Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as in all health matters, education is important. Information provided to

4 Jun 1998 : Column 470

passengers before they travel as well as in flight is something which we should encourage. I believe that emergency procedures are in place at most airports for dealing with in-flight emergencies. Those work well. At Heathrow Airport, for example, there is a dedicated ambulance ready to take passengers off when a pilot signals that that service is required. I understand that BAA is reviewing its facilities at airports and I am sure that it will be interested in any suggestions to improve them.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, is that any doctor travelling on a flight ought to carry a little Ambu bag containing a mask which is put over the patient's face, and you can, thereby, conduct mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with impunity? It means that if someone has a large moustache you do not get mixed up with it in the process.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am not sure that it would be prudent for me to try to intervene in what I suspect may be a professional debate between the two Benches.

Sorbonne Agreement and Student Mobility

3.30 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What significance the agreement, signed by them with the French, German and Italian governments at the Sorbonne on 25th May, will have for British higher education.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, the main implication of the agreement signed at the Sorbonne on 25th May is that European higher education institutions in the other three countries can be expected to offer a structure of qualifications similar to the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees offered by higher education institutions in the United Kingdom. That should enable British universities, if they wish, to develop closer links with their European counterparts and should also enhance mobility for students.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. I should also like to congratulate her on the honorary degree which I understand from French, German and Italian press reports she was awarded. Can the noble Baroness explain why the agreement was given so much more publicity in the other three countries than it was in Britain? Further, as the agreement, which the Minister kindly sent me yesterday, refers to,

    "facilitating student mobility ... [and] endeavouring to create a European area of higher education",

can she tell the House what the DfEE intends to do to facilitate such expanded student mobility, given the fact

4 Jun 1998 : Column 471

that, on many figures, the number of British students going to study abroad is currently declining rather than expanding?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have no idea why the newspapers in France, Italy and Germany gave the agreement more coverage. I suppose that it was understandable in France which is celebrating the 800th of the anniversary of the founding of the Sorbonne. I believe that there was much interest among the French public in the event.

As to the noble Lord's second question, I can tell him that the Government do want to see more mobility among university students and university staff, together with more opportunities for students from the UK to study in Europe. One measure we have taken is to exempt students on ERASMUS programmes from the tuition fee as part of our aim of narrowing the gap between the number of students coming to the UK and the number of students from the UK going to Europe on those programmes. Of course, it is also for individual universities to promote co-operation of this kind. I know that the noble Lord has been involved in such schemes at the London School of Economics.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some French press reports suggest a rather more ambitious programme--namely, the harmonisation of higher education between the four countries to promote mobility, which is in itself a good thing--but say that the autonomy of British universities makes such co-operation difficult to attain? Can the Minister assure the House that there is no question of intervening in the autonomy of our universities in order to fulfil the terms of this agreement?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is always dangerous to believe what one reads in newspaper reports which appear in any country, including France. There is absolutely no intention of harmonising programmes or of trying to develop some kind of common curriculum. Indeed, that would be totally inappropriate. The autonomy of British universities is in no way threatened by the agreement. The agreement is simply about broad structures based on a system of undergraduate degrees, followed by masters degrees and then research degrees. That system does not exist in all of the countries concerned but it is available in the UK. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that what we see here is European universities becoming more like British universities and that that is to be welcomed.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, did I understand the Minister to say that students coming from abroad under the scheme would be excused the fees? If so, does that mean that students from English universities going to Scottish universities might be excused the fees, instead of being discriminated against as this Government seem determined to do?

Baroness Blackstone: No, my Lords. As I believe the noble Lord is perfectly well aware, the decision to charge English students who decide that they wish to

4 Jun 1998 : Column 472

take a four-year course in Scotland stands. I am sure that the noble Lord is also well aware that an amendment passed in this House has been overturned in the other place--or, indeed, will be--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Blackstone: It is well known, my Lords. The Government have made clear their intention. It is only right to ensure that students taking four-year degrees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are treated in the same way as students from England taking four-year degrees in Scotland. As the noble Lord knows, it is also the case that encouragement is being given to Scottish universities to take students from England with two or three A-levels on to the second year of degrees, and many are already doing so.

Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that many university activities are affected by what happens in schools and that, although British universities benefit immensely from the arrival of students under the ERASMUS scheme, British students might take more advantage of the scheme in return if language teaching in our schools were to begin earlier?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have long been an advocate of teaching European languages as early as possible in our system. Indeed, more and more primary schools are trying to undertake a little European language teaching for children aged 9, 10 and 11; in some cases, for even younger children. However, it is important to ensure that we have well-qualified language teachers to undertake the work. If it were done by people not properly qualified, it might put off more pupils than it would encourage.

Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Statute Law Repeals Bill [H.L.]

3.38 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

When the last Statute Law (Repeals) Bill was before your Lordships' House in 1995, I said, for the Opposition, that my party was committed to the reduction of the statute book and the simplification of legislation. I am now pleased to bring forward this Bill, which will make further progress in the modernisation of the statute book.

The Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission have a statutory duty to promote the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary laws. Over the past 29 years the two commissions have presented to Parliament 16 reports on statute law revision, with draft Bills

4 Jun 1998 : Column 473

attached. The 15 previous reports have led to the repeal of more than 4,000 enactments, including about 1,800 whole Acts. The present Bill proposes the repeal of 180 whole Acts or orders and the removal of redundant provisions from about 200 others.

The repeals in this Bill are set out in Schedule 1. They are in 10 parts. These range from the administration of justice, ecclesiastical law and education to obsolete enactments concerning inclosures and the slave trade. The Law Commissions' continuing work in rationalising local authority legislation bears fruit in this Bill in Part V of the Schedule. This contains repeals of legislation affecting Hereford and Worcester. Over 70 Scottish local Acts, set out in Part VII, are also repealed.

Although these provisions no longer have a place in today's statute book, there is of course much historical interest in some of them. The oldest group of statutes to be repealed are the Ecclesiastical Leases Acts of 1571 to 1575, which were passed to prevent the continuing dilapidation of ecclesiastical property that had occurred during the reformation. I might also mention an Act of 1662 to repair Bengeworth bridge in the county of Worcester--a reminder of the damage and disruption caused during the Civil War.

Your Lordships will wish to know that there has been full consultation with interested bodies on all the proposed repeals. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to join me in paying tribute to the two Law Commissions for their thorough and painstaking efforts in this important work of modernising the statute book. I should also thank those who have been consulted by the commissions, for their contribution, and in particular those who have been involved in the work on local Acts. If your Lordships are content to give this Bill a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in the usual way. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page