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Written Answers

Volume 489: debated on Monday 9 November 1987

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Written Answers

Vietnamese Refugees In Hong Kong Closed Camps

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many Vietnamese refugees remain in the closed camps in Hong Kong, and when they expect that these camps will be abolished, following resettlement of their inmates.

On 4th November there were 6,372 Vietnamese refugees in closed centres in Hong Kong.The closed centres have always been regarded as a temporary measure. But under present circumstances their abolition would undoubtedly lead to an even greater influx into Hong Kong of people from Vietnam, which would place an even greater strain on Hong Kong. The need for these camps will remain until durable solutions have been found to the Vietnamese refugee problem. We are intensifying our effect to achieve such solutions.

Privatisations: Underwriting Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:What amounts were paid in underwriting fees for all privatizations prior to the present BP issue.

The cost to the Exchequer of primary and sub-underwriting in the UK of each government share sale from 1980 to September this year is about £175 million.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham: Cancer Treatment Provision

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give the location and number of beds available within the West Midlands Regional Health Authority area for the early admission of cancer patients for assessment and treatment by radiotherapy; and whether they regard this provision as reasonable in view of the closure of 20 beds in the oncology unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security
(Lord Skelmersdale)

The provision of beds for cancer patients, as for other acute specialties, is a matter for regional and district health authorities. The noble Countess may therefore wish to write to the Chairman of the West Midlands Regional Health Authority for the information she seeks. The closure of 20 oncology beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is a temporary measure as part of a package of savings to enable Central Birmingham Health Authority to stay within its cash limit. If the health authority wanted to close the beds permanently, this procedures. If the community health council objected to the closure, the proposal could only be effected with the agreement of the regional health authority and Ministers. At that stage we would clearly want to consider the level of provision elsewhere in the region before reaching a decision.

Worcester Health District: Orthopaedic Services Provision

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will institute an independent inquiry into circumstances of the decision of Mr. John Guy, orthopaedic consultant at Worcester Royal Informary, to write to the patients on his waiting lists in autumn 1986 informing them that, because of a lack of funding in the Worcester Health District, he would be unable to undertake elective orthopaedic surgery.

No. The Government have been assured that the letter in question misrepresented the situation. The responsibility for the provision of orthopaedic services rests in the first instance with local management, and the noble Countess may wish to write for detailed information to the Chairman of the Worcester and District Health Authority.

Southend Radiotherapy Unit

asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the reasons for and the estimated costs of replacing the Southend radiotherapy unit and whether they will reconsider their decision to close this unit.

No decision to close the Southend radiotherapy unit has been taken. North-East Thames Regional Health Authority has yet to submit to Ministers its final proposals for the future provision of cancer services in the region.

Ruskin College: Report On Academic Freedom

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish the report by Sir Alfred Sloman on Academic Freedom at Ruskin College, Oxford.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science
(Baroness Hooper)

The Government have today published the report of an inspection of Ruskin College, Oxford.The Government caused an independent inspection to be made because of concern about academic freedom at the college. Ministers were not convinced, on the basis of their discussions with the college and of papers made available by the college, that the principle of academic freedom would in practice predominate sufficiently over other considerations. Accordingly, my predecessor invited the inspectors, Sir Albert Sloman, Professor P. M. Bromley and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, to undertake the inspection with the following terms of reference:

"1. To inspect the College under the terms of Regulation 24(2) of the Education (Grant) Regulations 1983 to ascertain what principles at present apply with regard to academic freedom and what means are adopted for ensuring that those principles are put into practice;
2. To make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to the principles that should in future apply and the means that should be adopted for ensuring that they are put into practice."

Ministers are most grateful to Sir Albert Sloman and his colleagues for carrying out the inspection with such care and for producing so thoughtful and thought-provoking a report.

The report sets out the inspectors' statement of the principles of academic freedom which have governed their inspection; it considers the present arrangements in Ruskin College which are relevant to this issue; and makes a number of proposals for action which the college should take in order to secure that its commitment to academic freedom is given practical force and application through its pronouncements, its rules and its procedures.

I draw attention in particular to four aspects. The inspectors recommend a number of changes in the college's procedures which will help to secure that its commitment to academic freedom will be observed in practice. Second, they set out clearly an account of the actions to be considered by the principal in the event of an infringement or the threat of an infringement of academic freedom. Third, they recommend that, if a dispute involving academic freedom between the college and one of its members cannot be resolved by the college's internal procedures, the Chancellor of Oxford University may be invited to nominate an independent person to adjudicate. Fourth, they recommend that the college should review its structure of government.

I have discussed these recommendations with college representatives and am glad to report that the college accepts in full the report's recommendations and is taking action to implement them. In particular, Ministers welcome the college's unequivocal assertion that it is committed to the principle and the practice of academic freedom. I shall keep myself informed of developments there.

The statement of general principles for academic freedom in part 1 of the report, which the inspectors took as their starting point, will be of general interest and contribute to the continuing debate on this subject. The Government takes the view that academic staff should have the freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions. The report's statement of principles raises a number of important issues, and the Government expects that the bodies representing the academic communities, including the committee of vice-chancellors and principals and the committee of directors of polytechnics, will wish to give further consideration to it. The Government recognises the relevance of academic freedom to the legislation which it will be bringing forward shortly to modify the tenure of academic staff: the relevant provisions will be framed so as to take the issue into account.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

Armagh: Mr Colin Sampson's Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to complete their study of Mr. Colin Sampson's Report on killings in Armagh in 1982, and when they will make the Statement promised on 27th November 1986 (HC deb. Col. 418).

My right honourable friend has made it clear that he will make a Statement on any aspects of the report that fall within his responsibility at the earliest appropriate time. My right honourable friend is not yet in a position to make that Statement.

Ruc Code Of Conduct

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the new twelve-point code of conduct for the Royal Ulster Constabulary once it has been circulated and studied; and if not, why not.

The chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has issued a document entitled Professional Policing Ethics which has been incorporated in the RUC manual, a document for police use only. The decision on further publication is for the chief constable.

Crumlin Road And Maghaberry Prisons: Capacity

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the normal capacity of Crumlin Road (Belfast) and Maghaberry Prisons, and how many prisoners were accommodated in each establishment at the most recent available date.

The information is as follows:

Authorised CapacityPopulation at 28th October 1987
Belfast500593
MaghaberryMale4329
Female5631
Maghaberry (Male) Prison has not yet been brought fully into operation but it is planned gradually to increase its population in the near future.