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Column 12qualified--who have had two years in higher education and experience in business--should not come into the teaching profession.
Mr. Fatchett : When will the Secretary of State recognise that we are now faced with acute teacher shortages in our schools? When will he also recognise that morale is at an all-time low in the teaching profession? How does he think he will be able to attract more people into the profession when this year he has imposed a cut in real living standards on teachers? When will he stop kicking teachers around?
Mr. Baker : In the recently completed advertising campaign we received over 8,000 applications from people seeking to be teachers. The numbers going to initial teacher training later this year are up by nearly 10 per cent. compared with last year. As for attracting people into the profession, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome our proposal for licensed teachers, because many Labour education authorities are welcoming them.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : Our records show that only 15 letters of objection have been received in nearly two and a half years to city technology colleges. Parents see the CTC programme as a great opportunity for their children. There have been over 1,200 applications for 180 places available this year at Kingshurst, the first CTC. That is what parents think of CTCs.
Mr. Squire : Does my right hon. Friend agree that that excellent answer give the lie to the comments that we sometimes hear from Labour Members to the effect that parents and children do not want CTCs? Will my right hon. Friend particularly confirm that the interest is as high, if not higher, in areas where poorer standards of education and an absence of choice have been a legacy from the Labour party?
Mr. Baker : We are receiving applications from many areas to have CTCs--either new colleges or schools converted to CTCs. This is proving to be a very popular policy, because people recognise that these schools provide a special type of education. We want them to become beacons of excellence, copied by others. Of course, that is now happening in the Birmingham area.
Mr. Madden : If the Secretary of State is so confident that parents want CTCs, why is he so terrified to allow parents in Bradford a ballot to decide whether £8 million of their money should be spent on setting up a CTC, at a time when the vast majority of them see the expenditure of that amount of money as being wholly unnecessary, very divisive, and damaging to the existing schools in the city?
Mr. Baker : That is simply not true. It has been possible to establish a CTC in Bradford--a new one, to be built next year--only because the Conservatives now control Bradford city council. The hon. Gentleman will find that, once that school is established and has started to recruit,
Column 13it will be one of the most popular in Bradford, to which the children of many of his constituents will want to go.
Mr. Holt : My right hon. Friend will know that the new Macmillan CTC in Teesside has been oversubscribed by teachers many times over, and that many of the parents of the 40 to 60 children who applied to join but have not been found places this year will want a new college in addition to the one that we already have.
Mr. Baker : Once again, I am quite sure that that school will be very popular. Many teachers want to teach in it, and many parents want to send their children to it. I am quite sure that after it has been established for a few years its popularity will grow even further.
Mr. Straw : The Secretary of State must be aware that the parents of children at the Sylvan school in Croydon, which is the subject of a proposal to turn it into a CTC, have voted overwhelmingly to keep it as a county school. Why is the Secretary of State refusing to accept the outcome of that parents' ballot?
Mr. Baker : I understand that the Croydon local education authority voted only last night to publish statutory notices to close the school. That triggers a formal process, and the application will come to me. Of course, I will take into account any objections to the proposal.
Mr. Rooker : If the majority of people who have children at Sylvan high school in Croydon are so determined that the school should not be closed, as they have constantly made clear to all four Members of Parliament for Croydon, including you, Mr. Speaker, will the Government accept the wishes of the parents?
Mr. Latham : When my hon. Friend comes to consider the section 12 notice to close Long Field high school in my constituency, which is full and, indeed, is extremely popular, will he confirm that he will consider at the same time the 96.4 per cent. parents' vote to go for grant-maintained status?
Mr. Butcher : Of course, we look at the merits of a particular school proposed for closure. Indeed, I take very seriously representations from parents who are concerned to maintain the quality of an existing, well -managed school with a good ethos. Matters of that sort will be taken into account.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : We have worked hard to bring the CTC programme to the attention of industry and commerce, and there has been a magnificent response to its aims of raising standards, increasing choice, and giving the private sector a say in how schools are run. Thirty-four million pounds --and unprecedented sum--has already been pledged, and much more will follow.
