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Commons Chamber

Volume 980: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1980

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 4 March 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Cane Hill Cemetery Bill Lords

Read a Second time and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education And Science

Education Vouchers

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with local education authorities on the education voucher scheme.

None, Sir.

In thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, does he accept that parents who sacrifice to send their children to private fee-paying schools are, in effect, paying twice for their children's education? In any future discussions with local authorities on implementing a voucher scheme will he ensure that such schemes include the private sector?

Any local authority that wishes to consider the voucher scheme would obviously assess whether it should merely apply to the State sector or be extended to the independent sector. That will be a decision for the local authority. It is a matter on which we might be consulted, but the decision would be for the local authority. On my hon. Friend's other point, the assisted places scheme will open the door for many children who cannot afford to go to independent schools to do so, once it is in operation.

Does the Minister agree that all parents, particularly those with children attending schools in the maintained sector, will be making sacrifices in the future as a consequence of school meal charges and transport charges? Will he refute the suggestion made by his hon. Friend for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) that sacrifices will be made only by those sending their children to private schools?

Certain independent radicals would consider all taxes a sacrifice. People do not get back simply what they put in. One appreciates that, in certain cases, parents pay extra because they consider the matter important. We are concerned, as a Government, to extend parental choice not only for those inside the independent sector but for those inside the State sector.

Does my hon. Friend's answer mean that the proposed pilot scheme in the county of Kent has now vanished?

Not at all. The proposed pilot scheme brought forward by Kent is entirely at the discretion of Kent. It is for Kent to decide when the scheme should be brought into operation. There is nothing to prevent Kent from bringing it into operation at any time, at its discretion.

Will the Minister recognise that a difference in educational opportunity which arises because of a difference in the size of a parent's bank account is a barbarity in these days? Will he not waste his time on the voucher scheme but give his attention to the real problems in the education service?

If every difference in income in this country is a barbarity, barbarism will be with us for a great length of time. If parents have books and watch BBC 2—which, presumably, has educational programmes—this is discriminatory within the terms of what the right hon. Gentleman says. What we want is not to cut down opportunity for those who have it, but to extend opportunity for those who do not have it.

May I express the hope that my hon. Friend's enthusiasm for the voucher scheme has not diminished as a result of elevation to his present high office, particularly bearing in mind the importance of that scheme for extending freedom of choice to parents?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I pray regularly about the matter every evening. The decision whether to introduce the voucher scheme is for local authorities. We have always said that we would look on with interest and would not oppose any experimental voucher schemes in Kent, or anywhere else.

May I press the Minister about his attitude to local authorities introducing a voucher scheme? Is he saying that his Department would advocate such a scheme and would not provide any barriers to its introduction? Does he know of any local authorities which are actively considering this step?

The decision whether to introduce a voucher scheme is for local authorities. We would obviously not prevent this from happening. It is well within the powers of local authorities, whatever hon. Members may say. It is entirely up to them. Many of us will look with interest upon such a scheme, as would parents in the area.

Meals And Transport Charges

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for monitoring the increases in school meal and school transport charges to be imposed by local education authorities as a result of the Education (No. 2) Bill.

My Department is maintaining a close interest in these matters and in the progress being made by local education authorities towards decisions on the issues.

Is the Minister aware that the proposals already announced by some local authorities mean that many poor families just above the supplementary benefit and family income supplement levels will have to meet extra charges of between £5 and £10 a week? What steps is he taking to try to persuade the more reactionary Conservative-controlled local authorities to modify their policies?

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has indicated the features that he would like local authorities to regard as good practice. During the passage of the legislation it was emphasised strenuously in Committee and on the Floor of the House that local authorities must determine their own course of action. We are confident that local education authorities and head teachers are aware of such families. Supplementary benefit and family income supplement is taken into account and the local authorities have power to add to that help.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the issue is not just a matter of good practice but of new practice in the provision of school meals? Does my hon. Friend agree that counties such as Somerset, which have run schemes alongside the State traditional scheme, operating at greater cost, have experienced a bigger take-up and that parents are prepared to pay for alternative types of food? Will my hon. Friend take steps to spread such schemes to other authorities?

It is not my right hon. and learned Friend's practice to lay down strict guidelines about the precise content of meals and what form they should take. Somerset has given us a fine example of how catering can be diversified. Somerset is not alone. Hon. Members will be aware of what happens in their constituencies. The cafeteria or snack type convenience foods are the hallmarks of many young peoples' eating habits and are popular.

How many local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have decided not to introduce school transport charges? Will the Minister commend those authorities?

I shall answer the question put from a sedentary position. My Department is maintaining a close liaison with the local authorities to find out precisely what their charges will be once the legislation has completed its passage. Not all local authorities have yet taken the full council vote. A number of recommendations have been made. It is as simple as that. I shall notify the House as soon as possible and I shall write to the hon. Member as the situation develops.

Does not the Minister's reply mean that he has not a clue what the changes wrought by the Education (No. 2) Bill will mean in terms of charges on parents, access to schools and the injustices that will be perpetrated as a result of the new charges? Has he not a responsibility to children and parents throughout the country? Is this not a desertion of that responsibility?

The hon. Member disappoints me. His synthetic indignation has occurred too early this afternoon. Not all the plans are known by local authorities. The hon. Gentleman obviously misunderstands, because the Bill has not completed all its stages. Clauses 22 and 23 were contentious and it will be some time before local authorities reach their decisions.

Comprehensive Reorganisation

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many schemes for reorganisation of schools on a comprehensive system he has rejected since May 1979.

Does the Secretary of State agree that his decision on 18 February to reject the Kirklees authority's proposals for comprehensive education at Batley reveals that the Conservative promise to back local choice and to back comprehensive schools—where they are chosen—is a sham? Why did the Secretary of State not give a single reason for that rejection, either to me or the local authority? Does he accept that that was a high-handed way of treating local opinion since the parents, councillors, the Member of Parliament and all the teachers supported the proposed scheme?

Normal practice is just to announce the Secretary of State's decision. That was done in this case. The real difference between the hon. Member and myself about the Kirklees proposal is that Labour Members were determined to force local education authorities to go comprehensive and to close grammar and secondary modern schools, irrespective of local circumstances, whereas Conservative Members are determined to assess each case on its merits. We are determined to assess each case on educational, social and financial grounds and to attempt to make a fair assessment of the genuine views of local people.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his decision about north-east Kirkless has been received with great relief by the overwhelming majority of parents, thousands of whom signed a petition which I delivered to his Department? Is he aware that they signed that petition, whether they approved of comprehensive education or not, on the basis that the proposed scheme was out of keeping with the educational interests of the children in the area?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In rejecting the proposals by the Kirkless authority we were acting on educational and financial grounds and on our assessment of the views of local people.

Does the Secretary of State agree that when he talks about freedom for local authorities he means that local authorities should be free to implement the cuts that he is forcing on them? When it comes to basic decisions, such as that involving Kirklees, is he not overriding local authorities and not allowing them the freedom that they should have? The Secretary of State says that he rejected a case because it lacked merit. How are local people to know the demerits if he will not give his reasons for rejecting a proposition? Surely that makes it a political decision?

It was not a political decision. The decision was taken after an assessment of the merits of the case. If section 13 is to mean anything the Secretary of State must have the responsibility to assess not only an application but the objections to it. My responsibility is to do my best to take a view about what is the correct decision.

Later:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply that I received from the Secretary of State for Education and Science regarding the reorganisation of secondary schools in Batley, I give notice that I shall seek an opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Further Education

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will bring forward proposals to help those students who, for various reasons, discontinued full-time education before gaining academic qualifications.

A range of opportunities already exist to help such students obtain academic qualifications. My right hon. and learned Friend has no new, additional proposals in mind.

Is the Minister aware that the planned savage reductions in university intake next year will hit particularly hard those who, because they are talented, deserve a second chance at higher education? Does he share the enthusiasm of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment for expanding the Open University to give such people second chances at degree level courses and below?

I always share the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The Government appreciate the need for people to be able to return to education when their circumstances and needs make that appropriate. The Government are staunch supporters of the Open University principle. The Government acknowledge the importance of the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education. The House will be aware of a number of other initiatives which the Government have taken with such people in mind. However, there are no firm proposals at present.

Will my hon. Friend comment on the disgraceful treatment that his colleague the Under-Secretary of State received at the hands of London School of Economics students last week? Would he care to recommend that the grants of the offending students be withdrawn?

I certainly do not consider it my duty to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) how he should handle insults at meetings. We can perhaps learn from him. I acknowledge the important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) but I do not believe that it is up to us to interfere with the grants of those particular students.

Common Core Curriculum

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he has taken on the findings of the secondary schools survey undertaken by his Department on the common core curriculum.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate's surveys of primary and secondary education, and the Education Department's review of local authority curricular arrangements, have now been followed by proposals for a framework for the school curriculum published in January, and a view of the curriculum published by Her Majesy's inspectors, Consultations are now under way on the framework proposals.

While agreeing in principle to the idea of a common core, may I suggest to the Secretary of State that he proceeds with caution in the matter? Does he agree that the present shortage of specialist teachers in, for example, mathematics, the sciences and modern languages, makes it impossible to introduce a common core? Does he further agree that the cuts in public expenditure affect this issue, and that both of those factors are likely to be with us for some considerable time?

The consultations arise from the desire on the part of the Department to reach agreement, both with local authorities and the teaching unions, as to what should be the general principles covering a core curriculum. Of course, I am aware of the effect of the shortage of teachers in certain specialist subjects on our ability to implement that core curriculum. I am concerned about this. We are trying to persuade the teacher training colleges to give shortage subjects priority within their training systems. We are continuing for a further year the scheme for re-training teachers in the shortage subjects.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend move speedily with the consultations, recognising the importance of implementing the new ideas as soon as possible? Will he turn his attention especially to the imbalance in the curriculum at many teacher training colleges, where not enough attention is paid to teaching practice and too much attention is paid to educational theory?

