Home Page

Column 1










House of Commons

Tuesday 17 October 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since Prayers are Private Business, may we ascertain that in no circumstances will they ever be recorded by the cameras?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Why do you not say to the hon. Lady that the television cameras have not yet started to roll?

Mr. Speaker : They have not yet started, and that is in the domain of the Select Committee. I confirm that Prayers have always been and will remain private.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you order that the cameras point skywards during Prayers?

Mr. Speaker : The hon. Gentleman should raise that with the Select Committee, too.


Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Bill

Lords amendments agreed to.

Column 2

Oral Answers to Questions


University Funding

1. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received on the funding of science, medicine and dentistry in universities from Sir David Smith FRS principal of the University of Edinburgh ; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson) : Sir David Smith has made no such representations to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Dalyell : With reference to the Edinburgh dental school, whose version of the facts do Ministers believe--Sir David Smith's or Sir Donald McCallum's?

Mr. Jackson : I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being the first to ask a question under these novel conditions. It is a tribute entirely appropriate to his prominent position at Question Time that this should be so. The hon. Gentleman implies that the Government have to make a choice between these two distinguished gentlemen, both of whom have given great service to the education system. That is not the Government's job. In this case the decision is made by the Universities Funding Council, and it has done so.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : What account was taken by the Universities Funding Council of the job prospects of the 56 people employed at the Edinburgh college of dentistry and what funding will be given to the new postgraduate institute?

Mr. Jackson : The postgraduate institute is still being considered and there is a good prospect of proceeding in that direction. The matter of redundancies--if any--will have to be sorted out when the reallocations occur, as they

Column 3

do from time to time. The decision falls to the Universities Funding Council and it has been made after due deliberation.

Mr. Darling : Does the Minister realise that he cannot just wash his hands of this miserable affair of the closure of the dental school and that the Government must make available additional funding to ensure that the postgraduate institute is more than just an empty promise? Does he also accept that the cost of closing the school will mean cuts elsewhere in the university unless additional funding is made available? It is not just a matter for the UFC but for the Ministers concerned because they were at the root of the problem to start with.

Mr. Jackson : The Universities Funding Council is responsible for allocating the funds provided to it by the Government. If the Government were to try to influence the direction of that funding they would have to come to this House to ask for specific approval. It was not the spirit of the Education Reform Act 1988, nor of the Opposition when the Act was passing through Parliament, that we should interfere in detail. The provision of facilities for postgraduate dental education at the postgraduate school, including continuing dental education, is essentially a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in his role as the Health Minister for Scotland.

Dr. Bray : Is the Minister aware that not only the UFC but the Advisory Board for the Research Councils is responsible for the funding of science? Is he aware that the new Secretary of State has been told by the advisory board that spending on academic research in Britain is £150 million to £200 million below that of our principal European competitors, whether measured as a proportion of GDP or per capita? Is he further aware that the Secretary of State had an appalling record for cutting research and development in his previous job, under the policy of cutting near-market research, but that he is now dealing with a wholly different category of research? We look forward to his implementing the advice of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils in full.

Mr. Jackson : Whatever comparisons of financial inputs are made-- many sophisticated comparisons can be made--if we analyse the output in terms of the share of world citations for British science we see that Britain is second only to the United States and is well ahead of France, Germany and Japan.

As for the ABRC, we are in the middle of the public expenditure survey discussions, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.

Mr. Kirkwood : Is the Minister aware that 90,000 free courses of dental treatment are administered by the facility at Edinburgh, which also provides valuable expert advice on, for instance, the dental treatment of patients with AIDS, and which plays an invaluable role in preventive dentistry in Scotland, where there is a high prevalence of dental caries? Why are the Government washing their hands of the responsibility to persuade the UFC of the need to retain this valuable facility which serves my constituents?

Mr. Jackson : The Government are not washing their hands : they are implementing an Act of Parliament that gave the decision about these matters to the Universities

Column 4

Funding Council, which has taken into account all these factors. The McCallum committee was set up specifically to look into the Health Service implications of the closure, and a decision has now been made by the properly constituted body.

