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House of Commons

Tuesday 30 January 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : No. I am on my feet.

Adelphi Estate Bill

Exmouth Docks Bill

Hythe, Kent, Marina Bill

London Docklands Railway Bill

London Underground (Victoria) Bill

Penzance South Pier Extension Bill

Shard Bridge Bill

Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill

Ventnor Harbour Bill

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday.

British Railways Bill

(By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered tomorrow.

King's Cross Railways Bill

Motion made,

That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 121 (Quorum of committee on opposed bill), leave be given for the Committee on the King's Cross Railways Bill to proceed with a quorum of two.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Hon. Members : Object.

To be considered tomorrow.

British Railways Order Confirmation Bill

Order for consideration read.

To be considered tomorrow.

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Oral Answers to Questions


Initial Teacher Training

1. Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what measures are being taken to improve initial teacher training in the area of classroom experience.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth) : On 1 January the Government introduced revised criteria for the approval of initial teacher training courses. The requirements for school experience have been strengthened. This autumn we shall be piloting the articled teacher scheme, in which more than four fifths of the training course will take place in schools. I am pleased to say to my hon. Friend that his own local authority, Hampshire, is participating in one of the pilot schemes.

Mr. Hunter : I warmly applaud the Government's commitment to improve initial teacher training, but may I ask my hon. Friend to take matters a stage further? Does he accept the proposition that in no circumstances should any teacher be granted qualified status unless he or she has first demonstrated in the classroom that he or she is capable of doing the job of teaching?

Mr. Howarth : I readily accept my hon. Friend's proposition. We have made it a rule that no qualification attracting qualified teacher status should be awarded unless the student has demonstrated a satisfactory standard of teaching in the classroom. That means that the student will have to show that he or she can keep order and manage children in the classroom and can teach in such a manner that children learn effectively.

Mr. Flannery : What an alarming lack of knowledge about teachers Conservative Members show. The Education Reform Act 1988 does not even apply to the private sector. The Government have imposed it on the public sector, yet it has nothing to do with the sector in which they are involved. How can the Minister advance the cause of children and teaching by putting in front of a class a so-called licensed teacher--someone who has never taught a class? Are not the Government demeaning our children and our teachers by that dreadful Act and by their sheer ignorance of teaching children?

Mr. Howarth : The hon. Gentleman all too frequently chides us for not doing enough, in his view, to increase the supply of teachers. The licensed teachers scheme is a new initiative that will encourage mature entrants--people who have been doing something else in life, who decide that they would like to teach. Many valuable recruits will be brought into teaching in that way. There will, of course, be a carefully designed teacher training package, individually designed to suit the particular licensed teacher. The scheme will be arranged between local education authorities and the schools in question and I am pleased to note that more than half the local education authorities in Britain dissent strongly from the hon. Gentleman's view and have applied to us for funding under the scheme.

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Mr. Thornton : Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a vast amount of experience in the classrooms in our schools and that more ways should be found of utilising that classroom experience in initial teacher training? Will he give an undertaking that he will look into that, with a view to allowing opportunities for career development for teachers, so that their classroom experience can be used in our initial teacher training colleges?

Mr. Howarth : As I mentioned earlier, we have strengthened the requirements for classroom experience. The new criteria that we have published for the accreditation of teacher education strongly insist that there should be an increased element of practical classroom experience for trainee student teachers. Therefore, there will necessarily be a close working relationship between teacher training institutions and schools. It is for them to develop the flexible pattern that meets their own requirements. The fact that there should be a close working association between teacher training institutions and schools is not in doubt and we have insisted that those who teach and lecture in teacher training institutions should have no less than one full term's teaching experience every five years to update their experience.

Supply Teachers

2. Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with local education authorities about the number of supply teachers ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Howarth : My right hon. Friend has not had any such discussions. He is aware that supply teachers are more readily available in some localities than in others. A total of £2 million of expenditure by 45 local education authorities will receive education support grant in 1990-91 on schemes designed to enable local education authorities to encourage qualified teachers in their area to come back into service, whether as supply teachers or on a part-time or full-time basis.

Mrs. Taylor : Does the Minister accept that the national shortage of supply teachers is just one reflection of a deeper malaise in British education? Does he further accept that until we restore the confidence and morale of our teachers, we shall continue to see a shortage of classroom teachers? Does he agree that the main reason why we have those shortages is the pressure that the Government have put on teachers and the way in which this Government have undermined the confidence of the classroom teacher by the weight of legislation and by not taking proper account of experts and of those who actually teach?

