Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1970 Apr 9 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [799/722-42]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515. MT spoke at c723.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 8071
Themes: -
[column 721]

Education and Science

Nursery Schools

1. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will introduce legislation to restrict the use of the title of nursery school to establishments inspected and approved by his Department.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Joan Lestor)

No. Independent establishments with fewer than five children of compulsory school age are not schools within the meaning of the Education Acts, but it is for parents to consider whether they are suitable for their children.

Mrs. Short

Would my hon. Friend look at this matter again? Is there any reason why nursery schools should be treated differently from independent schools, in that they ought to be inspected and approved by her Department? Is she aware that many mothers are being led up the garden path by sending their children to schools which are not really run by trained people, which are not nursery schools at all but are glorified child-minders, and should we not be concerned about standards?

Miss Lestor

My hon. Friend is right, but the point is that those establishments catering for children under the age of five register with the Health Department. It is right to point out that they are nothing to do with the Department of Education and Science. One of the diffi[column 722]culties is that we do not have any particular jurisdiction over any establishment that cares to call itself a school.

2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to ensure that there will be no shortage of trained nursery teachers when Circular 8/60 is withdrawn; and when it will be withdrawn.

Miss Lestor

I have asked colleges of education and area training organisations to increase substantially the number of students trained to deal with younger children. Circular 8/60 will be withdrawn as soon as resources allow.

Mrs. Short

Is my hon. Friend not aware that many local education authorities would now like to go ahead and set up more nursery schools but are prevented from doing so by the provisions of the circular? Secondly, when asking colleges of education to extend the facilities for training teachers for nursery education, would she bear in mind that those colleges are now experiencing difficulty in finding suitably experienced lecturers to train the teachers?

Miss Lestor

I will bear in mind the last point made by my hon. Friend. On the general point about the development of nursery schools, we have already added to the nursery school provision with the urban aid programme. Although some local authorities have indicated that they are keen to go ahead, this is still a matter of money. As soon as money is available, we shall be interested in expanding this provision.

Education Legislation

3. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will publish a White Paper with his proposals for further legislation on education.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

I hope to publish a statement on future legislation this summer.

Mr. Lane

After publication of the White Paper, and in addition to any discussions by the House, would the right hon. Gentleman consider as a constitutional innovation, in view of the great [column 723]importance of this matter, the holding of a series of public hearings at which the proposals could be vetted and the Government cross-examined by individuals and interested organisations?

Mr. Short

No, I would not commit myself to that. There will be a Green Paper, and I hope there will be the widest discussion extending over a number of months before we finalise our views.

Mrs. Thatcher

But I thought the Green Paper was to be published this May. The right hon. Gentleman now says that it will be this summer. Does he mean to put back publication?

Mr. Short

I think May is probably in the summer. I do not know whether it will be out at the beginning of May, but it will be during the early part of the summer.

University Places

4. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a further statement on the progress of his consultations with the University Grants Committee about university development in the 1970s.

7. Mr. Christopher Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to what extent it is his policy to provide in 1975 and 1980 university places for all students who want to attend university and who have two A-level passes in the appropriate grade.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

I cannot yet add to the answer which I gave the hon. Members on 5th February.—[Vol. 795, cols. 595–7.]

Mr. Lane

As these consultations proceed, could the hon. Gentleman impress on the University Grants Committee and the Association of Vice-Chancellors and Principals that it will help public discussion if there is the fullest possible publication of the universities' replies to the 13-point questionnaire?

Mr. Fowler

I am sure that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but it is a matter for it and not for me.

[column 724]

Mr. Ward

Is it Government policy to provide places at university for 60 per cent. of those qualified in the late ‘seventies? Does the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State remember saying that on B.B.C. television on 4th January?

Mr. Fowler

I think that what the hon. Gentleman is referring to is our desire to see that places in higher education as a whole are available for the same proportion of those who are qualified as is the case today and as Robbins recommended. I would rather that we did not talk at this stage of proportions of places in any particular sector, because that is one of the matters which will have to be decided in the course of this year.

6. Mr. Christopher Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the present marginal cost of providing a place at a university; and whether he has estimated the cost of providing the number of university places required by 1980.

