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Commons Chamber

Volume 79: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1985

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 21 May 1985

Prayers

Private Business

BATH CITY COUNCIL BILL [Lords]

GREATER MANCHESTER BILL [Lords]

LUTON BOROUGH COUNCIL BILL [Lords]

PLYMOUTH MARINE EVENTS BASE BILL

Considered; to be read the Third time.

LINCOLN CITY COUNCIL BILL

(By Order) Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education And Science

Expenditure

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was total expenditure on school education in England in 1978–79 and how this compares with expenditure in the most recent year for which figures are available, at constant prices.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
(Mr. Bob Dunn)

Current expenditure on schools by local education authorities in England amounted to £6,708 million in 1978–79 and £6,885 million in 1983–84, the latest year for which firm figures are available. Both figures are at 1983–84 prices.

As the school population has fallen by about 1 million, and as total expenditure on education has risen in real terms since 1978–79, does my hon. Friend agree that these figures show clearly the high priority that the Government are placing on school education? By how much has expenditure per pupil at school risen in real terms since the Government came into office?

My hon. Friend is right in his interpretation. Expenditure per pupil in real terms has risen steadily since 1979 and is now at its best ever level. Expenditure per primary pupil increased by 17 per cent. and per secondary pupil by 12 per cent. between 1978–79 and 1983–84.

How does that compare with expenditure per pupil at Harrow and Eton and such schools?

Does my hon. Friend agree that expenditure per pupil does not tell the whole story? Why does the Inner London education authority spend more on its secondary school pupils than any other education authority when only one in seven get five or more O-levels—only six of the 96 education authorities do worse than that— whereas Surrey, spending about average for shire counties per secondary school pupil, has one in three pupils leaving with five or more O-levels? Does my hon. Friend further agree that parents arid pupils want efficient and effective education, not a mindless demand for more resources?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the nature, robustness and thrust of her supplementary question. As she rightly says, there is no simple relationship between expenditure and the quality of education. Were that the case, ILEA would be top of the league in all respects.

Is the Secretary of State not planning for cuts in real terms over the next three years, and for cuts in expenditure per pupil? Should the Minister not tell the House that?

As the hon. Member knows, our plans for current expenditure by local authorities this year are consistent with our commitment to a continuing improvement in educational standards. The plans for education spending by authorities in later years, set out in the 1985 public expenditure White Paper, are provisional. They will be revised later this year after consultation with the local authorities and in the light of circumstances and the prospects then prevailing.

Teachers (Pay)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a further statement on the teachers' pay dispute.

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current teachers' pay dispute.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made since 2 May to resolve the current teachers' pay dispute.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the teachers' dispute.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current dispute between teachers and their employers.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the progress of the teachers' pay talks.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph): The Burnham committee met on 15 May, when constructive informal exchanges took place between the leaders of the two sides. The independent chairman noted that neither side had committed itself to a particular line or figure. Discussion is to be resumed on 23 May.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present negotiating machinery does not work adequately? Will he therefore institute urgent reform of the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 to ensure that new machinery is devised which will include appraisal of teachers' performance and a restructuring of their salary levels?

I am ready to be convinced, but I have not yet been, that a structural change is necessary. What my hon. Friend wishes for exists to a large extent in Scotland without achieving the purpose he has in mind.

The Secretary of State is aware that the Conservative party lost control of a large number of shire counties about 10 days ago and that more and more of the local education authorities are now saying that the teachers deserve a decent rate of pay. Will he therefore say that if a better offer should be made, rate capping and other financial restraints will be lifted to enable more money to be found to give a decent rate of pay to the teachers?

As I have said several times before, the answer to that question is no.

As the Burnham negotiations are continuing to break down, does the Secretary of State not think that it is about time that he personally became involved and took over the negotiations with the teachers? I draw to his attention early-day motion 681. I hope that he will use it as a formula for a settlement of the dispute.

I have seen early-day motion 681, but we must wait and see what happens in Burnham, which meets again on Thursday next.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if our schools are to provide the kind of education that our children need it is vital that there should be a drastic restructuring of the teaching profession? Is he also aware that it is important to make it clear that should such a restructuring be agreed, money will be made available to finance it?

My hon. Friend knows that I have urged the employers and the teachers to negotiate such a restructuring and that I have said that if the result appears to me to be educationally desirable and financially affordable I shall take it to my colleagues.

In view of my right hon. Friend's disappointing reply, will he say what hope he has for the pupils and teachers at the Endeavour school in Middlesbrough, a school for those with special handicaps, a third tranche of whom will have to suffer inconvenience after the Whitsun holiday unless there is a resolution of the dispute?

I would rather speak in general about the behaviour of those teachers who are disrupting or who are on strike and say that I think they are letting down their profession, seriously damaging the interests of the children and doing great harm to the households of many parents.

Has the Secretary of State fully considered the fact that the morale of teachers is at an all-time low? Does he not appreciate the detrimental effect that this can have upon the long-term future of our children? Why does he not provide extra money in order to try to reach an amicable settlement?

I have also borne in mind that in several cases the union leaders have been systematically, in my view, misleading the members of their unions. The teachers' unions have refused to negotiate, to arbitrate or even to discuss the restructuring which the employers have asked them to talk about.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as from today, the National Union of Teachers has called out the teachers in four schools in my constituency, three of them primary schools, and that this has been put forward publicly on the basis that these schools are in the constituency of a former Secretary of State for Education and Science? Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that one can have no possible shred of respect for the leadership of a union which attempts to justify' its behaviour upon such a spurious ground? Will he sadly confirm my view that as a body the NUT is becoming the gravest danger to the professional standing of teachers?

I sympathise with the parents and children in my right hon. and learned Friend's constituency, but the behaviour of any union and teacher who damages the children's education is unforgiveable.

Is it not a fact that inflation is running at 6· per cent. and rising, that teachers have been offered 4 per cent., that they have lost 30 per cent. and yet they are the most moderate group of people and are struggling for a living wage? Will the Minister make it clear that he has 15 votes on the Burnham committee and that he has used them twice recently to stop a negotiated settlement? Does he accept that that is the reality and that the struggle will go almost indefinitely unless more money is placed on the table to give the teachers a living wage?

Let me agree with one point made by the hon. Gentleman—most teachers are moderate and hardworking and take their job seriously. Let me also tell the House that the votes to officials of the Department were provided during the time of or in the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965, which was passed by a Labour Government.

Should not classroom disruption stop at once and both sides make a real effort to get a three-year pay deal which should have within it the beginnings of great rewards for effective teachers?

I very much agree with the general gist of my hon. Friend's question. I wish that the teachers would go back to negotiations, and let us hope that on Thursday they start to do so.

