Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 May 7 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 [801/551-73]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515. MT spoke at cc556, 558, and 565.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7909
Themes: Education, Public spending & borrowing
[column 551]

Education and Science

The Arts (Local Authority Support)

1. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the total given by local authorities to support the arts, including regional associations; and what average rate poundage this represents.

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

Up-to-date information about municipal support for the arts will be available later this year when the survey now being conducted by the Institute of Municipal Entertainment is completed. The latest survey covering all types of local authority in England and Wales related to 1964–65 when the estimated expenditure on the performing arts was about £2.4 million, that is about 0.3d. rate product.

[column 552]

Mrs. Short

No doubt my right hon. Friend will feel the same as I do about the figure she gave at the end of her reply. Does she not think that this compares very poorly indeed with the increasing support which her Department is giving, and does she not further think that, as many theatres are now closing through lack of support from local authorities, something ought to be done to make them see that they have certain responsibilities here?

Miss Lee

I know what wonderful work my hon. Friend does and how concerned she is, but to be fair to local authorities they have contributed £5 million towards the “Housing the Arts Fund” to provide new buildings for art centres, concert halls and the rest. Edinburgh has said that it is willing to pay rather more than half a capital sum, so I do not want to sound too discouraging a note over the contributions being made by local authorities.

The Arts

(Local Authority Support)

2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he is taking to encourage local authorities to support the arts.

Miss Jennie Lee

We are setting local authorities a good example. Government expenditure has almost trebled since 1964. We have now 10 regional arts associations which co-ordinate the activities of local authorities and other bodies. As to the 6d. rate, we encourage use of it, but we have no power to compel local authorities to spend all or part of it.

Mrs. Short

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a small number of authorities are pulling their weight and are making a vital and valuable contribution to the “Housing of the Arts Fund” while the great majority do nothing at all? Does she not think that it would be a good idea to make representations to the local authority associations and perhaps organise a conference in London when this whole matter can be discussed and ideas exchanged?

Miss Lee

We have established 10 regional arts associations and I believe that the encouragement and explanations are better at the regional end. I repeat [column 553]that there is a new attitude in local authorities towards the importance of the arts, a new attitude towards building funds and making available wider facilities. I do not think that this is the moment to give a bad conduct mark to local authorities, considering their other responsibilities. I am encouraged by the response I am getting from some quarters.

Mr. Channon

Would the right hon. Lady agree that local authorities often show a great deal of will to help the arts but have appalling financial difficulties in other directions? Would she not agree that while all of us would like them to increase the amount of money they can spend, they have many other pressing claims on their finances?

Miss Lee

I entirely agree. The local authorities are in the same position as the central Government—there are many other calls on their resources. The test of a civilised authority, whether at the centre or at regional level, is its priorities. I have always contended that at either central or local level we should keep in mind that the arts are not a peripheral activity but a central part of our life.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

My right hon. Friend will be aware that Lord Goodman has expressed the view that the 6d. rate should be mandatory. While some of us might not be prepared to go along with that, could not the Government take a little more effective action to encourage local authorities to do this themselves, for example, by offering to spend, in suitable cases, £1 for every £1 raised by a local authority?

Miss Lee

I am under pressure from one or two local authorities, particularly in new towns, to make it possible for them to spend rather more than the 6d. rate. They are already spending that. There are a great many diversities. When it comes to the contributions as between central and local government it would be wrong to give as much as 50 per cent. in some circumstances and wrong to give as little as that in others. A rigid line would be quite wrong. I appreciate the spirit of my hon. Friend's question. We want more help to come in from other sources and in this atmosphere we must remain flexible.

[column 554]

Voluntary Community Centres

(Grants)

3. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will reconsider the upper limits of grant to voluntary community centres; and whether he will make a statement.

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

No, Sir. Pressure on funds is such that, if grant limits were increased for large community centre projects, fewer projects overall could be helped.

Mr. Shaw

Would not my hon. Friend agree that this upper limit is what it has been for some long time, and that, in projects of this kind, there are many people who give voluntarily of their time and also widely of their money in order to provide what in effect is further education in the best sense of the word? Therefore, would she not also agree that, unless the upper limit is raised, it will stultify the future of this sort of project?

