Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 Dec 17 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 [808/1534-56]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7959
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Race, immigration, nationality, Religion & morality, Science & technology, Transport
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EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Polytechnics (Students)

1. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the average maximum number of students, full-time and part-time, that she visualises in the 30 polytechnics by 1980.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

The number of higher education institutions we shall need in 1980 and their student numbers will depend on future Government decisions about the development of higher education.

Mr. Grylls

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is she aware that the speech of the Under-Secretary of State at Leicester on 2nd December was a source of great comfort and encouragement to all concerned with polytechnics, [column 1535]but that there are many people in the local education authorities who are very concerned to know student numbers for planning. Could my right hon. Friend give some indication as soon as possible so that they can prepare their plans well ahead? Could consideration be given to additional polytechnics outside London, which already has three universities and eight polytechnics, and to concentrating further provision in the provinces?

Mr. Speaker

Long questions mean fewer questions.

Mrs. Thatcher

Perhaps it might help my hon. Friend to know that at the moment polytechnic buildings costing some £12 million are now under construction and a further £7.5 million worth should start before April, 1972. This should give a good deal of extra provision.

Mr. Alan Williams

But is it not about time the right hon. Lady stopped dithering on the whole question of future student numbers and revealed the criteria that she is using within her Department for the next 10 years? Or is she afraid to reveal her thinking on this matter until the botch-up on comprehensive education has been forgotten?

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman has done his homework, as I am sure he has, he will know that decisions on university grant places are not expected until next year, because the figures will not be in until then.

Adult Education (Russell Report)

2. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to receive the Russell Report on Adult Education.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

March, 1972.

Higher Education (Courses)

3. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total income last year to local authorities in England and Wales from fees charged in further education establishments for vocational and non-vocational courses, respectively; and what is the estimated percentage increase in charge for non-vocational courses [column 1536]necessary to achieve the savings of £5 million a year envisaged in the statement, “New Policies for Public Spending” .

Mr. van Straubenzee

Separate figures are not available. Total fee income was about £15 million. Local authorities decide which fees shall be increased.

Mr. Spearing

In view of that reply, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is unusual that a Government should state that their policies are fully considered when it is clear that they are not aware of the effects of this policy statement?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. These are essentially, in detail, matters for decision by local education authorities. Of course, the background to the request by the Government was that gross expenditure in this field is running at about £250 million.

Youth Service

4. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a statement on the future of the Youth Service.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend wants plenty of time to consider her policy on this subject, but is she aware that there is a good deal of uncertainty in the youth service, particularly following the Youth Service Development Council Report last year? Could she give reassurances as soon as conceivably possible?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am happy to give those assurances.

Miss Lestor

As the report has been in her hands since she first went to the Department, and as it has been fully discussed in the country by people involved with the Youth Service, may I ask the right hon. Lady whether she realises—because the report contains a large number of recommendations, some of which are welcome by those in the youth sphere—the need for the Government to act urgently in this matter? Will she do her best to expedite a decision?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am certainly aware of that. I would only point out that the report has been in my hands for rather [column 1537]less time than it was in the hon. Lady's hands.

Children (Home-School Transport Supervision)

5. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue a circular requesting local education authorities to employ supervisors on single-manned public service buses carrying five-to seven-year-old children to school.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local education authorities already have powers to employ such supervisors if they consider it advisable to do so.

Mr. Morrison

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is she aware that a new, rather worrying, factor has entered into the transport of children on public service buses; namely, the swift introduction of single-manned buses on which there is nobody to look after these small children? Is she able to give advice to parents and local education authorities on this subject?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware of this fact because of the correspondence I have had from my hon. Friend. I think it right to expect parents to take the prime responsibility for their children on the journey between home and school.

School Meals

6. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she proposes to take in the light of complaints addressed to her regarding the unreasonable action of local education authorities over the use of school premises by children eating prepacked sandwiches for their lunches.

28. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she proposes to take in the light of complaints addressed to her regarding the unreasonable action of local authorities which levy a charge on those children who eat sandwiches during the lunch period.