Mr. Hughes : Given that there is some reported indifference among big business to sponsorship of CTCs, what does the Secretary of State consider will be the effect of Tory-controlled Bexley deciding not to go ahead with one, and of the parents in Tory-controlled Croydon voting by 480 to 14 not to go ahead with a CTC? If parents say not to CTC, will the money from the sponsor be made available to the school, via the local education authority?
Mr. Baker : I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would make his views on CTCs known, because in the past he has attacked them. However, I gather that, as a member of the governing body of Bacon's school, he has voted for the proposals for that school to become a CTC to go out to consultation. He really should get off the fence.
Mr. Taylor : Will my hon. Friend note the welcome that we give to the council and its work and our acknowledgement of the importance of links between education and industry? Will he encourage the idea of regional councils and will he note in particular that the university of Surrey is doing splendid work with local industry and is pioneering further development?
Mr. Jackson : One of the most encouraging features of the higher education scene is the growth of contact between the world of academe in the universities and the polytechnics and industry. The Council for Industry and Higher Education is one of the most notable manifestations of that. We very much welcome it and all proposals for its further development.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Ms. Mowlam : As it is the Government's view that doctors who oppose the Health Service plans are simply feeling for their wallets, what motive does the Prime Minister use to explain the nurses' opposition?
The Prime Minister : I believe that the nurses who have taken part in the five-hospital experiment for the financial initiative will give evidence that it has worked extremely well and has given far more responsibility to both doctors and nurses. Many other reforms in the Health Service have been fought most bitterly by the medical profession. The initial introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 was fought most bitterly by the medical profession, but it was welcomed later.
Mr. Curry : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her successful visit to southern Africa, particularly her decision to visit Namibia to support the United Nations plan to bring that territory to independence. Will she therefore condemn the incursion from Angola by SWAPO guerrillas into that territory, which is putting at jeopardy the whole of the painfully acquired process?
The Prime Minister : Yes. The secretary general's report to the United Nations and the Security Council specifically confirms that there has been a large-scale incursion from Angola into Namibia by armed SWAPO personnel. It is a most serious challenge to the authority of the United Nations and the internationally agreed arrangements for Namibia's independence, and I certainly condemn it. There is no provision in the United Nations plan for SWAPO to have bases in Namibia. SWAPO committed itself to the Geneva accord under which it is required to stay north of the 16th parallel in Angola. It is the breach by SWAPO which has led to the most regrettable fighting and loss of life. I emphasise that the South African units involved are acting with the authority of the United Nations. It is now important that the authority of the United Nations-- [Interruption.]
Sir Russell Johnston : Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us believe that the lengthy reply that she has just given should have been in the form of a statement which the House could have examined at greater length? Is she completely confident that the description of events that she has given us, which is being disputed by several newspapers, is absolutely accurate?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman can read for himself the report of the secretary general to the United Nations Security Council, which specifically confirmed that there has been a large-scale incursion from Angola into Namibia ; he can obtain for himself a copy of the agreements to which the several member states were signatories ; he can also obtain for himself a copy of the Geneva protocols which were specifically agreed to by SWAPO. All those are public knowledge, and the hon. Gentleman can get them from the Library at any time.
Mr. Porter : As many East Anglian people are worried that Suffolk and Norfolk may miss out on the benefits of 1992 and the Channel tunnel, can my right hon. Friend reassure East Anglians on the coast that road and rail investment will not be left behind, and that the persistent long-term unemployment there will give way to the prosperity which is now being enjoyed by most other parts of the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister : We recognise that East Anglia is a very important area of economic growth, and our substantial and continuing programme of road improvements includes 29 schemes, worth about £220 million, in East Anglia. We have also recently approved investment in electrification from Cambridge to King's Lynn and in new rolling stock to relieve overcrowding. I am pleased to see that East Anglia now has the lowest rate of unemployment of all the regions.