If the Secretary of State wishes the teachers to negotiate, will he at least press his Cabinet colleagues to allow those authorities which overspend their targets not to be penalised?

No, Mr. Speaker, that would be providing further public money, and I have already told those concerned that that is not what the Government intend to do.

In this present difficult situation, does it not need constant re-emphasis that there is a prospect of more money if only the teachers and employers can reach agreement on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that. The answer is definitely yes.

Is the Secretary of State not more than pleased that the NUT has exempted certain authorities from industrial action?

I am glad that any school that would otherwise be disrupted is not disrupted, but I cannot in any way respect the NUT's decision to exempt some authorities and not others. The children are in the charge of teachers who are failing in their responsibilities.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the metropolitan borough of Stockport today no members of the NUT are on strike in the constituency of Demon and Reddish, but that they are on strike in the constituencies of Stockport and Hazel Grove merely because the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has given wholehearted support to the NUT's action whereas I and my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) refused to do so? Are the pupils not being used as political footballs, and has my right hon. Friend a word to describe that kind of pressure being brought on hon. Members?

I repeat only that I deplore the thoroughly unprofessional behaviour of those teachers' union leaders who are conducting that policy and those teachers who co-operate with them.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the veto, which came in at about 1965 when a Labour Government were in office, is not a matter about which I am prepared, or any holder of my office has ever been prepared, to make predictions.

Youth Training Scheme

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will next meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the second year of the youth training scheme.

Officials of the Department and I are in regular contact with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission and his staff about matters of mutual interest, including the proposals to expand and develop the youth training scheme.

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, will he tell him that if we go in for a second year of the youth training scheme, the Government will be more than doubling in real terms the budget available for training? Is he aware that we are suspicious because the wages of youngsters have been dramatically eroded? Is he further aware that if he does not do that it will appear to us that he is after training on the cheap, or, at worst, that he is interested not in training but only in keeping the unemployment figures down?

While that supplementary question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, I could not possibly accept that the young people concerned are being treated in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. They are being given, for the first time, an opportunity for positive training after they leave school if they are not in a job.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, despite the views of the dafties on the Labour Benches, the YTS has been an exceedingly successful scheme, with about 70 per cent. of those taking part getting jobs afterwards, and that an extension to two years would prove an extra benefit?

I confirm that the YTS is a successful scheme, though I am not the Minister to whom detailed questions about exact figures should be addressed.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is already a two-year scheme in Northern Ireland. Does he agree that if the results of introducing a two-year scheme in England prove to be the same as in Northern Ireland—that is, that even at the end of two years no jobs are available — we shall be no further forward? Would it not be wiser for the Government to amend their economic policy so as to secure jobs for these youngsters?

One cannot always read across conditions from Northern Ireland to this country or reciprocally. I only wish that we had in our schools in England the academic results that are achieved in Northern Ireland.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when representatives of the CBI came to meet the Select Committee on Employment they said that one of their worries was that in the second year of the YTS they might be short of people with teaching skills? In view of the falling morale among teachers because of a lack of promotion prospects, will my right hon. Friend consider making it easier for teachers to enter training rather than teaching?

I do not think that that calls for action by me. It is up to the individuals concerned.

May we have an assurance that any extension of the YTS will mean genuine training and employment opportunities for young people, instead of it being just another opportunity for some unscrupulous employers to exploit them with slave labour wages, throwing the youngsters back on the dole queue after two years instead of one?

I know enough to know that the hon. Gentleman is grossly distorting the results of the YTS. However, relatively precise questions about the YTS are for my right hon. Friend.

Further to that supplementary question from the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), is my right hon. Friend aware that the Select Committee on Employment invited representatives of the British Youth Council to draw attention to six bad schemes which they alleged existed? That was six weeks ago. To date, we have yet to hear of any bad schemes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that suggests that the allegation that the YTS is exploited is simply a slur by those who seek to attack and undermine this valuable scheme?

Opposition Members who go in for such generalised smears damage the very people whom they purport to want to help.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is widespread concern lest the second year of the YTS falls more into the hands of the private training agencies than of employers or mode B providers? Is he further aware that the record of those agencies on high quality educational content has not been good? Will he ensure that the Department's team is in there fighting for high educational content in the second year, linked to further education generally?

I am not one who seeks to evade questions, but supplementary questions of that type are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

I did not call the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). I called the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham).

Natural Environment Research Council

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on his decision regarding the corporate plan of the Natural Environment Research Council.

The Parliamentary tinder-Secretary of State for Education and Science
(Mr. Peter Brooke)

Both the Department and the Advisory Board for the Research Councils have encouraged the research councils to produce corporate plans. Beyond that it is not for my right hon. Friend to make a decision on a corporate plan in the way implied.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the distinguished scientists of the British Geological Survey are concerned that this corporate plan will mean less geology and more administration? Will my hon. Friend set up an independent inquiry to ascertain whether the BGS should leave the research council altogether?

I understand my hon. Friend's concern, although I cannot go all the way with him on the precise subject of an inquiry. I agree that there is a case for a study into the national needs of geological surveying activities, and I shall ensure that that suggestion is sympathetically considered.

Does the hon. Gentleman understand how important it is for the Government to be seen to support our scientific institutions of international repute? If these institutions fail, we shall lose to our competitors even more of our distinguished scientists than we have lost already.

I am delighted to tell the hon. Lady that, since 1979, the science budget has increased in real terms by 8 per cent.

Teachers (Pay)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the progress of talks on the restructuring of teachers' salaries.

There has been no further progress since the National Union of Teachers led the teachers' panel out of discussions in the Burnham joint structure working party on 5 December.

Has any progress been made on the means of implementing an appraisal system? If so, how will this be done?

Alas, the teachers' unions have blocked the taxpayers' money that I have set aside for pilot appraisal schemes. I am eager to embark on those schemes as soon as possible. In the meantime, I am convening a conference in the autumn on the subject of appraisal, to which local education authorities and teachers' represen- tatives will certainly be invited.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the teachers are incensed about the issue of pay and restructuring, partly because education spending since the Tory party came to power has been surpassed by the amount spent on defence? The teachers believe that the £4 billion more that is now spent on defence shows that this Government think that education has a low priority. The teachers know also that in 1980, after the Tory party was elected, the Secretary of State doubled his money. Every Tory Minister has made up for all the lost ground and now earns more than £40,000 a year. If Ministers can make up lost ground in pay, the teachers are right to ask, "Why can we not make up for all the ground that has been lost during these Thatcher years?" The other day I read that the bosses made 30 per cent. more money in 1985. Is it any wonder that teachers fight for a better standard of living?

