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Commons Chamber

Volume 31: debated on Tuesday 9 November 1982

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 9 November 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Untitled Debate

Order. I appeal to hon. Members who are called to ask supplementary questions to ask only one supplementary question each. This will enable me to call more hon. Members to ask questions.

Education And Science

Curriculum Opportunity


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied that equal curriculum opportunity is genuinely available to girls and boys.

We have made it clear that equal curricular opportunities should be available to boys and girls. I accept that there is still some way to go. I urge local education authorities and schools always to give boys and girls a genuine choice in deciding what they are going to study.

I thank the Minister for that reply and agree with the sentiments expressed within it. Does he agree that the Schools Council has done a great deal of work in promoting the idea through the sex roles differentiation project? Does he recognise that the threatened closure of the council means that the project may be discontinued? May we have an assurance that he will give consideration to ensuring that its work continues?

We take every opportunity to preach the message in the hon. Lady's question. I am aware of her interest in the matter. I assure her that we are doing everything that we can and taking every opportunity available to us to ensure that boys and girls are treated equally. I draw her attention to the Department's publication entitled "Science in Schools", which was published in June 1982. If she wishes, I shall send her a copy. I think that she will find it encouraging.

Does the Minister agree that if equality of opportunity is to be given to boys and girls it will be necessary to initiate a considerable expansion of classes and opportunities in schools? Equality cannot be achieved without that expansion. How does he reconcile this with the existing cuts and the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday that local education authorities are already overspending by £700 million?

I think that the hon. Gentleman has taken hold of the wrong end of the stick. I do not think that an expansion of classes is necessary. The classes are available. It is really a matter of attitudes. No one can be happy when 50 per cent. of boys but only 15 per cent. of girls take 0-level or CSE physics. That has nothing to do with the number of classes available; it has to do with the attitudes in the schools and in the home.

Education Act 1980 (Appeals Procedure)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the result of the first year of operation of the new appeals procedure under the Education Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

The new school admission arrangements, of which the appeals procedure is only part, are administered locally. The Department is currently consulting local education authorities about the first year's experience. From the greatly reduced number of complaints, it would seem that parents have welcomed the new arrangements.

Does my right hon. Friend believe it would be helpful to have a detailed report from all local education authorities on their experiences of the working of the new procedure? Does he accept that in rural areas it is genuinely more difficult to give full effect to parental choice?

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is "Yes". Such a survey is now going on. In considering the results I shall certainly take into account my hon. Friend's observations in the second part of his question.

In view of the widespread dissatisfaction with the way that the appeals procedure is being operated in the London borough of Bexley and the fact that many parents feel that they have been unfairly treated, will the Secretary of State at least consult the London borough of Bexley to satisfy himself that the procedures adopted there are fair and that an attempt is being made to operate the Government's intention of improving parental choice?

A general survey is going on. I shall certainly interest myself in Bexley. It must be expected that, when a number of parents prefer a popular school, there must be some limit to the expansion of that school and that some parents will be disappointed.

In relation to the new appeals procedure, will my right hon. Friend ask the Bedfordshire education authority why it is trying to force children out of Dunstable into a school over the border against parental choice and wishes? Should not the education authority pull itself together and reach a sensible settlement with the parents?

I am aware, through my hon. Friend, of the anxieties in the Dunstable area. The local education authority is trying its best to put right any errors that may have occurred earlier. I am watching developments there.

Schools (Provision)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied with the standards of provision in schools.

There is always scope for improvement, and that is the objective of our educational policies.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that there is wide scope for improvement? Will he also confirm that Her Majesty's Inspectorate said that it was satisfied with the educational provision by in only five out of 96 educational authorities?

I can certainly confirm that there is ample scope for improvement, but it does not follow that putting extra money into any place will necessarily improve the quality of education.

Would it not be conducive to the quality of education if more importance were attached to reports by inspectors and if more publicity were given to reports by inspectors in particular and in general?

Yes, Sir. I have said publicly that I regard extra publicity as desirable.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a significant factor in the standards of provision in schools is the amount of expenditure per pupil? Has that increased in recent years, particularly in real terms?

Yes, Sir, it is one of the relevant factors. In real terms the expenditure per pupil this year is at a record level. If local education authorities keep their costs under control, and in particular if teachers are content with 3½ per cent. or less, there will be a further improvement next year in real spending per pupil.

What mechanisms does the Secretary of State suggest for maintaining existing standards of provision? Will he allow Her Majesty's Inspectorate to produce a report in the coming 12 months in the same form as he allowed it to produce a report last year?

Many factors are relevant to improving standards—above all, the policies of local education athorities and the skill and character of head teachers and teachers. I intend no change in the format of the annual report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate for this year.

Educational Standards


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will now institute a survey of the educational standards in city schools, particularly with regard to size in relation to the nature of the catchment areas served.

No, Sir. The Department's circular 2/81 contains advice on school sizes which applies to all areas. That advice drew upon the judgments of Her Majesty's Inspectorate based on all forms of inspection, including its national surveys of primary and secondary education.

Does the Minister accept that the reduction in the number of children of school age is becoming the signal for the destruction of far too many excellent schools in city areas which have specific advantages because of their experience in dealing with particular children in special areas? Does he put Westcotes school in my constituency into that category? Is it not regrettable that that school, among others, is to be destroyed so soon?

The fall in the school population is real. Between 1979 and 1983 the number of pupils in our schools will fall by 1 million. If school rolls fall to such a level, one cannot have economic teaching groups or a spread of subjects. The children inside those schools are educationally disadvantaged, whatever the social advantage of small schools may be.

Instead of instituting a new survey, will my hon. Friend draw the attention of those in education to Professor Michael Rutter's book "Fifteen Thousand Hours"? The book showed that, between matched schools, the poorest 25 per cent. of children in academic ability were doing better than the top 25 per cent. in a neighbouring school.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing Professor Rutter's book to the attention of the House. Professor Rutter makes it clear that, with the same resources and teaching formula, the difference in achievement between schools with the same intake is tremendous, according to the commitment to the school of the head teacher and the staff and their agreement on the methods to be used.

In view of the copious leaks in The Daily Telegraph yesterday and in The Times today about the Government's consideration of the voucher system, will the Minister explain how he believes a voucher system or any of the other proposals of the leaked Think Tank report could be of assistance in overcoming the problems encountered by schools, including city schools, especially as we know that inner city poverty levels are greater than in practically every other environment?

The Conservative Party and the Conservative Government are concerned to increase parental choice and to look at all measures to achieve it.

There are questions on the Order Paper to my right hon. Friend about vouchers. I assure the House that we shall take no action that will not extend parental choice, with the agreement of the mass of the British people.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the size of schools applies not only to city areas? Is he further aware that in many county areas people are mystified by the Government's policy, which seems to tend towards the large schools of 1,000 or more while at the same time closing down perfectly viable and valuable village schools?

My right hon. Friend and I examine carefully all the recommendations that we receive from local authorities. We assess them according to the circumstances in their areas. We also said in circular 2/81 that we realise that we reach a point where we cannot shut village schools without destroying an area. Therefore, authorities should look at the possibility of closing schools in towns where they are nearer together.

Has the Minister examined the report from the city of Manchester, which has compared results in CSE and GCE this year with the academic qualifications, for example, in verbal reasoning, of the same children five years ago? Spurley Hey school, which the Minister referred to as a sink school, showed good results. Does parental choice make any difference here? Will the Minister examine the Manchester report in his anxiety for the publication of examination results?

