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Mr. Baker : The increase in expenditure for polytechnics this year, in current costs, is nearly 10 per cent., and I have increased the capital allocation for the polytechnic sector this year from £50 million to £84 million.
Mr. Andrew Mitchell : Is my right hon. Friend aware that such is the popularity of Nottingham's forthcoming CTC that I receive regularly letters from my constituents in Gedling complaining that their children do not live within the catchment area of the CTC, and they very much wish that they did?
Mr. Baker : I confirm what my hon. Friend says, and I am sure that the Nottingham CTC will be as popular as the Birmingham CTC. There is now growing demand from towns and cities all over the country to have CTCs, and I suspect that we shall exceed the original target of 20.
Mr. Straw : Is the Secretary of State aware that the proposals to turn the Sylvan school in Croydon and the Haberdashers' Aske girls' school in Lewisham into CTCs are so unpopular with parents that they have voted overwhelmingly against those proposals? Does he appreciate that his refusal to accept conclusively those ballot results will reveal his support for parents' rights to be nothing more than a hollow sham?
Mr. Baker : The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about Sylvan is that, as he knows, proposals for closure will be coming to me shortly and I shall decide on those proposals on their merits. As for Haberdashers' Aske, the result of the ballot shows that the majority of those voting are in favour of a CTC, and that provides a firm and clear basis on which the governors of the Haberdashers' Aske school may make a decision.
10. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has recently received regarding the establishment of city technology colleges in London and the south-east.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : I am delighted to say that there is tremendous interest in the establishment of CTCs in London and the south-east. As a result, I continue to receive many representations on a number of different possibilities.
Mr. Hughes : Does the Secretary of State concede that there is substantial concern among parents and teachers who might be affected by their school becoming a CTC lest their influence on the future of the school is substantially reduced? For example, Bacon school in Bermondsey, which would be entitled as an over 50-pupil school to have
Column 12five elected parents and two elected teachers, would be replaced by a school with one elected parent and one elected teacher. What does the right hon. Gentleman say to the charge that that is entirely inconsistent with the local management of schools, in which I thought be believed?
Mr. Baker : I wish that the hon. Gentleman would make it clear whether or not he supports the Bacon initiative in his locality, despite his repeated support for a national campaign against CTCs. I know that the governors of Bacon school are considering the possibility of moving to a site in docklands with a substantial amount of industrial sponsorship. That seems to be a remarkably attractive option, but I shall of course await the outcome of their deliberations.
Mr. Maples : In correcting the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), my right hon. Friend showed that he is aware that the parents and children of Haberdashers' Aske schools voted by a substantial majority in a joint ballot last week in favour of a proposal to convert to a CTC. Is he aware that this was in the face of concerted and orchestrated opposition by the Labour-controlled Inner London education authority to stop the ballot taking place? As the parents, teachers and governors have now voted in favour of this proposal, will he join me in hoping that the ILEA will now honour the verdict of the majority?
Mr. Baker : I know that this was a hard-fought case and that there was considerable organised opposition to it. But, as I have made clear, the result of that ballot showed that the majority of those voting want a change and that provides a firm and clear basis on which the governors of the school can make a decision. I hope that they will make that decision very quickly indeed.
Curriculum--From Policy to Practice", published this year, emphasises the place of careers education and guidance within the whole curriculum. The National Curriculum Council is considering the place of personal and social education--and it sees careers education and guidance as an important part of this--in the same context.
Mr. Flannery : Does the Minister realise that the entire education world in our country believes that the shortage of teachers is now steadily developing to crisis point, such that the Select Committee on Education will be making a report on this shortly? Does he also realise that the morale of teachers is so low owing to constant Government attacks on it that 40 per cent. of them would like to leave the service immediately? What kind of advice will he give to secondary school pupils about entering the teaching profession when the Government have played such havoc with the profession that people want to leave it en masse?
Mr. Butcher : Instead of peddling alarm and despondency the hon. Gentleman will have to await the outcome of a number of studies of this matter. It is not as simple as he states. Indeed, I vigorously deny a number of
Column 13his assertions. I met careers guidance teachers three weeks ago and discussed their interest in ensuring the place of careers guidance within the national curriculum and was able to reassure them that this would continue.
Mr. Butcher : In January 1988 the total number of children in England with a statement of special educational needs under the Education Act 1981 was 138,067. We do not have separate figures for deaf children.
Mr. Boyes : Is the Minister aware of the shortcomings for children with special educational needs of the statement process as spelled out by the National Deaf Children's Society report "A Mockery of Needs"? Is the Minister aware--I am sure he is--that there is a need for extra resources for local authorities to ensure that all children with statements of special educational needs have access to the national curriculum? If he does not give those extra resources quickly to local authorities, will it not be just another example demonstrating that this Government simply do not care about children with special educational needs?
