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House of Commons

Tuesday 2 May 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Avon Light Rail Transit Bill [ Lords ]

Hythe Marina Village (Southampton) Wavescreen Bill

Orders for Third Reading read.

Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.

Read the Third time, and passed with amendments.

Oral Answers to Questions


University Academics (Earnings)

1. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the optimum rate of earnings of university academics from sources outside universities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson) : The Department does not collect information about the levels of non-pay earnings among academics.

Mr. Dalyell : Would 20 per cent. of earnings and 20 per cent. of time be a reasonable guess?

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Mr. Jackson : The answer probably varies very widely between different institutions and different individuals. We know from anecdotal evidence that in some cases earnings are substantial and in others not. The basic point is that if a pay claim is based on comparisons, like must be compared with like.

Mr. John Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that there are retention and recruitment problems in certain subjects at certain universities? Does he agree that those difficulties are an argument for more flexibility in the academic pay structure, and that a shortage of engineers and scientists is no argument for paying exceptionally higher salaries to lecturers in Latin?

Mr. Jackson : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is no point in people in universities, particularly the ablest, lecturing the Government about the brain drain if they are not prepared to take steps that are within their power to secure their continued employment in this country.

Higher Education (Capital Investment)

2. Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on capital investment in higher education.

Mr. Jackson : The Supply Estimates provide for allocations totalling £272 million in 1989-90 for capital purposes in higher education. This provision reflects the Government's commitment to a high-quality, cost- effective higher education system.

Mr. Macdonald : Can the Minister confirm that according to the Government's own figures capital expenditure on universities in 1988 was 16 per cent. less than in 1979, and that capital spending on polytechnics was 14 per cent. less? Is that not a deplorable record? What possible excuse has the Minister for such a decline in capital spending on something of such importance to the nation's economic future?

Mr. Jackson : I must point out that, of the £272 million that we have allocated for capital purposes, £84 million is for polytechnics. We estimate that sum to be roughly

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double what would otherwise have been provided by the local education authorities. As for overall spending, I have said before and will say again that we in Britain spend a higher proportion of our gross national product on higher education than any other western European country except the Netherlands.

Mr. Bill Walker : When contemplating capital expenditure, does my hon. Friend take into consideration what we already have? Is so, will he bear in mind that the dental college at Dundee has superb accommodation, and that there is no need to spend vast sums on accommodational equipment there?

Mr. Jackson : I had the great pleasure of visiting Dundee and its dental school with my hon. Friend, and I was very impressed by what I found. That was reflected in subsequent decisions.

Mr. Simon Hughes : Why has the Department so far failed to respond to the request and recommendation by the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the other place that £25 million extra capital spend be provided this year for medical research equipment throughout our higher education sector?

Mr. Jackson : As the hon. Gentleman knows, public expenditure requirements for higher education are reviewed every year in the public expenditure survey, and that is the appropriate occasion on which to consider the suggestion to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Thurnham : Does my hon. Friend agree with Dr. Terence Kealey that the universities could do much more to attract capital from outside sources, and that the universities are far too wedded to collective bargaining, jobs for life and dependence on the state?

Mr. Jackson : I agree with some of what my hon. Friend has said. Capital expenditure and investment in new plant, equipment and buildings is a prime area for which to raise funds from outside sources, which are often more prepared to give money for those purposes than others.

Higher Education (Age Participation Rate)

3. Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the current age participation rate for higher education ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : The provisional age participation index for 18-year-olds fo1988-89 stands at a record 15.1 per cent. The trend since 1979 has been strongly upward. We expect this autumn to see more than 1 million students in higher education for the first time in this country.

Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures show a towering record of achievement in the past decade, and of providing opportunities for the young people of this country? Does he further agree that such opportunity will be even more enhanced, come the greater emphasis on fees in the funding of higher education?

Mr. Baker : In this celebratory week, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Over the past 10 years there has been an increase of over 200,000 students in higher education, one of the biggest increases in our history. I agree with my hon. Friend that the announcement that I made last week

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on increasing the public element of fees will stimulate universities, colleges and polytechnics to enrol more students. I am glad to see that that announcement has been so widely welcomed throughout higher education.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is the Secretary of State aware that there is a strong feeling in west Cumberland that the further education college should be able to provide a three-year degree course, if only linked to Preston, whereas at present it can provide only the first year, with students having to travel to Preston for the subsequent years? Will the Secretary of State take a personal interest in the matter and see whether the rules can be changed so that this right is available in west Cumberland.