Mr. Howarth : All of us on the Government Front Bench, including my right hon. Friend, honour teachers and have the greatest respect for what they do. We shall continue to give them all the practical support that we can. It would better become the hon. Lady if she spent less time on opportunistic and cynical denigration of the position in which teachers are held in society and was a little more generous in her recognition of the respect in which they are properly held.

Mr. Sims : Is my hon. Friend aware that teachers who have taken early retirement from full-time teaching are

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liable to have their pension reduced if they take up part-time teaching in the state sector, whereas they suffer no such penalty if they work in the private sector or in higher education? Would it not be as well to remove that anomaly and to encourage teachers who have taken early retirement to resume part-time teaching if they feel able to do so?

Mr. Howarth : I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to ensure that there are no pension obstacles to enabling teachers either to continue in the teaching profession or to return to teaching, or that may discourage other people who may wish to come into teaching later in life. We have that area of policy under review. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that I am consulting various sectors of industry and taking their advice on how we can best ensure that pension arrangements do not provide the discouragement to which my hon. Friend alluded.

City Technology Colleges

3. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress there has been on the city technology college programme.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor) : The city technology college programme continues to makeexcellent progress. Three colleges are now open and at least a further eight will open in 1990 or 1991. I have just announced the establishment of two new colleges in Corby and Derby.

Mr. Michie : As it now looks as if industry will contribute about 20 per cent. of the capital cost of CTCs, which means that the taxpayer will have to pay 80 per cent., is it not time that the Secretary of State admitted that the programme is a failure? Is he aware that senior educationists describe it as a criminal waste of public money? Is it not time that money went into the present maintained schools? One such school in my constituency, Carfield infant junior school, has waited many years for repair and maintenance work to be done. Is it not time that the Government stopped their rhetoric, which is doing nothing for education, swallowed their pride and admitted their mistake?

Mr. MacGregor : The three new colleges have already demonstrated their worth, not least in helping to improve standards in the area where they are located. I reject entirely the suggestion that they are a criminal waste of public money. City technology colleges have many advantages and they involve industry in education. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would pay tribute to, rather than denigrate, the £43 million or so that has been offered by sponsors and industry. He should also pay tribute to improving and pioneering technology in education and above all to raising standards in inner-city areas. I do not usually hear the hon. Gentleman complain about expenditure in those areas. I hope that he will recognise that expenditure on CTCs is fundamental to improving standards in inner- city areas.

Mr. Pawsey : Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is concern about CTCs among Conservative Members, too? We are worried that there are not enough and that the programme is not going forward quickly enough. We believe that CTCs will help to improve the quality and

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standard of state education, where the overwhelming majority of our children are educated. Will my right hon. Friend bring forward a policy to accelerate the development of CTCs?

Mr. MacGregor : I agree with my hon. Friend about the contribution that the colleges make to improving standards and I have talked to him before about it. He recognises that there are practical constraints on the speed at which one can operate, not least of which are finding sites and developing them. I hope that he will acknowledge that my announcement in the past few weeks of two new CTCs in Derby and Corby illustrates that the programme is moving ahead as swiftly as possible. I hope that he also noticed the announcement that I made about funding curriculum development in the CTCs, to ensure that the benefits of CTCs go more widely into the whole maintained sector.

Mr. Simon Hughes : Will the Secretary of State explain how he reconciles the statement of his predecessor--which gained the most applause at the Tory party conference--that CTCs would not be part of the local education authority, with the proposal of the Tory-controlled Wandsworth borough council that Battersea Park school, currently a local authority school, should become a part-local authority, part-private CTC? Has not the CTC programme become so bogged down that the only way to rescue it will be to break two major pledges? First, CTCs will include Church schools, which were originally excluded. Secondly, CTCs will include local authority schools, which will remain with the local authority, as the Tories in Wandsworth now propose.

Mr. MacGregor : I am interested to hear that the hon. Gentleman believes that the programme is bogged down. I find it difficult to understand how he can reconcile that with the fact that I have just announced two more CTCs. We are making progress. The proposal to which the hon. Gentleman refers is for a CTC in the voluntary-aided sector. It is being considered by the local authority. I was interested to hear of that development. As it is worked out, I shall consider it carefully.

Mrs. Currie : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing a new CTC to Derby, where it will be welcome, and we shall make it a great success. Would he care to reflect on how it will raise the level of technical and engineering education in Derby and south Derbyshire, which is now the engineering success story of the country?