I shall certainly move as speedily as possible. Overall, the proposals set out in our framework for the curriculum have had a very welcome response.

Were the National Association of Schoolmasters and the Union of Women Teachers, among those giving a welcome to the proposals? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise the validity of what they were saying, namely that it is impossible and implausible effectively to introduce a core curriculum unless he is willing to commit the necessary additional finances—which are substantial—to make that an effective change in the provision of schooling in Britain? Will he provide that finance?

I do not accept that. As have said already, the shortage of teachers in specialist subjects is an important matter when considering what can be included in the core curriculum. I believe that one can make improvements in the curriculum in schools, and improvements in the standards without such improvements being always necessarily dependent on the spending of resources.

While approving of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's desire to press ahead with the issue, may I ask whether he is aware that the curriculum and the examination system are inextricably mixed? Is he further aware that his recent decision to make one group, the GCE boards, solely responsible for grades 1, 2 and 3 in a particular examination, and a wholly different group, the CSE boards, responsible for grades 4, 5 and 6, is a recipe for lunacy and cannot work? Will he re-think his examination proposals?

Our proposals for common certifications and common gradings, and an agreement of the national criterion of a common core for the syllabus for examinations, fits in totally with our proposals for a common core curriculum.

Social Work (Qualification)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received during the last six months about the need to make discretionary awards for the certificate of qualified social work mandatory.

My right hon. and learned Friend has received about 30 letters on the subject, mainly from hon. Members of this House and organisations with a particular concern for social work.

Does not the Minister agree that, as the Government have complete control over the number of places that are available for training in social work, it is crazy not to ensure that there are awards for all the students who are allocated one of those places?

I appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman. He has raised the matter before. If, at the present time of financial restraint, we were to extend mandatory grants to social workers—which would cost about £1½ million—they would have to be similarly extended to training for other vocational courses, and that could cost more than £10 million a year.

School-Leaving Regulations

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has any plans to change the school-leaving regulations, particularly in respect of those wishing to take up apprenticeships.

The present leaving arrangements are governed by section 9 of the Education Act 1962 as amended by the Education (School Leaving Dates) Act 1976. Any changes would require legislation and my right hon. and learned Friend has no plans at present to introduce amending legislation.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is a disappointing reply? Does he not agree that it is quite absurd that a boy who reaches the age of 16 in October, and who wishes to take up a genuine apprenticeship, is not allowed to leave school at Christmas but has to stay until the following Easter? Is not that quite ridiculous, and is it not time that we operated the regulations more sensibly and flexibly?

I understand my hon. Friend's depth of feeling on the matter. The reason why there are two leaving dates—some teachers would prefer one leaving date—is that teachers can at least teach coherently throughout the year, which could not be done if youngsters fell out every Monday and Wednesday throughout the year.

My right hon. and learned Friend is asked, from time to time, to consider legislating to allow early leaving for those with offers of jobs or apprenticeships, those who wish to enter the Armed Services or those who wish to pursue a course of further education. A working party is currently considering the educational provision for 16 to 19-year-olds and will consider again the posibility of early transfer to courses in further education.

Will not the Minister admit that from the inception of education in this country the Conservative Party has been trying to trundle our children out of school into the factories as early as possible? [Interruption.] The noise that Conservative Members are making now proves that I have made a point. Will he not further admit that it is our children that Tory Members want to get out of school quickly and into the factories, and not their children, to whom they are about to give £60 million of our money, while cutting down education for our children?

The £60 million mentioned by the hon. Gentleman is not going to "our" children, the children of my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is going to parents who cannot afford to send their children to fee-paying schools, I wish that the hon. Gentleman would read the scheme and note the maintenance level. It might be interesting if the hon. Gentleman strengthened his knowledge of history by looking back to see who raised the school leaving age from 15 to 16.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency a boy who was 16 on 1 September could have left school a year earlier if he had been born a day earlier, on 31 August? He had a job to go to and was disappointed—as were his parents—that he was unable to leave school and take up employment. Cannot my right hon. and learned Friend legislate for some sensible and flexible policy?

I understand my hon. Friend's depth of feeling on the matter. However, if we moved the date to 1 September someone whose birthday fell on 2 September would then grumble. It seems that it is something that parents will have to consider in the future at the moment of conception.

Will the Minister confirm that there is very little demand from vast areas of Britain for any alteration to the school regulations about the leaving age simply because there are no apprenticeships available for youngsters?

I appreciate that at a time of high unemployment it is more difficult for those leaving school to find jobs. We are concerned to build up the standards in the basic subjects so that those leaving at the age of 16 are ready to take apprenticeships when the upturn comes in our economy.

Microelectronics

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is now in a position to make a statement on education in microelectronics at school promised in the Official Report, 5 February, column 141.

With the agreement of his colleagues, my right hon. and learned Friend has decided to initiate a development programme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland starting in 1980–81. A separate programme is being mounted in Scotland. The programme will give schools and colleges a better understanding of the potential applications of microelectronics technology by commissioning new development projects and building on existing work in this field. A sum of £9 million at November 1979 prices will be made available for this purpose over the next four years.

Expenditure Cuts (Educational Standards)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what effect the recent cuts in education expenditure will have on standards in educational institutions.

The Government's planned reductions in expenditure on education in 1980–81 have been concentrated in areas not directly concerned with teaching in the classroom so as to ensure that standards in educational institutions can be maintained or improved.

If the Secretary of State is seriously intent on improving standards, will he provide more money to employ more teachers so as to reduce class sizes in the State schools, which cater for the vast majority of children, instead of proposing to put £60 million of public money into the pockets of the minority of parents who want to buy extra privileges—real or imaginary—by sending their children to private, fee-paying, selective schools?

I cannot offer more money for teachers at present. My proposals for 1980–81 assume an overall reduction in expenditure of 3½ per cent. at a time when the number of pupils will drop by 4.7 per cent. On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he knows full well that the assisted places scheme has no relationship whatsoever to the year 1980–81. It does not start until 1981–82, and then at a cost of £3 million.

May I urge my right hon. and learned Friend not always to listen to those who want to reduce class sizes? Will he consider using any extra money that may be available to pay teachers more so that more qualified people enter and stay in the profession?

We are certainly anxious to have a highly qualified teaching force, and that is why we are moving slowly to an all-graduate teaching profession.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the effect which the Government's policy is having on the service which local authorities throughout the country provide? For example, is he aware that in the city of Leeds, which has a Tory-controlled council, school meals will be increased by 5p, any school swimming parties that require transportation will be cancelled during the summer, free school milk will be cancelled for children, except those who have medical qualifications to obtain it and overseas students' tuition fees will be increased by 100 per cent? Is he further aware of the problems that that will create for many of our constituents? Will he also take into account the fact that the cutback in the youth service programme will amount to £75,000 in Leeds, and that young people in industry need youth clubs and facilities?

I am fully aware of the need to reduce public expenditiure overall, because if we do not do so, and if we cannot put more money back into the private sector, in the end we shall not have the wealth to provide the public services in this country.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the problems is that people are convinced that only by spending more money does one achieve a higher standard? Does he further agree that what we should do is, for example, to improve teacher training so that we are using the money that we are able to provide more effectively in the schools of Britain?

I totally agree. As I have just said, one of the purposes of our proposals on the core curriculum is to try to improve the standard of what is taught in schools.

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view, which has been expressed in the House and elsewhere—that cuts can be made outside the classroom—an absolute misconception of what is taking place? Has he noticed the views of the British Educational Equipment Association, the National Book League and the Educational Publishers' Council, which show that this year there will be a £4·5 million cut in capitation on books, a £1·5 million cut in spending and the equivalent in real terms of a 26 per cent. cut in expenditure on books in our schools? Can he really still say that the cuts will take place only outside the classroom and that they are not eating into education standards?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, all that I can do is to provide through the rate support grant for relevant expenditure. As to non-teaching costs, which includes books, we have assumed a 2 per cent. increase in expenditure in that area. But I repeat, against a reduction in the number of pupils of 4·7 per cent., we are looking for a 3·5 per cent. reduction in expenditure. A few Question Times ago, the hon. Gentleman said that if we achieved that it would be good husbandry.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? In view of the fact—

Order. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to indicate that he will raise the matter on the Adjournment?

Very well. The hon. Gentleman will seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Teachers' Trade Unions

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he intends to meet officials of the National Union of Teachers.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to meet representatives of the teachers' trade unions.

Mr. Mark Carlisle : I am hoping to meet representatives of the Association of Principals of Colleges later today, and I hope to attend the Easter conferences of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers.

I hope that the Minister does not get a roasting at that conference. Does the NUT accept his proposition that the quality of education has not been affected, and will not be affected, by the cuts that have already been made in public expenditure and the cuts that will come in the future? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, if the quality of education is to be maintained, local rates will inevitably have to be put up very substantially? Will he agree with the NUT if it puts pressure on the local authorities to increase the rates so as to maintain standards?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes to me when I attend the NUT conference. I realise that the NUT does not accept the arguments that I have put forward. However, let me give the hon. Gentleman one fact, which is that at present we have the lowest pupil-teacher ratio that we have ever had, and we envisage a continuation of that.

When the Secretary of State does meet the teachers' unions, and I am sure that he will receive a courteous reception, will he explain how he can afford to introduce an expensive assisted places scheme when education authorities such as Cheshire county council, as a result of a shortage of cash, have to axe sixth-form provision in a brand-new comprehensive school at Padgate in my constituency?

I can only repeat that the cost of the assisted places scheme does not start until the year 1981–82, and it is assumed that it will cost about £3 million out of a total education budget of £8 billion a year. That £3 million will go towards assisting individual parents whose children we believe will benefit from the opportunity of the education that they will be able to obtain.

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets the NUT, will lie diplomatically point out that his proposals for a common examination system have met with universal acceptance elsewhere?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sorry that the NUT was the only body which appeared to be out of step with the general reaction to the proposals that we have made.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many NUT members fear increasing friction between the voluntary and county schools within the maintained sector, partly through falling rolls, partly through the Education (No. 2) Bill and partly because of the action of certain churches, particularly the Church of England in respect of Twyford school in Ealing? Will he bear that in mind when he considers the section 13 application that is now before him?

