Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1971 May 6 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 [816/1613-35]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7860
Themes: Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Media, Science & technology, Social security & welfare
[column 1613]


Schools (Floorspace)

1. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied that the minimum areas of floorspace specified in the School Building Regulations are based on an adequate investigation of educational needs; and if she will make a statement.

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

The answer to the first part of the question is “Yes, Sir.”

Mr. Spearing

In that case, will the right hon. Lady undertake to tell me in due course what were the terms of reference of that investigation, who undertook it, when it was undertaken and what criteria they used?

Mrs. Thatcher

It was undertaken progressively, over the years, during which the Architects and Buildings Branch of the Department has acquired a reputation second to none.

Primary and Secondary Reorganisation Schemes

2. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will list, at the latest available date, those local education authorities which have not submitted to her any scheme for reorganisation of their secondary education on comprehensive lines.

[column 1614]

Mrs. Thatcher

The majority of authorities had submitted plans before June, 1970. Plans have no statutory significance, and there is now no obligation to submit them. With permission, I will circulate more detailed information in the Official Report.

Mr. Deakins

Is it not time that local education authorities were asked to end the selection and segregation of children at 11-plus, since it is a policy which is generally agreed now to be both socially divisive and educationally unsound?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. I think it important that local authorities should carry out the duty laid upon them to provide schools for the varying aptitudes and abilities of the children—but so far no Government have told them precisely how they should discharge those duties.

Following is the information:

Authorities which have never submitted plans: Bournemouth. Bucks. Bury. Norfolk. Salford. Torbay. Warley. Westmorland. Worcester.

Authorities whose plans were rejected before June, 1970, and which have not submitted revised plans: Bolton. Birmingham. Gloucester. Hillingdon. Harrow. Nottingham. Plymouth. Reading. Sutton.

6. Mr. Woodhouse

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take steps to ensure that the schemes of reorganisation of primary and secondary schools in county boroughs once approved by her Department are not withdrawn as a consequence of local government reform.

Mrs. Thatcher

Reorganisation plans have no statutory significance, and they can be altered at any time. Changes in character of a school can only be effected under the procedure laid down under Section 13 of the Education Act, 1944.

[column 1615]

Mr. Woodhouse

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some county councils are already beginning to assume that they will take control of the county boroughs which are to be amalgamated with them and are threatening to upset schemes of educational reorganisation which have already been passed by the local authority concerned and approved by her predecessor in office? Is it not desirable that there should be safeguards to prevent this from happening, and are there sufficient safeguards in the terms of her answer?

Mrs. Thatcher

These are administrative procedures in regard to reorganisation plans. The actual changes are safeguarded by the statutory procedure.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend take particular note of the creation of Area 26 comprising parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset, where there is a fear, at both ends of the new authority, that the situation outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) may happen? Will she do everything in her power further to allay the fears that have been expressed by parents of children attending the Downend Church of England School, to which I have drawn her attention previously?

Mrs. Thatcher

The procedure does not vary with the area, but I hope that parents and electors who feel strongly about any proposed change will write to the Department after a Section 13 notice has been issued. That is the only way by which we can at the moment effectively consider their views.

School Meals

3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what figures are available showing the change in the number of school dinners taken in the last month consequent on the increased prices.

5. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate she has made of the percentage of all school children who eat school meals.

38. Mrs. Doris Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 1616]what statistics she has received from local education authorities as to the reduction in the number of children taking school meals since increased charges have been levied.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have asked local education authorities to make a special return of meals on a day during the week beginning 17th May. This will provide reliable information about changes in demand for school meals following the introduction of the new charges and remission arrangements last month.

Mr. Hamilton

Is it not the case that estimates have been made that half a million school children will be, or rather are now being, denied these school meals? Does the right hon. Lady not regard this as a disgraceful state of affairs? Does she not recognise that if this policy is not changed she will go down in educational history as the Mrs. Scrooge with the painted face?

Mrs. Thatcher

The take-up of meals always falls off after increased charges. It did so after the last Government increased charges as well.

