16 To 18-Year-Olds (Awards)
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about provision of maintenance grants for 16 to 18-year-olds in full or part-time education.
The Government have no plans to alter the position on 16 to 18-year-olds' awards, either by introducing a mandatory scheme for the age group, or by removing the present freedom of local education authorities to pay maintenance grants to pupils and students over compulsory school age, at their discretion and from their own resources.
Is the Minister aware that a substantial number of young people who gained good O-level results this summer left school to take dead-end jobs because they realised that it would cause too much financial difficulty for their parents if they stayed at school? What does the Minister intend to do to stop this waste of national resources and, in view of the economic climate being created by the Government, to encourage local authorities to make more grants available to pupils aged between 16 and 18?
The hon. Gentleman's record on this subject has been consistent over the years, but we made clear in opposition that we were opposed to the pilot scheme proposed by the previous Government. As to the longer-term plans for improving awards for the 16 to 18 year-olds, we believe that the case for any change in the present arrangements will receive attention during the review of the relationships between the school, further education and training which the Government are undertaking against the backgrounds of our public expenditure policies. We announced in the summer that we would continue that review period. As soon as there is any announcement to make, I shall see that the House hears it.
Is the Minister aware that in my city of Manchester we are pursuing our own endeavours to encourage young people to stay on for higher education and A-levels, but we have been informed by the Department of Education and Science that if maintenance allowances are made by my city part of the grant will be offset, thereby prejudicing the chances of those children taking advantage of the benefit and staying on at school? Would it not be more sensible if the Secretary of State spent £70 million on our own education system instead of on independent bursaries?
The hon. Gentleman should know by now that the financial support for the assisted places scheme does not come from the cuts announced by the Government some weeks ago. When he refers to Manchester as his city, I think that he should realise that he is sharing it with a few more people than himself.Manchester city council has announced its own mandatory awards scheme, but the simple fact is that the ratepayers of Manchester will have a good opportunity to assess some time next year how effective and successful the scheme has been.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received about the £4·3 million cuts in education expenditure by Derbyshire county council; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. and learned Friend has received no such representations. As the Government have made clear, it is for individual local authorities to decide, in the light of local circumstances, on priorities within and between services.
I have no doubt that the Department will be receiving representations shortly. Is the Minister aware that on top of the massive cuts proposed by the county council there is a threat by the Government, together with the Tory-controlled county council, to do away with free transport for hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren outside the two or three-mile limits? Will the Minister guarantee that such a proposal will not be carried through by the Government? If it is good enough for Tory Ministers to travel free, it is good enough for the schoolchildren of Derbyshire and elsewhere to do so.
The hon. Gentleman will know what is in the Education Bill within two or three days, when it is published. As to cuts in education expenditure in Derbyshire, the figure is not £4·3 million mentioned in the Question but £3 million, which is 2·5 per cent. or 1 per cent. less than the cuts announced in 1976 by the Labour Government for 1977–78.
If the Minister has not received any representations from Derbyshire, he must surely have heard that the Tory chairman of the Wiltshire county council—
Order. The hon. Gentleman must put down a question on that subject.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement about the effect of the educational expenditure cuts on the universities.
I expect to set grant for the new academic year at a level in real terms about 1 per cent. above that for 1978–79. I hope to be able to make an announcement about grant for the following year shortly.
As the recently proposed cut of £100 million will inevitably mean cuts in the number of students, courses and staff in practically every university, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a guarantee that no university will be forced to close? Does he not realise that those who will suffer most from such a mean policy will be overseas students from the poorest countries, who will have to pay fees of £3,500 a year, thus making them the highest fees in the world?
The hon. Gentleman asked two questions. As to his first, we have still not announced our figures for 1980–81, although we shall shortly do so, but I do not believe that they will lead to the closure of any university. As to his second question, the fact is that in higher education today we have about 58,000 overseas students, whereas as recently as 1971 we had only 39,000.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is growing public anger at the misuse of public funds by those student union bodies which disrupt activities and behave like hooligans? Will he now take steps to remove that money and ensure that it is used more effectively?
I obviously regret any action that causes disruption of any kind, and from time to time I appear to be the butt of some of that action. I do not know whether that has any direct involvement in the spending of public money. As I said, our proposal for the universities is a 1 per cent. increase in real terms from what it was last year, and I hope that when the figures for 1980–81 are announced it will be found that we are keeping that at constant levels.