I repeat that section 13 proposals will be looked at on their merits. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I am also concerned with the interests of parents. I believe that parents have the right to choose between both Church schools and maintained schools within as wide an area as possible.

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets officials of the NUT will he discuss with them ways whereby unauthorised absenteeism can be monitored on a county by county basis in order to eliminate school truancy as much as possible?

When I meet the NUT I am sure that many things of different natures affecting education will be discussed.

When the Secretary of State next meets the NUT does he expect to have any good news for it with regard to the transport clauses in the Education (No. 2) Bill, bearing in mind that the NUT was vigorously opposed to those clauses? Has his Department reconsidered its position with regard to those clauses, or does the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend that the Department should ride roughshod over the other place in the same way as he has ignored opinion in this House and outside on this issue?

The hon. Lady says that I have ignored opinion. There was a full debate on the transport clauses and they were carried by a majority vote of this House. If I had to tell the NUT conference that the transport clauses had been removed it would inevitably mean that savings would have to be found from elsewhere in the budget, which would have a far greater effect on the employment of teachers.

Assisted Places Scheme

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many applications he has now received from schools wishing to take part in the assisted places scheme; and whether he has ruled out any of the applicant schools.

In reply to the Department's letter of 6 December, 460 schools in England have indicated interest in the scheme on a provisional basis. These replies are still under consideration.

Is it not still the case that, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman has weeded out the schools that are not up to the standard that he has set for the scheme, he will not have enough places to meet his target? In view of the rather ungracious comments made by the Prime Minister about Lord Butler, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear whether Marlborough has applied to become part of the scheme and, if so, whether it has been accepted?

I realise that there are certain schools that have applied which may be unable to satisfy the criteria that we have set. That does not mean that I am not satisfied that the number of applications that we have had will more than meet the numbers we are considering. In fact, 118 of the 120 previous direct grant schools have applied. I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. The whole purpose of the scheme is to give to a wider area of parents the opportunity of a higher academic education at certain of the old direct grant schools which were forced to go independent by the actions of the Labour Party.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend nail the lie that has been put about by the Opposition that the assisted places scheme is actually going to cost money by telling the House how many thousands of millions of pounds the country would save if every child in the country went on the assisted places scheme?

If my hon. Friend wants an answer to that question, he will have to table it. Those who will be covered by the scheme would otherwise be educated at the total cost of the taxpayer within the maintained sector.

Is it not a fact that far fewer schools have applied for the scheme than the Minister expected—indeed, massively fewer, if I may use that adverb. Does that indicate that, even in Tory areas, comprehensive education is now accepted as a high form of education? Is this not a reality with which he is having to grapple? Will he not have to weed out some of the schools that have applied, with the result that he will have still fewer than he expected?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I repeat that of the 120 direct grant grammar schools in England which are in the process of becoming independent, 118 have asked to join the scheme.

Dispute (South Yorkshire)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will carry out an inquiry into the dispute in South Yorkshire which is currently causing some children to be deprived of classroom education as a result of the enforcement of maximum numbers for classes by teachers.

I am glad to be able to inform the House that this dispute has been resolved, and that the education of children in Rotherham is no longer subject to disruption.

Does the Minister agree that it is moss regrettable that children have had to suffer disruption of their education in the classroom because of a conflict between teachers and the local education authority? Does the Minister agree that we should send our best wishes to the two parents, the teachers and the education authority? Will he ensure that in future children's education does not suffer because of any conflict that arises? If a conflict does arise, will he issue some guidelines or advice to the teachers, the parents and the local education authority to ensure—

I concur with the hon. Gentleman's remarks. All hon. Members will be glad that, after 18 months, normal schooling has returned in Rotherham. The Department was by no means idle. My noble Friend the Minister of State met both sides. She was prepared to chair a meeting of both sides. However, now that the schools have gone back we hope that the good spirit will continue and that there will be no more disruption.

Business Studies

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied that there is sufficient provision within the school education syllabus to encourage pupils to follow courses in business studies.

Nearly all secondary schools in England offer options in business studies. About one-third of all pupils in the fourth and fifth years are involved in some elements of business studies. The adequacy of provision is a matter for individual local education authorities and schools to consider in the light of local circumstances.

Is the Minister aware that the degree of expertise among the teachers of business studies varies considerably? Will he examine that with a view to upgrading the standard of teachers of business studies, so as to get better results from the puils who take the subject?

The argument that the hon. Gentleman advances does not apply everywhere. In many local education authority areas the teaching is of the highest calibre. However, I hope that the point that he makes will become increasingly more understood by more local education authorities, by chief education officers and by chairmen of committees so that it is generally ensured that the highest standard is maintained.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that business studies are generally more suitable for older children—for example, those over 18 years of age—and that those under the age of 18 years should master the three 'Rs' and general education first before taking business studies?

I do not necessarily entirely subscribe to that view. Surely it is a matter for the individual head teacher to decide. In certain circumstances those in the fourth and fifth years could benefit from some introduction to business studies at that stage. I endorse the point that the subject is, perhaps, more suitable for children of an older age, but there can be no preconception about this

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q 1.

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 March.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider the ways in which county education authorities are putting the main burden of education cuts on to city schools and city children? Will she consider how to convey to county education authorities, such as the authority in Leicester, the anxiety and the anger of parents and teachers alike at the cuts in nursery education, the cuts in ancillaries and the mean and dangerous cuts in the number of school crossing attendants?

I am not aware of any such tendency as that which the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned as far as county education authorities are concerned. I do not believe that they are deliberately putting cuts on the main cities in their areas. I am certain that he will take it up with his own authority if that is the case there. As for the general education budget, I can only remind him that the cost per pupil in the education service will continue to rise and be met under the education budget.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the country, British management and the trade unions, that orders equal production equals jobs equals profit equals investment equals more jobs, and that that is the basis of the return to a healthy industrial economy?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting it so brilliantly and so succinctly. I wholly endorse what he says.

Is the Prime Minister and her party pleased with Mr. Mugabe's decisive election victory? Would it not be appropriate if the right hon. Lady publicly warned the South African authorities not to interfere in any way with the newly independent Government of that country?

I think that the most appropriate thing that I can do is to say that the arrangement of free and fair elections under all the circumstances has been an outstanding achievement, which many people a few months ago would have thought impossible, that the Governor is to be warmly congratulated as are the Army, the monitoring forces under General Acland and the police. The object was to arrange those elections. It was for the people of Rhodesia to say exactly whom they wished to have under those elections. The Governor has, of course, today seen Mr. Mugabe and asked him to set in train the processes of forming a Government. But it is now a time for reconciliation, of hope and encouragement for all of those who fought in the election to work together.

Did my right hon. Friend notice yesterday that sterling depreciated against the dollar by three cents? May I congratulate her on resisting pressure in the past few weeks temporarily to increase our minimum lending rate? Will she ensure that the Bank of England in the course of the next few weeks does not react to the depreciation of sterling by increasing our MLR?

I had, indeed, noticed the fall. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is never possible to have artificial restraints that will resist the market for long. I believe that the most important thing at the moment, if we are to get inflation down, is to control the money supply. That will be the prime objective of our policy.

Did not the Prime Minister make one strange omission from her list of congratulations? Should she not congratulate the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and wish him well in the difficult task that he is to undertake?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we usually do that on the day when independence is given. Of course, we wish the whole of Zimbabwe well in forming a Government and in taking over the duties that it will shortly assume on independence.

Professional And Executive Register

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will take steps to disband the Professional and Executive Register of the Manpower Services Commission.

We shall take a decision on the future of the Professional and Executive Register shortly.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the steadily decreasing share of the market obtained by this service, and the steadily increasing cost in gross terms to the Exchequer? Is she further aware that the nationalised industries have refused to use the service, and that the private sector cannot afford to use it? In those circumstances, is it not time that the money was put to more effective use?

I am aware that only one in 25 people on the register secure jobs by means of the register. However, they must be registered somewhere, if they are to receive unemployment benefit. The future of the PER is under review, and the question is whether people should have to register under the general employment register or whether the Professional and Executive Register should be reshaped and restyled so as to be more economical, and people should still be able to register under it. I shall convey my hon. Friend's sentiments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Will the Prime Minister in her role as Minister for the Civil Service, tell the civil servants who work for the Manpower Services Commission that they are entitled to write to their Member of Parliament if their jobs are threatened? Is she aware that one of my constituents, a Mrs. Joyce Butler, has been told that if she writes to me again, disciplinary action may be taken.

I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that if that has happened I shall of course inquire into it, if he will give me the details. I have never found that those people, in the Civil Service whom I represent in my constituency do anything other than write to me if they have problems.

In view of the disturbing forecast that unemployment is likely to rise over the next two years, will my right hon. Friend confirm the report of the Manpower Services Commission that the Government will expand the youth opportunities programme so that no child leaving school this year will be without work or training?

As my hon. Friend is aware, my right hon. Friend made an announcement the other day about extending many employment opportunities. It is particularly our intention to help as many young people as we can.

Will the Prime Minister persuade the Manpower Services Commission to retain the Professional and Executive Register at least until after the next general election, when there should be an upsurge in demand for its services among existing Conservative Members?

It may be that even more Labour Members will be looking for a job then.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 4 March.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the country welcomes the resolve, expressed in her Airey Neave memorial lecture, to continue dispelling illusions about economic reality? Will she dispel, in particular, the illusion that the nation can afford to pay wages in the public sector in conformity with the rate of inflation? Will she bear that in mind when considering the doctrine of comparability, and any proposals emanating from the Clegg Commission?

I agree with my hon. Friend that none of us can automatically have pay indexed to inflation, because the country has to earn its keep. If we do not earn it, the pay is not there and the result will be inflation.