Mr. Carter

Is the Secretary of State aware that her rather insensitive and somewhat banal remarks on television about how children can appear to pay for free school meals has caused a great deal of distress and dismay in education circles? Second, is she aware that, inspite of her Circular 3/71, many local authorities, of which Birmingham is one, have many schools which are not allowing children to eat sandwiches instead of a school meal and that in some cases this means that children will go all day with no food at all?

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman has a specific case which he wishes to put to us, we will, of course, take it up. On my previous remarks, my anxiety—I believe it is shared by every hon. Member—is that children who take free school meals should not be identifiable by their fellows.

Mr. Marks

Will the right hon. Lady spare a thought for the dinner ladies, who cook and serve the meals? Their hours of work and pay are based on the number of dinners taken. Since many put in additional work on the crockery and whatever is needed for sandwich meals, they [column 1617]find that their work is just as hard but is paid less well.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, of course I will spare a thought for them, but I am not sure of the precise import of the hon. Member's question, apart from that.

Mr. Lane

But is it not a fact, as my right hon. Friend has said, that, although the number of children taking meals fell after the Labour Government introduced the charge, they rose again, so that last year the percentage of children taking meals at school was considerably higher than five years before, in spite of two increases by the Labour Party in the meantime?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is correct. In spite of increases in school meal charges over the years, both the numbers and the proportion of children taking school meals have risen.

Miss Lestor

When the right hon. Lady has collected the statistics, which, as she has said, will show a drop in the number of children taking school meals who have to pay for them, what does she intend to do if there is general concern, as we feel there will be, over that state of affairs? On her comments about trying to avoid embarrassing children who take free school meals, what further consideration is she giving to schemes and suggestions which have been put forward for alternative methods of collecting dinner money?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Lady knows, the precise schemes are for local education authorities within the terms of the circulars which we and previous Governments have sent out. I do not think we can go further by laying down specific schemes. When the census results come in on 17th May I shall have reliable information. The hon. Lady will know that the remission scales are now higher than they have ever been before, and that in August there will be a family income supplement which will entitle many children to free meals automatically, without special application.


4. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she [column 1618]will now make a further statement about her policy on dyslexia.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am referring to the Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children the question of the need for guidance to local education authorities on dyslexia.

Mr. Ashley

I warmly welcome that announcement as a significant step forward in the neglected question of dyslexic children. Will the right hon. Lady ask the Committee to take account of the views of both the experts on and the parents of dyslexic children and make its recommendations as quickly as possible?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. I shall be happy to do that. I am anxious to get authoritative advice on this very difficult problem.

Primary Education (Expenditure)

7. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate she has made of total public expenditure on primary education in 1969–70 and 1972–73, respectively, at constant prices.

Mrs. Thatcher

For Great Britain, at constant 1970 prices, £537.5 million and £596.5 million respectively.

Mr. Lane

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's emphasis on primary education which these figures illustrate has been almost universally welcomed, and is not Labour criticism of the Government's education and social policies sour grapes and humbug?

Mrs. Thatcher

It will continue to be my first priority because a great deal still remains to be done on a lot of primary school buildings.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the right hon. Lady now tell us the cost per pupil in secondary schools in 1969 and 1972 respectively at constant prices?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give the precise figure, but, having looked at the increased number of pupils and expenditure, I am sure that expenditure will rise a good deal more than the increase in the number of pupils. So the right hon. Gentleman can take no comfort from my answer to his supplementary question.

[column 1619]

U.G.C. Hostel-Building Programme

8. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the total cost of the University Grants Committee's hostel-building programme for each of the next five years; how many additional student places will be provided; what is the future building programme for the following 10 years; and if she will make a statement.

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

University building programmes from 1973–74 onwards have not yet been settled. Projects starting in the five years from 1968–69 to 1972–73 will provide over 23,000 residential places at a cost to public funds of about £11¾ million.

Mrs. Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable concern in many university cities about the shortage of suitable hostel accommodation for students? Will he look at the whole question of the provision of hostel accommodation, at the ways in which it can be used more than it is at present, particularly during the long summer vacation, and at those areas where hostel accommodation has been provided but is not fully used because the students prefer to live in town?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will certainly do that. Indeed, we are already looking closely at the matters which the hon. Lady mentioned. I only ask that we look at the provision for higher education as a whole and not by sectors. As the hon. Lady knows, the requirements in the non-university sector are even greater.

