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9. Mr. Key : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what weight he gives to the educational needs of children of those serving in the armed forces in making detailed arrangements for the national curriculum.
Mr. Key : I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. Is she aware that about 30,000 children attend schools that are run by the Service Children education authority? Will she do her very best to ensure that they do not suffer from having access to fewer facilities and opportunities than are available to children in this country? Will she look in particular at the very difficult question of work experience and at the potential for learning foreign languages that is made available to those many children who live abroad, particularly in West Germany?
Mrs. Rumbold : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. He will be interested to know that I had a discussion last week with some people from schools in Germany. I was able to reassure them that the national curriculum will go a long way towards ensuring continuity of education for those children. We also discussed the teaching of foreign languages, especially German to children who are living in Germany, and work experience. All those matters are being examined.
Mrs. Rumbold : Continuity means studying according to the national curriculum, whether in a maintained school in this country or in a school that is maintained in Germany or in another foreign country by the British forces. It will ensure that children who live abroad study roughly the same curriculum as is studied by children in this country.
Mr. Butcher : The latest available data are for the year ending March 1987, when 12,730 teachers left full-time service in the maintained nursery and primary sector in England. Of these, 1,320 transferred to full- time service elsewhere in the maintained sector in England and Wales and 1,300 to part-time service in the maintained sector. A further 4,300 retired and 200 died.
Mr. Livsey : Even allowing for the fact that those figures are two years out of date, do they not suggest that there is a crisis in the primary school sector and that, even according to the Minister's own figures, 15,000 teachers a year will be leaving the profession by 1995? What does he intend to do about preventing primary school teachers from leaving their profession in droves?
Mr. Butcher : The hon. Gentleman is utterly wrong. A substantial proportion of those who leave the profession do so for maternity or retirement reasons. That is evidence of a remarkably stable teaching force. As the interim advisory committee has reported, those who leave teaching to go into other professions represent about 1 per cent. of the teaching force. That cannot be described in any way in the terms that the hon. Gentleman used.
Mr. Soames : Will my hon. Friend commend to other local authorities the excellent scheme run by West Sussex county council to stay in touch with teachers who have left the profession, so that when they have finished whatever duties they may have had away from teaching they can be brought back in at an early stage?
Mr. Butcher : That is an excellent scheme. Through appropriate and imaginative measures, a large number of teachers can be persuaded to re- enter the profession. Their expertise will be greatly welcomed. I am sure that other local authorities are observing that experiment with great interest.
Ms. Armstrong : The Minister's answer confirms that the Government simply do not know what is going on in primary schools. Our evidence from local education authorities throughout the country is that the number of resignations this year is unprecedented. Britain has some of the best primary teaching in the world but the Government's policies are undermining it. What are the Government going to do to support and encourage primary teachers?
Mr. Butcher : One of the great strengths of the British system is the primary sector. Having visited Germany recently I am confirmed in that belief and I pay tribute to our primary school teachers. The Opposition's assertions have more to do with propaganda than with fact. In the primary sector we have a stable work force and the teaching force is behaving professionally. The facts on recruitment into teacher training colleges and loss to other professions confirm that we have a well-motivated and stable primary work force.
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. Lamond : Is the right hon. Lady aware of the divided families campaign which is concerned with the plight of a very large number of immigrant families who for nearly two decades now have been refused permission for their spouses and families to join them in Britain? Now, through the new DNA fingerprint tests, they can prove without a shadow of a doubt that those people are their families, yet they are still being refused permission to join their families in Britain. Should not something be done by the right hon. Lady to right that injustice, or will she have a nasty taste in her mouth every time she speaks of her concern for family life in Britain?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is aware that immigration into this country, including some of those people who have been waiting for a considerable time, is of the order of 40,000 to 50,000 a year. That is as many as we can possibly cope with.
Mr. Sumberg : Will my right hon. Friend send a message of sympathy to the hard-pressed rail and tube travellers who will undergo yet another strike tomorrow? Will she join me in condemning the union leadership that has inflicted this inconvenience on the public? Does she agree that as in previous public sector disputes, the total and complete silence of the Leader of the Opposition makes him the strikers' friend?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend. The unions have given no thought to the general public. My hon. Friend is aware that the Government are taking practical steps to help the public get to work tomorrow. Of course the dispute is for the management and unions to resolve, but I believe that three points should be absolutely clear. First, the National Union of Railwaymen and not British Rail has broken the 1956 agreement by refusing to use the established negotiating machinery to settle the question of basic pay. I note that at least one other union has honoured that agreement. Secondly, the British Railways board has offered to meet the NUR at any time and any place to resolve the other outstanding issue--the negotiating machinery. Thirdly, despite the NUR's advertising, the small print makes it absolutely clear that it will not negotiate without pre-conditions.
Mr. Kinnock : Will the Prime Minister constructively and immediately assist in efforts to resolve the rail dispute--first, by strongly encouraging both sides to go back to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to
Column 149discuss all the matters in dispute and, secondly, by stopping those of her interventions that are intended, for obvious partisan reasons, to inflame conflict?
The Prime Minister : I note that the right hon. Gentleman has no thought whatsoever for the travelling public. [Interruption.] Had he listened to my previous reply, he might have found most of the answers to his question. This is a dispute for the management of British Rail and the unions to resolve. With regard to pay, there is a 1956 agreement under which, before industrial action is taken, there should be recourse to the railway staff national tribunal. The NUR has broken that agreement on pay. That tribunal will sit tomorrow and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association is going to it. With regard to negotiating machinery, British Rail has offered to meet the NUR at any time and any place, including ACAS, to try to resolve the other outstanding issues. The NUR is setting pre- conditions to meeting British Rail, which is totally contrary to the 1956 agreement. It should go to ACAS without pre-conditions.