With regard to the point on the Clegg Commission, we are still picking up the tab for many pay claims that were referred to Clegg before the last election. The previous Government referred many cases from the public sector to Clegg, and we are honouring the awards that have been made.

Did the Prime Minister see the photographs of the recent National Front demonstration, and did she note the age of some of the participants? Some were of about school age. Will she ensure that local education authorities, such as ILEA, have sufficient funds available, over and above those funds that are already available, to eliminate the threat to the rule of law imposed by racialism?

The hon. Gentleman will know that if there is any contravention of the law, the matter will be for the police, and if there is any question of public order, the police have powers to deal with it. We have no sympathy with the aims and objectives of the National Front whatsoever.

Now that President Carter has apologised to Israel for the United States vote in the United Nations, will the Prime Minister consider this an appropriate time—now that the results of the Zimbabwe elections are known—to demand an apology from the United States for its hostile vote against the United Kingdom when Zimbabwe was being debated in the United Nations?

If he looks at the speeches that were made in the Security Council, my hon. Friend will see that the United States told other members of the Security Council that Britain did not need any lessons from the other members on how to conduct free and fair elections. The United States has been very helpful to us in our duties in Rhodesia.

How does the Prime Minister reconcile her Government's policy of encouraging exports to the Soviet Union with her advice to the British Olympic Committee?

The Government's policy on exports to the Soviet Union continues, except in two regards. We should not in any way substitute for the wheat which the United States is not providing, and we should attempt to reduce the amount of technology that we export to the Soviet Union, provided that our partners are prepared to do the same.

With regard to the Olympics, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to continue to hold the Olympics in Moscow would be taken as a tremendous feat of propaganda for the Soviet Government and for the Soviet system. That is something with which we could not possibly agree.

While on the subject of illusions, will the Prime Minister help to dispel the illusion that a 17 per cent. minimum lending rate helps to contain inflation, and has little or no effect on exchange rates?

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, no one could be more anxious to reduce the 17 per cent. interest rate than I am. As he knows, with his expertise, the best and quickest way to do that is for the Government to take less of the supply of money into their own coffers and to borrow less. Therefore we must reduce public spending.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 4 March.

Will the Prime Minister indicate by what rationale the Government are now taking on 1,000 extra staff to check social security fraud—which is officially estimated to cost the United Kingdom less than £4 million a year—when there are only 270 tax fraud staff in the Inland Revenue, and when tax fraud is estimated by the chairman of the Inland Revenue to cost the country between £2,000 million and £3,000 million a year?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, the Government's action in trying to track down fraud has been largely welcomed by the people of the country. As he knows, every time that someone takes money from social security by fraud the amount available for unfortunate people is reduced. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Inland Revenue must have around 79,000 or 80,000 staff, which should be abundant to track down fraud.

Will the Prime Minister accept that the House is disappointed by the decision of the British Olympic athletes not to boycott the Olympic Games? Will she congratulate the British athletes on exercising an option that was denied to the people of Afghanistan?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government can only advise, and people are free to make their own decisions. I do not believe that a final decision has yet been made. A number of people will delay that decision until the last minute—by which the invitation has to be accepted. I believe that that is much later. However, I hope that there will still be some delay before the final decision.

On several occasions during the last few weeks the Prime Minister has mentioned the right to work. Is there any level of unemployment that the Prime Minister would find unacceptable?

The greatest increase in unemployment in this country in the post-war period took place under the previous Government. Unemployment is no part of my policy whatsoever. We shall do everything that we can to see that it does not rise as fast as it did under the previous Government.

Rhodesia (Elections)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on Rhodesia.

The results of the Common Roll elections held last week were announced this morning. They give Mr. Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party 57 seats, Mr. Nkomo's Patriotic Front party 20 seats and Bishop Muzorewa's UANC party three seats.

In his report to the Governor the Election Commissioner concluded that despite some distortion of voting as a result of intimidation in certain areas the overall result would broadly reflect the wishes of the people.

It has been the virtually unanimous view of the British, Commonwealth and other international observers who witnessed the elections that they were, in the circumstances, free and fair. The exceptionally high turnout provides an indication of the confidence of the Rhodesian people in the conduct of the elections and the secrecy of the vote.

The Government are grateful for the efforts of all those concerned with the organisation of the elections for their unstinting work.

The need now is for national unity and reconciliation. The Governor has seen Mr. Mugabe, as leader of the party with an absolute majority of the seats in the House of Assembly, and asked him to set in train the process of forming a Government that can contribute effectively to these goals.

An important step toward reconciliation and the integration of forces has already been taken with the start of joint training between units of Mr. Mugabe's and Mr. Nkomo's forces and of the Rhodesian Army, under the supervision of British members of the monitoring force.

The growing confidence and contact between the two forces means that the role of the monitoring force is increasingly one of liaison and training, and there will be a phased reduction in its size. The first members will return to the United Kingdom today.

The Government would wish to record once again their thanks to all members of the force for the admirable way in which they carried out their difficult task, above all in winning the confidence of all sides.

The people of Rhodesia have now made their choice of Government under conditions agreed by all the parties at Lancaster House, who committed themselves to accept the outcome of the election. It is no less important that the other aspects of the Lancaster House agreements reached should be faithfully observed.

The independence constitution, which will shortly come into force, provides safeguards for the minority community and will ensure that it can continue to play its full part in the life of the country.

Britain's task now is to assist in the orderly transfer of power to a stable Government. The Governor will do all that he can to ease the transition and to help overcome whatever problems may arise in the period until independence.

In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), who is in Rhodesia, I warmly welcome the statement by the Lord Privy Seal and fully endorse his view and the view of all independent observers, including hon. Members of this House, that the election was conducted freely and fairly. We congratulate Mr. Mugabe on his victory, the statesmanship that he has shown, and the will with which he has made clear that he wishes to see a united Zimbabwe and is taking steps to ensure the confidence of people of all races and colours in that country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that I pay tribute to the work of the Foreign Secretary, first in Lusaka and again at Lancaster House, for having made this ceasefire and election possible? We also pay tribute to the invaluable role of the Commonwealth, the soldiers of the Commonwealth monitoring force, who played a crucial role in maintaining the ceasefire, the work of Commonwealth Heads of Government, especially those in Africa, and the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how long he expects the period to be until independence? I assure him that we accept that the Governor should stay for as long as can be agreed with the new Government and hope that the decision of Zimbabwe to become a member of the Commonwealth will be recognised by the early appointment of a high commissioner of high standing.

May we have an assurance that everything possible will be done to help with the rehabilitation of refugees, both inside and outside Zimbabwe, and that all technical, administrative and financial assistance will be generously given to the new Government?

Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the British members of the Commonwealth monitoring force will remain in position for as long as they are needed to carry out the crucial role of integrating the forces?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's confirmation of the freeness and fairness of the election, and for the tribute that he paid to my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary.

I cannot give an exact answer to the right hon. Member's question about how long the period will be before independence. That will depend on matters beyond our control, such as the actions of Mr. Mugabe in the formation of his Government. The right hon. Gentleman and the House will be aware that Mr. Mugabe has asked that the Governor should stay as long as he thinks fit. There will certainly be no rush for him to leave.

As we made clear in the Lancaster House agreements and since, we shall discuss with the new independence Government what assistance will be necessary. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, a large number of refugees have already returned and we shall assist in their rehabilitation.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that we on the Liberal Benches consider that the carrying out of these elections without upset was a major success, for which all concerned deserve full credit and congratulations, including the people of Zimbabwe? It was a major success, and no one should detract from that in any way.

Does the Lord Privy Seal accept that the emergence of one party with a clear majority may, at the end of the day, be the best outcome, especially in view of the doubts being cast by the Government last week about who would be selected to form a Government?

Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is in the best interests of this country that good relations should be established between our Government and the new Government of Zimbabwe, especially in view of the political differences that exist between them, and that the Governor should stay in Zimbabwe at Mr. Mugabe's request for as long as is reasonable?

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The holding of free and fair elections in these unprecedented and difficult circumstances, almost at the end of a civil war, was an extraordinary achievement, which reflects enormous credit on the Governor, the monitoring force, the Commonwealth force, the policemen who went out there and everyone concerned with the election arrangements.

It is certainly not for me—it may be right for the House—to express an opinion on the question whether an overall majority for one party was the right result. That was entirely a matter for the people of Zimbabwe, and they have so chosen. Naturally, we want good relations with the new Government. That was implicit throughout the negotiations at Lancaster House and is implicit in the agreements. As I said, the Governor will stay in Zimbabwe until independence. However, immediately independence is declared the Governor must, of necessity, leave.

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that Mr. Mugabe's victory represents a major defeat for the West? Does he agree that it brings Soviet influence to within a few hundred miles of the mineral resources of South Africa, on which Western and Japanese industry depends? To that extent this victory is comparable, in terms of the danger that it poses, to the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan.

Does my right hon. Friend further recognise that Mr. Mugabe's victory owes much to the systematic destruction of Bishop Muzorewa's authority by the Government, and is it not time now to embark on a total revision of British policy towards Central and Southern Africa?

I am afraid that I must disagree with every part of my right hon. Friend's question. To say that free and fair elections are a major defeat for the West is surely not a very Western attitude. It was Mr. Molotov who said that the trouble with free elections was that one could never be sure of the result. I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not really agree with that attitude.

On the question of Soviet influence, again I must disagree. I have no evidence at all that Mr. Mugabe is under Soviet influence—quite the contrary in fact. Nor do I see any parallel whatever with Afghanistan. For my right hon. Friend to say that we have gone in for the systematic destruction of Bishop Muzorewa is totally unjustified. Nobody would wish to diminish the part that Bishop Muzorewa and his colleagues have played in bringing about majority rule and ending the war in Zimbabwe.

It has always been common ground in this House that the people of Zimbabwe should have the determining say about who should govern them on independence. Hon. Members will recall the leading role that Bishop Muzorewa played at the time of the Pearce Commission and subsequently in the pursuit of genuine majority rule. At long last this has come about, and the whole House will pay tribute to the Bishop's contribution. In view of the very low vote that the UANC received, however, to claim that this was caused by any action of the British Government is a travesty of what took place.