During the past seven to eight years there have been about 15 per cent. fewer children in our schools to be taught. That accounts for the fall in the amount of money available for education. In the case of defence, it sometimes seems that the opponents of this country are ever more numerous.

With 1 million children affected by strike action this week, will my right hon. Friend endeavour to incorporate a no-strike clause in any future formula which may be agreed for teachers' pay?

I am grateful for that constructive suggestion. My representatives play only a limited, although important, part in the negotiations. I am sure that the employers will note that suggestion.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the attitude of the teachers' unions in wholely ignoring the restructuring talks, which offer the best hope of better conditions and salaries for union members, the teachers have made it clear that the purpose of the current action has less to do with pay and more to do with inter-union and internal union rivalries?

I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned that. It is clear that the teachers' unions are not exactly unanimous among themselves.

Why does the Secretary of State not admit, rather than conceal the fact, that the teachers are not against restructuring or reassessment? Will he admit that what the teachers oppose is his insistence on tying the two things together in terms of the current wage demand? Is he aware that the teachers want new money on the table because they have lost out in all the years of Conservative Government, but that after they have obtained that increase they will willingly discuss what is to happen about restructuring and reassessment? It is not true that the teachers are against that. Tell the truth.

They give the impression of being against any restructuring whatever, but I know that the NUT pamphlet declares its sympathy for appraisal in some context and I am encouraged by that.

As the discussions on restructuring coupled with the current pay dispute have done little if anything to improve the image of the teaching profession among the general public, and as my right hon. Friend shares the ambition of many Members, myself included, of wishing to attract the best possible people into the teaching profession, will he assist by explaining how we are to encourage young people to enter the teaching profession at the present time?

I believe that a restructured profession, with all that that implies, must come sooner or later. I believe that that will make it even more worth while for the kind of people whom my hon. Friend and I wish to see enter the profession.

Given the fact, which no one seems to have challenged, that teachers' pay has slipped by about 30 per cent., will the Secretary of State draw on his experience at the Department of Industry and realise that he must sort that out first before going on to deal with restructuring, because until he faces that issue relationships will continue to be atrocious?

The hon. Member reminds me of my experience with industry, in which there are virtually no secure jobs. The teachers have almost total security of employment and are thus much envied by many people. I believe that hankering back to comparability would bring back the rocketing inflation and unemployment which it brought to this country in the past.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many teachers taking industrial action are doing so out of sheer frustration and that it is hurting them as much as it hurts the children whom they teach? Bearing that in mind, will my right hon. Friend do all that he possibly can to try to solve the teachers' pay dispute in the long term as well as the short term? Will he also consider the scrapping of Burnham and the merging of two committees, one dealing with terms and conditions and the other dealing with pay?

I agree that many teachers must be striking or disrupting with heavy hearts and I respect the large number of teachers and some unions who are unwilling to disrupt at all, but I must correct the impression given by my hon. Friend. The teachers are using methods of disruption which are virtually costless to themselves but very costly to the children.

Having given conflicting replies to me and to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), and having confused his hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), will the Secretary of State now tell us what sort of appraisal he has in mind, if he has anything in mind at all?

I have in mind a system or systems to be worked out with the employers and the teachers themselves. There is no question of imposing one particular, precise drill At is important that the employers and the teachers, with the Department, should formulate methods of appraisal that will be fair and satisfactory. The House should realise that appraisal already takes place informally all the time—for instance, when promotions are offered. I am merely asking that there should be a formal procedure.

Although, by and large, the majority of teachers do a good and dedicated job for their pupils, is it not true that many parents are aware that there are some thoroughly bad teachers? If we have to reduce the number of teachers to match the falling birth rate, should we not make sure that we lose the very bad teachers? That can be achieved only through an appraisal system in which the teachers themselves take part. Let us lose the bad teachers and keep the good ones.

The purpose of appraisal is far more constructive even than that. It is to offer in-service training and career development opportunities for all teachers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is most important that appraisal should be carried out by independent people, so that both teachers and employers feel that it is entirely independent?

I think that I can agree with my hon. Friend in principle, to the extent that the appraisal should be conducted by a method respected by all concerned. I am not prepared at this stage to say that it should be carried out by independent people.

Primary Education

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children entered primary education in the latest year for which figures are available who were unable to speak English.

As we know that a considerable number of children enter primary education without a command of English, is my hon. Friend content with the present arrangements for the recruitment, training and employ-ment of teachers who are members of the minority groups from which a number of those children come, and who are capable of speaking in the languages that the children use when they start school?

The Department is concerned about that point. However, we must never reduce standards lo admit teachers with certain ethnic backgrounds. To do so would be unfair to them and to the children whom they aim to serve.

Will the Minister give praise to education authorities such as Brent which, with a large influx of Gujarati children, was able to set up language laboratories and overcome the difficulty in that way? Will the Minister ensure that rate capping will not prevent youngsters entering primary school from learning English?

I welcome good practice wherever it exists. Rate capping and the problems caused by it are matters for the local authority.

Swann Report (Ethnic Minorities)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations have been instigated by his Department following the publication of the Swann report on ethnic minority education.

The Department is currently exploring with the education service and the ethnic minorities the collection of ethnically based statistics, and will be seeking views shortly on how best to increase the proportion of ethnic minority teachers. Other consultations will follow in due course.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there will continue to be a strong emphasis on religious education in our schools?

Yes, Sir. We have made it plain on many occasions that we are committed to upholding the provisions of the Education Act 1944 relating to religious education in schools and, of course, morning assembly.

I recently visited two weekend schools where the culture, religion and language of the ethnic minority concerned are taught out of school time. Is that not a most commendable practice?

Entirely so. Much can be done within the maintained school system, but I look to the ethnic minorities themselves to teach their culture, standards and language out of school times and at weekends, when they can most adequately do so.

Does the Minister realise how important it is for the integration and wholesomeness of British society that the recommendations in the Swann report should be regarded and some action taken on them?

16 To 19-Year-Olds

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with the chairman of he Manpower Services Commission on financial provision for 16 to 19-year-olds.

The Government have invited the Manpower Services Commission to consult employers and other interests about the implementation of the extended youth training scheme, but I have not recently discussed with the chairman of the MSC the question of financial support for 16 to 19-year-olds in full-time education.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at least 20,000 young people from working-class homes will be forced to go out to work or on to youth training schemes because their parents cannot afford to keep them in full-time education? Will he urge the MSC to re-examine the need for a proper education maintenance allowance? If the right hon. Gentleman will not stand up for those young people, perhaps the chairman of the MSC will.

I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would send me the evidence that supports the figures that she has so confidently produced, because my evidence shows that the staying-on rate is nearly at record levels.