Miss Lestor

I will bear my hon. Friend's remarks in mind, but without further moneys being available the position is that my right hon. Friend prefers to give some help to as many voluntary projects as possible. If he increased the amount available to certain projects, this would limit what was available to many smaller ones.

Grants to Students

6. Mr. Boyden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when the circular amending 4/66 and advising local education authorities on grants to students will be issued.

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

As soon as possible during the summer.

Mr. Boyden

Will my hon. Friend hurry this up, because if it is not produced soon we shall see the same result as we saw last year and the year before?

Mr. Fowler

I well understand my hon. Friend's worry but this is a major document dealing with many aspects of student grants, including grants under the Awards Regulations laid before Parliament on [column 555]8th April. I understand that many local education authorities defer final decisions on applications until September, so the circular will be issued before those decisions are made.

University Grants

9. Mr. Wright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will announce his decision on grants for the next university quinquennium.

52. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will announce the level of university grants for the next quinquennium.

63. Sir E. Bullus

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is to be the level of university grants for the period of the next five years.

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

I hope to announce a provisional grant for the academic year 1972–73 towards the end of 1971, and the grant for the whole of the next quinquennium in the summer or autumn of 1972. This is the same timetable as my predecessors followed for the present quinquennium.

Mr. Wright

This is the second delay we have had when we have asked this question. As long as nine months ago—on 23rd July—a similar evasion was given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the concern in the universities with making plans for the whole of the 1970s?

Mr. Short

I do appreciate that, but this is the same procedure as was followed when the present quinquennium grant was announced. It is agreeable to the University Grants Committee. There are some difficulties about having a provisional grant for the first year, but the U.G.C. is not able to let me have its plans sooner. There is no way of avoiding this situation.

Mr. Price

What liaison is there between the decision on the amount of grant for the universities and that for the polytechnics and colleges of further education in other sectors of higher education? When we know the increase in the new grants, will we know the way in [column 556]which the Government have allocated priorities for the expansion of higher education over the next five years between the universities and other sectors of higher education?

Mr. Short

That is another and broader question upon which we can perhaps have a debate some time.

Mrs. Thatcher

Could the right hon. Gentleman take the unusual course for him and try to do better than his predecessors on this matter? He said that the U.G.C. was satisfied with the timetable. It would seem to us—and we visit universities as much as he does—that individual universities are worried about the uncertainty in their plans for expansion.

Mr. Short

As I have said, the U.G.C. cannot let me have reliable estimates for the whole quinquennium earlier. I do not see any way of avoiding provisional allocations for the first year. I agree that the situation is in some ways unsatisfactory.

Education

(Expenditure)

12. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to announce definitive figures of expenditure on education for the years 1972–73 and 1973–74 to replace the provisional figures given in the White Paper on Public Expenditure, Command Paper No. 4234.

25. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to publish revised estimates for public expenditure on education for 1972–73 and 1973–74 beyond the provisional figures in Command Paper No. 4234 showing a 2 per cent. annual increase for those years.

Mr. Edward Short

For 1972–73, in the autumn, when another White Paper on public expenditure will be published. 1973–74 figures will remain provisional until next year.

Mr. Baker

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise, even at this stage, that the forecasts in the last White Paper are inadequate regarding educational expenditure? To what extent have these inadequate forecasts been increased by the Prime Minister's speech last Friday, which would involve an [column 557]increase in educational expenditure? Have the Prime Minister's proposals been costed?

Mr. Short

The Prime Minister last Friday made a first-rate speech in which he set forward 11 points, on which I hope there will be a national debate, on the way ahead for the next quarter of a century in education. Has the hon. Gentleman looked at the costing of some of the Opposition's proposals? The White Paper published at the end of last year was the first of a series—and this is the first time any Government have done forecasting and have published figures of this kind. One would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have given us credit for that. If he refers to paragraph 32 of the White Paper, he will see that the Government have not yet made a decision on the levels for individual programmes for 1972–73 and 1973–74.

Mr. Hill

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give us some provisional figures in advance of next autumn? We should like to know the costings of the Prime Minister's offer, but could not the right hon. Gentleman also tell us what part of the 2 per cent. is taken up by existing known commitments, such as the increase in teachers' salaries, student grants and the care of mentally-handicapped children?