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the proportion of students who go to British universities is still lamentably low compared with many of our industrial competitors? Does he not also agree that the views that he expressed earlier about the cuts are not shared by many vice-chancellors?
It is, of course, true that the percentage of those going on to our universities, although not necessarily to all forms of further education, is lower than in certain other countries. That I accept. As to the second part of the question, I repeat what I said earlier. I do not accept the wilder statements made about the effect of our reductions in expenditure in that area.
Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that too many universities were created in this country after the war, and that we are now paying the penalty for that?
I think I am right in saying that the entry into universities this year is at its highest ever.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from teachers' unions regarding public expenditure cuts in the education service.
I have met delegations from all the main teacher unions to discuss a range of issues, including public expenditure. I have also received many letters from individual branches of those unions.
Does the Secretary of State appreciate that, with the widespread cuts and the jobs that will be lost in the education service, there has been much disappointment that, with all his liberal reputation and image, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has simply caved in to the Cabinet attack on the State schools and the standard of education in our country?
I am grateful for what I suppose was meant to be a compliment in the hon. Gentleman's question, but I do not accept his conclusion. We are planning for a 3 per cent. reduction in expenditure this year and a further 1 per cent. reduction in expenditure next year. I believe that that can be achieved without having the effect on standards of education which the hon. Gentleman implied.
So that the whole question of the so-called cuts can be put into a proper perspective, can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House how much money his Department will be devoting this year to our education services, compared with last year?
I cannot do so without notice of the details. But I can tell my hon. Friend that in terms of overall expenditure we spend £8 billion on education, of which £6 billion goes through local education authorities, mainly on schools.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman check on his sums? Is he not aware that we are not talking about minuscule percentage cuts? When one considers the Government's refusal to take account of their responsibility to meet Clegg pay awards, the level of inflation, to which they have substantially subscribed, the cuts in rate support grant and the cash limits, one realises that the figure for education cuts, on 1978–79 estimates, is nearer 17 per cent., rather than the figure that the Secretary of State has given hitherto?
I am grateful that, according to the hon. Gentleman, our proposed cuts are, in his own word, "minuscule". I shall remember that, and I am grateful to him for saying it. As to his other comments, he is, with great respect, wrong. We have not reneged on any Clegg commission report. Indeed, the Clegg commission has not yet reported. As to inflation, the hon. Gentleman must surely realise that when we talk of expenditure cuts, or otherwise, in real terms, we take account of inflation in arriving at those figures.
Order. This question will arise later in another form.
Schools (Parental Choice)
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on his proposals for strengthening the legal rights of parents regarding the education of their children.
The Education Bill which my right hon. and learned Friend will present to the House shortly will contain provisions to ensure that parents' wishes are taken into account in the choice of schools for their children, and that there is a local appeals system, and provide for parents to be represented on the governing bodies of their children's schools.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the great importance that many parents attach to being able to send their children to the school of their choice, especially if it is a traditional school outside their own catchment area? Will he bring forward the appeal procedures, which will be widely welcomed, as soon as possible.
The Bill to be published shortly will contain proposals for parental choice, including the publication of results, what goes on in schools and how parents can apply for a certain school. There will also be an independent tribunal, whose decisions will be binding upon the local authority, to which parents can appeal if they do not get the school of their choice. I am sure that these proposals will be welcomed throughout the country by supporters of both major parties.
Will the proposed Bill apply, or in the usual way be applicable, to Northern Ireland? If not, may it be taken that the principle of the policy that is to be applied in the rest of the Kingdom will be applied in Northern Ireland?
I do not think that this Bill will apply to Northern Ireland, but the principles that we hold within the Conservative Party will, in the long run, obviously influence legislation throughout the United Kingdom.
What value will these measures be to parents if the Bill establishes operating limits which local authorities can apply to schools, thereby declaring that they are full when they are not really full at all, if the same legislation takes away existing parental rights and if expenditure cuts lead to many small village schools being closed?
The Bill will give full details of how these matters will be dealt with. The Bill contains requirements with regard to local authorities which desire to reduce the intake into schools, and there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. Therefore, there is no power within the Bill for local authorities indiscriminately to reduce the size of schools against the wishes of people in the area.
Is it not time that the Minister was honest with the House and, indeed, with himself? Whatever we may build into any Act of Parliament about legal rights and other matters, the great mass of our children and their parents will have no choice at all about the schools they attend, and the hon. Gentleman had better direct his attention to improving standards in and the supply of resources to the State system. The only choice that will be left is to those who have the money to exercise that choice.