Scientific Matters

10. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what approximate percentage of time has been taken up by Ministers in her Department on scientific matters in the last six months.

Mrs. Thatcher

Quite a lot, but it is not possible to give a figure. I deal with scientific matters myself.

Mr. Marten

I am sure that my right hon. Friend deals with it extremely well. Is she satisfied that it is still sensible for [column 1620]her Ministry to deal with so many scientific matters, including E.S.R.O., which might be transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry, which is now dealing with space?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am certain that it is right that basic research under the research councils should be kept with the Department responsible for the universities because the two are so closely intertwined. The answer to my hon. Friend's question about space is that I feel that at the moment it should be kept with basic research.

Mr. Alan Williams

I am not clear about the point the right hon. Lady was making at the end of her last answer. Is she aware of the continuing concern among academics and scientists that she is considering hiving off parts of the Science Research Council to individual Departments? Will she take this opportunity to give a categoric assurance that she has no intention of doing that?

Mrs. Thatcher

Sir Frederick Dainton, Chairman of the Council on Scientific Policy, is looking into the best structure for the future of pure and applied research in this country, and I do not expect his report before June.

Teachers (Pay)

11. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what instructions she has given her representative on the Burnham Committee with regard to making an additional offer in the teachers' salary negotiations.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

Is the right hon. Lady aware that virtually the whole of the teaching profession is fed up to the teeth with the Government and the Department of Education and Science because of their attitude to the justifiable pay claim which has been submitted and their fear that the Department is trying to do another Post Office job?

Mrs. Thatcher

The negotiations in Burnham reached deadlock, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the independent chairman advised my right hon. Friend R. Carrthe Secretary of State for Employment to set up an arbitral body. Later Questions appear on the subject, and they will be reached shortly.

[column 1621]

12. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a further statement on the teachers' pay negotiations.

15. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a further statement on the progress of the teachers' pay negotiations.

24. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the latest position with regard to teachers' salaries.

Mrs. Thatcher

The management panel of the Burnham Committee has complied with the request of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to nominate a member of the arbitral body. The teachers' panel has not so far done so. My right hon. Friend has now invited all the associations represented on the teachers' panel jointly to meet him.

Mr. Tuck

Is the right hon. Lady now prepared to think along the same lines as her predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), and do away with compulsory arbitration as laid down in the Remuneration of Teachers Act and get rid of direct Government representation on the Burnham Panel? If not, why not?

Mrs. Thatcher

Because I am not prepared to consider changes while the system is in operation and the negotiations continue.

Mr. Barnes

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the verdict of the Committee of Inquiry into Post Office workers' pay can only confirm the teachers' worst fears about the extent to which the Government are influencing so-called arbitration at the present time? Does she appreciate that many teachers are not against arbitration as such but feel that arbitration must be on a fair basis and should consider the amount of the award rather than the question of structure?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope the hon. Gentleman is not reflecting on the arbitration in the case of Post Office workers, because if he is, it is not a matter for me. Representatives of the teachers' associations will be seeing my right hon. [column 1622]Friend shortly. I have no doubt that they are very well able to put their own views to him.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the Secretary of State aware that her declared support for the management proposals—that is, for a completely new structure for teachers' pay, a structure which will divide the profession, widen the primary/secondary differential and abolish the basic scale—is resented bitterly by the majority of teachers, and as—contrary to what she has said this afternoon—the Government have more direct control over the amount of and the negotiations for teachers' salaries, does she agree that such a fundamental change in payments to teachers ought to be the result of negotiations and ought not to be imposed by any arbitral settlement?

Mrs. Thatcher

Many teachers are as anxious to have a structural settlement as I am. The terms of reference and scope of the arbitration body, as referred to my right hon. Friend by the independent chairman, included structure and level.

Mr. Maude

Would my right hon. Friend confirm that in the situation which she inherited from the previous Government, once it reaches the stage when the matter is referred to her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment she has no authority to interfere in the teachers' pay dispute?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is correct.