Mr. Short

It is precisely because we wish to give provisional figures in a way in which no Government have ever done before that we have started to publish the annual White Paper. The firm figures for the first year will be given in the autumn. In the same White Paper, we will give the provisional figures for 1973–74.

Mr. Newens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us on this side of the House are also worried about the provisional figures, since we feel that they are inadequate? We ask him strongly to fight against the pressure continually being brought to bear by hon. Members opposite for reductions in public expenditure which are totally at variance with their hypocritical claims for expansion of public expenditure on education in 1973–74?

Mr. Short

I do not know whether hon. Members listen to what I am saying. [column 558]I repeat that paragraph 32 of the White Paper makes it clear that these are provisional figures and that decisions have not yet been taken on the levels of individual programmes. The firm figures for 1972–73 will be given in the White Paper published this autumn.

Mrs. Thatcher

On previous occasions, the right hon. Gentleman has been quick to say that the Department did not approve these provisional figures. Can I at least invite him to say that he thinks that they are inadequate for his plans?

Mr. Short

The hon. Lady must await the White Paper in the autumn. This is a much more sophisticated way of planning public expenditure than the Conservative Government ever attempted.

Students

(Dependants' Allowances)

17. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received on his proposal that dependants' allowances for certain students should henceforth be paid by his Department; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Edward Short

About 100 letters, including 41 from hon. Members. Since these representations were largely based on a misunderstanding of the proposal, I have explained its scope and purpose.

Mr. Lane

Could the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that, when we come to consider the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which has many excellent provisions in it, the Government will not seek to reinsert the controversial provision which was rejected in another place?

Mr. Short

I can give no such undertaking. I am not prepared to allow about nine young couples with babies to suffer because of a decision in the House of Lords. I will also show that this procedure was started by the Conservative Government. One of my precedessors, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) when he was Secretary of State, told the House:

“In the review preceding the making of the amending regulations, the possibility of introducing discretionary powers to provide dependants' allowances in circumstances in which such allowances are not at present payable must be considered …” .—[Official Report, 23rd July, 1964; Vol. 699, c. 126.]
[column 559]

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

On a point of order. I am delighted to hear a quotation seven years' old, but does this mean that we can all quote from speeches and from Hansard during Question Time, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It does not mean that.

Mr. Short

Perhaps I could summarise it by saying that the proposals in the Bill were started by the Conservative Government by an announcement on 23rd July, 1964.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Long answers mean fewer Questions.

University Academic Staff

(Salaries)

18. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will now make a further statement about the progress of discussions on future arrangements for reviewing university teachers' salaries.

55. Mr. Ford

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now accept the agreed scheme for the negotiation of salaries for university teachers, including the proposals put forward to meet the needs of the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association, with a view to its implementation.

60. Mr. Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made towards setting up negotiating machinery for university teaching staff.

Mr. Fowler

The Government have agreed to the establishment of negotiating machinery for the salaries of university academic staff following discussions with the University Grants Committee, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Association of University Teachers and medical staff interests. The arrangements cover all academic staff except those in clinical departments. The salaries of clinical staff will continue to be related to those of hospital doctors and dentists as determined by the government in the light of recommendations of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration, and separate machinery will be established for this purpose.

[column 560]

Mr. Lane

Is the Minister aware that—though we shall need to study it—that sounds like an announcement that will be very welcome to university teachers? Will he confirm, to make it doubly clear, that this means that they will not, after all, come under the wing of the Commission for Industry and Manpower, because I think that they would be no happier to be under that wing than under the wing of the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Fowler

There has never been any proposal that they should come under the wing of the commission. Successive Governments have for more than a decade faced the problem of establishing negotiating machinery for academic staff. I am delighted and proud that we have been able to accomplish this.

Mr. Ellis

Will my hon. Friend accept that some of us on this side can understand words when we hear them, and that his statement was categorical and clear? We understand the difficulties he has had in getting all the various bodies together and hammering out the proposals, for which we are grateful. We are delighted about this. Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the university staffs in Bristol about whom I have written to him will be very pleased with the work the Government are doing, and that this is another triumph for the Government?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Long questions mean fewer Questions.

Mr. Fowler

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I will arrange for copies of the arrangements to be placed in the Library.

Men Teachers

(Average Salary)

22. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the present average male teacher's salary; and what was the figure in 1963.