Mr. Butcher : No, Sir, that is not so, whether measured by the amount of effort that has gone into the education of children with special needs and particular disabilities, or in terms of hard cash. In 1979-80 about £249 million was spent on maintained special schools. Our plans this year provide for £630 million at a time when there has been a reduction in the number of pupils in this category of 30,000. So there has been a real increase of 28 per cent. I have read the National Deaf Children's Society document. I stay in contact with this group, mainly through its Coventry branch. I find a lot in the document to support, in particular, the wishes of parents to be more closely involved. Not only I but the Department of Health will be responding shortly.
Mr. Favell : Is my hon. Friend aware that in certain parts of the country, there have been disputes about whether speech therapy is the responsibility of the district health authority or the education authority? Can my hon. Friend update the House on that?
Mr. Butcher : I am aware that over a period of time, the role of speech therapy, both for the overall health of the child and for the educational capability of the child, has exercised the minds of many. I cannot tell my hon. Friend today precisely what the outcome of that considerable discussion will be, but I will write to him as soon as there is a clearer statement to be made.
Mr. Ashley : Now that the pressure on school budgets is so great that it is blighting the lives of deaf children and their future careers, will the Minister accept that it is his job to ensure that local education authorities have both the freedom and the resources to help those children?
Mr. Butcher : I dealt with the very generous provision for those categories of disability in my earlier response. May I also reassure the right hon. Gentleman on a point about which the whole House is concerned-- the question
Column 14of supporting the teachers themselves in the particular skills required, whether the children are in maintained integrated schools or in special schools. On that front alone, we are providing this year £1.6 million for the training of teachers of children with hearing impairments and in 1990-91, we propose to provide £1.7 million. I hope that the earlier figures that I gave will give the right hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.
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. This evening, I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.
Mr. Warren : Will my right hon. Friend make known to the Government of China today the utter revulsion of the British people at the killing and unwarranted brutality of Chinese troops in the streets and squares of Beijing and especially at the awful actions taken against the students? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is impossible for us to continue normal relations with China while this dreadful brutality continues and will she take action on that?
The Prime Minister : I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Everyone who witnessed those scenes on television was afflicted with utter revulsion and outrage at what had happened and at the indiscriminate firing on people who were asking only for democratic rights. It shows that Communism stands ready to impose its will by force on innocent people and we must take that into account in our views on defence. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will be making a statement shortly on the Government's response. I agree with my hon. Friend that, clearly, normal business with the Chinese authorities cannot continue. Our first and greatest concern has to be for the people of Hong Kong, whose confidence will be very badly shaken. Our commitment to a secure future for them is as strong as ever and we shall be looking urgently at what can be done to provide them with some reassurance.
Mr. Kinnock : Does the Prime Minister agree that the memory and meaning of one unarmed young man standing in front of a column of tanks in Beijing yesterday will remain with the British people long after the present leadership in China and what they stand for have been forgotten? Will the Prime Minister make it clear that the orders to commit mass murder given by the old men clinging to power in Beijing are unequivocally and universally condemned by the people of our country? To reinforce that message, will the Prime Minister work with our European partners to bring concerted pressure on the Chinese Government to stop the killing and to respond positively to the call for freedom being made by the people of China?
Column 15Cuellar, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. China is, of course, a permanent member of the Security Council. Everyone has expressed outrage, horror and total and utter condemnation, and each country, both separately and jointly with others, is thinking of how best to demonstrate that in practical terms to the Chinese Government.
Mr. John Marshall : During the course of her busy day, will my right hon. Friend examine the recent surveys which show that the postal services have deteriorated? Does she agree that the only way in which to improve the quality of the postal services is by the introduction of greater competition?
The Prime Minister : I am aware of some of the complaints on this matter. I agree that greater competition would be good, and we may have to consider ending the monopoly on the postal letter service, which would bring welcome competition.
Mr. Howarth : Is the Prime Minister aware that following the recent spate of serious accidents involving dogs the people of Britain expect the Government to take some action? In view of that, will she give serious consideration to the schemes advanced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Association of District Councils?
The Prime Minister : I am aware of the great concern about this matter and of some of the proposals that have been made. Although some of them are undoubtedly very interesting, they would not go to the root of the problem, which is not necessarily a question of identifying the owner of the dog but of trying to persuade people to be very responsible about their ownership.
There are already powers to control dangerous dogs. The Dogs Act 1871 provides that any member of the public can tell the police if he or she believes that any dog is dangerous. A magistrate can then issue an order for any dog to be controlled or destroyed. [Interruption.] The question is whether we need to strengthen the legislation and how we catch the people who are not being responsible about owning dogs. It is easier to pose the problem than it is to catch and severely punish the offenders.