I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern about education in Manchester. He referred to Spurley Hey school. The very fact that I chastised it verbally five years ago, because of the results it achieved, has caused that degree of improvement. The hon. Gentleman must pay tribute to the service I have done to the Manchester area. I have not seen the report to which he referred, but I shall be delighted to read it and to discuss it with him.

Teacher Training


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received concerning proposed changes to the initial teacher training scheme and the closure of a number of teacher training colleges; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to announce the revised list of closures for institutions providing initial teacher training.

About 3,000 letters have been received. In addition, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and officials received deputations from hon. Members, institutions and other interests. I announced my final decisions yesterday in response to a question from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton. (Mr. Lawrence).

I congratulate the Secretary of State on saving a number of institutions from himself. However, it has not gone unnoticed in the North-West that more than half the institutions that he will attack are in the North-West, including the butchery of De la Salle college. The timing of that original announcement was an insult to the House. Does he accept that the period of so-called consultation has been a farce, because he has ignored the recommendations of his own advisory body and of the Catholic hierarchy?

I reject all those allegations. We felt it our duty to make a decision as quickly as possible so that the institutions would know where they stood. We received the recommendations of the advisory committee in the spring of this year. The consultation period was at an awkward time, but I pay tribute to all the institutions that wanted to give evidence for the admirable evidence they gave us.

Does the Secretary of State accept that the maladroit exercise that he attempted to carry out during the summer vacation has now led to 10 institutions being closed without any reason whatever being given? The reasons for this whole exercise have not been explained to the House. Will he allow time for a debate and say why he has still gone far above the ACSET limit in the closures that he is proposing and why he has hit some institutions that have invested in courses that are in short supply and which we should be expanding?

Ministers face an invidious decision in applying what they regard to be the right reductions. We must take into account a number of factors, including the quality of the different institutions, the primary age range that we wanted to encourage, the advice of ACSET, the recruiting record of the institutions, regional factors and others, together with the skills covered by the different institutions. All those matters had to be reconciled to produce an answer that was bound to be invidious, whatever the list may have been. The hon. Gentleman understands that very well, and he is trying to make mischief out of pretending otherwise.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision not to close Newman college in Birmingham has caused great satisfaction throughout the West Midlands?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I was convinced by the arguments of the Roman Catholic Church that I had been a little too sharp in the provisional decisions arrived at.

As the right hon. Gentleman's decision includes further college closures in the North-East, in addition to the closure of both the colleges in Northumberland in earlier years, how does he intend to achieve the objective he has accepted of setting up a major teacher training centre in the North-East?

The hon. Gentleman must remember that the colleges that we are closing in the North-East have been recruiting at less than 50 per cent. of the places established. We shall be taking the advice of the national advisory body in trying to build a strong teacher training centre in the North-East.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great bitterness in Greater Manchester about the proposal to cut teacher training at De la Salle college? Is he aware that that college did all it could to develop a new role, which he is now sabotaging? Is he confident that enough teachers will be trained in Catholic schools even to teach religious instruction by the 1990s?

We do our best to make sure that, taking into account the actual recruiting by the Catholic colleges and the use of Catholic teachers in Catholic schools and elsewhere, we shall keep pace. As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, equally sincere arguments could be advanced for each institution.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Lincolnshire we are thankful that the Bishop Grosseteste college will remain open? We are grateful that he listened with an open mind to our arguments and recognised the quality of the teachers produced by that college as well as its contribution to life in Lincolnshire.

I am glad that my hon. Friend and his neighbours are pleased, but we shall have to look carefully at how the college recruits over the next few years and how it responds to the opportunities with which it is now presented for development and innovation.

Student Grants


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from the National Union of Students on the level of student grants.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will meet the National Union of Students to discuss the level of mandatory awards.

I have received a detailed submission from the National Union of Students concerning, among other things, the level of student grants. I shall be meeting representatives tomorrow to discuss it.

As the Government have now announced an increase in the level of student grants, albeit totally inadequate to meet the increase in students' cost of living, does that mean that they have taken the wise and sensible decision not to introduce a system of student loans which would militate against working-class entry into the universities?

The Government have taken no decision one way or the other on student loans.

Is the Minister aware that the reported 4 per cent. offer to students would mean an extra 27p per day to students on the main grant? As a result, many students will fall into debt, as has already been shown by surveys in Sheffield, Glasgow and Stirling universities, and will militate against working-class students taking up places at universities.

As the participation rate in higher education last year was the highest for a number of years, it does not seem to have militated very strongly.

As most students at university are over the age of 18 and, therefore, independent adults, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer will apparently be able to reduce taxation in the next Budget, will my hon. Friend ask him to do away at once with the iniquitous parental contribution which divides students into two classes—those who get the full grant and those whose parents who for one reason or another either cannot or will not pay the parental contribution?

The objective of both Labour and Conservative Governments has been to do away with the perental contribution, but it is expensive. One of the advantages of introducing some element of loan might be a diminution of the parental contribution.

Given that so large a part of a student's outgoings are represented by rent for halls of residence or their equivalent, and that the increase in that has been far more than 4 per cent. in recent years and is likely to be so in the next year, how can the Minister possibly justify raising the grant by only 4 per cent.?

Like other aspects of public expenditure, the student grant must relate to what we can afford. I admit that in the past year the increase in hall fees and other things in some institutions has been more than 4 per cent., but in others it has been near it. Next year we hope that few will find it necessary to increase hall fees by much more than 4 per cent.

Does the Minister recall describing the system of post-school student support as a tangle? Will he acknowledge that he has made the system much more tangled by failing to consult the National Union of Students at any time in the process of determining this grant settlement? There will still be 350,000 further education students—against a background of record youth unemployment—without any grant support at all. The settlement now made for students means that the most they can expect is an additional £63 a year, which apparently is rather less than the Chancellor leaves in change in his trousers.

I am not sure whether this tangle would have been sorted out by a meeting with the NUS. Many longer term and expensive options are involved, which the hon. Gentleman finds it easier to pay for while he is in Opposition, which is where he will remain.

Primary School Buildings (Nut Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has received and studied a copy of the National Union of Teachers' pamphlet on the condition of many of the United Kingdom's primary school buildings.

My right hon. Friend is examining the report, which he received last week, in order to judge whether it adds to the information already available to him in the national expenditure statistics collected by his Department and the annual survey of the effect of local authority expenditure policies undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

If the Under-Secretary's right hon. Friend is now reading the report, why did the Under-Secretary jump in immediately the report was published and attack it when it was clear that he had not read it? Does he not realise that when such a report is published about conditions in many primary schools and when, according to the HM1 report, the cuts are having a deleterious effect on schools generally, it must be regarded as a serious report that shows that the fabric of those schools is in a parlous condition? Is he aware that he is beginning to earn the name Mr. Squeers, because he is reducing some of these schools to the level of Dotheboys Hall?

The hon. Gentleman, who is an expert in instant indignation, accuses me of being such an expert by attacking the report. I read that report in the newspapers, because the NUT did not have the courtesy to send a copy to the Department of Education and Science, and I felt that the record had to be put straight.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that between 1965 and now expenditure per pupil on teaching staff in primary schools increased by 43 per cent. in real terms, whereas over the same period expenditure on non-teaching staff, including classroom assistants, rose by 153 per cent. in real terms. That represents an enormous improvement in service. If particular schools out of 27,000 have not been painted for 25 years, that is not the responsibility of the Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to keep a sense of proportion? Does he further agree that while none of us want children to be educated in nasty buildings, the quality of education that goes on inside them is the important thing? Finally, does he agree that such education is often not affected by whether a building is new or old, whether lavatories are inside or outside, or by the factors that have been mentioned in the NUT report?