Mr. Baker : I will look into what the hon. Gentleman has said. Only 10 days ago I was in his part of the world and visited the further education college in Barrow-in-Furness, which is being expanded and rebuilt at a cost of between £4 million and £5 million. I was impressed with the provision of that college.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : That is not the same.

Mr. Baker : I accept that it is not the same, but it is quite close. I will have a look at what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, of the large rise in student numbers in higher education over the last 10 years, the increase in those attending polytechnics, of about 30 per cent. to 300,000, is the most impressive? Does he further agree that, given the fact that polytechnics are particularly well placed to offer flexible entry and modular courses, particularly for older people who seek retraining, they will be in the forefront of higher education over the next 10 years?

Mr. Baker : I am sure that polytechnics will follow their success of the last 10 years, because most of the expansion has been in the polytechnic area. This has been achieved because the polytechnics have been flexible. They will grow even faster now that they are not under the control of education authorities. As my hon. Friend has indicated, by being resourceful, entrepreneurial and devising new courses related specifically to the needs of students, they have achieved this growth. I am sure that they will represent one of the major elements of expansion in the next 10 years.

Mr. Andrew Smith : Perhaps I may be permitted to interrupt the orgy of unjustified self-congratulation taking place amongst the Conservatives. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, as per the answer to me of 10 February from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the percentage of 18 to 24 -year-olds in higher education has gone down, not up, under this Government? Will he further confirm that the public expenditure White Paper projects a fall in the real value of expenditure on higher education between now and 1992? In view of the claims that he is making about fees and increased numbers and the comments last week about what a great victory this represented over the Treasury, will he tell the House by how much the budget for higher education will be increased above the White Paper figures, or is this yet another example of how far the reality of the Government's resourcing of education falls short of its rhetoric?

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Mr. Baker : The participation rate for 18-year-olds has increased from 12.4 per cent. to 15.1 per cent. over the last 10 years. What was being said a few moments ago was not at all an orgy of self-congratulation. It was a simple and modest statement of the continuing success of this Government over the last 10 years, projecting even greater success over the next 10 years.

Mr Marlow : Could my right hon. Friend look at the mental age as well as the physical age for acceptability to higher education, so that in future we can prevent such futile and disgraceful gestures, as the award of office by a students union to a convicted murderer?

Mr. Baker : I have already said--and I say again--that the decision by a very small minority of students at the London School of Economics is both despicable and shameful. It is deeply offensive to the family of PC Blakelock. It has been condemned by the London School of Economics, and by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and by many people across the country. I very much hope that that decision will be changed. The reputation of the London School of Economics should not depend on a small minority of the loony Left.

Science Budget (Additions)

4. Mr. Hood : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what addition has been made to the science budget to meet the cost of salary increases of technicians employed by research councils, following the recent award to technicians employed by universities.

Mr. Jackson : The technicians' union has not yet agreed the pay offer made to it last month by the employers on the universities committee for non-teaching staffs in universities. I understand, however, that the negotiating parties are meeting again today.

Mr. Hood : By how much has the cost of research councils risen since the Secretary of State's announcement of this year's science budget?

Mr Jackson : I do not have that information immediately to hand, but I remind the House that in last year's public expenditure survey there was a substantial increase in the research council's vote of about 10 per cent. in real terms. That ought to be enough to cope with the current rises, including the rise in technicians' salaries. However, we shall have to examine in later years the consequences of this year's public expenditure survey.

Dr. Bray : It was clear, however, that a substantial proportion of the 10 per cent. increase would not be directed to both the new and the expanded research programmes, about which the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister made such a song and dance, particularly in relation to the global environment. A substantial part of that increase has had to be earmarked for salary increases for technicians and scientists. Have the Government been successful in obtaining an increase in the science budget comparable with that which they have obtained for the universities?

Mr. Jackson : The hon. Gentleman is always trying to look a gift horse in the mouth. There was a very substantial improvement in the amount of money made available last year. The hon. Gentleman speaks as though salaries and

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staff are not part of the cost of the science vote, but they are a major part of the cost of that vote. That cost is reflected in the increase.