Can we be sure that the new two-year scheme is intended to be a proper, integrated scheme rather than a mere extension into a second year?

I think that I can give that assurance, but matters of detail are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

In his discussions with the chairman of the MSC, has the Secretary of State commented on the allowance paid to youngsters on YTS, which, had it been increased in line with inflation or earnings in the past six years, would have been £40 instead of the miserable £26·5 which the Government are paying? How does the right hon. Gentleman justify Cabinet Ministers getting a 10 per cent. rise in salary last year, directors of private companies getting an 11 per cent. rise, profits rising at 20 per cent., but youngsters on YTS having their allowance cut year after year?

These are not my direct responsibilities but those of my right hon. Friend. I agree that at the heart of youth unemployment might in many cases be higher earnings than the market will pay them or than employers find it profitable to pay. If the hon. Gentleman wants to reduce youth unemployment, he should take these arguments very seriously.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vast majority of parents are happy to accept responsibility for maintaining their children?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the evidence exists and that we shall give it to him? At least 20,000 young people from working-class homes have to go on YTS instead of staying on in further education. It is worrying to hear the Secretary of State more or less saying that he has no responsibility for those who go on YTS, for the educational part of their courses or for integration with the further education service. Is he abdicating his responsibility to those young people?

I take responsibility for the educational content, but I have been asked questions which overwhelmingly are for my right hon. Friend.

Vocational Qualifications

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will next meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss vocational qualifications.

I last saw the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission on 29 April with the chairman of the working group to review vocational qualifications, Mr. Oscar de Ville. I have no further meetings scheduled at present with the MSC chairman, but the Department and the inspectorate are fully involved in the review. Its results will be reported jointly to me and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is an urgent need for an all-embracing national assessment of education training, especially in the 16-to19 age group? Does he agree that that can be achieved only if there is a thorough review of the present system?

Yes, Sir. It is precisely because of that that Mr. Oscar de Ville has been asked to preside over a committee to do just that.

Pre-School Playgroups

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what information he has as to the number and proportion of children entering school who have previously attended a pre-school playgroup.

The Department does not collect information on playgroup attendance, but the Pre-School Playgroups Association estimates that, in 1984, some 33 per cent. of three and four-year-olds attended pre-school playgroups.

Has my hon. Friend had time to study the evidence submitted by the Pre-School Playgroups Association to the Select Committee on Education and Science in which it documented its work on the important transition from home to school? Has he noted the emphasis that it puts on collaboration with parents, the community and volunteers?

I shall undertake to do just that. The research project by Professor Neville Butler of Bristol university has just been completed. The research concerned the association of pre-school educational experience with later cognitive development, educational achievement and behavioural adjustment. I understand that it included children with pre-school playgroup experience.

Mathematics Teaching

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from local education authorities in England following his recent statement on proposed changes in methods of teaching mathematics in schools; and if he will make a statement.

The Government have welcomed the publication of Her Majesty's Inspectorate's discussion document "Mathematics from 5 to 16". HMI looks forward to receiving comments from local education authorities and others on the matters raised in the paper.

Will my hon. Friend encourage local education authorities to seek to get new recruits into the teaching profession from industry, as the new method of teaching mathematics is liable to require people who have already had practical experience in industry?

There is always a place for more well qualified teachers of mathematics, who can teach. The plans which we recently announced for initial teacher training are designed to provide places for enough new mathematics teachers to meet the needs of the schools.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 May.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with 26 leading industrialists to discuss their role in the Government's policy to increase the number of engineering and technology students. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Prime Minister of Finland. This evening I shall be giving a dinner for the Prime Minister of Finland.

Is the Prime Minister aware that a current Ministry of Defence order for 11,000 artillery shells is being fulfilled by a Belgium-based company which appears to be using Soviet TNT because it is cheapest? Can the Prime Minister let the House know what assurances have been given of continuity of supply in the event of hostilities between East and West?

The Department has a policy of introducing greater competition into — [Interruption.] Tenders are sought only from recognised and established sources of manufacture, predominantly within western Europe. We do not procure any ammunition direct from the eastern bloc. PRB, which got the order, is a Belgian state company with a high international reputation in the supply of ammunition, explosives and propellants. It is PRB which occasionally gets some of its explosives from eastern Europe.

Has my right hon. Friend noted today the publicity surrounding the 15-year-old girl who has been made a ward of court in order to have an abortion, expressly against the wishes of her mother? Will my right hon. Friend join me in deploring this most unhappy event, and will she agree with me that, in the best interests of the family, parents must be responsible for their under-age children?

That is normally so, but understand that in this case the matter came before the court, and it would not therefore be appropriate for me to comment.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday, 21 May.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Will the Prime Minister give us the latest update on her feud with the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the solution to handling the rates promises that she has given? After the ignominous backdown in Scotland, the panic reaction in the face of the Scottish rebellion, and the £50 million buy-off which has only brought more problems for those whom she did not help. can she tell the House now who is winning the Cabinet battle to save her face?

I notice that I am constantly asked questions about the results of reviews which are still under way. The hon. Gentleman must contain his patience a good deal longer.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the workers of London Transport on their enormous good sense in refusing to join in a strike about which they had not been consulted? Does she share with me the sense of achievement that the industrial relations legislation passed by the Government is seen to be working most satisfactorily?

I do share my hon. Friend's views. The industrial legislation which the Conservative Government passed in the teeth of Labour opposition has given rights to ordinary members of trade unions which enable them to have a decisive say in strikes and matters affecting their future. I note that any future Labour Government—which I hope there will never be—would attempt to repeal that legislation.

In contemplating last month's rise in inflation and the steady rise in unemployment, do any of the right hon. Lady's advisers ever suggest that what needs changing is not her voice but her policies?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will note that the Government whom he supported through thick and thin, and whose existence he prolonged, never reached as low a level of inflation as 6–9 per cent.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to encourage the chairman of the National Coal Board to give permission to that group of miners who wish to invest their own money to finance and work their own pit? Does she agree that, as they will be producing mainly for the domestic market, there can be no logical reason for stopping that sensible extension of private enterprise?

I read the reports that a number of miners in Emley Moor colliery wanted to set up a miners' co-operative. I am sure that the NCB will consider carefully any proposals that the group may put forward. The Secretary of State for Energy and I recognise that some miners may want a more direct stake in their collieries, and that is a development that we would welcome in principle. We shall do everything to help.

As the Prime Minister said, the inflation rate is 6· per cent. Does she still think that it will go down to her promised target of 3 per cent?

As I said, the inflation rate is 6· per cent., which is below — [HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer."] It is below the lowest that the previous Labour Government ever managed to achieve. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said, we expect it to be back at just over 5 per cent. by the end of the year, and then to continue its further route downwards.

