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Mr. Baker : The problem of housing costs in the employment of teachers has already been raised at Question Time, and as my hon. Friend the Minister of State said I have asked the interim advisory committee for its advice. Many authorities are now putting together separate and individual packages, often involving housing support, to attract teachers.
Mr. Wigley : Does the Secretary of State realise that many young people who would make excellent teachers will not have the opportunity to go to college if the student loan system comes in? Does he appreciate that in Wales the proposal is entirely unacceptable, and will he give an assurance that if students and educationists appear to be reacting against the scheme it will be abandoned?
Mr. Baker : The hon. Gentleman should be aware of the proposal that I made last Friday, that someone who has graduated in another subject should in future be allowed to be employed by a local education authority immediately after his graduation without having to spend another year in college. I believe that that will be very attractive to many students--they will be trained as teachers on the job and will receive salaries while they are training.
Mr. Haselhurst : Has my right hon. Friend considered whether it will be possible to develop a viable scheme to harness the talents of people recently retired from industry to supplement the regular teaching force, particularly in the shortage subjects?
Mr. Baker : The licensed teacher approach is intended to encourage people in their 30s and 40s who want a career change. It has been pioneered by several local authorities, and later this year we shall regularise it with new regulations. It provides an important input into teaching.
Mr. Straw : Has the Secretary of State no idea of the scale of the teaching crisis over which he presides? Does he realise that three in 10 newly qualified teachers fail to go into teaching the next year, four in 10 new teachers leave the profession within five years and the measures that he announced last Friday are wholly inadequate to the task? Is he aware that good teachers will continue to leave in droves for better-paid jobs outside unless their pay is raised and their conditions improved, and the Secretary of State starts to provide leadership to raise the morale of the profession instead of continually undermining it?
Mr. Baker : The year before last there was an increase of 3,000 in teacher training ; last year there was an increase of 1,000. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can have read the evidence that I submitted to the Select Committee, or my speech last Friday. I am not complacent, but, unlike the hon. Gentleman, I am not defeatist either.
11. Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the present procedure for the balloting of parents on schools opting out of the control of local authorities.
Mr. Baker : The Education Reform Act 1988 provides a framework for such ballots, and the Electoral Reform Society conducts them on behalf of the governing bodies. Secret postal ballots have been held among parents at 21 schools.
Mr. King : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that a ballot to decide whether a school is to opt out should be free from all outside influences? Has the case involving the Small Heath school in Birmingham been brought to his notice? All kinds of shenanigans have been taking place, orchestrated largely by the local authority, one of whose chairmen has branded the head teacher a racist, and the local authority has spent £5,000 on presenting in newspapers the case for not opting out. Is it not time for a strict code for ballots of this nature?
Mr. Baker : I am of course aware of the case of Small Heath school-- two attempts in the courts to hold up the ballot have failed--and I deplore the campaigns of misinformation about grant-maintained school policy. I think that those involved in them will be the losers, because parents will be able to sort out fact from fiction. We shall look carefully at the procedures as I want to ensure that they are conducted in an open way that is fair to all parties.
Mr. Denis Howell : Is the Secretary of State aware that the shenanigans to which his hon. Friend referred, and the mis-statements that he has just made about Mr. Justice Popplewell refusing to stop the ballot, are totally misleading? Last Friday in the High Court the judge granted an expedited judicial review of the case in view of the disgraceful fact that the head teacher had taken the children out of classes 40 minutes early, told them to go home and tell their parents to vote "yes" and distributed leaflets to which the parents objected. The judge clearly agreed that nothing could be more contemptible than to use school children as part of an election campaign.
grant-maintained schools, because it is on the statute book and it is a popular policy. Many parents in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency-- his electors and supporters--find it popular. They are fans of that policy. The right hon. Gentleman is behaving like Brian Clough and attacking the fans.
Mr. Key : My right hon. Friend will be aware that the vast majority in the teaching profession have reacted well to these radical reforms and are working the system. Will he give hope to teachers of good will who wish negotiating rights to be restored and say when he hopes to announce progress?
Column 160conduct further discussions. A wide range of views has so far been expressed and it may be difficult to reach agreement and unanimity on the matter.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : 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.
Mr. Bennett : Will the Prime Minister explain how Trident can possibly be a credible deterrent when the Prime Minister will not have control and command of the launching of the weapon, which will be left to the discretion of individual submarine commanders? Does she agree that it would have been better not to spend £9 billion updating Trident but to provide an effective command and control system for Polaris?
The Prime Minister : A nuclear deterrent has kept the peace for 40 years. History has shown that conventional weapons could not and did not keep the peace. We should be most rash to discard a weapon that has kept the peace until something better is found, and I see no such prospect at present.
Sir Marcus Fox : Does my right hon. Friend agree that statements made by Mr. Viraj Mendis since he returned to his real homeland confirm how right the Home Secretary was to deport him? Does that not mean that many Opposition Members have egg on their faces?
Mr. Maginnis : Is the Prime Minister aware of the serious concern in Northern Ireland relating to the conviction for murder of four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment? Is she further aware that it has come to light that significant evidence was not taken into account during the trial and appeal? Will the Prime Minister study the article in last Sunday's Sunday Telegraph and seek the advice of her Law Officers on the matter?
The Prime Minister : If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue that matter he knows that the right channels are my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Mr. Marland : Does my right hon. Friend agree that traditionally it has always been agreed that a certain confidentiality needs to be maintained in the workings of Government? Will she take this opportunity roundly to
Column 161condemn the grossly irresponsible behaviour of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) in receiving stolen documents and thereby aiding and abetting a criminal offence?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I believe that it is absolutely vital that confidentiality should be maintained. In view of what my hon. Friend has said, I should point out that when the Labour party was last in power that was the view taken by the then Labour Prime Minister, and he was supported by the then Leader of the Opposition. It appears that the Labour party is so bankrupt of argument that it has appointed an official receiver.