Miss Lestor

In 1968 the average salary of men teachers in maintained schools in England and Wales was £1,646. I estimate that the last two pay settlements have raised this figure to about £1,880. The comparable figure at 31st March, 1963, was £1,244.

[column 561]

Mr. Shaw

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are many on this side of the House who are not yet entirely satisfied with that figure? But does she also agree that under a Labour Government teachers have a far greater chance of getting the rate for the job than they are ever likely to get from the Opposition?

Miss Lestor

I certainly agree with what my hon. Friend has said.

An Hon. Member

What a surprise!

Miss Jennie Lee

We do not always agree.

Miss Lestor

The pay settlement dating from 1st April gave teachers an overall increase of 7.1 per cent. Under the latest agreement they are to receive an increase of £120 a year each from 1st April.

Rate Support Grant

(Newly-Trained Teachers)

23. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if the amount of rate support grant for 1970–71 takes into account all the newly-trained teachers expected to be available for employment in that year.

Mr. Edward Short

The teachers available for service later this year are likely to exceed the number envisaged during the 1968 negotiations with the local authority associations. But since the rate support grant is related to the whole range of local authority services its total amount was affected by many other factors as well. The negotiations for the next R.S.G. period, which begins in April, 1971, will take account of the most up-to-date forecast of teacher numbers, including those taken into employment during 1970. Thus, the second half of the school year beginning in September is still negotiable so far as rate support grant is concerned.

Mr. Morrison

When will the right hon. Gentleman be able to provide new figures for local education authorities? If he cannot tell them in the near future what extra aid they will receive in the light of the increase in teachers clearly they will have considerable problems.

Mr. Short

The quotas have been given out with the agreement of local [column 562]authorities, and all the indications are that they will be fully taken up. I do not think that there will be any problem.

Mr. Christopher Price

Does my right hon. Friend agree that because of the mono-technic nature of the colleges of education, and the fact that teachers cannot easily obtain jobs elsewhere, he has a very special responsibility to ensure that all teachers get a job in the year after they leave college? Will he bear in mind the possible lifting of the quota if there seems to be any unemployment round about September and October?

Mr. Short

I agree that I have a special responsibility in view of the mono-technic training of teachers, which I do not like. I hope that eventually we can move away from it. I keep this matter constantly under review. If any local authority wishes to have an increased quota because of special difficulties I shall be very happy to consider it. I think that the quota is necessary for some time to come to ensure an equitable distribution of teachers throughout the country.

Teachers of Mentally-Handicapped Children

24. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further consultations he has had concerning the qualifications of teachers of mentally-handicapped children.

35. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further consultations he has had consequent upon representations made to him about the status of teachers of mentally-handicapped children upon their transfer to his Department.

Mr. Edward Short

On 27th April I met representatives, including the Chairman, of the Training Council for Teachers of the Mentally Handicapped. We had a very useful discussion covering a variety of points which will arise when teachers of mentally-handicapped children move into the education service; and I explained in some detail the background to my decision about the qualification they award to these teachers.

Mr. Hill

Has not it become abundantly clear that the proposed waiting period of five years post-diploma, plus [column 563]two more probationary years, is too long before acquiring professional status? Is the right hon. Gentleman giving consideration to speeding this up by providing, for example, conversion courses which would enable a diploma holder to add to his qualifications and therefore become fully qualified more quickly?

Mr. Short

I am prepared to waive the probationary period to diploma holders so that at the end of the five years they will not require to serve a further probationary period.

Where they have the necessary admission qualifications I am proposing to make available, subject to teacher supply, a number of one-year courses which will enable them immediately after completion of the course to be given the status of qualified teachers.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his last few words are very welcome? Will he consider again consulting the N.U.T., which clearly rightly advises him in part on this? Will he in particular look at the matter again with its sub-committee dealing with handicapped children of all kinds, which might in the light of the very widespread anxiety be prepared to relax what has previously been a rather rigid attitude?

Mr. Short

It was not only a matter of consulting the N.U.T. in arriving at the figure of five years. We have consulted all the teachers' associations and local authority associations. The advice they gave me ranged from “Never” to “None” . Five years was a sort of consensus between them. I am not prepared to move any further. I am prepared to waive the probationary period and to make an end-on course or one-year course available for teachers who are prepared to go to it and who have the necessary admission qualifications. That is as far as I am prepared to go.