Mr. Fowler

The long-run marginal cost falling on the universities and colleges Vote of an extra undergraduate place in a university at 1969 survey prices is estimated at about £1,050; this figure excludes the student's maintenance grant. Future requirements for places in higher education, including universities, are still being studied within the Department.

Mr. Ward

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the small projected increase in education expenditure up to 1973–74 will be adequate to finance the colossal expenditure that there will have to be in further education to accommodate the extra students, however they are distributed between the different sectors of further education?

Mr. Fowler

I think that the hon. Gentleman is falling victim to a common misconception, the answer to which has often been explained in the House. The figures to which he refers for the last two years of the five-year period covered by the White Paper are not to be taken as firm figures already negotiated between Departments and the Treasury.

Burnham Committee

5. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 725]whether he will now publish the terms of reference in detail for restructuring proposals by the Burnham Committee; and when he expects the publication of the recommendations, including an arbitration body for teachers' pay.

8. Mr. Hornby

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what sum of money he proposes to allocate for the improvement of the salary structure in the teaching profession, now that the basic scale has been settled.

Mr. Edward Short

The Committee itself has agreed to consider the salaries structure, and I expect the discussions to begin shortly. I have told it that the Government are committed to increases, including the interim increase already provisionally agreed, totalling not more than £42 million in 1970–71 and £84 million in 1971–72. The restructuring will be from the pre 1st April, 1970, base. There are already arrangements for arbitration.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the Minister aware that, in this context, restructuring does not refer to teachers' monetary rewards alone? Having regard to the seething discontent in the profession which has led to the latest strike threat on the size of classes and no doubt on other issues, will he give the Burnham Committee some parameters or guidelines on restructuring over a wider area than salaries and pecuniary rewards alone?

Mr. Short

Frankly, I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. Restructuring refers to the restructuring of salaries, and the Burnham Committee is about to engage in a restructuring exercise extending over the next few months. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that last year the biggest drop ever was recorded in the pupil-teacher ratio.

Mr. Hornby

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position a little further and confirm that it is Government policy, as reported in The Times Educational Supplement on 3rd April not to provide more money for teachers' salaries without a genuine restructuring of pay? Will he say whether the money is to come out of the teachers' increase for 1970–71, or will it be additional to that?

[column 726]

Mr. Short

We have said that the money that we will make available is on the basis of a genuine restructuring, and I hope that the Burnham Committee will get down to the job quickly.

Mr. Newens

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the controversy about whether the £42 million for the current year and the £84 million for the following year are maxima, or whether there is room for negotiation of any further amounts? In view of the controversy, can my right hon. Friend clarify the position still further?

Mr. Short

There is no controversy at all on the Government's part. I gave this information in the House before Easter. I have written to both sides of the Burnham Committee to make our position clear, and I have made it further crystal clear today.

10. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of the recent settlement on teachers' salaries, he will propose modifications of the procedures and composition of the Burnham Committee.

40. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what modifications he intends to propose in the procedure and composition of the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Edward Short

I have told the Burnham Schools Committee that, if both panels wish it, I am ready to enter into wide-ranging discussions with them, from which no relevant matter need be excluded.

Mr. Hill

Does not the Minister agree that the Burnham Committee is now rather too large and unwieldy to be able to deal most effectively with some of the complex problems like restructuring and to avoid the danger of any negotiations becoming too protracted?

Mr. Short

If the two sides can agree on changing the structure of the Burnham machinery, I am willing to talk to them about it.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Minister confirm that it is his policy to drop the Government representatives from the Burnham Committee and also the proposals for compulsory arbitration? Is it [column 727]not necessary to do this if claims are to be considered on their merits and not fall victims to the remnants of the Government's incomes policy?

Mr. Short

Certainly I would be willing to look at those two points. The Government are very much involved, as they find about 57 per cent. of the money for teachers' salaries.

Mr. Newens

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the provisions in the Remuneration of Teachers Act, 1965, for compulsory arbitration were shown in the recent dispute to be quite useless, since there was no agreement about going to arbitration? In the circumstances, would it not be more sensible to agree to drop them?

Mr. Short

Obviously, there must be some arrangements for arbitration in the case of a breakdown. I am inclined to agree that the present arrangements need changing. But I am willing to discuss this and any other matter that the two sides wish to raise.