May I ask the Prime Minister again: does she still think that the inflation rate will reach her promised target of 3 per cent., and if so, when will that occur? What changes in policy will the Prime Minister bring about to try to promote that, or is she really once again trying to con the country on inflation, as she tried to do on unemployment?

As I said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said that we expect the rate to reach around 5 per cent. by the end of the year, and to be lower still in 1986. [Interruption.] Yes, I do want it lower still. Yes, I do want it at 3 per cent., and below. It is the right hon. Gentleman whose policies would take it right up to 27 per cent., which was the record reached under Labour.

When is the rate going to reach 3 per cent., or is the right hon. Lady copping out on this one again?

The right hon. Gentleman is talking his customary nonsense. We have a target of getting inflation down. The right hon. Gentleman's target would take inflation beyond the 27 per cent. that the previous Labour Government reached.

Food Aid

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in implementing the plans agreed at the Dublin Common Market summit on the transporting of food aid from Common Market stockpiles to Ethiopia and Sudan; and if she will make a statement.

Ethiopia has received about 144,000 tonnes of cereals from the European Community and its member states since the beginning of this year, and Sudan about 93,000 tonnes. Sudan has also received about £8 million worth of other food from the Community.

In view of the highly publicised pledge by the Dublin summit to deliver 1· million tonnes of food aid to the drought areas of Africa, including Ethiopia, before the autumn harvest of 1985, is it not disappointing and disturbing that the total amount actually delivered to Ethiopia so far, with only five months to go, is 144,000 tonnes, which is less than the amount that we send to the Soviet Union and east Europe every week? Will the Prime Minister do all in her power to ensure that the Common Market keeps its pledge to assist starving Africa, particularly when other countries, such as the United States, have responded magnificently and promptly?

Yes. As I told my hon. Friend in a previous reply, progress has been slower than we would have wished, but the matter has been taken up with the European Commission. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development will take it up once again in Brussels at the meeting on 23 May. We are anxious that the process of food arriving in Ethiopia is speeded up. There are problems of distribution when it gets there, which also need attention.

Engagements

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 May.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Will the Prime Minister, for once, emerge from her cast-iron casing and admit that she and she alone is preventing a solution to the teachers' industrial dispute? Will she admit that she ordered her Secretary of State to use the 15 votes on the Burnham committee and on the employers' panel to block two proposals which were reasonably acceptable and might have helped solve the teachers' strike? When will she realise that the teachers are desperate, that their morale is low and that it is affecting the children? It is not the teachers, but the Prime Minister and her Secretary of State, who are harming our children.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has always made it clear that the Government are not able to make available additional resources in 1985–86. However, for the longer term he has also made it clear that if employers and teachers come to him with an affordable package involving both pay and conditions of service he will be willing to put it to his colleagues. The proposition that teachers are prepared to discuss pay but not what they are being paid for is absurd.

Has my right hon. Friend found time today to see press reports of a survey which show that 76 per cent. of the public wish to see the proceedings of this House televised? Can she — [HON. MEMBERS:"Declare your interest."]

Can my right hon. Friend say when the House will be given an opportunity to vote on the matter, and catch up with the House of Lords and public opinion generally?

I thought that I heard a murmur from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that there might be an opportunity for that in the autumn. I hope that that opportunity can be given.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 May.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Is the Prime Minister aware that inflation is rocketing to 6· per cent.? Is she further aware that she and her Chancellor of the Exchequer are telling the workers of this nation that their earnings are too high, yet they make no mention of directors in high places who receive thousands upon thousands in increases each year? They never say a word about that. How about that, then?

I am delighted that the Opposition appear to have been converted to policies that require lower inflation, and that they have utterly rejected all reflationary policies, all artificial increases in demand and all printing of money. Welcome to the views of the Conservative Benches.

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 May.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the over-generous tax concessions that are granted for the planting of trees? Is she aware that these are being abused, which results in the destruction of hill farms, a distortion in market land values, and the destruction of fishing interests and other activities in Scotland, with serious long-term consequences for the environment and for tourism?

I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this. It is rare for the Government to be accused of having tax concessions that are too generous. I shall, of course, draw his point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Higher Education

3.30 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the Green Paper published today on the future development of higher education. Copies of the Green Paper are available in the Vote Office $[Interruption.]

Order. May I ask those hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so quietly?

Copies of the Green Paper are available in the Vote Office. It covers the United Kingdom as a whole and, therefore, I am speaking with the agreement of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I see my colleagues from those Departments on the Government Front Bench.

The purposes of the Green Paper are to present the Government's thinking on future development of higher education, to set the scene for the next decade, and to invite the views of those involved in higher education and of the taxpayers and ratepayers who finance so much of the cost.

The paper has been prepared in the light of advice on future strategy from the University Grants Committee and from the National Advisory Body for Public Sector Higher Education in England, published last September. In Scotland, a review of strategy and of planning and funding arrangements for higher education is being undertaken by the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council. The application in Scotland of the policies addressed in the paper will be considered in the light of the council's advice, which will be available later this year.

As well as reaffirming the view of the aims and purposes of higher education defined in the Robbins report in 1963, the Government believe that it is vital for our higher education to contribute more effectively to the improvement of the performance of the economy. This is not because the Government place a low value on the general cultural benefits of education and research or on study of the humanities. The reason is simply that, unless the country's economic performance improves, we shall be even less able than now to afford many of the things we value most, including education for pleasure and general culture and the financing of scholarship and research as an end in itself. The Green Paper, therefore, emphasises the need for higher education to become more responsive to changing industrial and commercial circumstances, and the importance of close links between higher education on the one hand and business, the professions and the public services on the other.

Since 1963, successive Governments have endorsed the so-called "Robbins principle" that,
"courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so."
The UGC and the NAB have advised that qualification for higher education should be interpreted broadly and that the test should not be paper qualifications but "ability to benefit". So long as the taxpayer continues to bear most of the cost of higher education, however, the benefit must be sufficient to justify the cost. Subject to that, the Government accept that the criteria for entry to higher education—which will, as at present, remain under the control of institutions themselves — should place more emphasis on intellectual competence, motivation and maturity, and less on formal qualifications. Those criteria should be applied as rigorously to those with paper qualifications as to those without. The Government do not expect this change of emphasis significantly to affect the numbers of students for whom higher education should be provided. A consultative paper on student support arrangements will be published shortly, as part of the review of such arrangements which I announced on 5 December last.

As with their policies for schools, in higher education too the Government are committed to raising standards and the pursuit of value for money. In both these areas important reports have recently been published, and are under active consideration.