Unqualified Teachers

26. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he is taking to ensure that the posts vacant as a result of the loss of 3,000 teachers who are not fully qualified are filled.

[column 564]

27. Mr. More

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to ensure that adequate replacements are available for the 3,000 unqualified teachers who will be compelled to retire under the Schools (Amendment) Regulations, 1968.

Mr. Edward Short

There will be more than enough teachers available next September to make good the loss of unqualified teachers. In February, 1970, there were about 800 full-time occasional teachers in service but there were 14,200 more qualified teachers than a year earlier, and I expect a further increase this year of about 17,000.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

In the event of some of the unqualified teachers being retained in their jobs, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that even if they are not technically qualified they will be given reasonable security of tenure?

Mr. Short

They have never had security of tenure. They have been employed either as occasional or temporary teachers in the period since 1944. I am not prepared to allow any unqualified teachers to continue after 1st September.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Really! After 25 years in the job——

Mr. Short

If they have had 25 years in a job they can appeal to me. Under certain conditions I am prepared to give qualified status to a number of people if they appeal to me.

Mr. More

Whatever rule may be made for teachers who have not yet started teaching, is not it disgraceful that teachers who have the confidence of their head masters and of the children should be debarred from teaching merely for the technical reason that they are unqualified, as a result of the bargain between teachers, the local education authorities and the Minister?

Mr. Short

I would not call it disgraceful to try to ensure that the country has a fully qualified teaching service; I would regard it as a great step forward. I would not send my dog to be treated by an unqualified vet, but a great many hon. Gentleman opposite are prepared to send their children to be taught by unqualified teachers. I have told the House that I [column 565]am prepared to give qualified teachers status to certain categories of teachers. I cannot go further than that. I have discussed this matter this week with a number of hon. Gentleman from the other side of the House, and I am prepared to look at a number of points, especially the teacher who has been serving, admittedly on a temporary basis, for a great many years.

Mr. William Hamilton

Has not it been the aim of the teachers' unions for many years to get a fully qualified professional staff in our schools, and would not doctors and barristers, and all the people who are represented very well on the opposite benches, be the first to challenge the right of an unqualified barrister to practise or of an unqualified doctor to treat a patient?

Mrs. Thatcher

The right hon. Gentleman specifically drew the analogy of vets. In that profession as in many other professions, were not special arrangements made for those who had been in the profession for a long time and, as only about 800 unqualified teachers are involved, does not he think that special arrangements should be made for the vast majority of them?

Mr. Short

I wish the hon. Lady would learn her educational history. This step was taken with teaching in 1944 and, as a special measure, temporary teachers were allowed to be employed. The whole question of uncertificated and supplementary teachers, the two categories of unqualified teachers, was supposed then to be cleared up once and for all. They were all to be given qualified status when they had 20 years' service. This is a new situation, but the comparable situation with vets, dentists and a number of other professions was reached in 1944.

29. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further representations he has received about the dismissal of unqualified teachers in August, 1970.

Mr. Edward Short

I have had a few letters from hon. Members and others about a small number of individual cases. The matter was debated last week in another place during the Committee stage of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

[column 566]

Mr. Marten

My hon. Friends and I are grateful to the Minister for having received us with such courtesy earlier this week to discuss this problem. Is he aware that, although he may have had only a few cases, I have had more than 70 cases referred to me from all over the country, particularly of elderly teachers whom we should all like to see kept on until retirement?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends and some of my hon. Friends for putting hard cases to me. I know that there is one particular case in which the hon. Gentleman is interested. I have agreed to look into these specific cases and also to look into the cases of temporary teachers who have been teaching for many years. I am afraid that I cannot do anything for teachers who have only a very small period of service, but I am looking at the others.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House receive many letters about unqualified Ministers, but we realise that the electorate will deal with this in due course? Before the Minister goes out of office, will he bear in mind that many unqualified teachers have become qualified by their achievements? When he receives representations will he bear in mind that the local education committees, since they have been satisfied with these teachers for many years, must have recognised their value?

Mr. Short

In reply to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I agree, looking opposite and seeing so many unqualified, unemployed ex-Ministers, that the electorate has dealt with them. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, one of the factors which I shall take into account, and regard as essential, is a recommendation from the local authority.

