in this referendum. I therefore believe that the 1932 precedent is totally inapplicable in this situation.

Since the Prime Minister will not make a ministerial broadcast on the question of Europe, will he clarify yesterday's Written Answer about the conduct of dissenting Ministers? In saying that dissenting Ministers will be stating the Government's position and not their own, is the Prime Minister asking them to be hypocritical mouthpieces for views which are abhorrent to them? If questions are to be transferred when necessary who is to decide when it is necssary for them to be transferred—the Minister concerned, the Foreign Secretary, or the Prime Minister? Does not that illustrate the dangerous consequences of abandoning the traditional concept of collective ministerial responsibility?

No, Sir. I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman says. He certainly cannot have it both ways, which he is trying to have in that question, as, indeed, is the Conservative Party—none better than the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who has dissociated herself from everything done by her predecessor. We know that the Conservative Party cannot press, as it has tried to press, that answers from the Front Bench should reflect entirely the Government's decision about this recommendation. At the same time, the hon. Gentleman asked that Ministers who have dissociated themselves from the decision should be free to speak in a different sense. With regard to the present situation, I said that all Ministers—not only dissenting Ministers—will speak in accordance with Government policy.

Does the Prime Minister not agree that the prime need now in the debate on the Common Market is not for ministerial broadcasts but for broadcasts by spokesmen for and against our remaining in the Common Market? Those broadcasts will incorporate safeguards which do not otherwise obtain, in view of editorial bias or the more scurrilous advertisements in the Press which recently compared those who believe in remaining in the Common Market with Vidkun Quislings.

I agree with my hon. Friend—and I include advertisements dealing with the other side of the question, of which there was a wholly improper example last week. However, my hon. Friend is right. The broadcasting authorities are trying genuinely to maintain a balance between the pro-and anti-Market sides. It is for them to decide. I have no doubt that the Standing Committee of all parties and the broadcasting authorities themselves are considering how they will conduct themselves during this campaign.

The issue is not between parties, and therefore is not between ministerial and Leader-of-the-Opposition broadcasts—rather, it is between the two sides in the national debate.

Since the Prime Minister is not to make a broadcast, will he say—to fill a strange gap in his speech yesterday—how he sees his personal position if his European policy is repudiated in the referendum?

I do not think that that matter arose out of yesterday's speech. It has arisen on many occasions. The Government will accept the verdict of the British people.

I thought I read a report that the Leader of the Opposition said—this may have been an unfair report, since the Press is occasionally inaccurate, and the right hon. Lady may wish to repudiate it—that if there were an adequate turnout and a clear majority, all parties would accept it.

The Leader of the Opposition says that she did not say that. In that case, I wish that she would repudiate that. [Interruption] I am delighted to hear that she has made her position clear. A Member of Parliament would need to be arrogant to say that whatever the country decided in this ballot could be disregarded by the House.

Will the Prime Minister refrain from taking umbrage if I suggest that he asks the Secretary of State for Scotland to make any ministerial broadcast in Scotland, since the Secretary of State's anti-EEC views will be more in tune with those of the Scottish audience?

Of course I never take umbrage at any proposals made to me by the hon. Lady. The broadcasting authorities in Scotland, which to some extent are separate, will try to preserve a balance between the pro-Market and anti-Market adherents and will give a fair coverage to both.

Since the Prime Minister is not to make a ministerial broadcast, will he take the opportunity now of justifying the exclusion of British subjects living abroad from voting in the referendum when Irish citizens living in this country, who may have already voted, will be given an opportunity of voting yet again?

The question has been put to me before. I did not say that I would not make a ministerial broadcast. I said that I had no present plans to do so. That was my answer. Should there be, within the discretion of the broadcasting authorities and as part of the balance they maintain, the possibility of ministerial broadcasts—suitably balanced, of course—I would consider that.

As regards voting, the House will debate the Referendum Bill on Thursday. That Bill will be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House. These are matters for discussion at that time. We have declared the views of the Government on this matter.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that he has many right hon. and hon. Members behind him who would prefer the Cabinet to take another look at this matter and to allow all Ministers to make statements based upon their own opinions and not those of the Prime Minister?

I should always prefer to have my hon. Friend behind me than some right hon. and hon. Members at whom I have to look from this Dispatch Box. My hon. Friend is my parliamentary neighbour, and I spoke for him when he was a candidate in less hopeful seats.

As for my hon. Friend's question, this unprecedented agreement to differ in an unprecedented situation, namely, the referendum, is unlimited in its effect on all Ministers and others in the campaign in the country. It was never envisaged by any of us that that would be the position in the debate this week.

Will the Prime Minister accept that on this issue he has some friends in front of him, if not behind him? As his dissenting Ministers seem to be having it both ways, would not it be better for the Prime Minister and for everyone else if they resigned, pending the result?

The right hon. Lady's last few words remove from me the obligation to refer to her as "my right hon. Friend" in view of her support. I do not accept what she says. This is a unique situation. It is a situation in which the right hon. Lady's party is divided, as ours is and as the country is. I am proud that my Cabinet is more representative of the two views than the rather crony-dominated Cabinet which preceded ours. That is why the country was taken into the Market without the promised full-hearted consent—and I have never heard whether the right hon. Lady will dissociate herself from that, either.

If the country votes in accordance with the Government's recommendation, there will be no doubt about the position. There has been every doubt since 1971, when the Government of which the right hon. Lady was a member took the establishment, but not the British people, into the Common Market.