Hull School of Architecture

9. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the future of the Hull School of Architecture, arising out of his discussions on the matter.

Mr. Fowler

Following these discussions, the local education authority is considering how it can improve the course. It will consider how the university may be able to help it, and will bear in mind the views of the R.I.B.A. As long as the course retains the recognition of the R.I.B.A. and recruits a sufficient number of students to be viable, I see no reasons why it should not continue.

Mr. McNamara

Is my hon. Friend aware that we are grateful for the concern that he has shown and the part that he has played in initiating the discussions, but that there is great concern that there has been no definitive statement about the immediate future of the school? Will he use his best endeavours to urge the parties concerned to make the necessary announcements?

Mr. Fowler

I share my hon. Friend's concern, and he has pursued this matter with zeal. However, I am afraid that the [column 728]ball is firmly in the court of the local education authority, and, while I may urge it, I cannot make it take decisions. I hope that it will get on with this rapidly.

Expenditure

11. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to what extent local education authorities are succeeding in restricting the increase in their educational expenditure to 3½ per cent. in real terms above 1968–69; and within what percentage increase over the current year it is his policy that they should keep in 1970–71.

Mr. Edward Short

It is too early to say just how much local authorities spent on education in 1969–70. As for 1970–71, the rate support grant settlement in 1968 envisaged educational expenditure being about 3¾ per cent. higher than in 1969–70, in real terms.

Mr. Hill

Is it not apparent that, even if the figures cannot be measured, the local education authorities have had to go way above the limit? Can the Minister say whether he expects them to be able to keep to that limit in the current year and employ all the trained teachers coming forward in order to continue the struggle to get class numbers down without making further cuts elsewhere in the education services?

Mr. Short

I expect them to employ all the teachers available. The present distribution between rate-borne expenditure and rate support grant-borne expenditure available to local authorities at present is in the ratio of 43 to 57, as I told the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas).

16. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the total gross expenditure on education over the past five years; and what was the figure for the previous five years.

Mr. Edward Short

In the five years ending in 1968–69 expenditure on education in Great Britain amounted to £9,000 million. In the previous five years the total was nearly £5,350 million.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this must be of tremendous encouragement to all who devote their lives and skills to education? [column 729]Furthermore, is it not proof positive of the Government carrying out their philosophy to see that education is given its right priority for the future well-being of our nation?

Mr. Short

I agree with my hon. Friend. At last we have a Government prepared to devote the right amount of resources to education.

Sir H. Harrison

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that these figures are rather misleading in view of the great inflation which has taken place under this Government?

Mr. Short

No. The figures are impressive however the hon. and gallant Gentleman may juggle with them.

Open University

13. Mr. Brooks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what financial estimates he has made of the book and other library requirements of students registered with the Open University; how much assistance he proposes to provide, via public libraries, for such student needs; and what consultations he intends to have with universities to assess the scope for shared use of existing facilities.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)

It is for the university to advise its students what books they will need, and to consider in consultation with other interests concerned how these needs can best be met. The Department is examining with the university the implications for public library services. On the possibility of using other university libraries, I cannot add to the answer I gave my hon. Friend on 5th February.—[Vol. 795, cols.174–5.]

Mr. Brooks

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that a decisive part of an undergraduate's work is done in a well-stocked university library, and that the problems facing mature students working in the Open University will be extremely severe unless adequate funds are made available for library facilities? Will she consider setting up regional centres for lending books specifically for this purpose?

Miss Lee

I should like to send my hon. Friend a full account of what is [column 730]being done in this sphere. The librarian of the Open University is in close contact with my Department. Some text books are being written specially for the courses and are being published. Others are out to tender, and some have been accepted.

I do not want to take time with a long answer. However, I assure my hon. Friend that we are well aware of the importance of books, and this matter is being looked after on every front.

School Examinations

14. Mr. Brooks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding the future of school examinations, with particular reference to the Advanced Level and its rôle in the selection of university entrants.

Mr. Edward Short

I shall consider this in the light of any recommendations which may be made to me by the Schools, Council, which is at present considering proposals made by the two working parties on sixth form curricula and examinations.

Mr. Brooks

Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be most inadvisable for pupils to face the prospect of three major examinations in consecutive years: O-level C.S.E. and the Q and F level papers? In view of the implications of failing only one out of five at Q level, is there not a severe risk that this new proposal could limit the entry of pupils into further education?