The report of the committee of inquiry into academic validation in public sector higher education, chaired by Sir Norman Lindop and published in April, deals with the approval, and monitoring of standards, of degree level courses in polytechnics and colleges. It recommends substantial changes in the arrangements of universities which validate public sector courses and of the Council for National Academic Awards. One proposal is that some institutions in the public sector should in future take full responsibility for their own academic standards and award their own degrees. The Government have invited comments on the report and will consider these before coming to decisions.

The report of a steering committee chaired by Sir Alex Jarratt, based on efficiency studies undertaken in six universities, has proposed significant changes in universities' planning and management structures. The present arrangements were developed in a period of increasing resources. Now that resources are no longer expanding, changes are needed if universities are to be able to spend to best advantage the public funding likely to be available. The Jarratt report will also be relevant to the rest of higher education where other efficiency studies are in hand.

In research, the Government wish to ensure that the available resources are used to the greatest possible advantage, which requires more selectivity and planning. The University Grants Committee is developing and promoting new selective allocation and planning arrangements. It is also important that commerce, industry and the public services should take full advantage of what higher education has to offer through research, technology transfer, business start-up facilities and consultancy services. The Green Paper stresses the need for higher education to pay more attention to the development of such services.

The Green Paper recognises that continuing education should be a growth area in higher education, whether for vocational or non-vocational purposes. The Government and local authorities have an important role in stimulating such provision, and the Government contribute directly to the development of in-career vocational education through the professional, industrial and commercial updating programme. But the cost should not fall principally on the taxpayer and ratepayer. Employers are urged to recognise more fully their need, in their own interests, to encourage and to pay for the development and updating of their staff,

while adults in work can be expected to contribute substantially to the cost of courses that they take for career advancement or for personal satisfaction.

The Jarratt report recommends a review of the role, structure, and staffing of the University Grants Committee. The Government have accepted this recommendation, and I shall announce the terms of reference and form of the review as soon as possible.

The Government's expenditure plans published last January indicate the sums that the Government plan to make available for higher education up to the end of the present planning period. Beyond this there are the same difficulties about providing projections of future funding for higher education as there are for other public expenditure programmes. The Government accept that they must give the best indications of longer term policies for higher education that they can, but planning also requires institutions to manage their commitments and the funds available to them so as to be able to pursue their objectives effectively in circumstances of change and uncertainty. Present projections of student demand suggest that there will be a substantial fall in student numbers in the 1990s and planning for the changes that will be necessary must begin shortly.

The Government will review their policies for higher education in the light of the responses to the Green Paper, and hope to be able to make a further statement of intentions in the course of 1986.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his statement and the Green Paper have to be judged by how far they meet Britain's needs as we move into the next century—the need to ensure a good supply of highly trained graduates, the need to develop opportunities for continuing education, the need to provide wider educational opportunities and the need for high quality research? By those criteria the Green Paper, like his statement, is a miserable flop.

I have read it. It has few new ideas and is totally lacking in vision. Like the Secretary of State's statement, it is more like a compendium of departmental position papers than a serious state paper setting out a strategy for higher education.

Will the Secretary of State accept that the Green Paper is more important for what it omits? It is tendentious about student numbers beyond the 1990s. It says little constructive about the binary divide. It fails to establish a machinery for overall planning, although we welcome the inquiry into the UGC. It leaves the issue of student support, so vital when we are considering student demand, for another document. Above all, it is irresponsibly evasive about resources.

Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State has left the dirty work to the UGC, whose recent letter revealed that the consequences of the Government's plans will be that universities can expect a 2 per cent. real cut in their income in each of the next three years? The loss of revenue is equivalent to closing a medium-sized university such as Southampton, Exeter of Durham every year for the next three years.

Is it not the case that the 1981, and other, cuts impaired rather than improved efficiency? If the Secretary of State does not believe me, he should consult the UGC, the NAB or the Jarratt committee. Does he seriously believe that the prospect of more redundancies, departmental closures and shutting whole institutions will create a more effective and more adaptable higher education system? Is it not true that the Government's higher education policy fails to meet our national needs? It will not provide wider educational opportunities or supply the highly skilled graduates that we require. It will fail to meet the research requirements of industry. In short, it is a recipe for national decline.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we in the Labour party reject his defeatist approach and will campaign both inside the House and out for the vigorous, dynamic and innovative higher education system that we need ?

One of the main themes of the Jarratt report is that universities need a management structure if they are to make the best use of the large sums made available to them by the public, and that that management structure must enable the academics involved to know the options before them. When the Conservative Government came into office in 1979, we inherited a crisis from the outgoing Labour Government, with enormous inflation. We had to act quickly. The reduction in spending in the universities had to be implemented by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle), as my predecessor, at a time when the management structure proposed by Jarratt was not in place.

The hon. Gentleman accused me of exaggerating the fall in student numbers, but there is a projected fall of no less than one third-33 per cent. —in the age groups concerned in the 1990s. Against that, the Government are projecting a fall in places for higher education not of one third but of 14 per cent.

The hon. Gentleman also accused me of being evasive about resources. The Labour party seems never to need to be evasive about resources, because it always proposes to spend more. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether he will spend more on universities than the Government are proposing to spend?

I welcome the fact that today there are 60,000 more students in higher education than there were in 1979, but as the overall number of people in that age group is likely to drop dramatically in the 1990s, can my right hon. Friend say what assumptions he has made in his Green Paper about the likely proportion of 18 and 19-year-olds who will go to universities and other forms of higher education?

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. Why is it that Opposition spokesmen always concentrate upon the numbers in universities, as though they despise polytechnics? As my right hon. and learned Friend has said, there are today 60,000 more students in polytechnics than there were when this Government came to office, although at the highest there has been a fall in the number of university students-9,000 and 5,000 last year. As my right hon. and learned Friend also said, there is not only a record number of students in higher education but also a record age cohort. The University Grants Committee, in its wisdom — I take responsibility for the outcome— decided to have fewer places in universities to protect the indispensable research component. Although the proportion of the age group in higher education is at record levels, we expect it to rise even higher and to be at 15 per cent. at least in the 1990s.

We on these Benches believe that the Green Paper marks a shift from the unacceptable to the intolerable. Does the Secretary of State accept that the Green Paper is basically a testimony to the failure of the Government's economic policy? Why is it that the Secretary of State should be the only man in the country who believes that we have an adequacy of qualified graduates, and therefore is doing nothing to increase the number? Will he accept that he is doing for universities what his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is doing for buses?

The Government have been presiding over the expansion to record numbers and record proportions of the age cohort of students in higher education. I think that the hon. Gentleman must be discussing another phenomenon altogether.