Secondary School Expenditure (Staffordshire)

5. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much was spent per pupil in secondary schools in Staffordshire in the most recent year for which figures are available ; and what was the comparable figure for 1978-79, at constant prices.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John Butcher) : In actual cash, Staffordshire spent £53per secondary pupil in 1978-79 and £1,420 per secondary pupil in 1987-88. At 1987-88 prices, those figures are £1,100 and £1,420 respectively.

Mr. Knox : Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures show a satisfactory increase in expenditure per secondary school pupil in Staffordshire since the Government came to power, despite the Opposition's remarks? Does he think that that increase has been accompanied by an improvement in standards?

Mr. Butcher : A considerable amount of information and research shows that there is not a direct and quantifiable correlation between the level of spend and the level of academic results achieved. That is an issue that we may address in a later question. The real growth in Staffordshire has been made possible because the Government have been very generous. The Staffordshire figures, and those that have been repeated in local education authorities across the country, show that it is a misnomer to use the word "cuts" when one refers to expenditure on education.

Mr. Fisher : Does the Minister accept that the figures have been achieved despite the Government's support, which led to a cut in the rate support grant? The figures are a tribute to Labour control in Staffordshire. Will the Minister confirm that, during the last five years of Labour control in Staffordshire, the examination results of secondary school pupils have risen, whereas the national figures have remained fairly static? Staffordshire's figures have advanced considerably, thanks to the Labour council's excellent control.

Mr. Butcher : As I said earlier, the academic results of local education authorities vary considerably. I know that the Opposition do not like league tables, but there are some fairly clear figures that show that the high-spending education authorities often achieve the least favourable academic results, while those that spend the least per head often achieve very favourable results. I shall not comment on Staffordshire's exact performance, but it is the Government's generosity that has made the general improvement possible.

Primary Secondary Schools (Accommodation)

6. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to improve the quality of accommodation provided in primary secondary schools.

Mr. Butcher : Local education authorities and governors are responsible for school buildings for which my right hon. Friend makes capital allocations and grant

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available. For 1989-90 my right hon. Friend has announced capital allocations to LEAs of £352 million. LEAs will also have substantial spending power from capital receipts which they are able to use on improving the quality of school and college buildings.

Mr. Hughes : Given that last year 25 schools in England and Wales had fire damage costing over £250,000 each, and that the fire officer in Tory-controlled Norfolk has just advised his county council that there are 11 schools with no adequate means of escape and which are a high fire risk and 56 other Norfolk schools which do not comply with the codes of practice, is it not about time that schools were brought within the remit of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 so that the fire service inspects them and sees what a lamentable state many of them are in? Is it not time that, earlier rather than later, we brought our schools up to a decent standard to protect children from the risk of death or injury and that we had the capital investment from the Government to do the job?

Mr. Butcher : Of course, this is a question which the whole House takes very seriously but compared with other types of buildings, the fire safety record of schools is excellent. Of course, we should never be complacent and local education authorities have to set their own priorities on repairs and maintenance budgets. In terms of the cost of arson, which normally takes place outside school hours, we have a serious problem, and it is for that reason that I appointed a group of experts to look into the whole question of the cost of arson and vandalism, which has been variously estimated as being between £49 million and £100 million a year. That is intolerable, but of course, the safety question is very much to the fore and I shall look carefully at what the hon. Gentleman has just said.

Mr. Pawsey : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that for a relatively small outlay, for example on fire alarms and the like, schools could be made much safer places? Will he further confirm that he continues to chair a working group inquiring into arson and vandalism and give the House some idea of how that group is progressing and when it might be reporting to the Department and the House?

Mr. Butcher : I shall be glad to so report to the House in due course. I have now chaired this special group twice. We have an action plan of 10 points. We are targeting savings in a number of areas and, for the sake of comparatively small expenditures, I believe that we can make major savings in the £49 million to£100 million that I mentioned earlier, which of course can be used to much better effect in resourcing schools in basic things like books and other forms of support for teachers.

Mr. Corbett : Has the Minister forgotten that the Government's own figures show a £3 billion backlog in repairs and maintenance of our schools? Will he confirm that one million children are still being educated in very inadequate conditions? What will he do about that?

Mr. Butcher : The figures that the hon. Gentleman has just used should be examined very carefully. He knows that it is the practice of most local education authorities to submit a bid to my Department. In the main an average of approximately 34 per cent. of that bid goes to LEAs as a cash allocation. I appreciate that repairs and maintenance, for example, is a heading that we could look at. I cannot anticipate at this stage the outcome of the public

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expenditure survey but I am aware that there are improvements to be made in quite a large number of schools. In the first instance it must be for LEAs to set their priorities when they put their bids to us.