Mr. Short

I should not like to comment on the new proposals at the moment. They have not yet come to me. They are with the Schools Council, which no doubt will be making recommendations in due course. Recently I made a speech in Durham in which I set forth my views on examinations.

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will oppose the proliferation of school examinations? Is he aware that even now the existence of the C.S.E. and G.C.E. examinations is putting an absurd strain on pupils, who are expected to do not merely the C.S.E. and G.C.E. examinations, but also mock G.C.E. and mock C.S.E. examinations [column 731]and even mock G.C.E. and mock C.S.E. examinations on the same subject in the same year? Will my right hon. Friend firmly squash this proliferation of school examinations?

Mr. Short

I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend's view. I will certainly watch this development carefully.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there has been a great deal of discussion about these new proposals and that there is a serious risk of people being unsettled unless the implementation of any change is put well into the future so that those who are at present reading the discussions may know that their own future course is certain?

Mr. Short

I agree that this should be put well into the future. But at the moment it has not reached me officially. I have simply read about it.

University Police and Security Forces

15. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will introduce legislation to enable university authorities to recruit and maintain with support from public funds their own police and security forces in the interests of law and order, and as insurance against further destruction of public property.

Mr. Fowler

No. It is for the universities to make appropriate arrangements to protect their property, but I would not regard the setting up of their own police forces as appropriate.

Sir G. Nabarro

What steps does the Secretary of State propose to take to protect public property in the event of riotous or insubordinate behaviour, like that of students at Warwick or at Oxford who took possession of public property, badly damaged it, and cocked a snook at the police? Is the right hon. Gentleman disclaiming Ministerial responsibility?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman's question is based upon a misapprehension. University property is not public property; it belongs to the university. I have no power to intervene in the affairs of individual universities. I do not re[column 732]gard the growth of private police forces in this country as desirable.

Mr. Heffer

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of hysterical nonsense coming from hon. Gentleman opposite concerning this matter? I visited the Liverpool University Senate building following the sit-in. I found that there was very little damage and that, in the main, the students acted responsibly? Therefore, is it not an absolute scandal that the Liverpool City Council—Conservative-controlled—should suggest that grants should be removed from students who become involved in sit-ins or actions of that kind?

Mr. Fowler

I do not want to appear to condone the activities of some minority groups in universities. In my view, there is no excuse for breaking and entering or for flouting the law of the land. On the other hand, it is a great mistake to exaggerate what has happened, because the publicity resulting from exaggeration arguably incites larger groups to follow similar courses of action.

Mr. Doughty

Will the hon. Gentleman consult the Law Officers of the Crown to consider legislation so that the police can deal with this malicious trespass? If a new offence of malicious trespass were created, when students misbehaved in this way the police would be able to restore law and order. Does the Minister also realise that the people of this country are thoroughly fed up with paying rates and taxes when money is mis-spent by students in this way?

Mr. Fowler

On the last part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question, I, too, regard the matter as serious, and I have said so on many occasions. There is at the moment more popular hostility to higher education than I can remember. Much of this stems from the activities of small minorities. On the other hand, I still think that it is a profound mistake to exaggerate the matter.

The first part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is a matter for the Home Secretary, who, I am sure, will take note of what has been said.

Orchestral Resources

(Arts Council's Report)

20. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when [column 733]the Arts Council's Report on Orchestral Resources is to be published.

Miss Jennie Lee

The report is now in the final stages of drafting and is likely to be presented to the Arts Council in April. It is for the council to decide whether the report will be published.

Mr. Channon

Does the right hon. Lady agree, however, that it is important that it should be published, in view of the difficulties that a number of regional orchestras are in and the uncertainties about the reorganisation of the B.B.C.?

Miss Lee

I should like to take this opportunity to express my thanks for the work that has been done by the committee. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it has been a long and complicated job. The committee has worked extremely well, and expects to have its report out in June. Whether the full report is published is a matter to be decided by the Arts Council.

Arts Council

(Grants to Individuals)

21. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much public money was spent by the Arts Council in 1969 on grants to individuals and what is the policy governing these grants.