Will the right hon. Gentleman extend the congratulations of the Government and this House to Mr. Mugabe on his election victory? In a spirit of reconciliation, will the Government now make two clear commitments—first, to the new Government of Zimbabwe, in that if they require financial help for reconstruction to repair the ravages of war, the British Government will provide it; and, secondly, to Zimbabwe's territorial integrity by telling the South African Government that they will not be allowed to interfere in the future of Zimbabwe?

Normally it is customary to send formal congratulations at the time of independence. Of course we congratulate Mr. Mugabe on his victory.

[Interruption]. It is all very well for Labour Members to make animal noises, but we negotiated with Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Nkomo and Bishop Muzorewa.

We are prepared to provide various forms of assistance after independence. That remains the position, and of course we shall do what we can to help the new Government.

On the question of South Africa, I honestly do not think that the hon. Member is being very helpful. The South African Prime Minister put out a statement that was perfectly correct in every way, and it is not for the hon. Member to make such remarks.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of us at least on the Government Benches would like to congratulate Mr. Mugabe, both on his election victory and on the statesmanlike nature of his victory speech? We welcome the moderate nature of the policies that he has put forward and his decision to join the Commonwealth. May I add my name to the list of those who have already congratulated the Governor, the Foreign Secretary and the whole Foreign Office team on this magnificent achievement?

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. Mr. Mugabe has made some very encouraging statements today about the need for a broad national Government and the need to inspire national confidence.

May I fulfil my promise and congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on bringing about this result? If that makes him feel bad, he should spare a thought for Tiny Rowland's feelings today. Why is it that whenever we get to this stage of post-Imperial hand-over we, and the Foreign Office in particular, fail to make a correct assessment about the indigenous people of the country that we have ruled for so long? Is it not time that the Foreign Office changed its way of assessing public opinion in the Third world so that it goes to the people concerned and not to the white Establishment?

The difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself is that I would have welcomed the results of free and fair elections whatever they were, and I do not think that he would have done so. As for his remarks about the Foreign Office not being aware of the views of people whom we have ruled for so long, I must point out that we have not ruled Rhodesia since 1921, so it is not surprising that the Foreign Office should not be so well aware.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that real elections in Africa, with universal suffrage, are an illusion? Will he say whether his Department is still living in a dreamland of Kenyattas after it has just forged another Nyerere, or worse?

My hon. and learned Friend refuses to recognise the facts. There is overwhelming evidence that these elections were free and fair. My hon. and learned Friend was not there. The elections may be an illusion to him, but they were a reality to everyone else. Certainly I agree that free elections in Africa are rare, and therefore I think that some of the Commonwealth Governments who criticised us in the run-up to the elections should do some re-thinking.

The Lord Privy Seal has had his share of accolades today, but will he not accept that there are others who should share the praises? Those are the people who made the elections possible—the British Election Commission, which did an absolutely excellent job in the administration of the election; those Government officers of all the cities and towns, who were in a very tricky situation and came out of it well; and whoever thought of that stroke of genius of sending out our policemen. No one trusted anyone, but as soon as the policemen went out there they clearly inspired confidence in the secrecy of the vote, which was particularly important.

No praise is too high for the Commonwealth monitoring force. It had a difficult job to do in unpredictable circumstances. It had to monitor and assemble over 22,000 guerrillas in camps. It did so without a shot being fired. It was ably led by Major General Acland and his staff. Our praise should go out to them all.

The House will be aware that the right hon. Gentleman has just come back from Rhodesia. He therefore speaks with great authority. I am most grateful to him for his remarks. I agree that no praise is too high for all those involved in keeping the ceasefire and in organising the elections. I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

With the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), I was a member of the parliamentary delegation that observed the elections. I associate myself with all that he said by way of tribute to the Election Commissioner, local government officers, monitoring forces and others who have done so much to inspire confidence in Zimbabwe and Britain about the manner in which the elections were conducted.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before the results were declared all members of the delegation were satisfied that they would represent a fair expression of the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe, despite a degree of intimidation that was not wholly one-sided? I associate myself also with the tributes that have been paid to the Governor. He has done a magnificent job in difficult and unpredictable circumstances. However, will my right hon. Friend tell us a little more precisely when independence day will be? Does he agree that the sooner the Governor is replaced by a high commissioner the better?

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. He has spoken with authority about the conduct of the elections and their freeness and fairness. It cannot be repeated too often that enormous credit is reflected on all those who took part. I am sorry that I cannot give a specific answer to the second part of my right hon. and learned Friend's question. It is too early to give an exact date for independence. My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Soames invited Mr. Mugabe to form a Government only this morning. As my right hon. and learned Friend will know, the formation of the Senate and the election of a president will follow. I cannot, therefore, give an exact date for independence. I shall not go all the way with my right hon. and learned Friend in saying "the sooner the better". This issue should not be rushed, although clearly there should be no undue delay.

I wish to underline the remarks made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). It is important to place on record that all members of the parliamentary group of observers stated that the elections were free and fair before the result was known and before the first vote had been cast. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) stated that he was interested in free and fair elections. Will the Lord Privy Seal consider withdrawing his slight upon my hon. Friend concerning his attitude? Will he also answer the question put to him previously? There has been tremendous devastation in Zimbabwe. Many refugees have not yet returned. Those who were previously fighting in the bush but who are now in camps need retraining. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore be more forthcoming about the amount of aid to be given? A proper rehabilitation programme is needed.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remarks concerning the conduct of the elections. However, as to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and myself, there is not much chance of either of us withdrawing anything that we say to each other. I have nothing more to add on the question of aid. Nothing more can be said until the new independence Government have been formed.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be wrong to prejudge any actions of the new Government in Zimbabwe? Many people were wrong to prejudge the actions of my right hon. Friend's Government when they came into power. I say that in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe - Rhodesia. Will it be possible to build on the success of those free and fair elections and to achieve the same type of elections in other countries in Africa? Does my right hon. Friend agree that we might start with Angola, where a similar guerrilla war continues? Hopefully, free and fair elections could be extended to many other countries that have not seen such elections for a long time.

It is premature to judge the new Government. No Government have as yet been formed. We do not know who will be included. I commend to the House the attitude of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Home. To seek to produce free elections in other countries is a noble ambition, which, I do not wish to pursue at present.

I most warmly congratulate the Foreign Secretary and his minions here below on the extraordinary and unexpected success of the whole operation. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that Mr. Mugabe's clear success is the best guarantee of Western interests in Southern Africa and the best guarantee for the future of the white citizens of Zimbabwe? Further, to what extent will the Governor continue to have executive powers, particularly as regards the Southern Rhodesian security forces?

I am not sure that I agree that the election has been an "unexpected success". Throughout the Lancaster House agreements and during many debates last year we said that we were confident that we would be able to organise free and fair elections. It is not for me or, with respect, this House to say what the result of this election will mean to other people. We know only that this is the unequivocable verdict of the Rhodesian people. We cannot go any further than that.

The executive power of the Governor will last as long as he is Governor—that is, until the day of independence.

I propose to call four more hon. Members from either side. That will provide a very good run indeed.

Will it not be in keeping with the interests of Rhodesia and with the traditions of this House if we look to the future and not to the past? Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that Mr. Mugabe will be welcome in London whenever he wishes to come here? I hope that Mr. Mugabe will go down the path of Kenyatta and of Makarios and not down that of Castro or Nyerere. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that trade between Britain and Rhodesia will be encouraged in every respect? Will he confirm that we will ensure that pensioners are looked after? Finally, does he agree that we should encourage Rhodesia and South Africa to come as close together as possible?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we should look to the future. We shall do everything possible to foster good relations between Zimbabwe and Britain. If Mr. Mugabe wishes to visit this country he will be warmly welcomed. I think that he feels that he spent quite a lot of time in Britain last autumn. He may not wish to come back so quickly.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the issue of pensioners was discussed at Lancaster House. An agreement was reached. We cannot go any further than that.

Does the Lord Privy Seal accept that the vast majority of hon. Members wish to add their congratulations and that they side with him in his dispute with a certain element, namely, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery)? Does he agree that any danger of Russian influence infiltrating the Government and people of Zimbabwe will come only from an attempt to destabilise the Government of Zimbabwe by South Africa, or any other country that has boundaries with Zimbabwe?

Of course, any attempt to destabilise the new Government would be deplorable, but there has been no suggestion of that and I hope that the House will not make any such suggestion.

I congratulate all concerned on the conduct of the election, but will my right hon. Friend say what proposals the Government have for safeguarding the future and pensions of the security forces and the Civil Service in Zimbabwe?

My hon. Friend will be aware that that was discussed and decided at the Lancaster House conference. He will also be aware of the statesmanlike statement that General Walls made last night. He said:

"We are not going to allow jealousy or old hatreds or bitterness to affect our actions. We will be looking forward in a spirit of reconciliation to maintaining law and order."
That statement sums up the position better than anything that I can say.

In view of the dismay expressed over the election results by some of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends, will he make clear to the House that the Government will be no less forthcoming with offers of aid and other assistance to a Government led by Robert Mugabe than they would have been had Bishop Muzorewa been the victor in the election?

I have already answered four questions on aid to Zimbabwe. My answer remains the same, and I hope that it will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that a victory by the Marxists, regardless of how the elections in Rhodesia were conducted, can hardly be described as favourable to the West? On reflection, does he agree that the Bishop is entitled to feel a betrayed and disillusioned man? In view of the pending proximity of a Marxist State to South Africa, will my right hon. Friend have discussion with the South African authorities with a view to defending our interests and particularly the trade route around the Cape?

I do not believe that it is a great asset to clear thought to tie labels on people or States. As I said earlier, we do not yet know the exact formation of the Government. To call it a Marxist Government appears to be totally fallacious.