Mr. McLoughlin : Is my hon. Friend happy with the way in which local education authorities allocate this capital expenditure? In Derbyshire there has been an increase in the capital available to the county council over the past two years, from about £5 million to £11 million. Is he aware that there is great concern, particularly in my constituency, that schools are not being treated fairly, perhaps because of their political complexion? I have to say to my hon. Friend and to the Secretary of State that there is growing concern about the way in which local authorities are, as we believe, abusing their position. Is my hon. Friend further aware that All Saints primary school in Matlock has been waiting now since 1983-84 for the continuation of very important work to bring it on to one site? Does he agree that it is not acceptable that there should be huge increases in the capital given to county councils and for them then to use it in wholly political exercises in various constituencies in the county?

Mr. Butcher : Derbyshire county council seems to devote the bulk of its efforts to blaming the Government for everything. The school that my hon. Friend mentioned had the first phase of its development approved under the Conservative Administration but is still waiting for the second phase. Derbyshire has rarely been out of the top five for capital allocations to the shire counties. It receives 52 per cent. of its claims for expenditure compared with a national average of 34 per cent. In my view, Derbyshire should stop playing politics and get on with the job.

Mr. Fatchett : Have not capital allocations for school maintenance decreased by nearly 30 per cent. in the past 10 years? Is that not because we have a £3 billion backlog in repairs to our schools and 1 million children are condemned every day to take their lessons in substandard accommodation? That accommodation would not be acceptable in private sector schools to which Cabinet members send their children. Why can we not have the same standards in the public sector and the money to carry out repairs so that our children can have decent schools and decent opportunities?

Mr. Butcher : It is regrettable that the hon. Gentleman makes comparisons with the private sector, because the private sector often operates under conditions which can be described as spartan. However, the hon. Gentleman raises a serious matter. He does not take into account the fact that capital receipts have boosted expenditure considerably. Capital receipts boosted the £352 million that I mentioned earlier to about £670 million. Of course we should like to provide more for repairs and maintenance, but the House must await the outcome of the public expenditure survey as far as future plans are concerned.

Teacher Training

7. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what allowance is made for the in-service training of teachers in (a) school-time and (b) school holidays for heads, deputies and all other teachers ; and if he will make a statement.

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The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : Participation in in-service training is part of thprofessional duties of a teacher under the pay and conditions document. The amount of time devoted to in-service training in school hours and outside school hours varies according to need and circumstances. In the Government's view the five non-contact days should be used mainly for in- service training.

Mr. Greenway : Can my hon. Friend confirm that there will continue to be an expansion of in-service training for heads, deputies and all teachers? Can she also confirm that such training is much more expensive if it is undertaken in school time because replacements have to be arranged for the absent teacher, head or deputy? Could not incentives be provided for such teachers to undertake more in-service training in school holidays which, after all, are not short?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend will be interested to know that some £50 million has been set aside this year in training grants for teachers undertaking in-service training, and an additional £50 million in education support grants to help in training to prepare for the national curriculum. My hon. Friend asked about in-service training during school holidays or outside school hours. Many good local education authorities already arrange much of their in-service training outside school hours and many very professional teachers prefer to do it then.

Mr. Flannery : Is the Minister aware--I am sure that he is--that about a fortnight ago the Secretary of State answered a question in the Select Committee, and that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is pursuing the same subject? The Secretary of State referred to the fact that the number of supply teachers is totally insufficient. Large numbers of teachers who wish to take part in in-service training cannot because there are not enough supply teachers to replace them.

Is the Minister aware that the Secretary of State made it plain in the Select Committee that he intends to cut the number of supply teachers-- another severe cut--so that teachers, who, since he came to office, have had more work after school than ever before will have to go out at night and weekends for in-service training, instead of continuing with the present arrangements for which they need more supply teachers?

Mrs. Rumbold : The hon. Gentleman should know that many local education authorities are working hard to sustain and increase the number of supply teachers. They have some good schemes, and well-organised local education authorities have a considerable number of supply teachers to cover for other teachers who are doing in-service training. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would have reaffirmed what I have just said to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), in reply to his question about in-service training out of school hours, insofar as it is important that professional teachers should, as much as possible, increase their professionalism by undertaking training both in and out of school time.