Mr. Short

Did the right hon. Lady mean, when she replied to an earlier supplementary question, that once the present negotiations are concluded and out of the way, she will be prepared to consider abolishing compulsory arbitration and will be prepared to look at the machinery generally?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have told the teachers' representatives that I will not consider any of these things until after the present negotiations are out of the way. After that, if they wish to make representations to me, I shall hear and consider them.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is the Secretary of State aware that the fears of the teaching profession regarding arbitration are real, sincere and based upon experience? Would she not agree, in the circumstances, [column 1623]that teachers are being deprived of what might be called collective bargaining, and that this is a projection of Government policy to provide an incomes policy on a basis of keeping the public sector down while they can do nothing about the situation elsewhere? In those circumstances, while she may be unable to interfere with the arbitral processes, will she agree that it is imperative to bring confidence back to the profession, and give an undertaking that there will be a full review of teachers' pay in future?

Mrs. Thatcher

We should all prefer a settlement as a result of negotiation. When negotiations break down, the arrangements for arbitration inherited from the previous Government are automatically put in train. They are still in train, and my right hon. Friend will be seeing the teachers' associations shortly. At the moment I have no authority or standing, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out.

Sir G. Nabarro

However a settlement is reached, would not my right hon. Friend agree that 9 per cent. is both salutary and agreeable?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think I should make any comment upon that particular sum, nor would it be advisable for me to do so at present.

Mr. Spearing

Whatever the right hon. Lady has said about structure, would she not agree that there is genuine mystification among many teachers about the five proposed new scales? Would she not agree that to attain her objectives it would be possible to modify the present compound basic scale?

Mrs. Thatcher

I wish that many more teachers had more information about the proposed scales. From my knowledge, I think that some of them would be quite pleasantly surprised.

Boys' School, Portsmouth

13. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what communications she has received from Portsmouth City Council on the need to rebuild Kingston Modern School for Boys, in particular on the need to improve the dining facilities which serve the two parts of the schools; and what reply she has sent.

[column 1624]

Mr. van Straubenzee

The authority has decided to improve the dining facilities under this year's minor works programme. It has no plans to rebuild this school.

Mr. Judd

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that the physical inadequacies of the school make proper school life almost impossible for staff and students, that one building is amongst the oldest educational buildings in the country—which is saying something—and that the other one was built as a temporary building with a 10-year life span immediately after the war, that it is a quarter of an hour's walk between the two buildings and that the only way that a proper school can be made out of the situation is to knock down the existing building and have a purpose-built school?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is one of the reasons why at least some additions to the school will be made, this forming part of the plans for the reorganisation of secondary education in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel that it is a useful step forward, especially in terms of the feeding arrangements, to use the minor works programme this year.

Primary School Building Programme (Dorset)

14. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what additional increases in allocations for primary school buildings are to be made to Dorset; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In March my right hon. Friend increased the Dorset local education authority's minor works allocation by £75,000 for each of the years 1971–72 and 1972–73 because of the authority's need for further primary school provision.

Mr. King

Does not that figure represent an increase of about 34 per cent. over what the previous Government were able to manage? Is my hon. Friend aware how grateful Dorset is, not only for this additional money, but for the fact that the money has gone to the primary sector, where the need is greatest?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is an excellent demonstration of my right hon. Friend's policy working in practice.

[column 1625]

Student Unions (Funds)

16. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what inquiries have been made into the misuse of public funds by student unions; and with what result.

Mr. van Straubenzee

An inquiry has been carried out into the financing of student unions, and the results are now being studied.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Conservative Association and the Monday Club in Southampton University are still being prevented from having their just share of student union funds, are still being denied the use of union premises for their meetings, that the Left-wing president of the Students' Union, to his great credit, has resigned because of this injustice—[Interruption.]—which hon. Members opposite do not recognise to be——

Hon. Members


Mr. Biggs-Davison

How long will ratepayers, how long will universities and how long will the Government tolerate——