I always try to maintain an objective view of those factors. I agree that education is better inside than outside a school. I also agree that the calibre of staff, their commitment to what they are teaching, and the curriculum are decisive—not one or two improvements on the outside.

Does the Minister agree that the NUT report confirms Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on school provision, to which he had access before the rest of us? Will he confirm that that report stated that no fewer than 63 of the 96 education authorities mentioned had inadequate buildings? Does he further agree that if, as I believe, the standard of education is greatly dependent on the standard and commitment of teachers, rundown buildings and his vicious, unpleasant and hypocritical remarks about teachers are damaging teacher morale and therefore damaging the standard of education?

It is interesting to note that the Government published Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report. When the Labour Party was in Government, it kept the report secret. We are prepared to have our actions judged by the public. We are spending more per child than ever before. To talk in terms of cuts is to indulge in hyperbole beyond imagination.

Croxteth Comprehensive School


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on Croxteth comprehensive school.

As a result of statutory proposals published by the Liverpool education authority and approved by my right hon. Friend, Croxteth comprehensive school closed in August 1982 and a new school was established at Ellergreen in September 1982 to serve the needs of the Croxteth and Ellergreen communities. The premises of the former Croxteth school are now unlawfully occupied.

Is the Minister aware that about 180 youngsters are attending Croxteth school and being taught by voluntary teachers? As the level of youth unemployment in that area is one of the highest in Britain, and as there is a complete lack of facilities for the largest housing estate in the area, will the Minister reconsider his decision, which is causing anguish to both parents and pupils?

To be fair to the Government, we did not close the school. The local education authority proposed section 12 action to us and we agreed. The hon. Gentleman understands that. We agreed to the closure because if one added together the pupils at Croxteth and Ellergreen schools last year they would have constituted only a five-stream school. Moreover, the population of the schools was continuing to fall. It was obvious that Ellergreen school was more popular—it has a sports hall and a sixth form centre—so we agreed to the closure.

Is the Minister aware that not only school provision but community provision is at stake in Croxteth? Is he further aware that the Liverpool Liberals, who are now supported by the Secretary of State, are destroying a community asset, which will lead to a breakdown of law and order in the area?

Liverpool council intended to use the Croxteth school building for community purposes. It is unfortunate that it is being occupied. It would have been used for youth training, adult education classes, a library and day care for the elderly. If some schools in Liverpool are not closed the rest will be only half full within the next four or five years.

Does the Minister believe in parental choice, or does he not?

I am delighted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I shall answer. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that point. It is interesting to note that one-third of the children in the Croxteth area contracted to go to schools outside that area with their parents' consent and only one child from outside chose to come in.

Student Grants


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will revise the regulations about mandatory student grants in the light of recent decisions of the courts about what constitutes ordinary residence in the United Kingdom.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will amend the three-year normal residence rule in relation to statutory educational grants.

A number of cases concerning the ordinary residence requirement of the mandatory awards regulations were recently considered by an Appeal Committee of the House of Lords. My right hon. Friend will consider whether any amendment to the regulations is necessary in the light of the forthcoming judgment.

What possible justification is there for a person who spends four years in the United Kingdom on a work permit, pays British taxes, and then spends another two years in the United Kingdom without any conditions being imposed on his stay here, being treated as a foreign student? Does the Minister agree that that smacks of a vendetta against foreign students? If the House of Lords judgment goes in what I believe to be the wrong way, will the Minister change the regulations?

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's interesting constituency case. In so far as the matter relates to the House of Lords decision, I cannot talk about it now. Nevertheless, the issue will be reviewed in the light of that judgment.

Is the definition of what constitutes ordinary residence a matter for the DES and therefore a uniform standard that is applied throughout the country, or is it a matter for each education authority to interpret in whichever way it wishes? Is the Minister aware that a harsh interpretation of what constitutes normal residence may be discriminatory, especially against the immigrant community?

Although the DES gives guidelines, it is for the institutions and local authorities to make judgments. We are aware of variations. The matter will be subject to review.

Secondary Training Places


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he agrees with the view of the advisory committee for the supply and education of teachers that by 1990 a major expansion in secondary training places will be needed.

We agree with the advisory committee in projecting an increase in the demand for newly trained secondary teachers in the early 1990s. The committees recognise that it is impossible to assess the need for additional training places to meet that demand until nearer the time.

Why, in the meantime, has the Secretary of State treated the advisory committee's recommendations so frivolously? Why have 10 teacher training colleges, especially those that specialise in developmental work, been shut? What scope does he envisage for ensuring that special needs of groups such as the 16 to 19-year-olds will be met in the meantime?

At the lowest point we shall be training 7,000 new secondary teachers, for a demand of 4,700. It would be a frivolous misleading of those students' expectations to train more for jobs that will not exist.

Does the Minister agree that by closing the initial training scheme at De la Salle training college, he will be closing the college permanently?

Does the Minister agree that it is scandalous that these proposals were announced the day before Education Question Time and with no debate in the House? What guarantee do we have that the proposals will be debated and some amendment be possible?

I am sure that if we had announced the proposals the day after Education Question Time the hon. Gentleman would have said that that was another type of trick. He must pursue the channels that are open to him for a debate.

As school rolls are falling, and as expenditure per pupil is increasing in real terms, does my hon. Friend agree that there is some point in the criticism that, marginally, we have been allocating too much to the provision of teacher training and too little to new school building or the restoration of many of the older schools? Will he bear that in mind when allocating money for the next five years?

I agree with my hon. Friend's underlying argument. It would be foolish to allow teacher training more than a reasonable share of resources. Resources should go to over-subscribed courses. Many of these are substantially under-subscribed.

Salford University


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many students were at Salford university in the last educational year; and by how many they will be reduced following the 44 per cent. cut in cash grants from the Government.

I understand that there were 3,812 full-time and sandwich students paying home fees at the University of Salford in the 1981–82 academic year. The University Grants Committee has given the university a target for 1984–85 of 2,750 students.

Is not the country crying out for technological growth? Are not the four universities most savagely hit by the cuts precisely those that are preeminent in this field? I refer to Salford, Bradford, Aston and Brunel. Will the Minister reverse these cuts without further delay?

The hon. Gentleman has been a little carried away. To say that those four universities are pre-eminent when among the competition are such places as Strathclyde and Imperial College would be foolish. Equally, the two universities that have done best were also former colleges of advanced technology.

Will the Minister discuss with the University Grants Committee why it asked Salford to raise its intake of part-time students by 75 per cent. and at the same time asked it to raise the fees for those same students by 150 per cent? What is the logic of that? How can Salford do even the things that the UGC now asks?

I am impressed by the fact that Salford is doing what has been asked of it. It is raising money from outside and building new connections with industry. I have no doubt that it will meet its targets.

Health Education


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on health education in schools.

As we said in our guidance document "The School Curriculum", health education should give pupils a basic knowledge and understanding of health matters both as they affect themselves and as they affect others. It should also help them to become aware of those moral issues and value judgments which are inseperable from such choices. There should be the closest possible co-operation between parents and schools when dealing with sensitive topics such as sex education.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he entirely satisfied with the quantity, quality and nature of health education currently offered in schools? Does he have plans to include this subject in basic teacher training? Will the Department issue guidelines on the instruction of this most sensitive subject?

I am sure that the training colleges, the colleges of education and the institutes of education will bear in mind this important subject of health education. As for schools, we in the Department have published a booklet entitled "Health Education in Schools", which covers diseases, accidents, dental health, drug and alcohol misuse, smoking and also sex education. I would only add that the school day is limited. It is the one thing that has not changed since 1939. The more one puts in, the more something else will have to come out.