Mr. Colvin rose--[Interruption.]
Mr. Colvin : Will my right hon. Friend find time today to congratulate the people of Gibraltar on the progress that they have made towards economic self-sufficiency? Will she confirm that the decision to redeploy some of our troops elsewhere in no way weakens our guarantee to the people of Gibraltar that the colony will remain British so long as the people there desire it?
The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The reduction of our forces in Gibraltar does not affect at all our commitment to Gibraltar, which is enshrined in the preamble to the 1969 constitution, which says that we will not alter the status of Gibraltar without the consent of the people of Gibraltar.
Mr. Livsey : Will the right hon. Lady accept yesterday's verdict by the House of Lords, when it passed an amendment enabling shareholders to block the funding of political parties? Will she prevent members of her party from defeating that amendment in this House? In view of the syphoning off of company funds through British United Industrialists, will she ensure that that amendment stays in place?
Column 162of the British role in delicate negotiations? Notwithstanding the Warsaw Pact's attempts to exaggerate the western statistics and to understate its own, the pace of world disarmament and arms reduction talks continues without hesitation.
The Prime Minister : Yes, we are glad that the visit has been reinstated after it had to be postponed for reasons which we fully understood. We hope that disarmament talks will continue. With regard to recent statements, I believe that it is far better for disarmament talks to take place at the negotiating table rather than through speeches, when it is very difficult to agree precisely what the figures are, bearing in mind that for 15 years in Vienna we were not able to get precise figures.
Dr. Reid : This afternoon every potential patient in Britain, including children, will have a price tag put on their heads. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to state unequivocally that there is only one appropriate treatment for a chronically sick child--the best available treatment, not the cheapest?
The Prime Minister : It is purely because we believe that that matters very much indeed that we have increased the resources available for the entire Health Service from £8 billion to £24 billion and increased the pay of a nursing sister from what it would have been under Labour or if we had increased it by inflation, from just £7,000 to nearly £13,000 a year.
Mr. Adley : Does my right hon. Friend agree that when the Department of Transport is assessing the true cost to the nation of investment in road versus rail, all the costs should be taken into account? Would she agree with me that, for example, the amount of time that the police force spends on administering the law and dealing with endless problems in the courts and in administration is a major cost to the taxpayer? Will she therefore instruct the Department of Transport that from now on these and other appropriate costs must be taken into account when the various comparative costs are assessed?
The Prime Minister : Obviously, I agree that all relevant costs should be taken into account, but very many more people and goods go by road than go by rail. My hon. Friend may wish that many more would go by rail, and indeed we are trying to improve the rail service so that that is so. But I accept that all relevant costs should be taken into account, although we may not agree on precisely what the relevant costs are.
Mr. Grant : Is the Prime Minister aware that the United Nations secretary-general has been compelled by the five permanent members of the Security Council, including Britain, to propose a reduction in the number of United Nations troops in Namibia from 7,500 to 4,650 during the transition to independence? Has she heard the views of
Column 163President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has stated that the five permanent members of the Security Council have been fiddling with the moralities of resolution 435? As she will shortly be visiting Zimbabwe and as South Africa continues to support armed bandits and assassination gangs, will she review Britain's position in this matter and insist that the original numbers of troops be maintained?
The Prime Minister : I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would wish to uphold a decision of the five permanent members of the Security Council. We shall honour it. The agreement was an excellent one and was obtained by the co-operation of those five members plus the co- operation of South Africa and Angola. I believe that we should do everything in our power to see that it is fulfilled. As far as this country is concerned, we pay our full subscription to United Nations peace- maintaining forces everywhere.
Mr. Tredinnick : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in recent Israeli raids on Palestinian camps in the Lebanon dogs with explosives tied to their bodies were used and that those dogs and their explosive charges were set off, resulting in the death of the dogs and of many Palestinians? Will she make representations to the Israeli Government deploring this practice?
Dr. Owen : Is the Prime Minister aware that it is because she cannot bring herself to use the National Health Service that she does not understand the NHS and that the National Health Service is not safe in her hands because there is no place in her heart for it? Will she stop poisoning the moral and ethical basis of the National Health Service and the whole sense of vocation that doctors and nurses in that service have?
Column 164taken by many people far to the left of him- - [Interruption.] --who believe that those who can afford to pay for themselves should not take beds from others.
Mr. Cash : Irrespective of the fate of the Protection of Privacy Bill last Friday, is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter commands a great deal of public concern not only in this House but in the country at large, that it is a matter that the press itself must put right, and that if it does not do so the House will have to do so?
The Prime Minister : I believe that last Friday's Bill was very well debated, and I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that a similar measure will be debated either this coming Friday or the Friday after that. I am sure that the observations that were made will have been noted in the relevant quarters.
Mr. Vaz : Will the Prime Minister take time out of her busy day to examine her shoes and, in so doing, will she reflect on the current state of the British footwear industry, which in the last 10 years of her reign has shown a dramatic increase in imports, resulting in many British firms being closed and employees being put on the dole, including Percival's in Leicester? Bearing in mind that there is a penetration rate of 75 per cent. in terms of imports of ladies footwear, will she confirm that she supports the British footwear industry and is wearing shoes manufactured in Britain? Will she also outline her plans for protecting the industry against unfair competition?
The Prime Minister : In fact, the footwear industry is doing far better than it was a few years ago, because its designs are very much better, its prices are highly competitive, and right now, if the hon. Gentleman could see, I am wearing shoes from Marks and Spencer.
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