Mr. Speaker

Not much longer.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

—the misuse of ratepayers' money in a cheating conspiracy?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is fair to say that the particular action at Southampton, which along with my hon. Friend, I totally deplore, has equally been condemned by the leaders of the political associations of all the political parties at the university at any rate, even if not in the House. I hope that my hon. Friend has noticed that it has also been condemned by resolution by the National Union of Students, whose incoming President has done everything that he can to have it reversed. The really regrettable feature is that out of a university of about 3,500 students, under 300 remained to the end of the meeting at which the decision was taken not to change their present position.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Would not the Minister agree that if words such as “misuse” are being used, this is a matter for the police, but that if it is a question [column 1626]of students disagreeing with the policy of the council of the Students' Union, the remedy is in their own hands?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am not prepared to go that far. The word “misuse” does not necessarily imply criminal misuse and, therefore, a matter for the police. It must very clearly be said that I should have thought that opinion on both sides of the House would not tolerate what I think is widely regarded as a misuse of funds if it results in discrimination against points of view which ought fairly to be expressed in a university.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Does my hon. Friend agree that at a time when many students in universities are pressing for a greater participation in the administration of universities it is not much encouragement to that idea for this sort of behaviour to happen?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Indeed, it is not. On the other hand, I feel sure that the whole House would want to keep this matter in perspective and remember that it is the student body itself that has condemned it and is trying to put the matter right.

Mr. Edward Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for the first time in 20 years I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)? I deeply regret what has happened at this university, because, clearly, the existence of a strong Monday Club or a Conservative Club is an assurance that there will be a very strong Labour Club? I hope the union officials and the union at Southampton University will reconsider their decision, which we would all regret.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I hope that the corporate view of the House will be listened to. Meanwhile, I know that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to recall, in the interests of accuracy, that the Federation of Conservative Students is larger than all its opponents put together.

27. Sir R. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek powers to make it a condition that when students' grants include a compulsory deduction to cover the amount payable to the appropriate [column 1627]Students' Union of the college or university, proper accounts showing how this money has been spent shall be made available annually to members of the Students' Union concerned.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I consider it essential that full and proper accounts should be kept of student union funds and that such accounts should be available to members. Both these matters are primarily the responsibility of the university and college authorities.

Sir R. Thompson

Will my hon. Friend bring some pressure to bear on them to ensure that they carry it out? Is he aware that in a case of which I have sent him particulars the ratepayers of Croydon, although very anxious to promote higher education, strongly resent a process whereby the money they have provided is often spent on squalid and disreputable causes unconnected with education and with no accounts being provided?

Mr. van Straubenzee

We have already had exchanges on the first part. If there are examples where money is not being properly accounted for, within the limits of my previous statement that this is primarily a matter for the university or college authority I will always be happy to look at them.

Mr. Molloy

Many of us on this side of the House are grateful that the hon. Gentleman has not joined in the campaign to knock British students. Is he aware that only a few weeks ago the Secretary of State made a correct and proper remark in the House to the effect that students co-operate in many issues involving her Department? Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to advise his hon. Friends that if they are concerned about funds—anybody's funds, public or otherwise—they should start examining issues like V. and G. and that mentioned in the Press this morning?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am here concerned with the funds which are provided for student unions. Anxiety about some of the financial transactions of some unions is spread right across the board among those who support and those who oppose student matters, and, therefore, it is not surprising that it has been the subject of close public inquiry.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whilst I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the over-[column 1628]whelming majority of student unions are fairly and responsibly run, are there not cases of abuse in individual unions, such as the case of Southampton, about which we have heard, and is there not a case for following the recommendations of the Select Committee and appointing a registrar of student unions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is one of the possibilities. I have made it clear that my right hon. Friend, in concert with the local authorities, has initiated inquiries, as have the Vice-Chancellors, and the results are now being studied.

B.Ed. Degree Candidates

18. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many candidates for the degree of bachelor of education there were in 1970; and how many were successful.

Mr. van Straubenzee

There were 2,417 candidates in 1970, of whom 2,268 were successful.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister satisfied with the present academic orientation of some of the courses and with the wide variation that appears to take place in the success rate among the different colleges? Is he taking any step to effect an improvement in the situation so that there can perhaps be a greater degree of standardisation in the success rate?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The academic content of the course and its organisation are not matters for me. The failure rates overall are remarkably low—currently 6.2 per cent. I am not aware of very great differences. If the hon. Gentleman has information which he would like to give me, I would be very willing to consider it.