Miss Jennie Lee

371 awards totalling £121,538 were made by the Arts Council to individual artists in 1969–70. In making individual awards the Arts Council has regard both to the past achievements of the artist concerned and his potential for the future. The figures I have given do not include grants made to individuals by the regional arts associations.

Mr. Channon

Does the right hon. Lady agree that £120,000 is now becoming a large sum? Will she urge the Arts Council to give as much publicity as possible to the criteria for making these awards, as there have been a number of cases which have created public anxiety?

Miss Lee

The amount represents 1.5 per cent. of the Arts Council's budget. I was impressed by a statement in the Report of the Estimates Committee in which it said that [column 734]

“the performing arts stand on the shoulders of the individual writer or composer without whom they would have only a limited future” . It is admittedly a difficult matter how to judge future hopes on past performance, but I should like to see more given to the creative writer. I take the point that we want the fullest publicity.

Training of Administrators

(Arts Council Inquiry)

22. Miss Harvie Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science who is now Chairman of the Arts Council Inquiry on the Training of Arts Administrators; and when the report of that inquiry will be published.

Miss Jennie Lee

The Arts Council has not yet appointed a successor to Sir Leslie Scarman, who gave up the chairmanship of the inquiry following his resignation from the council. It will be for the council to decide whether or not to publish the report of the inquiry.

Miss Harvie Anderson

In view of the great importance to the regions, may I ask the right hon. Lady to urge that a new chairman be appointed without further delay to expedite the final report?

Miss Lee

I am certain that the Arts Council will note what the hon. Lady has said, but there is no part of Government service where more work, more inquiries and more useful inquiries are being done. I am sure that it will not lose any time unduly.

Computer Booking (Arts Council Report)

23. Miss Harvie Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to receive the report of the Arts Council Working Party on Computer Booking.

Miss Jennie Lee

The Working Party on Computer Booking which will make its report to the Arts Council was set up by the council about a year ago at the request of the major subsidised companies and the Society of West End Managers. An interim report is expected to be available at the end of May.

Miss Harvie Anderson

It will be welcome to know that this is coming at the end of May, but would it be possible also to expedite this report, in view of [column 735]the fact that its result should be a considerable increase in audiences, which, in certain areas and in certain fields, is badly required?

Miss Lee

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady. We badly need a computer system. Tickets might be available in one agency while people cannot get them from another. I can assure her that the Arts Council is well aware of this. It is in everyone's interests that we should get this system working as soon as possible.

Students' Personal Files

24. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will introduce legislation to prevent prospective employers having access to confidential personal files on students.

Mr. Edward Short

No, Sir. Prospective employers have no right of access to students' files.

Mr. Judd

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. In view of the genuine concern among students about this delicate problem, will he undertake to discuss it as soon as possible with vice-chancellors and leaders of the student community? Would he issue advice to principals of colleges of further education, for which he is directly responsible, about the dangers inherent in the compilation and use of such confidential information?

Mr. Short

No. I think that we can leave this to the good sense of headmasters and university vice-chancellors.

Student Grants

25. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the future of student grants in relation to the increase in the cost of living.

Mr. Fowler

The National Union of Students has submitted a claim for increased grants, which I am considering. I am not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Judd

Would my hon. Friend not agree that many students, most of whom are industrious and responsible citizens, are meeting real financial difficulties because of the rise in the cost of living? [column 736]Would he also undertake to ensure that any increased financial assistance made available in mandatory grants by local authorities is not at the expense of discretionary grants?

Mr. Fowler

I will certainly bear in mind the latter point. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's description of the majority of students, and I have considerable sympathy with the students' claims, but I cannot consider this matter without reference to the many other demands on educational resources.

Beverly Boys School and Bonner Hill Girls School, Kingston-upon-Thames

26. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will identify the new factors which have caused him to withdraw the approval which he gave two years ago for the extension of Beverly Boys School and the rebuilding of Bonner Hill Girls School in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

The two schools were originally included in the programmes for 1967–68 and 1966–67 announced in July, 1966, and March, 1964. Because work had not started by 31st March, 1968, they had to be considered then for subsequent programmes and were excluded in favour of more urgent projects elsewhere.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

But as these projects were regarded as necessary by the right hon. Lady's Department several years ago, and as no new circumstances are cited in her answer, can she give any explanation whatever, other than a desire to penalise a local authority with which she is in dispute, for denying to children facilities which she herself thought necessary several years ago?