Freedom of Speech

3. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the working of section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986.

Mr. Jackson : The Government continue to be concerned by events which from time to time demonstrate that the principle of freedom of speech is challenged in some of our universities and polytechnics. My right hon. Friend plans to discuss this matter with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics.

Mr. Bennett : Will my hon. Friend point out to the Committee of Vice -Chancellors and Principals and the polytechnic directors that the spirit of the Act means that they should not be charging local college Conservative associations £400 or £500 for organising meetings on the spurious grounds of security?

Mr. Jackson : The Government are worried, as is my hon. Friend, by the continued criticism of the codes of practice that are applied in universities and polytechnics, and the concerns expressed by the critics of those codes of practice have not been allayed. That is why the Government share my hon. Friend's anxiety, and it is one of the issues that we shall take up when we discuss these matters.

Mr. Devlin : Is my hon. Friend aware that it is less than a month since my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry was banned from Longlands college in Middlesbrough by the chairman of the Cleveland county education authority on the spurious grounds that as he was going there to open a joint DTI-Department of Education and Science initiative he would be making a party political statement on behalf of the Government? What will my hon. Friend do about that?

Mr. Jackson : I was not aware of that : it sounds deplorable to judge by my hon. Friend's account. I shall have to look into it.

Mr. Andrew Smith : Will the Minister be more positive and join me in commending the efforts of universities, polytechnics, colleges--and students--to uphold freedom of speech within the law, and will he accept our full support for this important democratic principle?

Mr. Jackson : I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman supporting the principle of freedom of speech. I wish that it was consistently supported by some of his political sympathisers in the universities and polytechnics.

Mr. Hind : Will my hon. Friend continue to be vigilant about the operation of section 43? Has he, for example, recently examined the behaviour of Liverpool university, which actively prevented free speech in a public meeting proposed by the local Conservative student association?

Mr. Jackson : I am well aware of the situation in Liverpool, I know that it has been difficult and complex.

Column 5

As I believe that litigation may be pending in the case, I prefer not to comment, but we have made plain our views on the matter to the vice-chancellor of that university.

Nottingham City Technology College

4. Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much money has been spent by his Department on the Nottingham city technology college.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor) : To the end of September 1989, just over £7.5 million habeen spent on the establishment of the Nottingham city technology college by my Department.

Mr. Allen : I welcome the Secretary of State to his new responsibilities. I shall start with an easy question, but he may need pencil and paper. If the Government spend £2.8 million on all the schools in Nottinghamshire and £9 million on the one CTC, how much more does that school receive than all the other schools put together? I now have a multiple choice question--

Mr. Speaker : Order. One question. We cannot have a multiple choice question.

Mr. Allen : The Government have abandoned their programme for further CTCs. Is it because, first, they have run out of ideas and it is unfair or, secondly, because they cannot get the money from the Treasury?

Mr. MacGregor : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I do not need pencil and paper to work out that the Government are not spending £9 million in establishing the CTC. Sponsors are providing £1.5 million and, as I made clear, the Government are spending £7.5 million. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pay tribute, as I have, to the sponsors for their contribution. This is entirely new money. It is a new school in an inner-city area and I think that it will have a substantial beneficial effect. Therefore, it is not possible to relate the two points that the hon. Gentleman made. As I say, it is entirely new money.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no truth in the rumour circulating recently that we are abandoning the CTC programme. CTCs are here to stay because of all the beneficial effects that they will have, and 20 is and remains the target.

Mr. Knowles : My right hon. Friend knows about the persecution by Councillor Riddell and the Labour-controlled Nottinghamshire county council of any child who attends a CTC. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House and the people of Nottingham that his Department is reviewing on a legal basis this kind of savagery?

Mr. MacGregor : I know to what my hon. Friend is referring as I spoke to the parents of one of the young children when I was in Nottingham recently. We are examining these cases to see what course of action might be open to me. I hope that in this case and in all cases of possible discrimination, in relation to CTCs and grant-maintained schools, decency, good sense and fairness will prevail on the part of the local authorities. It seems wrong that they should attempt to prevent young children from attending facilities such as the music and drama school in the area, not least because the parents are ratepayers and future community charge payers. I hope

Column 6

that the local authority will think again. This shows the bigotry and dogmatism of some Socialist local authorities and I hope that the Opposition will repudiate their action.