Mrs. Thatcher

A few authorities make a small charge for the use of facilities by those who bring sandwiches to school. I have had very few complaints about this, but I will consider with local [column 1538]authority associations whether advice can usefully be given on this matter.

Mr. Clark

Is the Minister aware that this problem will grow in future and that, for example, the N.U.T. has estimated that 500,000 fewer children will be taking school meals as a result of her decision to increase prices? Will she therefore consider this whole matter with more urgency?

Mrs. Thatcher

This matter will be referred to the Joint Working Party on School Meals.

Mr. Carter

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the local education authority in Birmingham is proposing to introduce a charge of 1s. for each child who takes sandwiches to school? Will she bear in mind the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark) and accept that this problem will be accentuated after April, when more children will not be able to have a hot meal at school because of the increases which have been imposed by the Government?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have pointed out that the matter will be referred to the Joint Working Party on School Meals. I do not think there is anything I can usefully add to that.

Mr. Edward Short

Would the right hon. Lady express an opinion on the legality of this charge? Is it not a fact that local authorities have no authority whatever to levy such a charge?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am advised that the charge is not illegal.

Mr. Carter

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of the reply of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to my Question on charges imposed on children for eating sandwiches during lunch periods in schools. I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Speaker

That is what one would call a late development.

Teaching Council

7. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the present position in regard to the proposed Teachers' Council.

[column 1539]

Mrs. Thatcher

I am still awaiting the views of some of the associations which have been consulted on the Report of the Working Party on a Teaching Council for England and Wales.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister endeavour to push on with all speed to implement this desirable development? Does she agree that a Teaching Council could serve very worth-while purposes, particularly in training standards, professional co-operation and the orientation of research, which makes this a highly desirable proposal?

Mrs. Thatcher

I appreciate the feeling that exists on this matter, and I will take decisions as soon as I have received the full representations.

Open University

8. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her estimate of the expected maximum number of students to be accepted by the Open University in each of the next five years.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Grant for 1971-73 has been assessed on an intake of students for the first year of 25,000 and a total number of undergraduate students in 1973 in the range 36,000 to 42,000. Annual intakes for the years following 1971 remain to be determined.

Mr. Hardy

May we be assured that the Open University will be allowed to make unimpeded progress? May we have an assurance that it will not be used as a cheap form of education for those leaving school in the normal way?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Government decisions have been announced and will be adhered to. It is true that at the Government's request the Open University is looking into the possibility of the 18-year-olds, and I think the hon. Gentleman would be wise to withhold his criticism until he has received advice from the Open University on that aspect.

Mr. Alan Williams

Has the hon. Gentleman seen a report—I am sure he has—showing that inflation is currently adding about £400,000 a year to the costs of the Open University? What action does he propose to take to protect this and other universities from the failure of the Prime Minister to honour his pledge to curb inflation at a stroke?

[column 1540]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have no additional announcement to make on this subject today, except to point out that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question accentuates the hideous state of the legacy which we inherited.

12. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has for increasing the educational facilities of the Open University.

Mr. van Straubenzee

None, Sir.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the Under-Secretary recognise that if the authorities of this university yield to the pressures being exerted on them by the Government to admit 18-year-olds who cannot obtain a place in an ordinary university even though qualified, the original intention of this imaginative project will be frustrated, and this will be deeply resented by large sections of the education community?

Mr. Edward Short

On what does the Under-Secretary of State base that reply? Has the Open University said that it wishes to take in 18-year-olds?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Open University is considering this, among other matters, at the direct request of the Government.

Mr. Edward Short

At the Government's direction?

Mr. van Straubenzee

At the Government's request. I am simply respectfully advising the right hon. Gentleman and others not to jump to conclusions.

Museums and Galleries

9. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a further statement of Government policy on admission charges to museums and galleries.

36. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to be able to announce the [column 1541]results of her consultation concerning the detailed arrangements for admission charges and exemptions in respect of national museums and galleries.

45. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she proposes to implement her policy of charging entrance fees to museums and galleries.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My noble Friend the Paymaster-General has not yet completed his negotiations with the institutions concerned and is, therefore, not in a position to make an announcement about the arrangements.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While I fully support a policy of admission charges—[Hon. Members: “Shame!” ]—may I ask my hon. Friend to make it clear that the system will be flexible and will allow for free days and special tickets to students, old-age pensioners and others, and that it is the intention of the Government to increase the money available to galleries so that they may reorganise and expand their collections?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Those points were fully covered by my noble Friend in the debate in another place yesterday. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noticed that some of the preliminary advice which has been received is actually against free days; but the matter has still to be determined.

Mr. Rose

While understanding the philosophy of the Conservative Party that the finer things of life should be denied to those who cannot afford them, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to nevertheless make special allowances for children, students and others pursuing courses who need to visit galleries?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Those are all matters which have yet to be determined. Perhaps I might point out that it is strange to find in the National Portrait Gallery this month an exhibition of Pepys drawings for which that gallery is charging a special fee of 5s.

Mr. Strauss

As it is a legislative requirement that the British Museum should always be free and its contents freely available to the public and as a clause to this effect was incorporated in the Act of 1753, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the Government's pro[column 1542]posals envisage the introduction of amending legislation? If so, will he bear in mind that when in 1923 the Government tried to introduce such proposals, the weight of enlightened opinion against them among those who would not countenance any restriction on art lovers among the poorer sections of the community was such that Baldwin, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time, wisely withdraw the offending proposals?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The right hon. Gentleman may have heard—if not, I am certain that he will have read—that in yesterday's debate in another place the Chairman of the British Museum Trustees made it clear that he had not yet received firm legal opinion on the matter. My only comment on the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, as a disinterested observer of yesterday's debate, is that my noble Friend wiped the floor with his opponents.

Dame Irene Ward

After the negotiations are concluded between my noble Friend and the bodies involved and before a final decision is taken by the Government, will arrangements be made for this House to discuss the outcome of those negotiations, as we have a great idea of what we want and should have a right sometimes to say what we want?

Mr. van Straubenzee

My hon. Friend will recognise that the decision has been made and will be adhered to. What we are now discussing is its implementation. I am sure that those who arrange business, among whom I am not included, will have heard what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Government not have the sense and sensibility to reconsider this whole sorry matter? Although we are sorry to find that one honoured and cultured Gentleman on the other side of the House whom we had expected to support us has not done so, will the Under-Secretary accept the representations of those who know about this matter, including such eminent authorities as Lord Clark? Finally, although he and I both attended parts of the debate in the other place yesterday, will he take it that, in my view, a reading of the debate by all who take an impartial view of the matter will be that the Government suffered a severe moral defeat in the other place?

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Mr. van Straubenzee

I cannot understand why a Velasquez in one place should be more appreciated than a Velasquez in another, the second one being under the jurisdiction of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mr. Rose

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

(Grants)

10. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement of Government policy on grants to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Mrs. Thatcher

Grants to the Royal Opera House are made by the Arts Council. The council decides on the allocation of its grants and on subsidies to individual companies.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If my right hon. Friend can hear me through the baying of the Philistines opposite, may I ask her whether she will consider the very necessary reform of making quinquennial grants, so that standards of production planning could be raised and the standards of this important national asset be raised even higher?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not so far considered that, but I shall put the point to my noble Friend Viscount Ecclesthe Paymaster-General.

Mr. Faulds

What are the Governments reactions to the proposition mooted in the latest report of the Royal Opera House that once the fruit and vegetables have been removed elsewhere, a second smaller building should be provided in which smaller-scale productions could be put on ready for regional tours? Would not this largely offset the present Metropolitan monopoly of really first-class opera productions?

Mrs. Thatcher

Although I am a great opera fan, we shall have to look carefully at that project in the light of the resources available. In the meantime, the annual grant to the Royal Opera Company this year is £1,390,000, which is considerably up on 1965–66.

Mr. Maude

If my right hon. Friend is thinking of recommending a change [column 1544]from annual to quinquennial grants, will she bear in mind that the Royal Opera House is not the only recipient which would benefit, and that there are other places, for example, in Stratford-on-Avon, which could do with it, too?

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my noble Friend.