Mr. MacGregor : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that she will be an enthusiast for this latest development. I am sure that, like me, she will wish to thank the industrial sponsors for the part that they played. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. CTCs, the technical and vocational education initiative--which the Government have undertaken, and on which we are spending considerable sums--and the national curriculum all aim to improve technical and engineering excellence in schools. I am sure that the CTC in Derby will make a major contribution to that.

Mr. Straw : As the previous Secretary of State promised that 20 CTCs would be in operation by the end of last year and as this Secretary of State has managed to produce only three, he must know that his bluster about progress is wholly unconvincing. Is he aware that the business

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sponsor of the new Wandsworth CTC, a sleazy, Bermudan-based second-hand car trader, Mr. Michael Ashcroft-- [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Yes. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. We should all calculate how we frame our questions.

Mr. Straw : A sleazy, Bermudan-based, second-hand car trader, Mr. Michael Ashcroft, has admitted in a letter to the leader of Wandsworth council that he sees his sponsorship of the Wandsworth CTC as no more than Conservative party political propaganda, but at the taxpayers' expense. In view of that, is it not now clear that expenditure on CTCs is not only a criminal waste of money, but deeply corrupt?

Mr. MacGregor : The hon. Gentleman is getting really desperate in the way in which he is trying to criticise the CTC programme. His attack is disgraceful. The other day the hon. Gentleman made a similar attack on the industrial sponsors of CTCs generally. Was he including in that attack the following sponsors, all of which are contributing to CTCs--Austin Rover, W. H. Smith, Boots, Marks and Spencer, Coats Viyella and Wimpey? Such an attack does no credit to the hon. Gentleman and represents a disgraceful attack on the industrial sponsors that are contributing so much to the CTC programme.

Mr. Malins : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in September a new CTC will open in Croydon, the Harris CTC? There are 180 places at that college, but more than 500 parents have applied to send their children to it. Is my right hon. Friend further aware that there have been more than 500 applications for the 40 staff vacancies? Surely those figures demonstrate that the CTC operation is a huge success among teachers and parents.

Mr. MacGregor : My hon. Friend is entirely right and the programme for that CTC is going well. My hon. Friend has already given some of the figures and, in September, there will be an intake of 180 pupils--160 have already been accepted. That is not all, however--places have been allocated to pupils across the full ability range. Ninety pupils will come from Croydon and 90 from the wider catchment area, including Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Bromley. As my hon. Friend said, the applications for the teaching posts are going well. It is a clear illustration of the fact that the CTC programme is making a major contribution in certain parts of the country and is on course.


4. Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what assistance by Government is given to pupils per head (a) at schools in Nottinghamshire and (b) at the Nottingham city technology college.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : This year Nottinghamshire received almost £150 million of block grant. CTCs receive recurrent grant equivalent to expenditure by local education authorities on schools in comparable areas.

Mr. Allen : I should like to extend to the Minister another chance to apologise to the parents and children of Nottinghamshire for spending three times more on one school, the CTC, than on all the other schools in

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Nottinghamshire. While she is at it, will she offer an explanation for the appalling disciplinary record of the CTC in Nottinghamshire and of those elsewhere?

Mrs. Rumbold : Far from apologising, I should be congratulating the parents in Nottingham on their ability to send their children to a good school that has been provided in part by industry. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we have every confidence that those schools will be highly successful.

I must explain to the hon. Gentleman that he is talking about capital grant. I have already explained perfectly clearly that CTCs, in common with other schools, receive recurrent block grant, which is equitable to expenditure on schools within the maintained sector.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell : Instead of knocking Nottingham's magnificent new CTC, which is widely welcomed by local people, why does not the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) admit that, in the past 10 years of Conservative Government, Government education expenditure per pupil has gone up by no less than 71 per cent. in real terms? That expenditure has increased from under £1,000 per pupil to more than £1,700 per pupil.

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend is right. The Government's record of education expenditure per pupil is extremely good. He is also right to say that the people of Nottingham should be grateful. I second that, as the establishment of the CTC is in spite of the disgraceful behaviour of Nottinghamshire county council, which tried to do everything that it possibly could to prevent its establishment.

Agricultural and Food Research Council

5. Dr. Bray : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the primary role of the Agricultural and Food Research Council.

Mr. MacGregor : The council was established by royal charter to organise and develop agricultural and food research ; to establish or develop institutions or departments of institutions for investigation and research relating to the advancement of agriculture or the production and processing of food ; and to make grants for such investigation and research.