Mr. Straw : May I add our congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman and also congratulate him on his magical powers in attracting into the Chamber far more hon. Members than were even attracted by his predecessor?

The Secretary of State says that he is not abandoning the CTC programme and that 20 always has been and remains the target. If that is so, what are we to make of the statement in the new year by Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the CTC trust, that the target was "several hundred" or of the statement by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who told the House :

"We shall have more than 20 CTCs."--[ Official Report, 28 February 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 148.]

What are we to make of the statement by the Minister of State, who said in a radio interview :

"There is no limit on the number of CTCs"?

Mr. MacGregor : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I am sorry that he did not respond to my invitation to repudiate the actions of Nottinghamshire county council in relation to discrimination against and unfairness to young children. The hon. Gentleman asked about the number of CTCs. Of course, one cannot look into the indefinite future and give a precise number, but the network of 20 colleges is and remains our target and we are making good progress towards achieving it. I suspect that what the hon. Gentleman cannot stomach, because he would love to see the CTCs abandoned, is that they are popular with parents, are backed by industry and commerce, and increase freedom of choice in our inner-city areas. I wish that he would pay a tribute to the sponsors instead of denigrating the achievements that these colleges will bring.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo : Will my right hon. Friend compare the generosity of Mr. Harry Djanogly, who gave of his personal assets to make this school possible, and of the businesses in Nottingham, who gave of their companies' assets for the same purpose, all of whom understand the meaning of the word "charity", with that of the Labour county council, which cannot possibly understand the meaning of the words "charity" and "caring", and is not even prepared to erect traffic signs to protect children in our inner city who want to attend this school? Is that not the absolute pits?

Mr. MacGregor : I agree with my hon. Friend about the generosity of the sponsors. They have been generous not only in money terms but in terms of the time and effort that they are committing to the CTCs, which are an important experiment and a new way of bringing together industry and education in the post-technological era.

I have been to the Nottingham CTC, and the enthusiasm of the staff and the new ideas that are already emerging are most commendable. Both this and the public response to the CTCs contrasts with the reaction of the Labour party, in the House and in the education authority, and if the council is causing difficulties with traffic signs, that is another matter about which I hope it will think again.

Column 7

Mr. Speaker : I appreciate that we have returned only today from our summer recess, but I ask for briefer questions and then briefer answers.

Teachers' Pay

5. Mr. Flannery : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to establish a new negotiating body for teachers' pay.

Mr. MacGregor : I expect to hold a further round of meetings shortly with the employers and the teacher unions to discuss new pay determination arrangements.

Mr. Flannery : Tory Members are showing a surprising enthusiasm for education matters today. Does the Secretary of State know that the teachers were deprived of the right to free negotiation by his predecessor? The right hon. Gentleman said some nice and charming words about teachers, for once, at the Tory party conference. The right to negotiate freely is allowed in every democracy except this one, and the United Nations has condemned the Government for taking it away. When will it be restored, or shall we continue to be allied with the dictatorships in that regard?

Mr. MacGregor : That is a ludicrous comparison. The International Labour Organisation knows that our aim is to re-establish a permanent pay negotiation machinery. I have already made the position clear. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster saw the teaching unions in July and put forward a range of options, of which three are on the table. I have been receiving responses from the unions, and two further ones came in only this weekend. There is a wide variety of views in these responses, and I am now setting dates for meetings with the unions to take the discussions further.

Mr. Pawsey : I welcome my right hon. Friend to his duties at the Dispatch Box. I urge him to disregard the rantings of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). My right hon. Friend will learn, as we have, that they are full of sound and fury and signify very little. We have no desire to see a son of Burnham or Burnham mark 2. Burnham is discredited, but we welcome the interim advisory committee and the £600 million of additional funding in 1990-91. We also welcome the fact that this represents a doubling of funding over two years.