In connection with our interest in health education and the health of pupils, will the Under-Secretary say why he has disregarded the intelligent report on school meals by the Select Committee? What is his response to the report of the National Union of Teachers, which says that health regulations are clearly being flouted in a number of local education authorities?

If health regulations are being flouted, that is a question for local authorities. The Education Act 1980 places the responsibility for school meals back on the local authorities, which are democratically elected bodies.

Universities (Expenditure Cuts)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what reply he has given to the letter sent to him on 4 October by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals about the effect of cuts on universities.

My reply agreed to a meeting with representatives of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principles, as it requested. This took place on 2 November.

Do not all the announcements that the Minister made in written answers yesterday about resources for universities hinge on the unrealistic expectation that a 3½ per cent. pay settlement will be reasonable for university teachers, in the face of what they have received in the past few years?

I do not think that it is unrealistic in the light of falling inflation. University teachers would be wrong to think that extra money will be provided for settlements that exceed 3½ per cent.

Will my right hon. Friend keep an eye on the situation of which he was earlier made aware, and ensure that universities such as Exeter, which the University Grants Committee agrees has been under-funded, do not suffer as a result of over-expenditure by other universities?

I think I can assure my hon. Friend that that is most improbable, but I shall look at the matter.

Will the Secretary of State say how many academic and non-academic staff have been made unemployed as a result of these cuts?

Expenditure And Academic Results


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether any correlation exists between a local authority's expenditure upon education and the academic results achieved in that authority's schools.

The academic results of a school depend on many factors, in particular the abilities and aptitudes of the pupils, their home background, the resources available to the school and the skill with which it uses them. Satisfactory results require a minimum level of resources. Beyond that, other factors become increasingly important.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is it not true that higher than average spending in the county of Hertfordshire has achieved significantly better results for schools in public examinations? Will my right hon. Friend make certain that Hertfordshire county council is not so starved of funds that it will have to reduce the resources needed to achieve those results?

I congratulate the people of Hertfordshire and their authority on the results. It does not follow that extra expenditure always produces higher academic achievements.

Prime Minister

Child Benefit And Retirement Pension


asked the Prime Minister what has been the decrease and increase in the real values of child benefit and the State retirement pension since May 1979.

The real value of these benefits at the uprating later this month will not be known until later in December when the retail price index figures up to November will be published. But if we assume, for illustrative purposes, that inflation to November is further reduced to 6·5 per cent. then the real value of child benefit at the uprating will have decreased by about 4 per cent. since April 1979, and the State retirement pensions will have increased by about 4·5 per cent. since November 1978 in real terms.

I should like to pass on the thanks of pensioners for the increased reduction in the rate of inflation, which is of great advantage to them. Does my right hon. Friend agree that between now and the Budget it will be well worth the Government considering possible adjustment to the real value of the pension? Is she aware that the reduction in the retail price index includes the drop in mortgage interest, which does not affect pensioners, who also find their income from building societies reduced? Does my right hon. Friend agree that an increase in child benefit plays an important part in achieving lower pay settlements, which will determine the rate of inflation in the future?

A reduction in inflation is good news for us all, as my hon. Friend recognises. There are perhaps some misunderstandings about the pensioners' price index. If the pensioners' price index had been used as the basis for uprating pensions since the Government took office, the current pension would now be between 3 and 4 per cent. less than the actual rate. Food price increases have been very much less under this Government than under the previous Government.

There is no evidence that wage demands would be reduced if there were a substantial increase in child benefit. A substantial number of wage earners are not eligible for child benefit. I shall, however, bear in mind what my hon. Friend says.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her reply shows that great injury has been done to child benefit by this Government? There cannot be any dispute about that. Can the right hon. Lady explain why she thinks the pension is too high? [Interruption.] How can she justify cutting it next year? Will she say how much money the Treasury intends to recoup by cutting the pension next year? How much extra will the pensioners have to contribute?

No one is cutting the pension. If, in the last Budget, we had not over-estimated inflation, the pension for a married couple would have gone up this month to £51·60. In fact, it is going up to £52·55, nearly £1 a week more. That means that this year pensioners will have a bonus of over £50. Next November the pensioners will keep this extra £1 a week, plus whatever further increase is necessary to maintain the value of their pension over the lifetime of the Parliament, as we promised. How the right hon. Gentleman can refer to a bonus of £50 extra this year as a cut is a mystery.

The right hon. Lady has not even attempted to answer my question, because if she did she would expose the falsity of her argument. How much money does the Treasury hope to recoup from the clawback? It will be money taken from the pensioners. Will the right hon. Lady recognise that the Government's proposals are an outrage? Will she undertake to put this matter at the top of the Cabinet's agenda on Thursday and to allow the pensioners to gain some advantage from the fall in inflation?

I shall repeat my remarks, because the right hon. Gentleman clearly did not hear. This year—[Interruption.] I shall answer the question my own way, with figures that will doubtless be unwelcome to Opposition Members. This year pensioners will receive a bonus of £1 a week—which is nearly £52 for the whole year—over and above the amount that would have been necessary to protect the pension from price increases. They will keep that amount next year. It will not be clawed back. They will keep that amount next year and there will be an extra sum added to it for further increases in prices, which, over the period of a Parliament, will protect the pension from prices. That is an advance and a bonus of £50 for this year which would not have taken place if we had stuck to strict price increases.

The simple question is: how much will the Treasury get from the pensioners as a result of the clawback?

For the whole year, this year, a pensioner married couple will be £1 a week better off as a result of the uprating than they would have been if the uprating had gone hand in hand with price increases. That is a bonus. A bonus does not give the Government money, but puts more money into the pensioner's pocket. That money is paid for not by Government, but by the working population of our country, who have had their national insurance contributions put up to pay for it.

To put it more simply—[Interruption]—does my hon. Friend agree that if the clawback next year—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Ah!"]—is less than the overshoot this year, that is another way of saying that there has been an increase in the standard of living for pensioners and other beneficiaries?

I note that my hon. Friend prefaced his remarks with "To put it more simply". I must say that I did not find that promise maintained in his question. There is nothing that I can usefully add. It is remarkable that when many people have not received wage increases of anything more than 4 per cent. or 5 per cent.—and some have received less—the great working population of Britain is providing an 11 per cent. increase in pensions and other benefits. We should thank them and congratulate them on that.



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 9 November.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Will the Prime Minister reflect today on the statement made yesterday in the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and explain why the three most disadvantaged groups in our society—the old-age pensioners, the sick and disabled, and the unemployed—are apparently being called upon to make the most substantial financial contributions or sacrifices to pay for the Falkland Islands exercise?

An increase in those benefits of 11 per cent. at a time when many of the working population are obtaining much less means that those groups in our society are receiving preferential treatment, paid for by the working people. I note that the hon. Gentleman wants to put his hand deeper into the pockets of the working population.

On what basis of economic logic or whatever does the Prime Minister disclaim responsibility for unemployment and take full credit for the decline in inflation?

The decline in inflation can in large measure be governed by what Governments do about the money supply and by what they pay to their employees. The level of unemployment largely depends on the type of goods that are produced by our factories and whether they are of a design and price that will ensure that they are bought by the working population. I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman should even ask that question.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in only a few weeks' time the law of the sea treaty is due to be signed in Jamaica and that we still do not know whether the Government will sign it on behalf of the United Kingdom? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that one of her colleagues makes an early statement on this important subject, because divided views are held and there will be serious results whichever way the decision goes?