When the Government's commitment to raising standards in the classroom has been achieved, bearing in mind what has been said about continuing education, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the numbers of those seeking entry into higher education will increase and that the Government will be perfectly happy for the polytechnics to take in more students?

The Government very much hope that their aim of raising the standard in classrooms will lead to a larger proportion of school leavers being qualified to go on to higher education, if they so wish and if they have the necessary maturity and motivation. We are not assuming that will come to pass, but we very much hope that it will. If a larger proportion of the age cohort shows that it is qualified for higher education, the Government will be glad to revise their plans.

As for my hon. Friend's other question, economic constraints have to be borne in mind. We are happy to expand the numbers in public sector higher education, provided that the expansion can be brought about without any diminution of standards within current costs.

Cannot the Secretary of State be persuaded to recognise that it is barbarism to attempt to evaluate the contents of higher education in terms of economic performance or to set a value upon the consequences of higher education in terms of a monetary cost-benefit analysis?

I very much enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he accused me of barbarism because I felt protected by a sense that what I was doing was entirely justified. I equally enjoyed the speech of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor in which—after I had consulted a dictionary—I found that my noble Friend had accused the right hon. Gentleman of living in cloud-cuckoo-land. We live in a time when, for better or worse, higher education is paid for out of public funds, when more and more research is very expensive and when business has not been as profitable as it should be. For all those reasons, it is necessary, if Britain's economy is to prosper in a highly competitive and increasingly technological world, for the provision for and acquisition and practice of science in research terms to be supported to a large extent out of public funds.

It would be unwise to comment too soon on a Green Paper which has only just been made available to the House, although it has obviously been made available to the press beforehand. Although there appear to be elements in the Green Paper which are acceptable, wise and far-seeing, the general theme is one of contraction. Will my right hon. Friend be asking those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who believe in higher and further education to accept further contraction—

This does not apply to Cambridge: it applies to the higher education of this nation. Surely a policy of contraction is not one that we can accept.

I would far prefer to agree with my hon. Friend than to disagree with him, but surely he must accept that, while higher education is so largely dependent on public funds, there must be some link between the prosperity of the economy and the resources available to higher education, and that as our economy is fighting to regain profitable competitiveness in an increasingly tough world, that relationship is even more unavoidable.

The Secretary of State must recognise that his statement today will do nothing to dispel the gloom, concern and dismay which is felt within higher education. How much longer will he allow salary levels in higher education to be continually eroded when there is now a generally evident lack of motivation and morale which shows itself in the teaching, research and quality of research in that sector? If the Secretary of State does not want to go down as someone who contributed significantly to our decline as a developed nation in the eyes of the next generation, will he now announce as his aim a system of quinquennial planning or its equivalent in higher education so that there is stability in the system? Furthermore, will he give a guarantee that from this day there will be no more cuts in real terms in the system?

Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that, in the days when quinquennial provision was made, no Government were able to fulfil the expectations created. It is not honourable to promise more than we know we can achieve in the way of stability.

I accept that the Government are right to put greater emphasis on science and technology subjects in higher education, but does my right hon. Friend see an enhanced role for employers to persuade young people, even while they are still at school, that those are the courses that they should pursue?

Yes, Sir. The Prime Minister had a meeting this morning, discussing that very subject, with the chairmen of 24 leading businesses in this country.

The Secretary of State talked about more selectivity in research. Who, and on what criteria, will be responsible for that selectivity? On what rational basis will employers be asked to pay for medium and long-term research in universities?

The method of applying selectivity is the responsibility of the UGC and NAB. I repeat, the Government take responsibility for the decisions of those bodies but carefully keep away from the detailed decisions that affect the allocation of funds between universities, leaving those decisions, in the case of universities, to the UGC.

As for the interest of business men in contributing towards middle and long-term research, it is for them to decide whether there is a business interest in it.

Is there to be any radical, or even superficial, rethinking of the respective roles of polytechnics and universities? Will polytechnics which are able to grant degrees be able in future to call themselves universities? My polytechnic in Plymouth would be an excellent candidate.

My hon. Friend will find in the Green Paper a reference to the predominance of, and leadership in, academic work by the universities. The Green Paper also pays tribute to the indispensable function of the polytechnics in fulfilling their role, in which, far more than the universities, they serve part-time students. The answer to my hon. Friend's question about any change of name by polytechnics which give degrees is that I should need convincing that there should be a change of name.

Like other hon. Members. I have had an opportunity only to glance at the Green Paper. I note, however, the complimentary remarks about the Open University on page 19. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Open University will not look on those passages as being quite so complimentary when it bears in mind the cuts that the Government have imposed on its activities in recent years? Should not the Open University be encouraged to expand its work, bearing in mind the need for scientific and technological development?

I shall send the hon. Gentleman the table in which is set out the recommendations of the Visiting Committee as to what the Open University needs and the decisions that the Government have taken on those recommendations. The Government have, to a large extent. followed the proposals of the Visiting Committee to alleviate the complaints of the Open University.

My right hon. Friend made no reference in his statement to the role of overseas students when planning the future of higher education. By what criteria will he target Government support for overseas students?

My hon. Friend will find in the Green Paper a reference to the study that is taking place into future policy in connection with overseas students. The proportion of overseas students is now 11 per cent. and rising.

How does the right hon. Gentleman justify the fact that, in the light of his statement today, thousands of young students with good A-level qualifications will be prevented from entering universities and polytechnics, and has he now abandoned the principle of Robbins?

The hon. Gentleman should support his allegations with evidence. We have no evidence of any people who are qualified to enter higher education not being able to secure a place. We agree, as has always been true, and was accepted by Robbins, that every applicant cannot expect to find a place in precisely the institution and on precisely the course that he or she wants. In general, however, we assert that there are places for ail who are qualified and who want to take them up.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that universities and institutions of higher education should be the cradle of democracy and free speech? Does he agree also that it is disgraceful that, in many student unions, some speakers have not been alowed to speak within the law to properly convened meetings? Will he say a little more about the Green Paper's proposals to challenge student union funding as a way of overcoming this problem?

My hon. Friend will find references to both subjects in the Green Paper. I agree that campuses of higher education should be especially careful to protect freedom of speech, even when they disagree with the opinions expressed, provided those opinions are expressed within the law. In both cases, studies are in hand. The vice chancellors and principals are considering what they can do to protect free speech further.

As a representative of a nation which was the first in Europe to introduce universal education and which, in the middle ages, had five universities when England had only two, I repudiate completely the philistinic attitude behind the right non. Gentleman' statement. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman continues to occupy the position of Secretary of State for Education and Science when he does not even believe in education. Why did the right hon. Gentleman purport to make the statement on behalf of the Secretary of State for Scotland when, according to my perusal of the Green Paper, only four paragraphs out of 58 pages relate to the Scottish system?