I do not see that the question of money comes into the matter at all. This is a State system, and no fees are being charged. That may amuse Labour Members, but that is what happens. In answer to the point made by the right hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), it is important to say that there is no means by which there is absolute choice of school for all children. In any form of society there is no absolute choice. If one then says that one does not want any choice at all and that this matter is all phoney and dishonest, that is fair enough. That is usually the view of Labour Members. It is the view of this side of the House that where we can extend choice, whether in owning houses, in schools or in other ways, it should be done. That is the great division between the two sides of the House.
School Meals And Milk
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now make a statement on the future of school meals.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will relieve local education authorities of their obligations to provide school meals and school milk; and if he will make a statement on the latest annual cost of such provision.
I shall be asking Parliament, in the Bill which I propose to introduce, to give local authorities greater flexibility over the provision of school meals and milk. Annual expenditure on these services in England and Wales is currently about £400 million and I expect the new measures to enable local education authorities to make substantial savings in 1980–81 and subsequent years.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman come clean and admit that his proposals will make school meals either unobtainable or available only at a prohibitive price for the great bulk of working-class families? Does he accept that he is turning the clock back 50 years, so that we shall see again undernourished children in our schools?
I do not accept that. The purpose of the Bill is to give wide flexibility to local education authorities to decide the type of meal that they wish to provide and the charges that they wish to make. I have no doubt, from what we have heard, that most local authorities will continue to provide perhaps a different type of meal at a charge that will be within the pockets of the parents of the children.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is high time that this £400 million was taken out of the education budget, where it does not belong? If there is a social service requirement for the provision of school meals and school milk to poor families, this should be dealt with in that way and under that heading. Education money should be devoted to education.
I accept what my hon. Friend says, that although this matter comes in the education budget it is not central to education needs. That is why, in looking for reductions in expenditure in education, I have examined areas such as school meals rather than the provision of education in the classroom itself. It is right, basically, that the school meals service, which started during the war, has become a social service provided by the Department of Education rather than by the Department of Health and Social Security.
If the Secretary of State is so proud of these reductions in expenditure in the financial year 1980–81, will he tell the House why he failed to consult any trade unions about the proposals being made by the Government? Is he aware that the last time the price of school meals was increased, in 1977, the numbers taking meals fell by 600,000, on a price increase of 10p a day? Is he aware that children in school playgrounds are now calling himself and the Prime Minister milk snatchers and meal stealers?
Let us deal with the question in the past decade. First, why have I not seen the unions? I have seen both the National Union of Public Employees—
and the TUC on these matters. I have seen both the unions that requested to see me. I have also seen the local authorities. My colleagues have met some of the teacher associations. On the second part of the question, on reduced numbers, the hon. Gentleman might care to reflect that at the time the party that he supports took office in 1974 the price of a school meal was 12p. According to plans when they left office, the price had gone up to 30p. That was a 150 per cent. increase during the period in power of his Government.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the great disparity between administrative and food costs in school meals provision by local authorities, especially in the Inner London Education Authority, which seems to spend more on administration and less on food than most other local education authorities?
It is not only in inner London that this situation applies. The cost to the public of every school meal produced is 54p. Of that amount, the parent pays 30p and the taxpayer pays 24p. The value of the food in that meal, which cost 54p to produce, is only 16·58p.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he intends to take to improve the quality of primary and secondary education.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the Govenment's policy to raise standards in schools.
An all-graduate entry to the teaching profession is being introduced. Action to promote higher educational standards will also be based on forthcoming reports on local authorities' curricular arrangements and Her Majesty's Inspectorate's national survey of secondary schools. Her Majesty's Inspectorate has recently published guidelines on primary mathematics following its national survey of primary schools. The first report from the assessment of performance unit, on mathematics performance by 11-year-olds, will be published in 1980, and other reports will follow.
Will reducing expenditure on education improve or reduce educational standards? Will reducing the number of textbooks available to children improve or deprive them of their educational standards?
The share of the gross national product that has gone to education over the past 25 years has almost doubled, but I do not think that anyone can claim that schools' standards have doubled. Education standards depend upon the calibre of teacher intake, which we are improving, upon the curriculum that is taught, which we are examining, and how that is tested, which we are also looking into.
Will my hon. Friend give the House some indication of when we can expect Her Majesty's inspectors to play a much greater role in the Government's policy to increase education standards? Will he accept that it is vital that Her Majesty's inspectors once again play a central part in the Government's policy of ensuring rising standards?