Certificate of Secondary Education

28. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children sat the Certificate of Secondary Education in 1969.

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

237,000, an increase of 100,000 over the 1966 figure, i.e. an increase of over 70 per cent. in three years.

[column 567]

Mr. Newens

Do not these figures show the great benefits of the secondary education policies which have been pursued by the Government, and will not the reorganisation along comprehensive lines which is being carried further by the Bill upstairs result in improvements in the figures?

Miss Bacon

Yes, the figures show that more children are staying longer at school, and this is largely due to the advance of comprehensive schools.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Will the right hon. Lady say what proportion of the 237,000 was at the grade equivalent to “O” level, and whether this figure indicates that the C.S.E. may properly take over from the “O” level in the foreseeable future?

Miss Bacon

No, I cannot give the precise figure for which the hon. Gentleman has asked. The candidates for G.C.E. “O” level have also increased from 589,000 in 1966 to 635,000 in 1969, and this shows that one is not taking over from the other.

Cancer

(Epidemiological Studies)

30. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals the Medical Research Council has for increasing the range of epidemiological studies relating to cancer by research departments under its auspices.

Mr. Fowler

The Medical Research Council already attaches great importance to epidemiological studies in the field of cancer; and is anxious to encourage new lines of investigation as the need and opportunity arise.

Mrs. Butler

Is not it probable that many valuable clues to the cause of cancer have been lost because there is apparently no systematic recording of environmental, industrial, dietetic and other factors involved in each cancer death? Will my hon. Friend discuss with the Medical Research Council whether more comprehensive research on these lines can be undertaken?

Mr. Fowler

The Medical Research Council is already convinced that epidemiological studies, including those on cancer, have a substantial contribu[column 568]tion to make towards a solution of the pressing health problems of our time. It is particularly convinced of the value of these studies on cancer when undertaken on an international scale, and the Council needs no further urging from me.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the Under-Secretary see what he can do about the great shortage of money for cancer research by the Medical Research Council?

Mr. Fowler

I will certainly look at that.

Polytechnics

(Studies)

31. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of students at polytechnics is currently reading arts, social science and scientific subjects, respectively; and how this compares with university under-graduates.

Mr. Fowler

The figures for last autumn are not yet available. The first polytechnics were not established until January, 1969, but, with permission, I will circulate in the Official Report some relevant figures for the autumn of 1968 in respect of those institutions from which polytechnics were to be formed.

Mr. Silvester

Does not the Minister agree that it is important to resist any tendency for polytechnics to cover all the services of universities, and that the bias towards engineering and scientific subjects should be strictly maintained?

Mr. Fowler

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have uttered on this subject many times. I certainly hope that polytechnics will not ape the universities, and I have done my best to deter them from doing so.

Following is the information: [column 569]

Student Relations

(Committee's Report)

34. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will now make a statement on the Government's policy regarding those recommendations in the Report from the Select Committee on Education and Science on Student Relations which are addressed to the Government.

Mr. Edward Short

I am still considering the recommendations addressed to the Government. I shall publish a reply as soon as I can.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Have not we been waiting patiently for rather too long for a response from the Government to this important report? If the Government do not feel able to deal with all the recommendations addressed to them, are they able to make some progress, for example, with the conduct of student unions?

Mr. Short

I agree that it has been rather a long time, but it was a long and complicated report containing many recommendations. I apologise to the House for the delay, but I hope to send a reply before long.

Mr. Christopher Price

My right hon. Friend expressed the hope that a response would be made by April, but it has not yet been made. Is he aware that the recommendation for inquiries at certain colleges and universities is an urgent matter, and that the sooner comments are received on this the sooner we can dispose of the matter?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman is in some way responsible for the complications of my life during the last few weeks. I hope he will forgive me if perhaps I spend more time on some aspects of my work than I should have done.

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people in the university world would not go the whole way with this report, but none the less feel that some individual recommendations, like the proposal for a registrar/student union constitution, has much to be said for it? Will he give a definite undertaking that he will make an announcement on some individual recom[column 570]mendations before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Short

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that because it is such a valuable report covering a great deal of ground and containing many recommendations perhaps we have taken rather longer with it than is usual with a report of this kind.