Mr. Favell : Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the present system for the appraisal of teachers? Three or four years ago, we heard a great deal about it. The medical profession

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has now accepted the need for the medical audit, which is appraisal by one's colleagues. Would it not be sensible to consider a similar scheme for teachers?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend will know that there are provisions in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 for the introduction of appraisal schemes. Six pilot schemes were undertaken in local authorities and those are currently being assessed by the Department of Education and Science, with the intention of introducing appraisal schemes in other schools in the not too distant future.

Ms. Armstrong : Does the Minister accept the view of Her Majesty's inspectorate that primary education is critically short of teachers with expertise in science, technology and mathematics? As primary schools will embark on teaching the national curriculum core subjects next term, what is the Minister doing to ensure that every primary school teacher has the in- service training necessary to embark on the project?

Mrs. Rumbold : As the hon. Lady will know, we are embarking on a substantial in-service training scheme for primary school teachers, as well as secondary school teachers. With the introduction in September this year of the core subjects of the national curriculum, primary teachers will need to undertake some in-service training in science and mathematics in particular, although many primary school teachers, having seen the syllabuses and the curricula for mathematics and science, are happy with them and believe that they are well prepared already to undertake most of the work.

Teacher Shortages (Barnet)

8. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to solve the problems of teacher shortages in Barnet.

Mrs. Rumbold : The Department's action programme on teacher shortages is aimed, in particular, at tackling the problem of teacher recruitment in London and the south-east.

Mr. Skinner : Is the Minister aware that one reason why there are shortages of teachers in the Prime Minister's constituency, parts of Derbyshire and elsewhere is the ever-changing job description that the Government are organising on behalf of teachers in relation to the national curriculum and the GCSE examination, but that almost certainly the main reason is pay? It is high time that the Government were prepared to pay teachers the same 26 per cent. increase that the top company directors received last year.

Mrs. Rumbold : I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should attack both the GCSE and the national curriculum, as I understand that his Front Bench has adopted both of those as part of its own programme. My right hon. Friend has received the report from the interim advisory committee on teachers' pay and conditions and has announced that he is prepared to accept the report in full.

Sir Rhodes Boyson : Is my hon. Friend aware that, whatever the teachers' position in Barnet, in Labour Brent, parents are queuing up to get their children into schools in Conservative Barnet rather than in Labour Brent? Is my

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hon. Friend aware that the excellent fifth year and seventh year results in Barnet and Harrow are some of the best in the country?

Mr. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is hardly surprising that parents in areas where the schools are not producing the results are opting to send their children to schools in authorities such as Conservative-controlled Barnet, where the results are obviously good. Barnet is the top authority in the country for good academic results.

Mr. Straw : Is that why parents in Barnet are queuing up to send their children to schools in Labour-controlled ILEA and is that why the net flow there is towards ILEA and not away from it? If the Minister is, as she claims, winning the battle on teacher shortages, why has the education officer in Barnet, Mr. Gill, had to write a desperate letter to every teacher and parent in Barnet, asking if they know anyone, "friends, relatives or neighbours" who would like to be a teacher in Barnet?

Why, in the past seven years, have teacher resignations in primary and secondary schools risen by 260 per cent.? Is that what 10 years of Thatcherism has done to the Prime Minister's own back yard?

Mrs. Rumbold : No, it is not. The 10 years of Thatcherism have been successful, not only in Barnet, but right across the country and are proving to be most successful in education which, in previous years was so deplorable that it had to undergo a substantial change and the substantial reform that was introduced last year by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the Education Reform Act 1988.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Is my hon. Friend aware that until 1974 graduates could be employed by local education authorities in shortage subjects without a postgraduate certificate of education? Will she look at the system used in the United States where graduates are trained part-time in the evenings and in the holidays while they are teaching? Will she also consider a system of paying extra money to teachers in shortage subjects and in shortage areas?

Mrs. Rumbold : We shall most certainly look at both those suggestions. My hon. Friend is aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is about to introduce schemes for licensed and for articled teachers which will allow graduates to be articled or licensed and to teach in the classroom while gaining their professional qualifications.

Licensed Teachers

9. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many licensed teachers he estimates will be recruited in the next two academic years.

Mr. Butcher : The number of licensed teachers will depend on the suitability of candidates presenting themselves for licensed teacher status and the extent to which local education authorities and school governing bodies wish to appoint them.

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