I frankly do not know what my hon. Friend means when he says that we betrayed the bishop. We provided free and fair elections. I have already expressed my admiration for the bishop and the gratitude of the House for the way that he behaved. The fact that he lost the election can hardly mean that we betrayed him.

As to the trade routes around South Africa, my hon. Friend will be aware that Rhodesia is landlocked.

Reverting to the question of financial aid on which the Lord Privy Seal has been a little reticent, does he agree that due to the privations of war rural areas will need immediate assistance? In view of the Government's cuts in the overseas aid budget, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that aid to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, particularly the rural areas, will be outside the current aid budget?

No, I cannot confirm that. When the aid budget was drawn up we were aware of the likely need for aid to Zimbabwe, but I am afraid that I can say no more than that. I have already given undertakings to the House.

While congratulating my right hon. Friend and the Government and not forgetting the good West Country general in charge of the monitoring force, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he will back up the achievement with a programme of aid and encouragement to get Zimbabwe-Rhodesia under way again? Will he also encourage other countries to give it a fair wind? It needs time to settle down and get on with its business.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have already stated our position on aid. My hon. Friend will be aware that Commissioner Cheysson has been very helpful about European Community aid to Rhodesia. We shall certainly encourage our friends, allies and all other countries to help in that endeavour.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most daunting tasks facing the new Government in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia will be to integrate the various armies? Given that members of the British forces have built up a degree of good will over the past weeks and months, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that should the new Government need technical and military assistance, particularly with training and integration, it will be fully and freely given?

As I said in my statement, a start has been made. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is an extremely important matter. I have suggested that some of the liaison team will stay on for a bit. Anything else must be subject to conversations and agreements between the Governor and the new Government of Zimbabwe.

Bill Presented

National Health Service (Invalid Direction)

Mr. Secretary Jenkin, supported by Mr. Attorney-General, Dr. Gerard Vaughan, and Sir George Young presented a Bill to give temporary effect to an instrument purporting to be a direction given by the Secretary of State for Social Services: And the same was read the First Time; and ordered to be read a Second Time tomorrow and to be printed [Bill 155].

Statutory Instruments, &C

Ordered,

That the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution of Zimbabwe) (Elections and Appointments) (Amendment) Order 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 243) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That at this day's sitting, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business), if proceeding on the Motions relating to Review Body on Top Salaries, Members' Office, Secretarial and Research Allowance, Car Mileage Allowances for Members' Spouses and Grants for Former Members have not been disposed of by Ten o'clock, any amendments to the first Motion which have been selected by Mr. Speaker may thereupon be moved, the Questions thereon shall be put forthwith and Mr. Speaker shall then proceed forthwith to put the Question upon the said Motion and any Questions necessary to dispose of the other Motions and of any Amendments moved thereto which have been selected by him.—[Mr. Waddington.]

Ordered,

That, at this day's sitting, Standing Order No. 67 (Public bills relating exclusively to Scotland) shall apply to proceedings on the Highlands and Islands Air Services (Scotland) Bill with the substitution of the words 'Committee of the whole House' for the words Scottish Standing Committee' in paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Standing Order.—[Mr. Waddington.]

Ordered,

That, if the Highlands and Islands Air Services (Scotland) Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Resolution come to by the House on Highlands and Islands Air Services (Scotland) [Money] have been concluded this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.—[Mr. Waddington.]

Government Of Scotland (Scottish Convention)

4.6 pm

On this auspicious day, when the Pax Britannica has brought successful free elections to Zimbabwe, I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish an elected Convention in Scotland; to enable the Convention to draw up proposals for the government of Scotland by an elected Assembly; and to make provision for a referendum and implementation of the proposals in the event of an affirmative vote.
Last year a referendum took place in which 1,230,937 Scots voted in favour of a Scottish Assembly. It was a narrow but clear majority for those in favour of the principle of an elected legislature and executive Government in Scotland, with the Executive responsible to the legislature.

Since then the subject has been dormant, but in recent weeks and months public attention has been drawn once again to the issue. That is doubtless partly due to the inadequate agenda produced by the Government to deal with the issues raised last year. A recent BBC television opinion poll showed that there is now a higher level of support for the legislative Assembly and the Executive than last year.

I do not pretend that the package, as framed, was without warts or blemish. My right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), myself and the Scottish National Party had many reservations about the powers contained in the constitutional package. We felt then, and feel now, that it was too weak and that it would have no influence over universities, industry or commerce. We feel that it would have no sources of finance and, above all, no access to Scottish oil revenues. Indeed, had the powers provided in the Act equalled the maximalist proposals in the Northern Ireland White Paper published a few months ago, I believe that they would have merited much greater support than the package put forward by the previous Government in the referendum. The SNP has always sought full self-government for Scotland, and is disappointed by the powers that would have been given to the Assembly.

We accept, as must the unionists and others with different views, that the referendum vote cannot be ignored and treated as if it did not exist. Had a "No" vote been recorded by a narrow majority, the House would have been more ready to recognise that something remained to be done. As the majority voted "Yes", it has been almost entirely discounted.

The Scottish people voted "Yes" for the principle of control by an elected legislature and Executive, even if the powers and limits were open to debate. We must accept that there was a majority vote cast by a nation whose prime constitutional base was always the sovereignty of the people rather than that of the Crown or Parliament. Indeed, Scottish constitutional law takes a different stand on this matter from that of the kingdom of England. That sovereignty is undiminished by the 40 per cent. rule, an innovation that was completely unknown in the Western democratic world. That was imposed by the House—as it was entitled to be—against the will of the majority of Scottish Members of Parliament. That sovereignty is unaffected by the repeal of the Scotland Act last summer—against the wishes of the majority of Scottish Members of Parliament.

That fact was recognised by Lord Home of the Hirsel, who said on 24 February 1979, in an article in the Scottish Daily Express, that regardless of the outcome of the referendum, particularly if it were "No", the issue should remain top of the political agenda. That was echoed by the Prime Minister on 28 February 1979, when she said that a "No" vote would not mean that the question would be buried.

In view of the events of recent months, especially the repeal of the Scotland Act, the previous devolution package is dead. It was repealed. However, the " Yes " vote—the majority vote in the referendum —and the assurances given by the Prime Minister and Lord Home of the Hirsel still remain and should be attended to.

It was scandalous that the Government gave in to IRA pressure by producing a White Paper on Northern Ireland that proposed a substantial legislative and Executive power but ignored the clear democratic mandate that the Scots cast In free and fair elections and the referendum. In view of today's events—the results of the Zimbabwe election have come through—we should underline the importance of the free vote in the referendum.

In spite of the dormant period, this issue has not gone away. Politics is a dynamic business. The short, temporary breathing space will not last long.

How do we tackle the problem? We can await the return of the Scottish National Party in strength. A challenge was laid down by the House. I willingly take it up. I assure the House that events will flow our way. The House has the option, on the anniversary of the referendum, to consider this Bill in view of the democratic majority. I stress that point.

I suggest in the Bill that there should be a Scottish Convention—a body elected by proportional representation in line with the single-Member constituencies and party list system advanced by the late John Mackintosh, a respected Member of this House, in an amendment to the Scotland Bill. The Convention would have the task of working out the constitution and powers of an assembly or parliamentary body in Scotland and reporting the outcome to the Government. The Bill does not lay down the methods of approach of the Convention. Indeed, the Convention would be open-ended in that direction, subject to the will of the Scottish people and the elections to it. It would not be unreasonable for the Convention to use the recently published White Paper on Northern Ireland as a starting point, as it contains a set of model proposals acceptable to the Government encompassing industrial and commerial power. That power must be returned to Scotland in view of growing unemployment.

When the Convention reports, the recommendations will be sent to the Secretary of State for submission to the Cabinet. By negotiation with the Convention, the constitutional package may then be agreed. We have experience of what can be done if the Government of the United Kingdom turn their attention, as in the case of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, to a difficult situation.

In the event of agreement being reached on the package, that could go before the Scottish people by means of a referendum, to get their backing. In the event of a "Yes" vote being achieved in that referendum, the proposals could be placed before Parliament under the Order in Council procedure for approval by affirmative resolution of each House.

On the anniversary of the referendum, this Bill represents a new initiative. It brings the issue of Scottish government back home where it belongs. It will allow the Scottish representatives to argue out their various viewpoints to achieve a Parliament whose powers will be more workable than the Scottish Assembly mark I, which came before us last year.

4.16 pm

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has at this time and in this way tried to revive the corpse of a Scottish Assembly. It is only one year since the Scottish people made clear beyond any doubt that they did not support the concept of a Scottish Assembly. The members of the Scottish National Party may not like that fact, but it is the truth. It is clear that only one-third of the Scottish electorate was persuaded to vote in favour of that Assembly; one-third was persuaded to vote against. The key fact, which the hon. Gentleman omitted to mention, is that time after time the supporters of the Assembly said to the electors "If you do not vote in this referendum, that will count as a 'No' vote". In the rough weather of last February and March, many elderly people in particular found that not voting was the best way to register their opposition to a Scottish Assembly. The referendum made that quite clear.

The second reason for my surprise is that we know what happened to the Scottish National Party at the last election. Its members came forward with even further advanced ideas. They were absolutely massacred at the polls. The fact that the hon. Member for Dundee, East has only one right hon. Friend on the Bench beside him proves that. It is even more surprising that the hon. Gentleman should seek to revive the corpse of the Assembly. At its last party conference the Scottish National Party agreed by an overwhelming majority to have no future dealings with any Assembly or with devolution.

The third reason for my surprise is that talks are now going on in this House to discover whether there is some way in which the procedures of the government of Scotland can be improved. [Interruption.] The Opposition may not like those talks, but they are certainly going on. If anybody wants to know how serious is the Scottish National Party about wanting to improve the government of Scotland, there is an answer in the fact that it refused even to take part in those talks. That shows how shallow is its commitment to improving the government of Scotland.