Autistic Children, Leicester

(Specialised Education)

39. Mr. Tom Boardman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what provision for specialised education is planned for autistic children from the City of Leicester.

Miss Bacon

I am informed that the Leicester Education Authority has set-up a small pilot unit for the young autistic children under the aegis of the Child Guidance Service. A diagnostic unit is planned for assessing the educational needs of autistic and other mentally handicapped and severely disturbed children, and further educational provision will be planned in the light of experience gained from these two units.

Mr. Boardman

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there are more autistic children than there are children born blind and deaf? Will the Government give this group of children maximum priority to give them the support needed so that they have an opportunity in life and to take some of the troubles and cares away from parents who are so hard-pressed in looking after them?

Miss Bacon

Yes, that is precisely what we are doing. The hon. Gentleman might be interested to know that my right hon. Friend visited an autistic unit only yesterday.

Teachers' Strike

(Public Funds)

40. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the net saving to public funds in England and Wales of strike action by teachers during the past 12 months; what was the comparable figure for Cornwall; and if he will take steps to ensure that this money is spent on the education service.

Mr. Edward Short

I have no information on the amount of any such savings, either for England and Wales as a whole, [column 571]or for Cornwall. I am sure local authorities can judge for themselves how best to use any savings arising for this or other reasons. I hope the hon. Member will agree that this is one saving we would rather not have made.

Mr. Pardoe

Although I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman, I do not share his confidence that the local education authorities will necessarily spend this money on education. Since at the time of the strike it was pointed out by some of the blood-and-thunder-brigade, not in the right hon. Gentleman's Department but in local education committees, that this was one strike which saved public authorities money, will he make sure that the money is spent on education?

Mr. Short

I have no power to direct local authorities how to spend their money. Once they have their money they decide for themselves how it is to be spent.

Theatre Investment Fund

41 and 61. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) whether, in order to ensure that no part of moneys granted to the Arts Council for patronage purposes is used to support commercial enterprise, he will provide an additional sum of money earmarked so that a Theatre Investment Fund can be set up separately to prevent the collapse of the commercial theatre outside London;

(2) whether he will take steps to set aside a sum separate from and additional to the Arts Council grant for the purpose of financing the Theatre Investment Fund.

Miss Jennie Lee

The Arts Council has appointed an officer to advise on the steps necessary to set up a Theatre Investment Fund. Its success would depend on at least part of the necessary money being provided from commercial sources.

Mr. Jenkins

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Would she not agree that it is very important in setting up the fund that there shall be no suspicion that any moneys which would otherwise be used for support or patronage purposes should be siphoned off into private pockets? Is it not part of her [column 572]intention that money provided from public funds shall be earmarked separately for the purpose indicated in the Question?

Miss Lee

As my hon. Friend knows, the theatre inquiry recommended that a Theatre Investment Fund should be established with £250,000, made up of £100,000 from the Arts Council and £150,000 from commercial sources. This is a complicated matter. The gist of it is that we want to have both a prosperous commercial theatre, and of course prosperous State-subsidised repertory theatres. They are rather interlocked and the Arts Council will take great care indeed to see that no money from public funds will be used for private profits.

Mr. Channon

Would not the Minister agree that there is a considerable concern about the future of the commercial theatre, particularly outside London, and that this is a matter of some urgency? When will she be in a position to make a further statement?

Miss Lee

I am waiting upon the Arts Council's Report. I have already said that my Department has no responsibility for the purely commercial theatre, although we take an interest in it and want to see it flourish. The Arts Council should be congratulated on the careful thought which it has given to the scheme which it is trying to operate and which will be of advantage to the commercial theatre without private profit.

Opera House, Edinburgh

46. Mr. Stodart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if a decision has yet been reached in his consideration of proposals for the building of an opera house in Edinburgh.

Miss Jennie Lee

A request for a Government grant towards this project was made through the Arts Council in March this year and is under consideration.

Mr. Stodart

Will the right hon. Lady give earnest consideration to reaching a decision on this matter which is of great importance to the future of the Edinburgh Festival?

Miss Lee

I wish to thank and congratulate canny Scots in Edinburgh on having at long last decided that they are [column 573]willing to pay rather more than half the capital cost of establishing an opera in Edinburgh. The ball clearly is in our court.