The inspectorate, in numbers, is lower than it has been for many years. This restricts the number of times that it can visit individual schools. But the number of reports that it has issued recently has been far in excess of previous years. A report on primary schools, another that is coming on secondary schools, and reports on mixed ability teaching and language teaching leave no doubt in my mind that the inspectorate has helped to raise the level of achievement in schools.
As the Minister believes that he will improve the quality of education in schools by promoting selection, can he say what co-ordination exists in his Department on policies for promoting selections and the cuts? Is he aware that one local authority that is giving children practice tests in the 11-plus examination has been obliged, because of the cuts, to use old papers containing questions in pounds, shillings and pence? As the children taking these tests were aged 3 when this country converted to decimal currency, what effect does the Minister consider that situation is having on their education? How can the Minister square that, and many other examples, with improvements in education standards?
Selection is applied not only between schools but inside schools. Selection inside schools is part of the education debate. It has always been understood that it is advisable to have one or two trials before sitting an examination such as the 11-plus. What better way is there than to include history and mathematics at the same time? That, presumably, is what is known in schools as integrated study. Shillings and pence were abolished some time ago. We have had a Labour Government since then, and one can only wonder what happened during that period.
National Union Of Teachers
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to meet the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
No date has been arranged for our next meeting.
Has the NUT withdrawn its objection to the Professional Association of Teachers being represented on the Burnham committee? Apart from the PAT's numerical claim, has not its no-strike policy much to be said for it, especially when compared with the alarmist statements and disruptive action of the NUT?
Obvously I welcome the statement by a union that it does not propose to take action to disrupt provision for children. The composition of the Burnham committee is a matter not for the NUT but for me. I have told the Professional Association of Teachers that I propose to review the position in September 1980.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the general secretary of the NUT, who yesterday described him as abysmally ignorant and frighteningly complacent, will he discuss the dossier which shows that already the draconian cuts are having terrible effects on the fabric of State education, including nursery and adult education, education for the disadvantaged, in-service training and school buildings?
Of course I shall be willing to discuss the document which was sent to me today by Mr. Jarvis and the NUT. The hon. Member said that Mr. Jarvis had described me as being abysmally ignorant. I understand his reason was that I challenged his claim that I was presiding over the dismantling of the education system. When I received the document this morning I asked for one figure to be checked. I asked what a 70 per cent. cut in supply teachers would mean in Barnsley. When my office inquired, the Barnsley education authority said that no such decision had been taken and that it had no knowledge of such a proposal.
Will the Secretary of State now answer the question which my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) asked? Is he aware that there is a grave shortage of books in many schools? Is he aware that in my child's State school class one textbook has to be shared between four and that children cannot take home textbooks for homework? What is he going to do about that?
That is a fair question. There is a shortage of books. One of the troubles is that the price of textbooks has increased by far more than other items have in recent years. I am anxious to see that there is an adequate supply of textbooks in schools. For that reason, when examining reductions in Government expenditure generally, I have attempted to make education cuts in areas that do not affect what happens in the class room.
Assisted Places Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to bring forward proposals on aid to assisted schools.
I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the assisted places scheme, the establishment of which is provided for in the Education Bill which my right hon. and learned Friend will present to the House shortly.
Is it not outrageous that the Government are going ahead with this wretched scheme to provide an extra £90 million for the tiny 5 per cent. elitist sector in education while making cuts of hundreds of millions of pounds which affect the other 95 per cent. of school children? How can the Minister pretend that this is not the most blatant discriminatory action to create two nations in our education system?
This legislation is discriminatory. It discriminates in favour of poor children who cannot afford to go to such schools. I remind the Opposition that between 1974 and 1978 the percentage of blue collar workers' children who attended universities fell from 28 per cent. to 25 per cent. Practically everything done by the Labour Government since 1974 reduced education chances for working-class children.
Is the Minister aware that the undertaking given yesterday by the Secretary of State at the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association conference that cuts will not be made in education expenditure to provide for the assisted places scheme holds mathematics teachers spellbound? There seems to be a new law in mathematics, that one can take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the State maintained sector and give scores of millions of pounds to the independent sector without there being a connection between the two. Does the Minister expect anybody to believe that nonsense? Does he think that it will be accepted by anyone involved in education administration, by trade unions, or even by public school headmasters?