Mrs. Renée Short

As the Question is about opera, will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that, while the Royal Opera House does a great deal to raise the standard of opera in this country, we have other opera companies in the British Isles which are in a less favourable position than the Royal Opera Company and need additional help from the Arts Council? I have in mind especially the Welsh National Opera Company, which have done superb work not only in Wales but in the rest of the country. Such companies need greater help from the Arts Council, and I ask the right hon. Lady to use her good offices with the Arts Council to that end.

Mrs. Thatcher

There are considerable calls on the Arts Council's grants. There is a Question about the grant later on the Order Paper.

Religious Instruction

11. Mr. Normanton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what circulars she plans to issue on the subject of religious instruction and observance in schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Mr. Normanton

I note my right hon. Friend's reply, but it will bring considerable anxiety and continuing distress to a large number of parents and to many religious institutions. Will she reconsider her decision? Will she consider also whether there is some means of resisting the continued erosion of religious faith as well as teaching in many of our schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is because of the erosion that I wish to retain the existing religious provisions in the Education Act, 1944. I think that my hon. Friend's objectives and mine are the same, and I hope that he will consider my view-point.

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Mr. Kaufman

On the question of religious instruction, has the Secretary of State received the letter which I sent to her regarding a request for a three-room extension to St. Kentigern's School in my constituency? Will she undertake to agree that that extension should be built?

Mrs. Thatcher

That does not arise from the Question, and I confess that I did not have the specific letter in mind when I formulated my reply.

School Building Programme

13. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many projects for the improvement or replacement of primary schools will be included in the building programme for 1970-71, 1971-72 and 1972-73 respectively.

Mrs. Thatcher

124, 167 and 436 respectively in England and Wales.

Mr. Lane

Projecting those encouraging figures further forward, will my right hon. Friend confirm that she hopes to get rid of the last of the Victorian primary schools some time in the mid-1970s?

Mrs. Thatcher

I confirm that it is my aim to replace the worst of the schools built in the last century, for which there is a continuing need, over the five years of which the first is the programme year 1972-73.

Mr. Loughlin

How can the right hon. Lady be so confident of completing that programme when she has admitted to me in correspondence that she does not even know the requirements for replacement of primary schools in my constituency? How can she determine what a programme is likely to be until she first acquires knowledge of the requirements?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman has a Question later on the Order Paper, and he will receive an answer then.

18. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the cost to her Department of building new primary schools in Bradford in each of the financial years 1967-68, 1968–69, and 1969–70; and how much her Department plans to spend on this in [column 1546]each year from 1970–71 to 1972–73, inclusive.

Mr. van Straubenzee

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate the information in the Official Report.

Mr. Wilkinson

In view of the not very informative nature of my hon. Friend's reply, may I remind him that 80 or 90 of the 115 primary schools in Bradford were built before 1903? Will he confirm his right hon. Friend's promise that by 1977 all these Victorian buildings will be replaced?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I think that my hon. Friend will find that this is a highly informative answer, as are all answers given by Ministers of this Government.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that whatever figures may appear in the Official Report for the City of Bradford, the figures for Derbyshire are appalling? The fact is that they have been sliced from £450,000 to £150,000 in two years. Will he therefore meet a deputation from the Tory-controlled education committee of Derbyshire, whose chairman, incidentally, has condemned this sum as being very paltry indeed?

Mr. van Straubenzee

There is, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, a Question in his name later in the Order Paper with which, out of courtesy to him, I must deal at that time.

Following is the information:

27. Mr. Loughlin

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how she proposes to achieve a balance in her replacement programme of primary schools, in view of her lack of knowledge of the requirements in education authority areas; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local education authorities have provided lists of primary schools built before 1903 for which there [column 1547]is a continuing need and which are below standard. I have now asked authorities which schools they regard as most urgent for replacement or improvement.

Mr. Loughlin

The right hon. Lady will be aware that I asked her for information in connection with the date of building schools in my constituency. She said categorically that this was not information that the Department collated. If she wants to be serious in projecting a programme for the replacement of schools, it is essential that she has such knowledge. Will she initiate a study with a view to obtaining the knowledge?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman's previous question to me asked the year in which specific schools were built. I do not have that information in that form. I have a list of schools built before 1903. It is on the basis of that list that I am selecting projects, with the help of the local authorities, for the biggest primary schools improvement programme on record.