I am well aware of some of the clauses in that treaty. There is no doubt that the clauses on mining the sea bed would be very disadvantageous to this country, although there are other clauses, such as those concerning freedom of navigation, that would help us. We must consider carefully the balance of advantage before deciding whether to sign the treaty. At the last meeting, we did not vote for it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Health recently told me that he intended to see a report about the proposed closure of the breast cancer screening clinic at the Royal Marsden hospital? Will she make it her business to see the report and give an undertaking to ensure that the comparatively small amount of money—about £100,000 per annum—that is needed to keep the clinic going will be provided, so that many women can be cured of breast cancer and so that even more can be relieved of anxiety?

I am not privy to the conversations between my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short). I know of the problem of that hospital and it is under consideration at the Department of Health and Social Security.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 9 November.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in today's edition of The Times, saying that members of the National and Local Government Officers Association are threatening mass resignations against the union's hard-line unilateral nuclear disarmament policy? Does that not once again confirm that the British people want their Government to work vigorously for world peace, but on the basis of multilateral disarmament?

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. One-sided disarmament by this country would be an extremely dangerous step. It would imperil peace and jeopardise the freedom and justice that are essential to our way of life. This Government will never enter into one-sided disarmament. They require disarmament to be multilateral, as that is the only way of gaining peace and security.

In the light of the American vote in the United Nations on the Falkland Islands, and of the CIA's gun-running activities with the IRA, does the right hon. Lady really consider the United States, of America to be so reliable an ally that we should have cruise missiles in Britain from the end of 1983? Will she now cancel the programme?

I understand that there is no truth in the assertions about the CIA and the gun-running activities. With regard to the United States' vote on the United Nations resolution, I have made clear my views and disappointment at the action that they took, but it would be a mistake to fail to recognise that the United States is the final guarantor of peace and freedom and justice on our Continent of Europe. That peace and freedom and justice are safeguarded by the NATO alliance as a whole.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's reply to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) about pensioners. Is it right that the Prime Minister should—

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he must not involve me in arguments between the two sides of the House on matters of policy.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In relation to written question No. 84 and the statement by the Secretary of State for Energy last week that he would make a statement soon, may we take it that there will be a statement made to the House, rather than in the form of a written answer, either today or later this week?

I have had notice from the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that he wishes to raise a point of order on that matter after the statements.

National Health Service (Pay Dispute)

3.30 pm

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the pay dispute in the National Health Service.

As I have reported to the House, revised proposals on Health Service pay were put to all the staff organisations on 16 September as a basis for discussion. They envisaged discussions about improved pay determination arrangements for all non-medical National Health Service staff groups, together with a two-year pay agreement to cover the period until 31 March 1984. I proposed that the financial basis of the two-year agreement should be the offer for this year of 7½ per cent. to nurses and midwives and professions allied to medicine and 6 to 6½ per cent. for other groups, together with an additional 4 per cent. for next year. The proposals made it clear that there could be no more money for this year.

As a result of this initiative, there have been lengthy exploratory discussions with the professional organisations representing nurses, midwives and health visitors. There have also been discussions with representatives of the professions allied to medicine. I am glad to say that in the past few days talks have been taking place with the Health Service unions affiliated to the TUC.

Following the Government's consideration of the outcome of the discussions with the professional nursing bodies and the TUC health services committee, I have authorised the management sides of the Whitley councils which negotiate the pay of nurses and midwives, and of the professions allied to medicine, to make revised pay offers covering the period until 31 March 1984. The financial resources that I have made available to them are on the general basis envisaged in the proposals put forward on 16 September, but the Government have agreed that, in formulating appropriate pay offers, these management sides may proceed on the basis that the money available for 1983–84 will be increased to allow average pay increases for that year of 4½ per cent. The distribution of the pay offers within the cash limits set by Government is for negotiation within the Whitley councils.

If this revised pay offer is accepted, the Government believe that better permanent pay arrangements should be established for nurses and other professions. As the House is aware, the Government are firmly committed to seeking improvements in the arrangements for determining nurses' pay. We put forward proposals as a basis of discussion as long ago as August 1980. Talks began in March this year, but the discussions have not shown the progress that we would want.

We should remember that we are dealing here with a group of dedicated and skilled staff who do not take strike action, because of the consequences of such action on patients. The Government believe that it is time that we settled upon more satisfactory arrangements. We have, therefore, decided to propose the establishment of a review body, which will have the task of making recommendations to Government about the pay of nurses, midwives and health visitors. We propose that it should have the further remit of making recommendations about the pay of the professions allied to medicine, such as physiotherapists and radiographers.

I shall shortly be launching consultations relating to the composition, terms of reference, coverage and method of work of the new review body. Like other review bodies, it would, in looking at levels of pay, need to take account of all relevant factors, including, for example, economic and financial considerations and service needs. It is intended that its first report should relate to the period beginning 1 April 1984, at the end of the two-year pay agreement now proposed.

I believe that this decision will give the professions concerned a much better basis for determining their pay and that it will be warmly welcomed by them. The Government regard their position as wholly exceptional. There can be no general extension of the review body principle to other staff groups.

This is an important step forward for the nurses and the other professional groups and, therefore, for the Health Service. The proposals that we have made offer a fair settlement for pay over two years, followed by the establishment of a review body. They provide an opportunity for stability in the National Health Service to make the service improvements that we all want and to recover from the damaging effect of the industrial action which has taken place this year.

On the pay of other Health Service staff, discussions with the health services committee are continuing. The aim must be to secure a resumption of negotiations in the relevant Whitley councils. That is the way forward and the proposals that I have announced today are a significant step in that direction.

The whole House will welcome the Secretary of State's conversion to the principle of the Clegg commission, but it is clear that the offer of a review body is to be restricted to the nurses, midwives and health visitors Whitley council. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to renege on the offer that he made earlier this year to other NHS workers of suitable machinery for negotiating their pay?

Are negotiations continuing with the TUC health services committee? Is it the right hon. Gentleman's intention to continue to try to divide one Health Service worker from another? Is it not clear that the negotiations could have been resumed much earlier and that it is only because the right hon. Gentleman has been prepared to go back to ACAS that there have been any grounds for negotiation?

Surely the Government will now accept that the actions of Ministers and their direct assaults upon groups of Health Service workers have been nothing but counter-productive since the beginning of the dispute and that if they had been prepared to take the advice of the Opposition and return to negotiations there would have been a much earlier end to this unhappy affair.

That was a typically churlish and unworthy response from the hon. Lady. I remind her that one of the most disreputable actions of the Opposition has been to support industrial action throughout the dispute.

Let me make it absolutely clear that, contrary to what the hon. Lady appears to think, the review body is not in any sense based on the Clegg commission. That commission was based solely on comparability and was wholly inflationary, and no one was better off in the end. If the hon. Lady wants confirmation of that, I suggest that she asks the nurses for their views on the Clegg commission. They certainly do not want it. Talks are continuing with the TUC and the Health Service unions. I suggest that the whole House would want them to be successful. In relation to the hon. Lady's question about the longer term, the offer stands that we made on 16 September to have talks on the long-term arrangements for others in the Health Service. The talks will involve factors such as comparability, recruitment and retention of staff and what the nation can afford.

Finally, I remind the hon. Lady that the Government offers were put forward on 16 September and we have been having talks and negotiations with the professional organisations since then. Those offers are the basis of what is now coming forward. There is no truth in the hon. Lady's comments about the Government having gone to ACAS. The Government did not go to ACAS. The Health Service unions went to ACAS and as a result of that the talks continued. I stress, however, that the talks and the offer date from 16 September.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the term "review body" is not one to set the heart racing or cause great enthusiasm? Does he agree that, historically, such bodies have been the repositories for difficult decisions that other people do not want to take rather than successful solvers of any problems?