Miss Bacon

I am astounded at the right hon. Gentleman's attitude this afternoon, since only on Tuesday he brought a deputation from the borough to see me and expressed his great satisfaction at the way in which I had dealt with the matter on that occasion.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In order that the right hon. Lady shall have no opportunity of misunderstanding my good [column 737]manners on Tuesday, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Speaker

Notice should be given in the conventional way.

Comprehensive Universities

27. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his estimate of the annual cost to public funds of a system of comprehensive universities; and when he intends to introduce it.

Mr. Edward Short

No estimates have been made and I have no plans to introduce it. The polytechnics are, of course, comprehensive institutions of higher education in both the composition of the student body and in the range and content of courses. A number of universities possess these characteristics to some extent. These are not matters of structural change imposed from outside but of the natural growth and development of academic communities. I greatly welcome the growing tendency of universities to diversify in these and other ways.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that he introduced the subject of comprehensive universities in the context of the fact that selection by ability and aptitude at present takes place at 18? Does his answer mean that he is going to continue the practice of selection on that basis at 18 for a very considerable time to come?

Mr. Short

What I hope is that over the years the universities will become increasingly comprehensive, both in the structure of the student body—part-time, full-time, sandwich courses and so on—and also in the level of their courses, having not only degree courses but also sub-degree courses.

Manuscripts, Documents and Archives (Export Control)

30. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what decision Her Majesty's Government have now reached on the findings of the Inter-departmental Working Party on the Export Control of Manuscripts, Documents and Archives, following the submission of views by interested parties.

[column 738]

Miss Jennie Lee

The three-month period for the submission of views does not expire until mid-April. A request has been received for an extension until the end of April. Some time will then be required for consideration of the views received.

Mr. Baker

May I press the right hon. Lady that, as soon as she has received all the views, a decision should be made promptly, since not a week passes without some manuscripts or documents being exported to American universities without their even being photo-copied? It is about time that this sort of business was properly regulated.

Miss Lee

I agree that this has been neglected for far too long; it should have been put right many years ago. We are well aware of this, but it is, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, a complicated matter.

Arts Council (New Activities Committee)

31. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much grant is available during the current year for the activities supported by the New Activities Committee of the Arts Council.

Miss Jennie Lee

I am grateful to the hon. Member for this Question, because I think that the House should know that a great deal of silly nonsense has been talked. The Arts Council has a responsibility, as well as to the established arts, to find out what young experimental writers are doing. It allocated a mere £15,000, which is about 0.2 per cent. of its budget, for supporting new activities in 1969–70. It will determine the level of grant for 1970–71 in the light of a report prepared by the New Activities Committee on the policy to be adopted by the council towards new activities.

Mr. Silvester

Is the right hon. Lady not sensitive to the fact that there could be a substantial withdrawal of public support of money for the arts when people can read that this committee was prepared to delegate its responsibilities to a selection committee whose view, apparently, of new art forms included the payment of fines——

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a Question on this subject later on the Order Paper.

[column 739]

Mr. Silvester

That concludes my question.

Miss Lee

I am doubly grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because the dangerous characters who were let loose in this sensitive field of the new arts included Mr. Michael Astor, a former Conservative Member, who heroically became chairman. Another dangerous revolutionary involved is the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). In other words, a most responsible committee of the Arts Council called in some young artists to express their views before action was taken. When one is dealing with the young and the new in the arts, there is some wantonness and some comments may be made of which one may approve or disapprove. But, whatever it is, the House must realise that we have a serious Arts Council and that it is not good enough for members of the public or hon. Members to give the impression that public money is being spent in an irresponsible manner.

33. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if the will obtain the report of the New Activities Committee of the Arts Council; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Lee

The Arts Council will shortly be considering a report which is being prepared by the New Activities Committee. Action on the report is a matter for the Council.

I reiterate that young artists have been brought in to have a say. Any evidence they give or suggestions they make go to responsible panels and committees and finally to the Arts Council. Public money is not involved unless, after the most serious and careful consideration, it is found that young artists are doing creative work that deserves help.