At this stage I do not want to go through all the arguments that arise naturally out of what the hon. Gentleman proposes. A strong argument against a Convention leading to an Assembly is the fact that it would lead to more government when we want less and to more bureaucracy when we want less, and therefore to more expenditure and taxation, when we all want less taxation and expenditure, especially on bureaucrats.

The hon. Gentleman made no attempt to answer the fundamental constitutional point that arose time after time in the House. We cannot have a British constitution under which Scottish Members of Parliament have a right to legislate on education, health, and roads for parts of England, whereas Members of Parliament representing English seats do not have the right to do that for Scotland. That difficulty would arise as a result of the Assembly that the hon. Gentleman proposes. That would be constitutionally unfair and divisive.

I ask Parliament to consider from where this suggestion comes. It comes from the party in this House that is dedicated to the break-up of the United Kingdom. Indeed only on Saturday the hon. Member's election agent inserted in a local newspaper a little tombstone message, which said:
"Now it is independence, nothing less".
We can therefore draw no other conclusion than that the hon. Member's frivolous gambit today is designed to lead this House not, as he says, to an Assembly, but even further down the road. He wants independence, and he sees this as the first step towards the break-up of Britain. Whatever be the arguments of hon. Members on both sides of the House on this matter, I hope that they will agree, no matter what they may want in terms of constitutional reform in this country, that this Bill is certainly no way to go about constitutional reform.

Division No. 210]

AYES

[4.20 pm

Alton, DavidHome Robertson, JohnTorney, Tom
Beith, A. J.Howells, GeraintWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Kilfedder, James A.Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
Campbell-Savours, DaleLambie, David
Canavan, DennisPenhallgon, DavidTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Mr. D. E. Thomas and
Foulkes, GeorgeSteel, Rt Hon DavidMr. Dafydd Wigley.
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)

NOES

Abse, LeoFlsher, Sir NigelLuce, Richard
Alexander, RichardFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Lyell, Nicholas
Ancram, MichaelFletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcCusker, H.
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Fookes, Miss JanetMacfarlane, Neil
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Forman, NigelMacGregor, John
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMarlow, Tony
Bell, Sir RonaldFox, MarcusMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Mather, Carol
Berry, Hon AnthonyGardiner, George (Reigate)Maude, Rt Hon Angus
Best, KeithGarel-Jones, TristanMawby, Ray
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMawhinney, Dr Brian
Blackburn, JohnGlyn, Dr AlanMellor, David
Boscawen, Hon RobertGoodhew, VictorMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Gow, IanMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Bowden, AndrewGower, Sir RaymondMills, Iain (Meriden)
Boyson, Dr RhodesGray, HamishMills, Peter (West Devon)
Brinton, TimGreenway, HarryMoate, Roger
Brittan, LeonGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Molyneaux, James
Brooke, Hon PeterGummer, John SelwynMonro, Hector
Brotherton, MichaelHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Moore, John
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Browne, John (Winchester)Hampson, Dr KeithMudd, David
Bulmer, EsmondHannam, JohnMurphy, Christopher
Butcher, JohnHaselhurst, AlanMyles, David
Cadbury, JocelynHastings, StephenNeedham, Richard
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNelson, Anthony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hawksley, WarrenNeubert, Michael
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Hayhoe, BarneyNewton, Tony
Channon, PaulHeddle, JohnPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Chapman, SydneyHenderson, BarryPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Churchill, W. S.Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelParkinson, Cecil
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Hooson, TomPatten, John (Oxford)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hordern, PeterPawsey, James
Clegg, Sir WalterHowe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPercival, Sir Ian
Cockeram, EricHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Pollock, Alexander
Cope, JohnHughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Cormack, PatrickHunt, David (Wirral)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Corrie, JohnHunt, John (Ravensbourne)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Costain, A. P.Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickProctor, K. Harvey
Cryer, BobJopling, Rt Hon MichaelRaison, Timothy
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRathbone, Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKershaw, AnthonyRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Dover, DenshoreKing, Rt Hon TomRhodes James, Robert
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardKnight, Mrs JillRifkind, Malcolm
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lang, IanRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Durant, TonyLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Dykes, HughLawrence, IvanRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLawson, NigelRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Leadbitter, TedRossi, Hugh
Elliott, Sir WilliamLee, JohnSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Eyre, ReginaldLe Marchant, SpencerSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Fairgrieve, RussellLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyLester, Jim (Beeston)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Finsberg, GeoffreyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shersby, Michael

I hope that the House will vote overwhelmingly to throw it out.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and Nomination of Select Committees at Commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 200.

Silvester, FredTownend, John (Bridlington)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Sims, RogerTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)Wheeler, John
Speller, TonyTrippier, DavidWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stainton, KeithTrotter, NevilleWhitney, Raymond
Stanley, JohnVaughan, Dr GerardWiggin, Jerry
Stevens, MartinWaddington, DavidWilkinson, John
Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)Wakeham, JohnWolfson, Mark
Stokes, JohnWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stradling Thomas, J.Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Tapsell, PeterWall, PatrickTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Tebbit, NormanWarren, KennethMr. Iain Sproat and
Thompson, DonaldWells, John (Maidstone)Mr. John Mackay.

Question accordingly negatived.

Review Body On Top Salaries (Report)

Before I call the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to move his motion, I will explain the course that we shall follow in the light of the business motion to which the House earlier agreed.

The debate on the first of the four motions before the House may continue until 10 o'clock. During the course of that debate it will be open to any right hon. or hon. Member to discuss all the other motions and amendments which stand on the Order Paper. It will be one broad debate.

At 10 o'clock or at an earlier conclusion of the debate, I shall call upon hon. Members to move formally any amendments to the first motion which are shown on the selection list. When any such amendments have been disposed of, I shall put the main Question or the main Question as amended.

I shall then call upon the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to move formally his second motion. When he has done so, hon. Members whose amendments to the motion have been selected will be invited successively to move them formally. When those amendments have been disposed of, the main Question as amended or unamended will be put.

There are no amendments to the Chancellor's third motion, so I shall call upon him to move it formally and put the Question on it.

On the Chancellor's fourth motion, to which there is one amendment which I have selected, the procedure will be the same as on the second motion.

4.34 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the Thirteenth Report of the Review Body on Top Salaries [Cmnd. 7825].
The programme for reform of the House of Commons is a continuing programme and the purpose is clear. It is not to assert the right of the House to govern. Historically, save for a brief and disastrous period in the seventeenth century, the House has never made out a claim to govern. Parliament's function has been not executive but supervisory. It has sought to subject the Executive to certain limitations and controls, to protect the liberty of the individual citizen against the arbitrary use of power, to focus the mind of the nation on the great issues of the day by the maintenance of continuous dialogue or discussion and, by remaining at the centre of the stage, to impose parliamentary conventions or manners on the whole of our system.

The Government came to power on a clear economic programme, but economics, the dismal science, is not the subject of our debate today. Economics is subject to as many variables and is just as unpredictable as another science, psychiatry.

A clear undertaking of parliamentary reform was made in the election manifesto. We have come to the House with successive instalments on which the House has made a decision. The first and most important was the new system of parliamentary Select Committees, now well into their stride and making a major impact on all our parliamentary procedures. They have already fully justified the faith of those who saw them as a major means of reasserting the sovereignty of Parliament and the central constitutional importance of the House of Commons.

The second instalment of reform was to rectify the scandalously low level of parliamentary salaries. They had fallen so far behind as to justify the description not of top salaries but rather of bottom salaries. We have now ensured that the basic salary for a Member of Parliament, if not generous, is adequate. It enables a Member if he so wishes to devote all his time to the House without reducing himself or herself to need and families to want.

This year the updating of the second-stage payment by the Review Body on Top Salaries has been accepted in advance by the Government, and the Government are committed to implementing the updating from this summer. That also will be applied to the third stage of the payment.

Furthermore, we propose that the review body undertakes annual reviews of parliamentary salaries from next year onwards. It is the Government's firm intention, save in the most exceptional circumstances, that any recommendations made by the review body will be implemented. I believe that this method rather than indexing is the right way to approach the problem. In the prevailing economic situation, I do not believe that the indexing of Members' salaries is a viable political option.

The Leader of the House said that save in most exceptional circumstances the Government will refrain from interfering with the periodic upratings. What does he mean by "the most exceptional circumstances"? Does he mean a change of policy on incomes policy generally?

It is unreasonable to ask me to go into details about that reservation. It is no less and no more than a firm statement of Government intention to implement the review body's recommendation, with the saving that there may be very exceptional circumstances in which that is not possible. That is a reservation which any Government have to make, and hon. Members should not read into it more than that.

The third area where improvement is necessary—

The Leader of the House said that there would be two upratings on the 1979 prices. Will there be any allowance for inflation at 1980 or 1981 prices?

That is the matter for the Boyle committee to decide. My commitment and that of the Government is that the first of those upratings which will take place in the summer of this year, whatever the Boyle committee recommends—obviously the Boyle committee will take inflation into account—will be implemented by the Government.

The third area where improvement is necessary is in the services which hon. Members draw on to do their work of serving their fellow citizens. It is these, in the main, that are the subject of the latest Boyle report and that are the major, but not the only, subject of our debate today.

That is the setting in which we are considering the motions, which give effect to the proposals I made last month concerning the thirteenth report from the Review Body on Top Salaries relating to Members' pay and allowances. There is a general "take note" motion enabling us to debate all aspects of the report's recommendations and conclusions. Before turning in more detail to the motion, I should like to comment on some of the points that hon. Members have raised.

I know that some hon. Members feel that the recommendations for a revised secretarial allowance of £5,500 and a new research assistant's allowance of £1,250 are not generous enough [AN HON. MEMBER: "Peanuts."] They are not peanuts. They may not be excessively generous, but they could not be described as peanuts. That is a ridiculous remark. The review body believes that the recommended levels are adequate. The Government accept that view. They may not be generous but they are certainly not peanuts. They are a considerable improvement on existing arrangements.