Mr. MacGregor : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks about me and for what he said about the remit of the interim advisory committee. It is a substantial sum, but a fair one in all the circumstances. I am glad that he recognises that. He has made it clear that it is larger than in the past two years. I was well aware of the educational rantings of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and I regard it as a step forward that he watched what happened at the Tory party conference.

Mr. Simon Hughes : First, I welcome the appearance of the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box in his new position within the Cabinet. Does he accept that the provision of £600 million has not yet met the concern of teachers that not enough money is promised for the profession in the short term to stop the still substantial flow of teachers away from the profession, both in the short and long term?

Column 8

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept also that short-term measures should be implemented in areas of acute need, especially in the capital, during this academic year, and that longer-term measures should be taken so that teachers, especially those in the more senior grades, can be assured that there is a prospect of promotion with reasonable rewards? Without that money, the teaching profession will not have adequate prospects of recovery from his predecessor's policies.

Mr. MacGregor : First, £600 million is a substantial sum. It is double the remit of the year before last and 55 per cent. up on the remit for the current year's settlement. Secondly, it is not true that there is a substantial outflow of teachers. The number of teachers taking up jobs elsewhere amounts to about 1 per cent. of the total teaching force. Thirdly, I recognise that there are problems in certain geographical areas, of which London is the most notable, and in certain subjects. It is on that issue that I have been focusing above all, and it includes the problems that the hon. Gentleman has identified. He will have noted that in the remit that I have given to the interim advisory committee these problems have been identified as the ones upon which I want it to concentrate.

Mr. Haselhurst : I understand the attachment that teachers have for negotiating rights, but does my right hon. Friend agree that a pay review body which does not imply old-style face-to-face bargaining remains an acceptable alternative for a professional body?

Mr. MacGregor : There are three options that I shall be discussing with the teaching unions and others as soon as meetings can be arranged.

Mr. Straw : Is it not clear that the Secretary of State's decision to bind the interim teachers' pay committee with a ludicrously low cash limit will mean that morale will decline further and that teacher shortages will become much worse? The Secretary of State said when he announced the terms of reference for this IAC inquiry that "inflation has now fallen a full 1 per cent. from its summer peak It will continue to decline further in the months ahead." As that statement has been confounded in the space of two weeks--inflation has increased, not decreased--will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear today that if the IAC proposes an increase in teachers' pay that is above the cash limit, he will not dismiss it out of hand?

Mr. MacGregor : I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that, for the reasons I have given already, £600 million is a substantial sum. I hope, too, that he is not saying that there should be no financial limit to the remit of the interim advisory committee. I have made it clear to the committee that £600 million is a firm figure within which I expect it to work.

Finally, I ask the hon. Gentleman--

Mr. Straw : What about inflation?

Mr. MacGregor : I am coming to that. The hon. Gentleman must allow me to answer his first question without interrupting with a request for an answer to his other question. We are talking about a pay settlement for teachers that will start in April 1990--the pay year 1990-91. The interim advisory committee will be meeting

Column 9

for some months. The entire purpose of the Government's policy is to have a downward bearing on inflation. We are talking about April 1991, not about today.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : When considering the future of teachers' pay, will my right hon. Friend consider the introduction of regional pay, which would allow us to reflect local living costs, especially in areas of the south-east such as Gravesham, which has no territorial allowance at present?

Mr. MacGregor : The interim advisory committee considered regional pay and recommended that to remedy precise problems it would be more sensible to make use of incentive allowances, and that we are doing substantially. There are 170,000 incentive allowances in place. It is for the committee to consider what should be done with incentive allowances this year. However, it was its clear view--one with which I went along-- that it would be better to have an incentive allowance system that could more precisely target particular issues or problems rather than a widespread regional pay structure.

Training Grant

6. Mr. Turner : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has for the local education authority training grants ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : Details of the arrangements for the local educatioauthority training grants scheme for 1990-91, including provisional funding allocations, were announced in the Department's circular No. 20/89, which was issued on 18 August and copies of which are available in the Library.

Mr. Turner : I thank the Minister for her answer. Can the hon. Lady estimate the cost in staff time of organising the two different categories of grant--national and local? When will the review be completed?