The money for the assisted places scheme is not drawn from the rest of the education system. The scheme was a specific commitment in our manifesto. Many people in the Labour Party believe in fulfilling manifesto commitments. So do we. A means test will be operated. Therefore, the average cost of sending children to independent schools under the scheme will be approximately the same as the cost of sending them to a State secondary school. The scheme will, therefore, have little effect on the overall budget.
Do not questions such as that asked by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) smack of dubious intent since he and some of his colleagues were educated at public schools? Is this not yet another example of "Do as I say, not as I do"?
I am grateful for those comments. All the recent reports from the inspectorate indicate that there are problems in inner city schools and deprivation among the children there. We are going ahead with the scheme, with those children in particular in mind.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the effect of public expenditure cuts on education.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the effect of expenditure cuts on education standards.
I have confined reductions in planned expenditure for 1980–81 as far as possible to those areas of my programme which do not form an essential part of the provision of education for young people. I do not anticipate any adverse effect on education standards.
Is the Secretary of State aware that that reply is not in keeping with the estimates made by local education authorities? Does he realise that the Mid-Glamorgan education authority estimates that a 5 per cent. reduction in resources will result in the closure of all adult education centres, three education centres, a reduction of 100 nursery school teachers and the closing of three library services? If the Secretary of State is not going to battle in the Cabinet to ensure that the education service receives more resources, will he do the right thing and resign?
How a local authority chooses to reach its target of what will be a 4 per cent. reduction in present expenditure in any year is a matter for that authority. We, as a Government, have a duty to see that we, as a country, live within our means. We cannot do that without making reductions in the plans that we have inherited. Unfortunately, education has had to take its share of those reductions. I am satisfied that we have made them in a way that will not affect the standard of education.
Will the Secretary of State please come clean and admit to the House, and the country, that the cuts in education expenditure will have, and will increasingly have, adverse effects on the standard of education? Will he admit this publicly instead of hiding behind a facade of pretence that these cuts will have no such effect?
We must keep this in proportion. The situation is that the Government have asked this year for a 3 per cent. reduction in expenditure, and a 5 per cent. reduction in what was planned expenditure for next year. That means spending £96 for every £100 spent last year. I do not accept particularly because of the freedom that I propose to allow over meals, milk and transport, that authorities cannot achieve that figure without having the effects that the hon. Member implies.
I fully support and endorse the views expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend. Is he aware of the recent inquiry undertaken in the North-West by the CBI into the activities of Cheshire county council? That inquiry found that for every 100 teachers at least 70 administrative and ancillary staff were employed. Will he encourage the CBI to undertake further such surveys and inquiries into other local authorities and county councils? Does he agree that this kind of inquiry and the public expenditure cuts which the Government are requesting could well produce a reduction in expenditure and an increase in standards in education?
I should welcome the CBI undertaking an inquiry into any other county of the kind that it undertook in the county which my hon. Friend and I represent. On his wider question, the proposals for 1980–81 envisaged, overall, no reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio, which is as good as it has ever been.
Does the Secretary of State agree that those local authorities that are trying to save money by cutting down, or even abolishing, nursery education are making very short-sighted decisions? Does he agree that nursery education is a particularly important investment, and that its absence will put an even greater strain on primary schools? Will he include nursery education in the category of essential education that he mentioned his first answer?
Having said that I believe that local education authorities should be free to decide how they spend their moneys, I am not prepared to comment on the individual ways in which they choose to do it. Our plans for this year provide for an additional 4,000 places in nursery education. Our plans for 1980–81 provide for a further 2,000 places.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend nevertheless agree that although he is leaving this to the local education authorities, quite rightly, he must use all his power and influence to see that school textbooks, which are central to education, are the least affected by these cuts? I add my plea to that of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), that textbooks, which are the centre of our education system, should not suffer. If necessary, peripheral matters should.
I fully accepted the point made by my hon and learned Friend in the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell). Of course textbooks are important. I remind the House again that, in the end, we can spend only as much money on education as the country can afford. What we can spend and afford in the future depends upon our ability to expand the economy of this country, by leaving more money for the potential wealth-creating sectors.
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many overseas students were in higher education over the past two years; and how many he expects to be there over the next two years.
In higher education in Great Britain there were 57,600 overseas students in 1977–78 and about 58,400 in 1978–79. The planning numbers for expenditure purposes, continuing the policy of the previous Government of restricting the number of foreign students, were 46,000 in 1979–80 and 45,000 for 1980–81, but plans for 1980–81 are under review and an announcement will be made shortly.