No, I do not agree with that—certainly in view of the experience of the doctors and dentists review body, which is the nearest comparison. The new review body recognises the special position of nurses and other professional groups who do not take industrial action and on whom we have relied heavily in the past six months. The professions have always wanted better permanent arrangements and the review body will ensure that they have them. The fact that these groups do not take industrial action has now been adequately recognised.

Would it be convenient for the Secretary of State to give the House a guideline as to how long an industrial dispute must go on before the position is wholly exceptional?

That is a rather foolish question. If the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to study these matters, he will see that my offer was made on 16 September.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in the House and outside wish to congratulate him on his firmness, his realism and his patience, and particularly on his determination to ensure that the differentials between the pay of nurses and other Health Service workers are maintained, especially as they are always careful not to make their patients suffer in the pursuit of more money? Will my right hon. Friend also never fail to recognise that there are substantial savings to be made within the Health Service which could lead to more money being available for the deserving sections of it?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The differential of 1½ per cent. for nurses has been preserved and it is absolutely correct that that should be so. I am sure that many people in the nursing profession will greatly welcome this step. It is precisely what they have been fighting for year after year and it is right that we should recognise that.

I announced some weeks ago that we intended to take action on manpower and I shall have more to say about the manpower management inquiry in the next few weeks.

Order. I propose to allow questions on this statement to run until 4 pm and then to take the second statement.

Will the Secretary of State clarify the position for the nurses and the professions supplementary to medicine? If the proposed review body makes a recommendation that the Government do not like, will the Government implement the award or will they retain a power of veto? Is he aware that offering an additional ½ per cent. to the one million Health Service workers next year is an insult that will not solve the problem of low pay and will deeply shock many Health Service workers who believe that they do a decent job for the community?

There is no truth in the hon. Gentleman's charge. The offer means that there is now more than £660 million on the table for the nurses and other professional groups. That shows the Government's commitment to the nursing profession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the current issue of the magazine Marxism Today shows a picture of two pretty nurses with the caption, "The New Shock Troops"? Will he hasten the setting up of the review body so that nurses are not put in this reprehensible position in the future?

We shall do our best to make progress in setting up the review body. We intend to make the consultation process as short as possible so that the review body can be established as early as possible in 1983 and can present its first report in time for the 1984 settlement.

Why has it taken the Government so long to conclude that the Clegg commission or something like it has some role to play? Is it not typical of the Government's intransigent, hardhearted attitude that the Royal College of Nursing, for example, has been closer to strike action than ever before in its history, and that only the tolerance and good will of the unions has saved the day? Does the Secretary of State agree that his statement that the unions and not the Government went to ACAS shows the willingness of the trade union movement at all times to enter into meaningful negotiations?

That is an interesting rewriting of history, but it bears little relation to the facts. We made proposals for long-term arrangements as long ago as August 1980 and we have been having talks since March this year. There has been no delay by the Government. We have tried to make progress. As no progress was possible, we have taken this initiative, which I believe will be widely welcomed.

Although we welcome the review body, do we take it that there is now no question but that the Government will strong-arm the rest of the Health Service workers into submission in pursuance of his "divide and rule" policy? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he must still face the question why the industrial action was necessary and the extent to which he is to blame for not sending the matter to arbitration before all the bitterness and argument occurred? Does he appreciate that if he had done that on the basis of the first offer the settlement would have been no different from the one that he has now obtained?

The hon. Gentleman at least welcomes the review body. With regard to his comments about a "divide and rule" policy, I remind him that the offer of 16 September was carefully worked out and was made specifically not only to the professional organisations but to the Health Service unions as well. It was to avoid exactly that kind of charge that the offer was made.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the resumption of talks in the dispute? Does he agree that the Clegg commission had damaging effects on the economy? Will he give an assurance that the new review body will not become like that commission so that the Government of the day lose their flexibility in paying the wages of the public sector?

I assure my hon. Friend that the new review body will certainly not be like the Clegg commission—first, because the Government have no intention that it should be so, and secondly, because the nurses themselves would not want it to be that way. As I have said, I think that the comparison is with the doctors and dentists review body. The Government have lost no flexibility there. The DDRB is regarded as fair and Government policy has in no way suffered as a result.

Will the Secretary of State accept some responsibility for the prolonged dispute? Does he accept that it has been largely due to the small-minded and parsimonious way in which he has handled matters when he could have gone to arbitration at any time? Will he also clarify the Government's intentions? If the review body comes up with a recommendation that is not acceptable to the Government, will the Government accept it and not stand in the way? That is what we want to know.

We should not be setting up the review body if our purpose were to ignore its findings. That is clear. Obviously, we must reserve the right not to accept recommendations in response to compelling national reasons. That is the normal position with review bodies and the assurance that my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) sought. I am not prepared to take lectures from the hon. Gentleman on industrial action when over the last month he has supported industrial action, and many of his colleagues have appeared on the picket line.

Does the Minister accept that there will be widespread recognition of the restraint and the responsibility that he has shown in these negotiations, as any excessive wage offer can only be at the expense of medical facilities for patients? Will my right hon. Friend clarify one aspect of his statement? I understood him to say that the cash limit would be revised to accommodate the increased offer. If this is the case, can he give an undertaking that all local health authorities will be underwritten in any extra marginal costs that they may have to meet in paying these extra wages, or will they have to make futher economies to accommodate this incremental increase?

Yes, I assure my hon. Friend that no further increases will be made for this year, and I have made that clear. Next year the amount is allowed for in the public expenditure figures that we have put forward. Therefore we shall not be requiring a contribution from the health authorities.

Is the Secretary of State happy with offering only 6 per cent. to Health Service workers, some of whom have a take-home pay that is less than £2,500, while his Government offer judges on over £40,000 a year an 18 per cent. increase? Is the Government's policy to be generous to the well-off while being mean and Scrooge-like to the low paid?

Our policy is to seek to be fair within the Health Service resources to all those working in it. With regard to the TUC Health Service unions, I repeat that negotiations are continuing.

Will my right hon. Friend accept my good wishes for the settlement of the whole of the dispute? Does he accept that if the 4½ per cent. is accepted by NHS workers for the following year, other groups who are higher paid should accept that or less, so that the noises made to the lower paid have some meaning? Will my right hon. Friend add his voice to mine in talking the Prime Minister into trying to get an increase in child benefit so that the lower paid with family responsibilities can accept continuing low pay settlements?

I hear what my hon. Friend says about child benefit. However, he will know that decisions on that are made at the time of the Budget.

Is the Minister aware that, even if these figures are acceptable, the nurses and other skilled and dedicated people, as he described them, will have suffered a considerable reduction in their standard of living over the years? Will the Minister give an assurance that if, as is likely, the rate of inflation increases beyond the 5 per cent. anticipated by the Government at the beginning of next year, that 4½ per cent. will be increased pari passu?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in the premise that he uses. If he takes the staff nurse as an example of what this 7½ per cent. and 4½ per cent. will mean taken together, there will be an increase of between £12·33 and £15 a week. That is what it means, and that cannot, in any fair sense, be described as a cut.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a peaceful settlement will be widely welcomed? However, is it not true that one of the reasons why he did not offer the Health Service more before was that it was rightly said that the country could not afford to pay more? If we have a review body, how will it arrive at a different formula as to what the country can afford? If the settlement is to mean anything, the review body has to know what that means.