Dr. Bray : Is the Secretary of State aware that it will only confuse and prolong uncertainty if the merger with another research council, with quite a different role, is pursued? Does he acknowledge that the AFRC has been going through a time of major change? It has successfully pursued new science and is tackling new problems. It has important work to do in the genetic engineering of plants, food safety and the effects of diet on health. Arrangements have been made for co-ordination with other research councils. Will the Secretary of State let the AFRC get on with its job?

Mr. MacGregor : The hon. Gentleman will know that I know a great deal about the AFRC because I have been involved with it in more than one of my departmental responsibilities. He will know that the Advisory Board for the Research Councils recently made

recommendations to me about its reconstitution, which I accepted and which will greatly improve its co-ordination role and various

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other matters relating to research. The ABRC also advised about a proposal for improving co-ordination between the AFRC and the Natural Environment Research Council, which I think is what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. The Government are actively considering that and will announce their conclusions as soon as possible. I hope that we shall do so fairly soon because I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need for a response to that matter.

Mr. Aitken : Will my right hon. Friend consider that it might be a little short-sighted to withdraw Government funding from the AFRC's specialist meat laboratories in Bristol when there are anxieties about issues such as mad cow disease and so on? Surely, to cut back on £1.6 million of expenditure on an industry that earns more than £8 billion a year is a false economy, given the need for high quality specialist research such as that laboratory has provided for many years?

Mr. MacGregor : My hon. Friend is not quite right. We have been withdrawing Government funding from near market research, the primary objective of which is the development of a specific product or process for commercial sale or use. That is absolutely right because it enables us to concentrate our priorities on where public funding should be spent and to avoid duplication and overlap with the private sector. One part of the restructuring of the Institute of Food Research, Bristol to which my hon. Friend referred, was related to that. He will know that the restructuring means that we are concentrating on the Norwich and Reading laboratories, where we will increase the number of scientists. That will ensure a more effective outcome from research.

Mr. Skinner : What about Bristol?

Mr. MacGregor : I am coming to that. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) should allow me to continue. I partly dealt with that point when I explained the restructuring.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) will notice--I am sure that he will--that this Government have actually increased Government funding of food research by more than 120 per cent. in real terms. We have just announced an additional £12 million to deal with the very livestock problems that my hon. Friend's question addressed.

Mr. Skinner : Will the Secretary of State confirm that, despite all that he has just said, the Government intended to close down the Institute of Food Research, Bristol? When the Japanese found out about that, they proposed to the Prime Minister, during her visit, that they would hand her £1 million to take back to save that research institute--and took the money out of Japan's Third-world budget. What a sorry state this country is in.

Mr. MacGregor : As usual, the hon. Gentleman prepares his question before he has heard the answer to the previous one. The research project, which has had so much attention, was reaching the end of its useful research life, as those evaluating the research made clear. The restructuring affecting Bristol is part of a general restructuring. The clear sign of how the hon. Gentleman has got it wrong is that we have announced an additional £12 million for bovine spongiform encephalopathy research for the coming year--a substantial increase.

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Nursery Schools

6. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on nursery school provision.

Mrs. Rumbold : The number of under-fives in school rose by 28 per cent. over the last decade and the age participation rate rose to 45 per cent. Our plans enable that healthy trend to continue.

Mr. Knox : Is my hon. Friend aware that in Staffordshire there is excellent nursery school provision in Stoke-on-Trent, but virtually none in the rest of the county? Does she think that that is satisfactory or fair to the rest of the county?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend will be aware that it is for the local education authority to decide how best to deploy its educational spend, but there has been a tendency for local education authorities to concentrate on the provision of nursery education in the urban rather than in the county areas.

Mr. Win Griffiths : Will the Minister confirm that the 20 best providers of nursery education are Labour-controlled authorities and that the 20 worst are Tory or Social and Liberal Democrat-controlled authorities? Is it not a fact that some of those Tory-controlled authorities do not spend any of the money provided in the old rate support grant for nursery schools or classes?

Mrs. Rumbold : The hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate. It is true that funds go to the urban areas as part of the Government's strategy to help those who are in most need, but it is not true to say that there is no provision within the county areas for education for the under-fives, because there is through the voluntary sector.

Mr. Harry Greenway : Do the Government accept the principle, enunciated in the recent report of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, that under-five provision should be available to all parents who seek to avail themselves of it for educational reasons, and will my hon. Friend seek to persuade all local authorities in principle to move towards that end?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend knows that I am at present chairing a committee which is looking into the quality of education for the under- fives in the voluntary and state sectors. We must remember that that falls between two Departments, but we hope to improve the quality of the provision for the under-fives in the voluntary and the state sectors--the very point that my hon. Friend makes.