Mr. Beaumont-Dark : Does my right hon. Friend accept that in these difficult times with the Chinese problem the people of Hong Kong have every right to feel that the word of a Government who are willing to murder their own people is a word that may well be doubted? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come for Britain at least to give Hong Kong a democratic Government and tell the Chinese Government that if they do not honour that, they will honour nothing, and that we shall not honour any pledges given to them?
The Prime Minister : Under the declaration signed with the Government of China, we are now negotiating the Basic Law and when that is complete, we are steadily introducing an increasing amount of democratic government into Hong Kong, with the view that, by the time 1997 comes, there will be an absolutely smooth changeover,
Column 16with full democracy, so that the agreement can be fully implemented--that for 50 years after 1997 the people shall have the same system as they have now, a free democratic system, with substantially the same way of life. Obviously, whatever the declaration says, the confidence of the people of Hong Kong will be very severely jolted at present, for very understandable reasons. Without that agreement, which should bring the people of Hong Kong a much better chance than they would otherwise have, 92 per cent. of the land would automatically revert to the People's Republic of China, without the associated benefits that we have negotiated for the people of Hong Kong.
Mr. Ashdown : The Prime Minister's words of a moment ago will be welcome, but does she realise that, in comparison with the words of President Bush, her muted response immediately following the massacre in Peking will be regarded by many as a matter of shame? Is she aware that, in comparison with the attitude of the Portuguese Government to their citizens in Macau her complete denial of moral responsibility after 1997 for those in Hong Kong who hold British passports will be regarded by many as a matter of dishonour?
The Prime Minister : The statement that I issued said : "We are all deeply shocked by the news from Peking and appalled by the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed people. It is a reminder that, despite some recent easing of East-West tensions, a very great gulf remains between the democratic and the Communist societies. We view these events in Peking with particular concern because of our responsibility for Hong Kong--
"and our obligation--which we share with the Chinese Government under the joint declaration--to safeguard Hong Kong's future stability and prosperity."
There were two more paragraphs which, as I said earlier, said that we were shocked and appalled at such indiscriminate killing. The right hon. Gentleman stands up and makes a great deal of noise, but is it his only suggestion that we should accept 3.6 million people into this country regardless of the consequences?
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the possibility of this problem arising was foreseen more than 20 years ago when we passed the Commonwealth immigration legislation? Would it not be quite heartless to hold out the hope to almost 4 million people that the solution to their problems lies in emigrating to the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister : Currently 3.5 million people in Hong Kong hold British dependent territory citizens' passports. Since 1945 there have been 1.6 million immigrants to Britain from the New Commonwealth. I cite those figures to show the enormity of the task. Obviously some people, especially those who have worked in certain positions for the British Crown, already have preference in securing British passports.
I agree with my hon. Friend that it would not be right to suggest that 3.5 million people should automatically have the right of abode in this country.
Mr. Duffy : Can the Prime Minister explain why the stock market remains jittery today and why sterling continues to weaken despite higher interest rates, while cuts in prime rates and a mountain of debt fail to weaken the US dollar?
Mr. Rowe : Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great many parents of British students in Beijing, of whom I am one, are extremely grateful both to the Foreign Office and to the universities, which have been assiduous in looking after those students? Is it not a source of great pride and great relief that, as far as we know, those students are being lifted out of Beijing? Will my right hon. Friend join me in expressing appreciation to both the Foreign Office and the universities?
The Prime Minister : I gladly pay tribute both to the Foreign Office and to our ambassador in Beijing. There are only between 50 and 60 British students in and around Beijing, all of whom reached the embassy fairly quickly and are being looked after as well as is possible. It is not easy to obtain flights out of Beijing during the present troubles.
Mr. Fisher : Why will not the Prime Minister reconsider her refusal to do anything to back her condemnation of what is happening in China, or to offer practical help to the people of Hong Kong--including the Hong Kong journalist who was refused sanctuary and help by the British embassy in Beijing? Why is President Bush imposing sanctions but the right hon. Lady doing nothing?
The Prime Minister : There will be a full statement later by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who will indicate in full the measures being taken. Of course, our consul is every bit as anxious to help people who have British dependent territory passports whom we regard as our responsibility but whom the Chinese regard as Chinese. We are as anxious to help them as we are to help our own people who are in Beijing, if we can get to them to help them.
Mr. Stanbrook : Despite what has been properly said about the millions of people involved, is my right hon. Friend aware that when we passed the British Nationality Act 1981 we did not expect the provisions of section 4(5) to allow certain citizens of Hong Kong the right of abode in this country to be used other than sparingly? However, would not we all be surprised to find that after eight years only seven applications out of thousands have been granted? Is there not a case for applying the section more flexibly and thus perhaps bringing some relief to Hong Kong?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend that that section must be applied more flexibly. He will find that we are ready to do so. There is a great deal of difference between that greater flexibility that we are very ready to offer--understandably so--and saying that 3.5 million should have the right of permanent abode in this country.
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