Mr. Kinnock : If the Prime Minister really wants to help rail users, will she come back to the real world of the present and deal with the issue in hand? It must be clear, even to the Prime Minister, that this dispute can be urgently resolved if both parties go to ACAS to discuss all the issues. I urge both parties to do just that. Will she urge them to do that, in the national interest?
The Prime Minister : As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a 1956 agreement-- [Interruption.] Yes. Clearly, Labour does not believe in keeping its agreements. There is a 1956 agreement under which, before there is any-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : Before there is any industrial dispute, there is a 1956 agreement under which pay should be resolved by using the established negotiating machinery to settle the question of basic pay. The National Union of Railwaymen has broken that agreement. Another union has accepted it and is going to the tribunal to use its services. British Rail has said that it will meet the NUR at any time and any place to try to resolve the outstanding issues on negotiating machinery, but not with pre- conditions such as that which the NUR has set.
Mr. Kinnock : If the Prime Minister will not act responsibly and do her duty as she should-- [Interruption.] --will she at least stop being irresponsible and accept the common-sense argument put by The Daily Telegraph this morning that to "outlaw strikes" in public services "would be an indefensible attack on the employee's liberty to withhold labour and would be unBritish' and could have no place in a polity founded upon freedom"?
Or does the Prime Minister think that the civil right of free trade unionism should stop the other side of the Polish border?
The Prime Minister : Why does the right hon. Gentleman not have a flash of responsibility for once, and condemn the strike? Why does he not ask the National Union of Railwaymen to go to arbitration, which is where they should go and to settle their claim that way, and support the travelling public for once?
Mr. Kirkhope : Will my right hon. Friend soon be able to visit the Yorkshire and Humberside region? She will see that the gross domestic product has doubled since 1979 and that 17,500 more companies have been established there since 1983. All of that was enhanced by the tremendous success of the urban development corporations of Leeds and Sheffield, which are presently celebrating their first anniversary. Does that not give the lie to the so-called north-south divide?
The Prime Minister : Yes. The creation of jobs, enterprise and a higher standard of living are spreading throughout the country because of the policies that we have pursued. As my hon. Friend knows, I was in Leeds last December, visiting Asda and seeing for myself the tremendous prosperity that exists there and also seeing that the many successful companies are not only creating jobs and raising the standard of living but have a very great community spirit. They presented a large cheque for about £650,000 to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Altogether an excellent record.
Mr. Rees : Yorkshire and Humberside are doing very well on the commercial front--we are all very proud of them--aided by Labour-controlled local authorities. However, manufacturing is in decline, and it has declined mainly since the right hon. Lady's Government came to office. Will she do anything about manufacturing, or is she concerned only about commerce?
The Prime Minister : The north is doing very well indeed because of the economic policies of this Government and because the people have the wit to take up opportunities and do well for themselves by their own efforts, because the enterprise and tax systems urge and encourage them to do so. That is the record of this Government, and may it long continue. The right hon. Gentleman will know that investment in manufacturing is at an all-time record, which augurs very well for the future.
The Prime Minister : Yes, I recall that the then Government were practically run by the unions. The people voted out the Labour Government, reversed the decline, and we have had unrivalled prosperity ever since.
Mr. Cartwright : In view of the Prime Minister's well-publicised role as a leader of the campaign against the dangers of the greenhouse effect, why do her Government not accept the amendment to the Electricity Bill, which was carried with all-party support in the other place? It would require electricity suppliers to prove that they are conducting energy efficient activities. Which is most important to the Prime Minister, making the electricity industry attractive to investors, or ensuring that it is genuinely energy efficient?
The Prime Minister : There is, of course, a duty of energy efficiency. If the hon. Gentleman had followed the figures he would know that we are now producing about 25 per cent. more goods than we were producing in 1973, but in 1973 we were using up more energy than we are now. That has been the very great achievement of energy efficiency. Naturally, people will go on trying to get better and better value for money.
Mr. Mitchell : I welcome the recently announced 6 per cent. decrease in the crime figures, unprecedented in the past 25 years, but does my right hon. Friend agree that in making progress in this important matter, it is extremely important to ensure that parents are held more responsible for the actions of their children?
The Prime Minister : Yes, Sir. Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the recent figures showing a reduction in recorded crime, although, like him, we are still very concerned about the amount of violent crime. I agree that, if parents do not teach children right and wrong and to abide by the law, no other substitute organisation can do so. It is best that children should know those things before they go to school so that teachers can reinforce what they have learnt at home.
Mr. Fraser : Following her recent conversations on the subject, what prospect does the Prime Minister hold out for the early release of Nelson Mandela and the commutation of the mass death sentence on 14 people from the town of Upington in South Africa?
The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have constantly raised the question of the release of Nelson Mandela. I do not believe that any negotiations about the future of South Africa could start between all the peoples who make up that country until his release and the release of two other people there with him are brought about. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman when that will come about. I believe that there is a change in South Africa, and that the most important thing is to get the Namibian agreement well under way. I hope that after the next election there will be a movement towards genuine negotiations on the part of all peoples in South Africa, but they would have to be preceded by the release of Mr. Mandela.
Dame Janet Fookes, supported by Mr. Greg Knight, Mr. John Cartwright and Mr. Matthew Taylor, presented a Bill to extend the powers available to a court on a complaint under section 2 of the Dogs Act 1981 together with additional rights of appeal and enhanced penalties : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 7 July and to be printed. [Bill 175.]
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(3) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.). Resolved,
That the draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 1989 to referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. That the draft Recovery Vehicles (Number of Vehicles Recovered) Order (Northern Ireland) 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Recovery Vehicles (Number of Vehicles Recovered) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. That the draft Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law) (Amendment) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Fallon.]
Question agreed to.
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