The review body will arrive at a formula in the same way as the doctors and dentists review body in the light of the evidence and the ground covered. We shall be able to give it evidence of the national economic and financial position, on NHS resources, recruitment and any changes in terms of services. Therefore, it will be done in the same way as the DDRB.

If the Minister believes that the establishment of a review body will improve industrial relations in the NHS for nurses and professional bodies, why does he not extend that belief to the other workers in the NHS who should equally be covered by the review body? Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the best thing that he could do for industrial relations in the NHS would be to get rid of his provocative friend, the Under-Secretary of State, who has made so many outspoken remarks about the Health Service workers and caused further problems in this dispute?

The hon. Gentleman is calling for the resignation of the wrong person. [Laughter.] I have absolute confidence in the Minister for Health, to whom I think the hon. Gentleman was referring. The review body is intended to recognise the fact that nurses and the other professional bodies do not take industrial action. We rely upon their commitment and we wish to devise a fair means by which their pay is determined.

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that this Government, unlike all previous Governments, are determined that there shall be a proper wage structure throughout the nursing profession which reflects the fact that nurses and midwives do not strike and give their dedication to the nation?

That is what we are trying to do in setting up the review body. It is something that many of those inside the nursing profession have pressed for and wanted over many years. It will be recognised and welcomed by the nursing profession, and will be seen as a step forward.

The Minister seems to think that the Health Service workers enjoy striking, but they do not. What offer would he make to them in return for no-strike pledges?

If the unions wish to give that pledge, we are willing to talk on the point. Talks are continuing. I pay tribute to all staff who have not taken strike action. That includes managers and ancillary workers as well as nurses. That is why it is so surprising and reprehensible that the Labour Party has not at any time in the dispute condemned industrial action.

Why do the Government think that the Health Service differs from other services of the State? Why do we need another pay quango? We already have the top salaries review body, which deals with civil servants other than in the Health Service, judges and army officers. Why can it not deal with top people in the Health Service, such as regional officers? We already have a Health Service quango for doctors and dentists. Why cannot that body deal with the rest of the Health Service? Why can we not have one system of pay in the Health Service as we have for all three Armed Services?

The response of the official Opposition was to welcome the setting up of the review body. The hon. Gentleman appears to be going on a course of his own. The comparison, which I think that the hon. Gentleman has missed, is the most obvious one between the doctors and dentists review body. The link there is something that we shall be examining in the consultations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the answer that he has given today to my right hon. and hon. Friends, that he is prepared to talk and talk again, is useless until he puts some real money on the table?

There is over £1,100 million on the table already. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman's definition of real money is.

The offer to the ancillary workers is a miserable offer to the lowest-paid workers in the NHS. Is the Secretary of State aware that I have the wage slip of a NUPE member, who is a caretaker in a health centre in Liverpool which shows that after five and a half days' work on split duties, this person takes home less than £40 a week? Is this not disgraceful, when the judges and the generals received an increase of between 18 and 19 per cent.?

This November, will not 350,000 Health Service workers be earning a gross wage lower than the eligibility level for family income supplement? Will the Minister give an undertaking that, whatever final arrangements are made, that number will be substantially reduced, and in the statement that he finally makes on the dispute will he tell us how many Health Service employees still remain below that level of eligibility?

I will certainly do the latter. In his first question the hon. Gentleman was using the April figures before the increase. The situation is not as he states.

Have not successive Governments, and particularly this one, traded on the dedication and commitment of the nurses and ancillary staff in the hospital service? Will the Minister assure us that the review body's recommendation will be implemented?

The purpose of the review body is to ensure that no one trades on the loyalty of the nursing profession. We are trying to find a fair way to determine their pay so that there is no question of industrial muscle being used.

Will the Secretary of State now give an unequivocal undertaking that he will regard the review body's finding as binding in the same way as this Government regarded the findings of machinery set up to determine police pay?

We cannot give such an undertaking. We must reserve the right, if there are compelling national reasons, not to accept the findings. That is the normal situation with review bodies.

Fisheries Council

4.1 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers held in Brussels on 8 November. I represented the United Kingdom, accompanied by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of State.

The Danish Minister told the Council that his Government were unable to accept the package of measures which had been proposed by the Commission and agreed by nine member States at the Council on 25–26 October, and specifically informed the Council that they required licences in the north of Scotland box, quotas of west coast mackerel and improvements in their quotas of cod, haddock and saithe in the North Sea. The United Kingdom and eight other member States informed the Danish Minister that there would be no way in which they would agree to change the agreement of 25–26 October. The Commission suggested talks with the Danish Minister on any matters outside the agreement that could enable the Danish Minister to approve the package.

At the conclusion of many hours of talks the Danish Minister informed the Council that no suggestions had been made that would enable the Danish Government to give their agreement. The Commission and all the nine other member States expressed their strong disappointment and disapproval at the Danish Government's attitude. Following these expressions of disapproval, the Danish Deputy Prime Minister, who presided at the Council, proposed a suspension to enable the Danish Government to consider their position further. The Danish Minister then informed the Council that his Government would consider approval of the package at a meeting tomorrow, 10 November, and would then tell the Commission whether they could approve the package agreed by the other nine member States.

I hope that the Danish Government will approve the package, but if they do not the Council agreed to resume discussions before the end of the month to consider what national measures would be necessary to implement so far as possible the package agreed by nine member States to conserve Community fishing stocks and to allocate them fairly between member States.

Two weeks ago we discussed the British Government's surrender, which is no longer in dispute. If the Minister does not accept what I say, let him read the chorus of disapproval from every British fishery organisation.

That includes Austen Laing of the British Fishing Federation. We must now deal with the effects of that surrender.

Unfortunately, the statement is brief and leaves much unsaid. If the Danes continue to refuse to agree, precisely who will legally be involved in taking the necessary national measures? Will they be implemented by the other nine member States? Will the procedure be the equivalent of a majority vote, or will individual member countries undertake to police national measures?

The Minister said that if the Danish Government did not approve the package the Council would
"consider what national measures would be necessary to implement so far as possible the package agreed".
What is the significance of "so far as possible"? Does it mean that the Minister is not capable of taking the practical and logistical steps to protect our fishermen? Why did he tell them two weeks ago that he could not protect them if they did not accept the deal? If he is talking about legal problems, will he spell them out?

May I assure the Minister that if he brings measures before the House to give our fishermen full protection, even under the inadequate deal that he has secured, he will have our full support?

What does
"talks with the Danish Minister on any matters outside the agreement"
mean? Were futher concessions suggested? If so, were they perhaps related to third country waters, or did they involve matters other than fishing?

The Minister mentioned the Danish Government's attitude. May I remind him that, unlike our Government's attitude, it is determined by the right of that Parliament to see Common Market measures before implementing them? To ensure that the contingency plans to protect our waters—about which he will presumably shortly be telling us—are made known to the Danes and others, do we not need an early debate in Government time?

This is not a case for a majority vote. As has frequently happened under a Labour Government and under this Government, national fishery measures are approved by the Commission. The measures for Danish territorial waters cannot be imposed on the Danish Government in those waters. Labour and Conservative Governments have always believed it right to adhere to the Luxembourg compromise. I would not participate in a vote on the issue.

I understand that the measures discussed by the Commission with the Danish Government outside the agreement included measures within the marketing regulation, for which the Commission has a management right, for example, on providing a penetration premium on mackerel, which would be of advantage to the Danish industry and also to our mackerel fishermen. For 1982 alone there was also an offer by the Norwegian Government of 2,000 tonnes of cod. Those matters could not in any way affect the principles of the package agreed to by the Nine.