When I originally announced the Government's proposals to the House on 14 February, I accepted that there should be two separate allowances—one for secretarial and the other for research purposes. Although I suggested there should be flexibility between the two, I have since had strong representations from hon. Members that it would be for the convenience of hon. Members that these sums should be merged and that one allowance should be applied for both these purposes at the discretion of hon. Members. I believe that there is much in those representations. I have accordingly tabled a motion that gives effect to the wishes of hon. Members in that respect.

As I said in my last statement on the subject, the Government do not believe that it would be right to make it obligatory that hon. Members should have their secretaries paid directly by the Fees Office, as the review body suggests and as the Select Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) suggested in the past. I would, however, strongly urge hon. Members to adopt that method of payment. The Fees Office agency scheme can operate only for secretaries who are subject to PAYE and class 1 national insurance contributions. I should like to assure hon. Members that it is not the Government's intention to place any restriction on the conditions of service that can be agreed between an hon. Member and those he employs.

As hon. Members know, there are wide variations in the secretarial arrangements made between individual Members and their secretaries. We believe that it is vital to preserve the maximum flexibility in this regard.

The suggestion is also made in the report that the House might wish to reconsider the question of secretaries being employees of the House rather than of hon. Members. I am sure that hon. Members will wish during the debate to comment on this suggestion. I am aware that many hon. Members feel that they should remain their secretary's employer. That is also a view shared by many secretaries, who have represented their views to me. I am also not unaware of the problem that the House authorities would face as the new employer. They would find it difficult to accept responsibility for the management and perhaps the careers of staff they had no part in choosing. There would be occasions when the reallocation of a secretary due to a Member's departure from the House could be difficult. For these reasons, the Government view is that secretaries should remain the employees of individual Members.

I know from what has been said to me that many hon. Members would have liked specific provisions to be made for pensions and severance pay for their secretaries. Personally, I have considerable sympathy with that point of view. The review body examined these questions with a certain amount of care but felt unable to recommend their introduction.

The review body considered, on pensions, that it would be inappropriate to make specific provisions within the allowance for the additional cost of contributing to an occupational pension scheme outside the State scheme. The cost, it said, was likely to vary and no yardstick was available to assess the extent to which these costs would be reasonable.

I might point out, however, that secretaries are included within the State scheme and the revised allowance takes account of the last increase in the employer's contribution. The benefits provided by the State scheme are not ungenerous. I give the House an example. On maturity of the scheme, anyone who has contributed for 20 years will receive, on retirement, a pension of approximately 50 per cent. of salary, taking the basic pension and the earnings-related pension together.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that an hon. Member who is not subsidising his secretary's salary out of his own pocket must, if his secretary is gaining the benefit that the right hon. Gentleman has described, pay her 131 per cent. less than the maximum allowance? That represents a considerable restraint on the salary that can be paid to secretaries.

That could be one case that would arise. It does not arise in every case. Not all hon. Members, for example, have a full-time secretary. It would be possible in such a case for a full proportion of the allowance to be paid, plus the 13½ per cent., plus some kind of pension allowance within the total allowance. While the hon. Gentleman is stating part of the truth, it is not the whole truth.

The review body also carefully considered whether some form of severance payment should be available to secretaries over and above the State redundancy pay provisions. It concluded that this would not be appropriate for a variety of reasons. These are the reasons of the review body. They are not mine or those of the Government. The report states:
"It would add an additional cost without any commensurate benefit in the deployment of staff such as is achieved by the House authorities. It would be wrong to provide a fixed allowance to all Members irrespective of need; but it would also be difficult for any central authority such as the Fees Office to adjudicate on need."
The report also states that it would be inappropriate to increase the maximum of the secretarial allowance that is expressed as an annual limit
"to provide for some possible future expenditure that may never be incurred."
It is often argued that the same payment should be made to secretaries as to Members of Parliament. But the point must be remembered that hon. Members are not covered by the State redundancy provisions. Those are the arguments of the report. Those are the reasons for its recommendations.

I turn now to the pensions recommendations. In the exchange of views that took place three weeks ago, hon. Members expressed concern over the position of those who left the House before 1964. I am equally concerned. I feel, however, that the review body has come to the right conclusions in suggesting the use of the Members' fund to provide benefit.

I shall come to the issue of severance pay and spouses' travel in explaining the motions in a moment. I should like to make clear, once again, where the Government stand on the recommendation that all Members' travel within the United Kingdom should be free. The Government accept that hon. Members might be better able to inform themselves on their work and carry out their duties more effectively if they had greater assistance with travel costs. However, we feel unable to propose acceptance of the recommendation at present because of the potentially high costs involved.

If the Leader of the House is not able to go all the way on the recommendations, will he widen the scope of the definition of a Government Department? Recently I visited Preston prison to meet two constituents who were in dire circumstances. I claimed my travel allowance from the Fees Office but I was told that Preston prison was not regarded as a Government Department. That means that I can go to Swansea to talk about a constituent's driving licence and claim my travel allowance but I cannot claim if I go to Preston to discuss more important matters.

That is a reasonable argument. The principle is that genuine travel on parliamentary business should be reimbursed, if possible within the parameters of Government Departments. I shall be glad, as Leader of the House, to take up cases such as that referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden).

The second motion gives effect to the change in the secretarial allowance that I have already outlined. We propose that the effective date should be 14 February. That date has nothing to do with St. Valentine; it is the date on which the Government proposals were first put to the House. As previously, the amounts quoted in the motion are limits within which expenses actually incurred may be reimbursed. The two allowances have been merged. That recognises that the roles of a secretary, a personal assistant and a research assistant, while they may be divided in theory for purposes of methodology, in practice may overlap. Many hon. Members' secretaries are also personal assistants who, in helping hon. Members to deal with the ever-growing volume of paper which threatens to engulf us all, are an increasing feature of parliamentary life. These persons may also undertake some of the tasks normally associated with a research assistant. However—and I put it no higher than this—hon. Members may wish to be guided by the recommendations in the Boyle report on the general level of expenditure in the two areas of activity.

The last remarks by the right hon. Gentleman suggest that he is encouraging hon. Members to limit expenditure on research assistants to £1,250 a year. If an hon. Member did that, he would impose upon himself a limit which is not imposed at present because now he is free to spend about £4,500 a year on research. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his advice?

It is a mild piece of advice hedged by various caveats. Of course, hon. Members are absolutely free to reject that advice. I put it forward as a possibility. It has almost faded away in its phraseology. The practical effect is that hon. Members must be free to decide on the distribution of the allowance according to their individual needs.

Will the right hon. Gentleman come out from behind his caveats a little more? Does he agree that if we accept the spirit and the letter of the Boyle recommendation, as he has done so tepidly, we are saying that it is not right for an hon. Member to employ a full-time research assistant unless such a person can be found for a salary of £20 a week?

I do not believe that that conclusion flows from the premise. The allowance represents an improvement. Many hon. Members would not know what to do with a research assistant if they had one. To some a research assistant would be an encumbrance rather than an aid—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak for yourself."] I do speak for myself. When I had a research assistant, one of my great problems was to find that assistant something to do all the time. It was a continual worry that I could not keep the assistant fully occupied. Hon. Members have different views. The allowances are to be amalgamated and hon. Members must judge how they use them.

The third motion gives effect to a change in the arrangement for hon. Members' spouses' travel. I did not describe that recommendation in detail in my previous announcement. The recommendation is that spouses should be able to claim car mileage allowance as an alternative to using rail vouchers for their limited number of free journeys to Westminster. I am sure that this will be convenient for many hon. Members.

The final motion implements the improvements to hon. Members' severance pay scheme. Under the new arrangements hon. Members over 50 years of age who have served in the House for more than 10 years will, when they lose their seats, receive a higher severance payment. The amount will vary according to the scale set out in the motion, which is the scale in the Boyle report. Hon. Members will see that the maximum payment for those in the age range 55 to 64 and who have served for 15 years or more is 50 per cent. of salary.

I turn to the issues raised in the amendments about linkage. The review body has considered the matter carefully once more. It has concluded that linkage is inappropriate for hon. Members' salary. It found that there is no similarity between the functions and responsibilities of any professional group and those of hon. Members. Most hon. Members will accept that our work is unique. Even if a suitable link could be found, the sensitivity currently attached to hon. Members' pay might be transferred to the analogue.

The alternative is a link with general indices, but that would provide guaranteed salary inflation proofing which the majority of our constituents do not have. No Government could put forward such a proposal in today's economic conditions. For those reasons, I am sure that we should accept the review body's recommendation that regular, independent review remains the best way of dealing with parliamentary pay.

There seems to be an inconsistency in the report between the assertion that there is no similarity between our job and any other and the argument about severance pay and pensions. The review body says that it is inappropriate for us to take for ourselves conditions which are different from those in other occupations. Either we are the same and there should be linkage, or we are not the same and we should have special provision for pensions and severance pay.

That is an interesting and logical argument. However, it is not my job to explain the working of Lord Boyle's mind. I am here to give the Government's view of the recommendations. Whether consistent or logical, a simple political fact of life is that it is impossible at this time to recommend that Members of Parliament should have an index-linked salary when all the pressure is the other way and when there is widespread dissatisfaction with the index linking of existing pensions.

Will my right hon. Friend detach the linking of hon. Members' pensions from the public service to which reference has been made by Lord Boyle and his colleagues? We come to this place later in life than those who join the Civil Service, but Lord Boyle stilll insists upon applying the same rules to hon. Members as to civil servants. It seems that Lord Boyle and his colleagues want it both ways. He cannot link our pension allowances directly with the public service while rejecting that linkage on our salaries. It must be one or the other. I agree with my right hon. Friend, but let us detach the pension problem from the public service.

One beneficial side effect of the linking with the public service is that Members of Parliament's pensions are guarded against inflation. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is suggesting that that linkage should be broken.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that there are reasons for dissatisfaction with the existing pension scheme, especially because in order to draw the full pension a Member has to serve 40 years in the House, which although possible for some is not possible for all Members. No amendments on that subject have been placed on the Order Paper.

Mr. Michael English
(Nottingham, West)