The Prime Minister : The raising of interest rates will gradually work to choke inflation down. I am the first to say that what we regard as one of our less good performances was regarded by Labour as its best.
Mr. Taylor : I am sure that my right hon. Friend will join all Conservative Members in wishing NATO a happy 40th birthday. Will she note that we encourage her to hold further discussions with President Gorbachev during his visit about the need for further and deep cuts in conventional forces and chemical weapons on the Soviet side? Will she also note that a recent opinion poll has shown widespread support for steadfast British defence policies, and that the British Government do not need to go cap in hand to Moscow to find a defence policy?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend, and I think that most British people agree, that NATO has kept the peace successfully for 40 years. It is needed as much in the future as it was in the past. It is vital that we keep in step with America and Canada on NATO.
I agree that we must modernise our forces, including nuclear forces. NATO has already agreed that they must be modernised, on the basis that obsolete weapons do not deter. What is at issue is the precise timing of that
Column 17modernisation. I shall discuss that with Mr. Gorbavchev. The Russians have already modernised their short-range nuclear weapons.
Mr. Vaz : The Prime Minister will recall encouraging millions of people throughout the country to buy their own council homes. Will she now put the Government's money where her mouth is or, rather, was, and provide financial assistance to constituents of mine and other hon. Members who have taken her at her word, purchased their council houses and found them to be seriously defective? Will she support people such as my constituents on the Morton estate, or will she abandon them as she has abandoned millions of people who have been deceived by the Government's policies?
The Prime Minister : Well over 1 million people have purchased their council homes at a very substantial discount and I hope that more will take advantage of that opportunity. It is an opportunity which the Labour party fought against and which was provided by this Government.
Mr. Oppenheim : Will my right hon. Friend take time today to congratulate the designers, craftsmen and managers of Rolls-Royce, who have just won yet another huge order for aero-engines in the teeth of fierce world competition, this time for 20 Cathay Pacific Airbuses? Does this not show that British high technology products can and do sell on world markets?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I warmly congratulate Rolls-Royce on this excellent £1 billion order for engines for the Airbus and, of course, the order will also help British Aerospace. It is very good news and shows that British industry at its best can compete with the best in the world.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Will the Prime Minister have a word today with the Secretary of State for Transport about the disgraceful decision to hold up yet again the report on the Chinook disaster, apparently at the behest of the Boeing company? Does she accept that we must have absolute faith in the integrity of official reports into accidents, for the safety of the thousands of people who use helicopters in the North sea? Will she ask the Secretary of State to make a statement to the effect that he will publish that report in full without one comma or jot changed, in order to assure us that we have that integrity?
Column 18down by Parliament in the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Accidents) Regulations 1983. Subject to any legal constraints, I expect the air accidents investigation branch report and the report of the review board to be published very shortly. The hon. Gentleman will know that publication of the reports before the contentions of the Boeing company are adequately considered would be against the regulations and could invite a conclusion that the publication might be regarded as prejudging the question of a rehearing. My right hon. Friend is following precisely the law as laid down by the House.
Mr. Riddick : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the KGB defector Major Levchenko, revealed that the spying activities of the KGB reached their peak during the years of detente in the 1970s? Can she confirm that KGB espionage activities--[ Hon. Members :-- "Reading."]
Mr. Riddick : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that KGB espionage activities are increasing now and have increased since President Gorbachev came to power and, indeed, since glasnost was introduced? [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend is aware, we believe that defence matters do not depend on good intentions but on a sure and strong defence. We find no reduction the world over in the activities of the KGB.
Mr. Wareing : During the last football season there were 33 arrests associated with matches at Liverpool, 24 arrests at Everton and 38 at Manchester United. At Hampden Park, Glasgow, there were 152 arrests and at Ibrox Park, the home of Glasgow Rangers, there were 407 arrests. Yet it is the supporters of English clubs-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : I heard the statistics given by the hon. Gentleman, but the rest of his question was drowned. Last year in England and Wales as a whole there were about 6,000 arrests and it was, therefore, important for us to take action to bring in membership cards. We have done that.
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