Mr. Godman Irvine

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the nonsense which appeared in the sub-committee report which was to be considered by the New Activities Committee of the Arts Council caused a great deal of consternation among taxpayers? Is she aware that her statement will do a great deal to allay that anxiety?

Miss Lee

I am grateful for this opportunity to make the position clear. It is too bad when certain irresponsible [column 740]elements of the Press print material that is wrong and, when informed by the Chairman of the Arts Council that they are wrong and are offered an article by him to put the facts right, refuse to print that article. I am, therefore, grateful for this opportunity to get the matter in perspective.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

What are the new activities, and is my right hon. Friend sure that they are new?

Miss Lee

My hon. Friend makes a good point because there is nothing really new about being young, rebellious, wanton or wanting to do experimental things. I do not think that there has ever been a period in history when the more sedate and established forms of art and art patron have quite understood what was happening among the younger generation.

Polytechnics and Universities

(Capital Programme)

32. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the amount of the capital programme for polytechnics and universities, shown separately, for each of the years 1969–70 to 1972–73.

Mr. Fowler

The present estimated values of major capital projects started or expected to start at polytechnics or colleges proposed to form part of polytechnics are for 1969–70, £8.4 million and for 1970–71, £6.4 million. The corresponding figures for universities in England and Wales are £25.1 million, and £24.2 million, and for 1971–72 £18.6 million. Figures for the remaining years have not yet been settled.

Mr. Silvester

In view of their peculiar relevance to the present needs of higher education, would the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is much to be said for increasing the emphasis on polytechnic growth rather than university growth over the next decade?

Mr. Fowler

That is a very interesting point of view and one of the factors which we shall take into account during our planning exercise this year.

Direct Grant Schools

36. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 741]if he will now make a statement about the future of the direct grant schools.

Mr. Edward Short

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave on 24th March to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof).—[Vol. 798, c. 389.]

Mr. Smith

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to implement the Donnison proposals; and if so, when?

Mr. Short

The Donnison Report is very long and detailed. We have not had it for long, and the Government are still studying it.

37. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what provisions he proposes to make for children who require secondary education provided for them because of direct grant schools going independent.

Mr. Edward Short

In the first place, this will always be a matter for the local education authority concerned. But I shall be ready to approve proposals designed to make good any loss of direct grant school places which authorities may put to me.

Mr. Lewis

I am glad to have that answer. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the effects of Donnison are already obvious and that an open school in my constituency, being a direct grant school, has now gone independent? Will he make it absolutely clear that whatever difficulties arise, not only in Rutland but elsewhere, he will back up the local authorities so that they can find the money to pay the extra fees which they will have to pay in the bridging period?

Mr. Short

I have told the local education authority in Rutland that I am willing to consider any request that it may make for additional places because the fees at Oakham School will, when it goes independent, be extremely high.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend continue with his practical policy of making the State schools not only equal but superior to some of the direct grant schools so that there will be no need for the latter?

Mr. Short

Certainly, and as the State, or county, schools—we have no State schools in this country—improve, the [column 742]need for both independent and direct grant schools will wither away.

Mr. Doughty

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable consternation about the possible threat to direct grant schools? Does he realise that the best method of dealing with this situation is to leave well alone?

Mr. Short

It is not entirely “well” . We do not want, as I have said many times in the House, to abolish any good schools. What we want is for them to come into the ordinary county school system.

Primary Schools, Essex

(Maintenance)

41. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is aware of deficiencies in the fabric of many primary schools in Essex; and what steps he is taking to ensure that adequate funds are available for maintenance.

Miss Bacon

The local education authority is responsible for maintaining school buildings and for allocating the necessary resources. I understand that £425,000 will be available for primary schools in 1970–71.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the very special concern that is felt in the West Essex division about the deterioration of the fabric of schools into what has been described as future slum conditions? Will the Exchequer contribution be more generously available in future?

Miss Bacon

In addition to its general allocation for maintenance, Essex has had considerable allocations for the building of new schools. Between 1970 and 1972 it is to have 66 new schools, estimated to cost nearly £7 million. It will have another £0.8 million for minor works, which, again, can be used for this purpose. A further £2.9 million will be available during 1970–73 for raising the school leaving age. The question of the allocation for maintenance is a matter for the local authority.