Because of the views of our fishing organisations, I am sorry that the Labour Party is not doing more to suggest that it is correct for the Danish Government to agree to the package. If it did so, that would be in the interests of Danish and British fishermen.

The hon. Gentleman says that there is a lack of support from the fishing organisations for our efforts. I have spent the past 24 hours with the leaders of those organisations and have no doubt about their deep desire that agreement should be reached. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the resentment expressed by the president of one organisation about his—the hon. Gentleman's—performance. He stated:
"Our decision was not influenced by the promise of money but was made after carefully weighing the facts and assessing the consequences of alternative actions. To suggest otherwise"—
which the hon. Gentleman did—
"is a slur on the integrity of myself and my colleagues and is deeply resented."

I was expecting that. I shall now quote what the director of the British Fishing Federation, Austen Laing, said about the deal:

"We have come out extremely badly indeed. … Our only real hope in distant waters is to expand the quotas available, but it is an extremely poor outlook."
He summed up the deal by saying that there was
"Nothing in it for deepsea men and there had not been all the way along."
Will the Minister tell us what contingency measures he is prepared to take? He has still not told us, and fishermen need to know. He will have read the letter from the Shetland council, which demands that the protection should be based on Shetland waters and not left to the capitals of the nine member countries of Western Europe.

As the hon. Gentleman wishes to quote Mr. Austen Laing, I am only too happy to do so. After the agreement he said:

"None of them should be allowed to obscure the great skill and nice judgment that Peter Walker and his ministerial colleagues have exercised."
He went on to say, accurately:
"The hand which he was obliged to pick up when he assumed office was a yarborough.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect carefully upon Austen Laing's words.

With regard to the national measures, as there will be no common fisheries policy, and presumably no Community legislation, will this country be legally entitled to modify those measures, as it thinks fit, in accordance with the interests of our fishing industry?

We have reached agreement with the nine member countries on the pattern of fishing that we think is sensible to conserve and therefore enhance fishing stocks and to provide British fishermen with fair quotas and access provisions.

We believe that the Commission and the nine member countries will agree to national measures that will enable us to keep to the spirit of that agreement.

Order. I propose to allow 20 minutes for questions. If hon. Members are succinct, we should get everyone in.

Have we not been generous to the Danes already? If they do not accept the agreement and we have to take national measures, is it intended that they should be allowed to fish up to the quotas already allocated, or will they be banned from our waters altogether?

That is something that must be discussed at the next Council of Ministers. My view is that they should be allowed to fish within our waters the quotas that have sensibly been allocated to them. I have no desire to have hostilities or war of any description with Denmark over fishing.

My hon. Friend says that we have been generous to the Danes. My view and that of the Commission and the other eight member States is that what is on offer to Denmark is a fair reflection of its historic fishing pattern. I am certain that the acceptance of such a package would be to the benefit of Danish fishermen and that its rejection would be to their disadvantage.

Is the Minister aware that there is some anxiety in my constituency about licences? People are worried about the size and number of boats to be licensed. Will the Minister make a statement about the number and size of boats that will be allowed to fish in the Shetland box?

I understood the Minister to say in his last statement that the measures agreed by the Nine would be enforceable against the Danes and that Danish fishing vessels transgressing would be liable to arrest. Will the Minister confirm that that is still the case?

There will be enforcement on Danish fishermen in all the European waters of the eight other member States. The measures would not be enforceable in Danish territorial waters.

The right hon. Gentleman knows better than anyone in the House that 80 per cent. of the fishing catch of the Shetland fishermen is within the 12-mile zone, which, except for one small area, remains exclusive under this arrangement. The Shetland area is the only area in Europe where there will be special licensing arrangements to conserve the fishing stocks of that area.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has already had considerable discussions with the Shetland people, and I know that he is only too willing to continue to do so and to provide all the facts and details required.

Does the Minister recall that in his last statement he said that the proposed agreement was intended to run for 20 years? Since we have no agreement, but only a number of national decisions, what is to stop other countries from ganging up against us next year, as we appear to have ganged up against Denmark?

I hope that at tomorrow's meeting of the Danish Government the package will be agreed to. They received a firm message from the nine member States and the Commission that that is what is hoped and expected. In the interests of our fishing industry, and of all those of Europe, I hope that there will be agreement shortly. If there is not and national measures have to be undertaken, they will be undertaken by the nine member States and the Commission in agreement. That is a much safer and more secure position than would have obtained previously. However, it is obviously not as safe or as good as having an agreement that will last for 20 years. That is why we are seeking an agreement.

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that the package agreed by the Nine will be inviolable? If the Danes refuse to agree, will he ask our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to raise the subject at the summit meeting later in the year?

Not only the United Kingdom Government, but the eight other member Governments, made it clear yesterday, both at the beginning and end of the meeting, that there was no possibility of undoing the package agreed by nine countries. Those nine countries have made considerable efforts to reach an understanding, and I do not believe that any of them would find it possible to change the principle and detail of the package.

We made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that there was no possibility of Denmark's having a quota for mackerel on the west coast or licences in the north of Scotland box, because it has never had any historical right to either of those. It was made clear to the Danish Government by the member States around the Council table that if the Danes blocked such an agreement it would almost certainly become one of the major issues at the Copenhagen summit at the beginning of December.

In the light of the Minister's self-satisfaction about the agreement, may I ask whether he has read last week's issue of Fishing News, where one sees the contrast between the two columns of what we wanted and what we got? Is he aware of the report that the Danes are fishing in areas that have not been allocated to them? Will he confirm that and say what action he will take?

Having recently read Fishing News, when the whole of its front page described a meeting that I had with the National Federation of Fishermens Organisations and gave great detail of what happened, though the subjects that it mentioned were in fact not even discussed, I do not place too much reliance on what I read in Fishing News.

Having spent the whole of yesterday with the leaders of the Scottish fishing industry, and having read the comments about the statesmanlike qualities with which they supported the agreement, I am only too happy—for purely party political reasons—that the right hon. Gentleman's views on the subject are so different from those of the fishing industry.

Is the Minister telling the House that there is no possibility of what many of us term "the CFP charade" fading out at the end of the calendar year? If it does, the Minister will need a much larger fisheries protection squadron. In that event, will he consider converting and using along our coasts some of the vessels that are lying in Hull?

Irrespective of what happens at the end of this year, we have obtained a Community enforcement procedure which comes into force on 1 January. That will apply whether or not there is full agreement, because the Danes have already agreed the enforcement procedure. That means that supervision within our territorial waters—that is, up to a 200-mile limit, or the median line—is the responsibility of the British Government. The duty of the Minister responsible for fisheries is to ensure that adequate vessels and aeroplanes are available so that the job is well done.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Community of Ten agreed to conservation and associated measures such as supervision and policing? Irrespective of what transpires between now and January 1983, may we have an assurance that the measures will be introduced on that date and that they will involve the Commission's own input in terms of policing and enforcement?

Yes. I am pleased to say that when the British Government put forward a draft regulation, which became a Commission proposal, it was agreed that the date for enforcement should be either the date of a common fishing agreement or 1 January 1983. The measures will come into operation on 1 January 1983, irrespective of agreement being reached.

I may have misunderstood the Minister's last answer. If national measures have to be implemented, will the restructuring package go through, or is that an integral part which falls if there is lack of agreement among the Ten? If we have to consider national measures, will the Minister reconsider specific licensing proposals for the Shetland box, because there is great anxiety that the exclusion of vessels under 80 ft will render the licensing system meaningless and ineffective?