Ms. Armstrong : I am pleased that the Minister recognises that the policy often falls between two Departments, but the Department of Education and Science has a responsibility for the education of our young children. When will the Government ensure that all children have the opportunity about which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) talked, and when will they recognise that a child has twice the chance of attending a nursery class or school at the age of three or four in a Labour-controlled authority than in a Tory-controlled authority? Will she congratulate those

Labour-controlled authorities, and make sure that money is available next year for all children in all areas?

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Mrs. Rumbold : As my committee is considering just those questions, perhaps the hon. Lady will read its report with great interest when it comes out later this year.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks : In view of the amount of surplus accommodation in many of our schools, would not this be an appropriate time to see whether some of that accommodation can be adapted for pre-school use by the private or the public sectors, or in partnership? Would not that help to deal with the problem of attracting more women, whom we so badly need, back into the workplace?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend may be aware that many authorities are sensible about adapting some of the surplus primary school accommodation to do just that, working in concert with the voluntary sector to provide pre- school education. In addition, many authorities are now taking children into school before the age of five in order to give them a good start in their first year of compulsory education.

Student Loans

7. Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the cost of administering student loans in respect of students attending universities in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland in each year until 2010.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson) : The administration costs of the loansscheme for United Kingdom students will be in the order of £10 million to £20 million in the first three years. Precise costs will be published shortly.

Mr. Darling : I understand that the banks have agreed to write off half the cost of the sums incurred when it was thought that the banks would go ahead with the scheme. What is the Government's share of the money that has now been written off and when does the Minister expect to know how much the Student Loans Company will cost during the next 20 years? Who will pay for that, or will those sums be recovered from the banks by way of the retribution that the Prime Minister has apparently promised them?

Mr. Jackson : Much of the expenditure incurred in line with the supplementary estimate approved by the House is adaptable to the student loans scheme in its new form, so the question of additional costs to the Government does not arise. The banks' £500,000 contribution will be gratefully received. As to long-term costs, with any loans scheme there is a period when money is being advanced before it starts to come back. We have told the House that we expect current savings from the beginning of the next century.

Mr. Allan Stewart : Does my hon. Friend agree that what really bothers the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) is that all that money will be spent in central Glasgow? Can my hon. Friend give an up- to-date estimate of the number of jobs that the Student Loans Company will create for the Glasgow area?

Mr. Jackson : We estimate that some 200 additional jobs will be created in Glasgow as a consequence of the company's premises being located there.

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Rev. Martin Smyth : Will students attending colleges and universities in Northern Ireland draw from the same scheme or will there be a separate one for them?

Mr. Jackson : The loans scheme will be national, so students in Northern Ireland will also draw from it.

Mr. Bowis : Has my hon. Friend been able to estimate the cost of existing bank loans to students when they have to pay for them at the full commercial rate? Will he reveal the savings that students will enjoy as a result of his new scheme?

Mr. Jackson : Our survey suggests that the average student has an overdraft at the end of each year of study of the order of £340. Much of that money is loaned at commercial rates of interest, whereas the Government scheme will operate at a zero rate of interest, with repayments deferable if income is below 85 per cent. of national average earnings.

Mr. Andrew Smith : Will the Minister admit that his estimates of additional costs amounting to £2.17 billion over the next 20 years, over and above the cost of uprating grants in line with inflation, excludes administrative costs and interest rates subsidy--both of which will add hundreds of millions of pounds to the cost of the scheme--and provides for no expansion in student numbers beyond the end of the century? Does not that show that his deeply flawed scheme is financially as well as educationally bankrupt and ought to be abandoned forthwith?

Mr. Jackson : The hon. Gentleman complains that the Government are being too generous to students.

Mr. John Marshall : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the number of students entering higher education in 1989 and the number making applications to do so in 1990 confirms that the scheme provides no barrier to entry?

Mr. Jackson : Yes, I can confirm my hon. Friend's proposition. Last year's recruitment of higher education students reached a record. They were also the first generation of students applying in the knowledge that there will be a student loans scheme.


8. Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he intends to visit Bradford to meet local education authority members.

Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Madden : Before the Minister meets members of Bradford local education authority, will she read chapter 11 of "The Pickles Papers" and pass copies of that book to the Director of Public Prosecutions and to the Audit Commission? Will she invite the DPP to investigate the recent abortive management buy-out of Bradford school meals service and the recent and unexplained resignation of one of the two senior council officers concerned? While the Minister is at it, will she lean on Bradford council to reduce substantially the cost of school meals, which have been substantially increased to boost profits on privatisation, resulting in--

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