Mr. Marks

Does the right hon. Lady recognise that many secondary schools are in the same category, and will she take the same action about them?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have given priority for improvements to the primary schools. Secondary schools will have a very large building programme with the raising of the school-leaving age.

Mr. Short

The right hon. Lady will be aware that there is a considerable discrepancy between the figures that she has given for pre-1903 schools and the school building survey of 1962? Will she explain how she has arrived at her figures?

Mrs. Thatcher

As far as I am aware, I am operating on the school building survey which was conducted shortly before I came to the Department. There has not been another one since.

Birmingham (Immigrant Children)

14. Mr. Gurden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has given to the Birmingham education authority in the matter of the large increases in the numbers of newly-arrived immigrant children.

[column 1548]

Mrs. Thatcher

I have made a further minor works allocation to provide additional school places.

Mr. Gurden

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that news. Will she have a word with her Cabinet colleagues to see how much longer these half-dozen or so industrial areas have to carry the exceptional load of all the dependants, so-called dependants and illegal immigrants continually coming into the country?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are problems where large numbers of children require extra school provision, but I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing all we can to help.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the right hon. Lady assure the House that nothing under existing arrangements or future arrangements under the new Bill about immigration which is to come before Parliament, and nothing which she does herself, will prevent children from joining the bread-winners in this country, notwith-standing the difficulties which that presents to local authorities, education committees and so on? Does not the right hon. Lady deplore the remarks which her hon. Friend has just made, which suggest that the matter of illegal immigration has something to do with the statutory right of children to join their parents here?

Mrs. Thatcher

My duty is to see that education is provided for children who are here, whatsoever their background, and we try to do that.

Miss Lestor

Would it not be helpful if the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) would pay tribute to the teachers in Birmingham and many other areas who have made such tremendous efforts and strides in the education of children from overseas? Second, does the right hon. Lady include in her review of teacher training the question of an increase in facilities for the training of teachers in colleges of education to deal with children from overseas, and an increase in in-service training, too?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the first point, I am sure that my hon. Friend would gladly pay that tribute, and I join him in doing so. On the second point, I hope [column 1549]that the teacher training inquiry will include that.

Student Unions (Use of Public Funds)

15. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek powers to enable her to investigate the disbursement of public funds by student unions and student representative councils.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Department is carrying out an inquiry into the financing of student unions in further education and colleges of education. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors is doing the same for universities. My right hon. Friend will decide what action is necessary in the light of these inquiries.

Mr. Wall

Is my hon. Friend aware that certain students unions are allocating funds to pay the fines of some individuals which have been awarded by courts of law, and that other students unions are financing admittedly revolutionary organisations? Is not this a misuse of public funds, and will it come under the terms of reference of the Committee to which he referred in the first part of his answer?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of the sort of example given by my hon. Friend, and there is no doubt that such examples will be shown up by the inquiries to which I have referred. It will then be for my right hon. Friend to decide what, if any, action is appropriate.

Mr. Willey

Does the Under-Secretary of State remember when he was a member of a Select Committee, when we made a report on student relations? We made nelightened recommendations bearing on this question. Will he take an early opportunity to make a progress report on the implementation of that Select Committee's recommendations?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have not forgotten those very fruitful times spent under the right hon. Gentleman's chairmanship. He may possibly have missed the fact that my right hon. Friend has already answered a Question in the House indicating her attitude to that report.

Nursery Schools

17. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 1550]if she will authorise the local authority to provide nursery schools in Leicester within the State school system.

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall be prepared to consider any proposals which satisfy the criteria used for the urban programme.

Mr. Greville Janner

I welcome that answer, but is the right hon. Lady aware of the acute shortage of nursery school places not only in Leicester but in all other cities with large housing estates where far more than the average number of mothers go out to work? Will she, in the circumstances, consult local authorities with a view to providing more nursery school places as a matter of urgency?