Teaching Profession (Entrants)

21. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total of new entrants to the teaching profession in the school years of 1969–70, 1970–71; and what are the target totals for 1971–72 and 1972–73.

Mrs. Thatcher

According to returns supplied by local education authorities, 32,754 in 1969–70 and 36,364 in 1970–71. The totals are likely to continue to rise during the period 1971–73.

[column 1629]

Mr. Jones

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. Would it not help recruitment if an Act akin to the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act were enacted in the near future? Do not many children and teachers labour under the disadvantage of teaching and being educated in schools which are still deplorably bad for this day and age?

Mrs. Thatcher

Many schools are still deplorably bad, and I am doing my level best to get a school building programme to make them very much better than those I was left with.

300 GeV Accelerator

22. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the progress of the project for the construction of the 300 GeV accelerator.

Mrs. Thatcher

This accelerator is expected to take eight years to construct. Work on the detailed design continues.

Mr. Dalyell

Are the Government satisfied with the British contribution?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir.

Scottish Business School

23. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek to make an official visit to the Scottish Business School in 1971.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no present plans to do so.

Mr. Douglas

Does the right hon. Lady accept our regret about that Answer? However, if she chooses to do so in the near future will she try, while preserving academic freedom, to persuade the three institutions involved in the Scottish Business School to come together and make one clear and distinct home for that institution?

Mrs. Thatcher

Before visiting the school and finding out the facts I do not think I could undertake to do anything which would import a conclusion.

Theatre Organisations (Subsidies)

25. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what [column 1630]progress she has made in her discussions with the Arts Council on the withholding of subsidies from subsidised theatre organisations on the ground of the possible offensive nature of the plays they intend to produce; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

A statement published on 30th April has now been made by the Arts Council.

Mr. Strauss

Do I take it that the Minister accepts the Arts Council's admirable declaration which, in effect, says that it would not impose any censorship or control over the artistic theatrical bodies it subsidises?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Arts Council was never asked to act as censor. It is a very useful statement which says that it is necessary to recognise

“that the welcome increase in the amount of subsidy, its deployment and distribution is very properly the subject of special and concentrated public scrutiny.”

It is a notable step forward that this has been so.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the only desirable form of censorship self-censorship? Have not the remarks of my noble Friend in the other place contributed notably to that end?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I believe that to be so.

Mr. Faulds

Come, come. Does the Minister realise——

Mr. Marten

Hit her with your hand-bag.

Mr. Faulds

I am not one of those who ever carry one. There can be no doubt about that.

Mr. Speaker

Come, come.

Mr. Faulds

I will obey your admonition, Mr. Speaker. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that we are well aware that there have been pressures from the Paymaster-General on this issue? Will the hon. Gentleman now publicly share our delight that the Arts Council has resisted such improper pressures and has, in effect, told the Paymaster-General to take a running jump?

[column 1631]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that a statement which includes the phrase

“as subsidy increases it behaves the recipients of grants to justify that increase in terms of the general quality of the productions”

is anything that can be described in those words. My view is that this is a very useful statement indeed.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my hon. friend make it clear to the House that our noble Friend in another place has never suggested that there should be any censorship of any kind? Will my hon. Friend make the speech of my noble Friend compulsory reading for certain hon. Members opposite?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is absolutely so. There has never been any suggestion that either my noble Friend or the Arts Council should be censors, but there has been a strong feeling—I think that this is a very successful outcome—that it is not proper for public money to be used without any kind of thought being given to the matter of productions which cause grave offence to a very wide number of people.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the statement issued by the Arts Council is a statement of its previous policy which it proposes to continue in future? As it is acceptable to his noble Friend, is this not a consummation about which everybody can be happy?

Mr. van Stranbenzee

I understand the hon. Gentleman's embarrassment. After all, he said publicly in the House that he would advise his colleagues to enter into no statement of any kind. We will spare his blushes.