Is the Minister aware that this is all completely changed by the Government's recent announcement, whereby fees in British higher education will be the highest in the world? They will be double the size of those even in California. Is he aware that this policy, in the opinion of the vice-chancellors, will destroy many technological courses in our universities? There is a mix there, and if overseas students leave there will be no viable courses left for the home students. Does the final paragraph of the letter from his right hon. and learned Friend to the vice-chancellors yesterday mean that the Government will have second thoughts on this matter if the University Grants Committee gives as its considered opinion that this will decimate—not just reduce—the number of overseas students in Britain?
There is a considerable number of American colleges where fees are at least equal to, if not higher than, those in this country. It is as well to remember that when, in 1977–78, there was an increase in fees by the previous Labour Government of between 40 per cent. and 105 per cent., there were 2,500 more foreign students in this country the following year than there were the year before. It is also as well to remember that one-quarter of the foreign students come from countries where the average income is higher than in this country and that many of them come from wealthy families. It is not a question of taking away from the poor of the world.
Prime Minister (Engagements)
asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for Tuesday 23 October.
In addition to duties in this House I shall have meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.
Will the Prime Minister find time today to repeat her sister-bountiful speech—the first thing she has ever said with which I partly agree—because I, too, am thoroughly disgusted with her Government cutting expenditure on housing, health and education while dishing out £1 billion a year to the Common Market? Even if it means our getting out of the Common Market, will the Prime Minister take unilateral action, if necessary, to cut our contribution? Otherwise, she will end up like Old Mother Hubbard instead of sister bountiful.
I am glad to have pleased the hon. Gentleman with at least one of my speeches. As far as cutting our contribution unilaterally goes, we must observe the law, and I think that such a course would be outside the law. We shall try to negotiate these things at the Dublin summit but, believing in the rule of law as we do, we cannot go outside it. We must try to get change by agreement.
Will my right hon. Friend today have another look at the speech made by President Brezhnev during the Summer Recess about the reduction of Soviet troops in Germany? Is she aware that if 20,000 Soviet troops were withdrawn from East Germany there would be 380,000 left, and that if 1,000 Russian tanks were withdrawn from East Germany there would be 6,000 Russian tanks left there? Therefore, was not her reaction in her speech to this recent rather token gesture of disarmament correct?
I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, and I am certain that the speech by President Brezhnev must not divert us from modernising our theatre nuclear forces and from making a decision by the end of this year.
I agree with the Prime Minister that we must obey the rule of law, but does not she agree that the rule of law of the United Kingdom is made in this place and that she has adequate powers to act unilaterally if she wishes?
The law of the United Kingdom is to observe the edicts of the European Court.
Anticipating many weasel words from the Opposition today, and in the months ahead, about the effect of stabilising public expenditure, may I ask whether the Prime Minister has had an estimate made of the extent to which income tax, VAT and rates would have to go up if all the Labour Party's pre-election promises were to be fulfilled and there were no public expenditure cuts?
The fact is that expenditure this year, on the same price basis as obtained under the previous Government last year, is slightly up. In 1978–79 the Labour Government spent £69,766 million. This year we plan to spend £69,796 million. Those figures are in the same real terms. Expenditure this year is therefore slightly up on last, which should give the lie to those who accuse us of savage cuts.
With reference to the answer which the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), is she saying, on the question of the Common Market budget, that there are no circumstances in which, no matter how obdurate the French and their colleagues are on the matter of our contribution, she would bring forward amendments to the European Communities Act?
I advise the hon. Member to be a little more patient. We shall try to achieve what we want to by negotiation. I do not make threats to break the rule of law, either nationally or internationally, since we believe that we should have no future if we did.
Fraserburch And Peterhead
asked the Prime Minister if she will visit the fish processing factories in Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
I have at present no plans to do so.
I very much regret that it is impossible for my right hon. Friend to visit the fish processing factories in my constituency. However, will she press her Ministers to hold a meeting with those responsible for fishing in order to secure a negotiated agreement for the industry and remove the threat of unemployment that hangs over thousands of people as a result of high costs and lack of supplies? Is she aware that the industry has been asking for that for four years without success and that during that time almost every sector of the industry has had to apply for temporary employment subsidy to remain in business?
I know the problems that my hon. Friend is facing in this area. The overriding necessity is to conserve herring stocks, and until they have recovered there will be very little supply for that branch of the fish processing industry. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be discussing the problem with representatives of the industry this week.