Mrs. Thatcher

Leicester does very well for nursery school places compared with some other authorities. It has 22 per cent. of the 3-4 age group in receipt of nursery education. The problem about extending nursery school education is primarily one of resources.

Mr. Raison

Will my right hon. Friend encourage local authorities to give more help where they can to play groups, which could do something to meet this need?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not responsible for play groups, which, under the previous Government, were put under the health authority, but I agree that they should be encouraged.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the Minister say what criteria she is currently using for the urban programme?

Mrs. Thatcher

The criteria are the same as those that existed under the previous Government.

24. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a further statement on her plan for expanding nursery schools.

56. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on her plans for nursery education.

60. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement about the expansion of nursery education.

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Mrs. Thatcher

For the present our first priority is the improvement of primary schools. Nursery education will continue to benefit from the urban programme.

Mr. Lane

In view of the great demand for more nursery education, may I ask my right hon. Friend not to close her mind to novelty but to look sympathetically at all possible ways of meeting the demand, including the kind of project recently approved by her Department in my constituency the capital cost of which was raised in a few months by voluntary public subscription?

Mrs. Thatcher

Indeed, I look sympathetically at this kind of demand. As I have said, the limiting factor is resources. That is the only thing which is stopping the advance of nursery education.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many local education authorities are themselves very anxious to expand nursery education and willing to do this from their existing resources? Therefore, will she bear in mind that if she wants to get the best value out of investment in education, it would be good economics, if the matter is considered from that standpoint alone, to spend more on nursery education and consequently have to spend less on remedial work in secondary schools because of the failure to lay the right foundations?

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that the hon. Lady and many of my hon. Friends are anxious to extend nursery education as fast as possible. As the hon. Lady knows, the cost is considerable. The annual cost per child in a nursery school is £140.

Miss Lestor

Can the right hon. Lady assure the House and the public generally that she has rejected the idea of charging fees for State nursery schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not rejected the idea, but I have no proposals to pursue it at the moment.

High-Energy Physics (Research Expenditure)

19. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is now the annual expenditure, both capital and current, authorised by Her [column 1552]Majesty's Government either directly through government research establishments, through the Science Research Council, from universities and colleges, respectively, and in total on high-energy physics; and what plans she has for limiting this expenditure in order to play a full part in the 300 Gev C.E.R.N. programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Science Research Council's expenditure on high-energy physics in 1970–71 will be about £20m., including the subscription to C.E.R.N. Expenditure by universities and colleges will be about £800,000.

To meet the 300 GeV commitment the Science Research Council proposes to make reductions in the high-energy physics programme, principally at the two national nuclear physics laboratories.

Mr. Osborn

I welcome my right hon. Friend's original decision to take part in the C.E.R.N. programme, but can she indicate what the effect of these reductions will be, because all scientists, here and in Europe, welcome the idea that the major programme should now be started?

Mrs. Thatcher

The effect of the reductions will be that the programmes at Rutherford and Daresbury will probably be reduced.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the right hon. Lady tell us what effect she expects the C.E.R.N. project will have on the employment of scientists in this country, and will she give a detailed analysis of cuts in expenditure programmes in other science areas which have been made in order to allow the C.E.R.N. programme project to go forward, so that we can assess the benefits of C.E.R.N. against costs elsewhere?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give details of other projects yet. It will be a matter for the Science Research Council. As to the other part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I do not think that there will be any substantial difference in the employment of scientists in this country. There will still need to be preparatory experiments to go to C.E.R.N.

Sir. H. Legge-Bourke

I welcomed my right hon. Friend's answer to me on this subject last week, but may I particularly ask what percentage of the total expenditure of the S.R.C. will now be devoted to high-energy physics?

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Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give a specific percentage, but the proportion to be devoted to high-energy physics is expected to be reduced.

Space Research (Expenditure)

20. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the annual expenditure incurred on scientific experiments in space and application through the Scientific Research Council, universities, and other institutions for which she is responsible, respectively, and in total; how much of this is spent through the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, European Space Research Organisation, and our own launching and monitoring facilities; and if she will make a statement about her future programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Science Research Council's expenditure on space science in 1970–71 is about £9 million. Of this, £5 million goes to the European Space Research Organisation and the balance provides for the preparation of experiments by the council and universities and for launching and monitoring facilities. The council does not contribute directly to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency's expenditure. Details of expenditure through the U.G.C. are not available.