Books and Equipment (Expenditure)

26. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will direct those local education authorities whose expenditure on books and equipment is below that recommended by the Association of Education Committees to make more adequate provision.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. I have always made clear my concern that adequate provision should be made; but this is a matter for local education authorities.

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Mr. Marks

Is there not a very grave disparity between what various authorities spend on books and equipment, the sums being spent by some authorities being abysmally low? At what stage does the right hon. Lady carry out the duties imposed on her by the 1944 Act and tell local authorities that they are not doing well enough?

Mrs. Thatcher

Her Majesty's Inspector regularly visits schools, and I am sure he would let me know if there were any cause for alarm in any school.

School Construction, Inner London (Cost Limits)

29. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will increase the cost limits imposed by her Department on school building in the Inner London Education Authority area.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. The cost limits for school building in England and Wales have only recently been raised by 13 per cent.

Mr. Moyle

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that school building prices are rising more rapidly in London than in other parts of the country, to the point where they are the highest in the country, and that his Department's determination to hold to the rigid cost yardsticks will lead to a sharp deterioration in the future of school building in London unless the action suggested in the Question is taken?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman knows—and I offer this information genuinely to be of assistance—that where there are special problems in London—for example, of special site difficulties—ad hoc allowances can be made.

Maladjusted Children

30. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will state, on the basis of information available, the number of places available, in maintained and non-maintained schools, respectively, for each of the last four years for maladjusted children; and whether she envisages any change in future provision for this type of handicapped child.

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Mrs. Thatcher

Since the reply to the first part of the Question consists of a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report. I am receiving from local education authorities an increasing number of proposals to build day special schools.

Mr. Dormand

I shall study the figures with great care. Is the right hon. Lady aware of the considerable difficulty experienced by many local education authorities, particularly in the North of England, in placing maladjusted children? Does she agree that in view of the shortage of places her Department should take the initiative and make proposals for a major building programme, rather than wait for local education authorities to do so, even if it means making special financial arrangements for such provision?

Mrs. Thatcher

In the past few years special priority has been given within the building programme for special schools to places for maladjusted children. There are now rather more than there were, and we shall look very carefully at the distribution of the next special school building programme.

The informationis as follows:

All places are normally taken up, so that the number of children approximates closely to the number of places.

Sex Film, “Growing Up”

31. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many letters she has received about the sex film, “Growing Up” .

Mrs. Thatcher

Three hundred and one, Sir.

Mr. Price

Whatever one's view of the film, is it not disturbing that teachers are so vulnerable to disciplinary action by reactionary councillors——

Sir G. Nabarro


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Mr. Price

—many of whom, like the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), live in the days when young women wore knee-length woollen breeches?

Mr. Thatcher

I doubt very much whether that question warrants an answer.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as a result of a television programme in Birmingham, when I called the author of the film a thoroughly immoral man, a vastly larger number of letters have descended on me than on my right hon. Friend, that 99 per cent. of such letters support my view concerning immorality, and that the first 100 as samples have already gone to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with an urgent request to cause the Director of Public Prosecutions to view the film and institute proceedings for obscenity and pornography?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that my hon. Friend can deal very effectively with every single letter that has come to him. I am anxious that all the publicity about the film should not get the whole subject out of perspective, for some very excellent work on sex education is being done in the schools in a way of which the parents approve and which is tasteful and satisfactory to all concerned.

Miss Lestor

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that the near-hysteria which has broken out over the film, often from people who have not even seen it, has possibly damaged the whole very worthwhile field of sex education in our schools? Is it not worth mentioning that this week there has been public acclaim of the B.B.C. films on sex education shown to primary school children, although many of those films were condemned by people before they had seen them? Does she agree that if local education authorities decide that a film is not fit to be shown in schools, that should be the end of the matter, and there should not be a witch hunt as in the case of the young teacher concerned with the film which is the subject of the Question?

Mrs. Thatcher

It will be very much to everyone's advantage if we hear no more about this film. I was very glad to receive the support of the Health Education Council, which has seen the [column 1635]film and has told me that in its view, having considered all the factors, it is not suitable for use in schools.

Mr. Maude

Will my right hon. Friend represent to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) the fact that knee-length breeches for young women have become rather groovy wear nowadays?