The Scottish policy is awaiting the report by the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council, which we shall receive later this year.

As one who also represents a country which introduced universal education but who does not need to parade the fact, suggest to my right hon. Friend that one of the worst education measures in Britain, especially in Scotland, was the erection of colleges of excellence such as the Heriot-Watt college of engineering and the Strathcilyde college of business in the "bogusity" of empire building universities. We should concentrate on relevant education in colleges of excellence, and the snobbism of university status should be abolished.

I am sure that our joint purpose should be excellence and fitness for purpose in every institution.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, in any other country, if one were asked, "Which is better run—British universities or British industry?" the overwhelming reply would be "The universities"? In those circumstances, what does the right hon. Gentleman mean by proposing that the universities should be put in a position where some members of staff are not allowed to conduct research? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the UGC argument that research is needed to provide a proper background for teachers?

Academics argue whether research and teaching must accompany each other if teaching is to be good. Many passionately believe that they must while others argue against them. As for depriving some from access to research, I think that the hon. Gentleman has it slightly wrong. What is at question is the distribution of public money. To make the best use of public money, it surely makes sense to concentrate resources on those who show evidence, to the UGC's satisfaction, that they can use the resources in the best possible way.

While I accept my right hon. Friend's case on the deep-seated economic problems inherited by the Government and the need to control the use of resources, does there not come a point when, to improve the economy's performance, greater priority must be accorded to resources in higher education? Does my right hon. Friend know of any other advanced Western country that is not increasing resources in higher education? Will he bear in mind that this concern applied in 1972 when my right hon. Friend, the present Prime Minister, introduced her White Paper calling for the expansion of education to contribute to the vitality of our society and economy?

Before the Opposition applaud my hon. Friend too loudly, let my hon. Friend and the Opposition remember that other Western European countries became much more prosperous than Britain, until the turning of the tide during the past six years. Alas, for the 40 years since the war, this country has been substantially overtaken by those other Western European countries. We cannot absorb their example without recognising that we must make the best use of our resources, which are nothing like as great as the resources of our neighbours in north-west Europe.

Order. I have to take account of the fact that the following business is limited by a timetable motion. I shall allow questions on the statement to continue for a further 10 minutes.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many of us who did not have the opportunity to go to university have been impressed by the fact that, since the second world war, people, especially young working people, have been given an opportunity to undertake higher education which they did not have before? Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance —the country would like to have this important assurance — that, although there might well be a need to get more graduates into industry, the existing arts departments in the universities will not be closed and that the industrial sides will be developed further through our present methods of higher education? As a fellow of All Souls, the right hon. Gentleman knows —if he does not, he should—that man does not live by bread alone. He should understand that.

It would be idle for me to pretend other than that the Government have openly asked the UGC and the NAB to move a small proportion of resources and places from the arts and humanities in favour of the sciences, engineering and technology. I emphasise that the arts and humanities, when taught rigorously to appropriate pupils, are rightly regarded by employers as splendid training for responsibility in life. The arts and humanities are worth the high regard of all of us for the way in which they sharpen the minds of those who study them and for their contribution to scholarship and civilisation. As the Green Paper argues, unless we trade more effectively in the world, we shall not be able to afford the support of the scholarship and other civilised values that we wish to maintain.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have reached the stage when an enlarged opportunity for higher education would aid our economic recovery and development and the progress of our society? Has he noticed that the press reaction to the leaks of the Green Paper has been to put the fear of Government into some universities? Is that my right hon. Friend's intention?

My hon. Friend should bear in mind that since 1979 student places in higher education have been increased by 15 per cent. There are 60,000 more students in higher education—a record proportion of a record vintage. My hon. Friend seems to be espousing shaky arguments. It is only realistic to recognise the constraints on public spending. My hon. Friend is not at one with Opposition Members who are ready to support virtually every strike and outbid virtually every element of public spending. I hope that he will see the case in the Green Paper.

The Secretary of State says that he wants higher education to relate more to the economy's performance. Is he not seeking to impose the same vicious cycle of contraction on higher education that his Government have imposed on manufacturing industry? How does the right hon. Gentleman deal with the challenge that the Japanese are training 10 times as many graduate engineers as Britain?

The hon. Gentleman should not swallow such statistics too easily. The picture of our production of engineers is not truthfully represented—nothing like it — by the figure he has cited. The Japanese produce more engineers in proportion to population than we do. On the quality of engineers, it may be a different matter. The Japanese produce a significant proportion of very high-quality engineers, but some of the people who are turned out as engineers in Japan would not be so described in this country because their training is much narrower. I am not declaring contentment with our production of engineers, but the hon. Gentleman's comparison was altogether too glib.

To what extent does my right hon. Friend judge that the system of lifetime tenure of senior academic posts prevents public expenditure from being directed to what the country needs in terms of output and what the undergraduates need in terms of employment? Does he agree that a university such as Exeter, which concentrates on oil-related engineering, medical engineering needed by disabled people and Arabic studies, which the oil industry needs, is far more in line with the priorities that the country needs than some of the more esoteric centres which believe that they have a historic claim on our resources?

In general terms, I align myself with my hon. Friend in believing that tenure is not an unqualified asset. That is why discussions are now in process with a view to introducing legislation to remove tenure in future higher education contracts. I emphasise that there is no reason to regard tenure as the only or indispensable protection of academic freedom, which we value and respect highly.

How can the Secretary of State claim to be pursuing academic excellence when he is responsible for the UGC's 2 per cent. cut in annual grant to universities? Is not the right hon. Gentleman's elitism merely a cover for his philistinism?

Like any other part of the public sector, the universities must try to make more effective use of the taxpayers' money made available to them and I am sure that they will strive to do so. I am also constantly urging them, even though this may be possible only very slowly, to increase the amount of funding that they receive from the private sector, and I am glad to note that in the past year they have succeeded in increasing those funds significantly.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that every encouragement should be given to innovative polytechnics such as Bristol to market and encourage the development of their own research work? Will he comment on the extent to which the Green Paper will assist that process?

I can do more than that. I can comfort my hon. Friend with the reminder that legislation is now going through the other House and will soon be in this House freeing polytechnics to exploit their research activities more than they do at present.

Did the Secretary of State really mean what he said in reply to my honourable and admirable Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) — that questions of medium-term and long-term research should be left to the commercial interests of companies rather than to considerations of the national interest?

Either the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me or I expressed myself badly. His hon. Friend asked me what would justify business men deciding to contribute to medium-term or long-term university research, and I replied that it was for them to judge their own business interest.

What proportion of qualified applicants cannot find a course in the subject of their first choice, and what plans are there in the Green Paper to reduce that number?