The Science Research Council decides, subject to international commitments, the amount of its resources to be allocated to space research and the programme to be followed.

Mr. Osborn

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. This is a complicated matter, and no doubt she knows that it has been taken up by a Select Committee. Can she indicate what the forward programme is likely to be?

Mrs. Thatcher

Not at present. We shall, as my hon. Friend was assured last week, continue to make a contribution to E.S.R.O.

Mr. Edward Short

Can the right hon. Lady say what her policy is for the S.R.C.? Is it to continue in existence? Is it to continue under her Department? What is the policy of the Government on the structure?

Mrs. Thatcher

The structure of the Science Research Council remains for [column 1554]the time being as it was, and I hope that the council will remain with me.

Students (B.Ed. Degrees)

22. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many Bachelor of Education degrees were awarded to students in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970; how many students failed to get such degrees in each of these years; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The first degrees were awarded in 1968. The numbers awarded in 1968. The numbers awarded in 1968, 1969 and 1970. were 208, 1,368 and 2,268 respectively, and the numbers of failed candidates in the same years, 14,96 and 149 respectively.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the development of this degree has been, to say the least, somewhat sketchy and highly localised? Is he further aware that in the colleges there is some discontent among students at the manner in which they are drafted to the courses, and will he institute a survey?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of certain anxieties in certain quarters. I think it likely that the forthcoming inquiry will have this matter, at least in part, under its surveillance.

Schools (Fire Precautions)

23. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her policy regarding fire precautions in schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I attach great importance to the maintenance of adequate fire precautions. Safety requirements are laid down in Statutory Regulations.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many schools, particularly primary and nursery schools, are built of wooden units which are very much a fire risk? Is she further aware that combustible materials are sometimes stored against the outside walls of such buildings? Is she absolutely sure that adequate fire precautions are observed regularly in these schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I can only point out that Her Majesty's Inspectors visiting schools would normally draw attention to any obvious deficiency in the precautions taken against fire.

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Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the key words in her last sentence were “obvious deficiency” ? Is she aware that when the Inner London Education Authority recently carried out a survey it was found that very many schools were way below the standard required by these instructions, and as this is a very serious situation will she take some urgent action?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that if that was so in I.L.E.A. the attention of the authority was drawn to it, and I trust that the position was remedied.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Will the Secretary of State consider increasing the rate support grant if the Fire Precautions Bill which is now going through Parliament means that many local authorities will have to spend more money on fire precautions because in many areas precautions are very inadequate?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Fire Precautions Bill proposes that schools shall be subject to the certification procedure. I had not thought of increasing the rate support grant. In any case, the question would be not for me but for my right hon. Friend.

Libraries (Public Lending Rights)

25. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will have further discussions with interested organisations about the need for a Public Lending Right Bill and legislation to enable public libraries to charge for borrowed books and to pay authors in a manner similar to that adopted in respect of musicians' performing rights.

Mrs. Thatcher

Viscount EcclesMy noble Friend has this complex matter under examination but is not yet ready to discuss it with interested organisations.

Mr. Iremonger

As libraries are in effect charging the more serious kind of reader by way of fines for books kept out for more than a week and by means of reservation charges, would it not be better to do this honestly and frankly by legislation and then make proper provision for stopping the present practice of legalised theft of authors' property?

Mrs. Thatcher

I would not agree with my hon. Friend's description of borrow[column 1556]ing library books. I will put the points he has made to my noble Friend.

Mr. Faulds

Do the Government intend that any scheme they introduce will follow the recommendations of the White Report and be based on the Danish model of using book stocks as the foundation? As this matter has dragged on for a considerable time, will the right hon. Lady attack it with a little more zest and expedition?

Mrs. Thatcher

My noble Friend is certainly attacking the matter with very great zest but has not yet reached any conclusion. Therefore, there is nothing that I can add to my previous reply.