Mrs. Rumbold : I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman exactly how far organisation within individual schools has progressed as I do not have that information to hand. The local education authorities' local priorities are being subsumed because they are paying more attention to the national priorities, which means that more work is being carried out on training within schools, especially in the primary sector.

Teacher Supply

7. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to improve the teacher supply in London.

Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend is determined to assist local education authorities in London to overcome teacher recruitment and retention difficulties.

The Department, the Inner London education authority and the London boroughs, together with the teaching as a career unit in the Department of Education and Science, will be co-operating in a Londonwide recruitment campaign. Education support grant will be available from next April for local recruitment measures to attract more mature new entrants and re- entrants. As my right hon. Friend said earlier, the interim advisory

Column 10

committee has also been asked to look at measures to improve supply in areas where vacancy rates are highest-- especially in inner London.

Mr. Corbyn : Is the Minister aware that her reply will be of no comfort to those children who today are still without teachers, or to those parents who are concerned that their children are not receiving a proper education? Is she further aware that a survey of the London borough of Lambeth today has shown that 43 primary schools are short of teachers, that they expect to be short for the remainder of the term and that that is a common position throughout inner London? Is not one problem the fact that the London weighting for teachers of £1,377 a year is less than half of that paid to bank staff and the lowest weighting in any public sector employment? Should not the Minister address herself to the problem of teachers' salaries, their negotiating position and, above all, the extraordinarily high housing costs? Is there not a need for decent, cheap housing to attract teachers to London so that our children do not suffer because of the teacher shortage?

Mrs. Rumbold : Like all hon. Members, we do not want children to be away from school because of the difficulties in recruiting teachers. That is why we have invited the interim advisory committee to address the problems of pay, especially in inner London areas. We are also conscious of the high cost of housing, especially in inner London, and recognise that that problem needs to be addressed. We are currently discussing that matter not only with the Inner London education authority, but with the individual inner London boroughs that will take over education responsibilities.

Mr. Bowis : Does my hon. Friend agree that teachers will be attracted to or back to the London boroughs if those boroughs come forward with schemes of excellence, as is happening in Wandsworth? Should not the pay structure be sufficiently flexible to recognise both the teacher shortage areas and teacher excellence? Should it not be made easier for teachers or would-be teachers wishing to undergo training to obtain grants for courses, whether part-time or second courses?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend is right. The more flexible the local authorities that undertake responsibility for education are in putting together packages to recruit and retain teachers, the better. Authorities will recruit more teachers if they are flexible in their recruitment policies and allow job sharing and possibly supply teaching for certain hours in schools. It is also important to provide some sort of training for those who wish to come back into the profession.

Mr. Spearing : The Minister has referred to the increased cost of housing in London, but is she aware that in east London the problem is particularly acute because of the increase in commercial activity in docklands and the free market in housing? Since the Department of Education and Science has not given the London borough of Newham permission to build proper schools in docklands, will she ensure that London weighting reflects the full increase in the cost of housing, because if she does not, she and the Secretary of State will be depriving us not only of schools in docklands but of teachers?

Column 11

Mrs. Rumbold : As I said a moment ago, that is one of the matters to which the interim advisory committee will be paying attention and it is specifically set out in its remit.

Mr. Squire : Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the London borough of Havering which has employed a significant number of teachers from the EC, particularly from Germany, who are a welcome and valuable addition to its teaching staff?

Mrs. Rumbold : I thank my hon. Friend for that welcome comment. We have always recruited, and have welcomed recruiting, from overseas and I am glad to hear that the London borough of Havering has been so successful. I hope that others will follow its good example.

Mr. Fatchett : Does the Minister realise that to parents whose children are losing education in inner London at the moment her statements this afternoon will sound remarkably complacent and indifferent? Does she recall that when her Department published a survey of teacher shortages at the end of the summer vacation, the Minister said that a figure of 3,600 vacancies was "most encouraging". Most of those vacancies were in inner London, but would the Minister be so complacent if they occurred in the private sector and in the sort of schools to which the Secretary of State sent his children?

Next Section

  Home Page