Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Feb 13 Tu
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 [850/1115-1135]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7626
Themes: Conservative Party (organization), Education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Industry, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Health policy, Local government finance, Science & technology, Transport, Trade unions
[column 1115]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

School Building Finance

1. Mr. David James

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in view of the growth in population in the south-eastern corner of the county, whether she will increase the allocation of funds to the county of Dorset for school building purposes.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

No, Sir. Major building programmes in the period 1972 to 1975 will provide 4,790 new primary and secondary school places in South-East Dorset, 85 per cent. of the 5,600 new places to be started in the county as a whole.

Mr. James

I am grateful for that reply. Will my hon. Friend recognise, however, that between 1966 and 1970 the number of electors in my constituency rose by 10,808? This inevitably has meant that there are a great many more children, and in the area from Verwood, Ferndown, West Parley, West Moors, Corfe Mullen down to Poole there is still a grave shortage of school places.

[column 1116]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We appreciate that there has been a local population explosion in South-East Dorset, and the major programmes which we have provided for new school places exceed £1 million in value in each of the three years 1972–73, 1973–74 and 1974–75. In addition to the major programme, my right hon. Friend has recently increased the authority's minor works programme for 1973–74 by £50,000 to meet local shortages of primary school places.

3. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has to increase the money available for new school building.

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

Since June 1970 the existing primary and secondary school building programmes up to 1974–75 in England and Wales which has been planned by the last Government have been increased by about £160 million. I have also announced new programmes of £30 million for nursery education in 1974–76 and £20 million for secondary improvements in 1975–77.

Mr. Dormand

In spite of what the right hon. Lady has said, may I ask whether she is aware that there is an immediate need for additional moneys by some local education authorities, including my own, Durham County Council, because of their inability to meet the cost limits set by the Department? It is no exaggeration to say that in some parts of the North East the position is becoming critical. Will the right hon. Lady be a bit more generous in her special allocation, which I know she makes from time to time, and look at the matter as one of urgency?

Mrs. Thatcher

With respect, there is a specific Question about cost limits later on the Order Paper. It would perhaps be best and most courteous if I left the reply until then.

Mr. Hattersley

Despite the answer which my hon. Friend received to his Question, will the Secretary of State confirm that the public expenditure White Paper, unlike the White Paper “Education: A Framework for Expansion” , makes it very clear that over the next four years the capital available for school building will be reduced by 22 per cent?

[column 1117]

Mrs. Thatcher

The public expenditure White Paper was drafted in conjunction with the “framework” White Paper. There is a reduction in the amount of money allocated to the basic needs programme. This occurs because the number of children coming into the education ambit is reduced.

University Places

2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will initiate an inquiry into the fall in the demand for university places.

Mrs. Thatcher

The number of home candidates who applied for admission to university through the Universities Central Council on Admissions fell by less than I per cent., from about 115,000 in 1971 to about 114,000, in 1972. I see no need for an inquiry.

Mr. Hamilton

That is a fairly complacent reply. Can the right hon. Lady say whether there has been a downward trend in any other year within the last 10 years or so, and how does this compare with the projections made by the Robbins Committee a few years ago? Does not the right hon. Lady agree that the situation is very disturbing?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are discussing the number of candidates who apply for admission to universities. We do not keep extensive statistics on those candidates, but we keep statistics of the number of entrants and this information will be determined later in the year.

Mr. Marten

In view of all the public money spent on this subject, does not my right hon. Friend think that the work of universities should now perhaps be a little more geared to the needs of the nation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the work of the universities is geared to the needs of the nation, but I am not certain that the nation has always taken up and made the best use of some of the research work carried out in the universities. There is no denying that some of the best research work the world over is done in our universities.

Mr. Moyle

Does the Secretary of State agree that one factor that dis[column 1118]courages people from applying for entry to universities is that there is a rising parental contribution which is not always met, and that the system favours the students from well-off families at the expense of those from less-well-off families?

Mrs. Thatcher

Not necessarily. I think the greatest objections tend to come from, if I may use the phrase, middle-class homes where the parents feel that they cannot meet the contribution and the students perhaps feel that they should. That perhaps is where the greatest hardship occurs.

Teachers' Housing (Bedfordshire)

4. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of the rising school population of Bedfordshire, due to the Government's policy on London overspill, she will make additional grants to the county council to assist with the housing of teachers.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Local housing authorities are free to build houses to meet the needs of their area. The arrangements for grant are made by the Housing Finance Act 1972. This does not provide for specific grants for housing of teachers.

Mr. Madel

In view of that reply, may I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that a rise in population such as we have seen in Bedfordshire means that there is an increase in education problems? May I have his assurance that he will keep in very close touch with the Bedfordshire Education Authority to make sure that these education problems are overcome?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, my hon. Friend may have that assurance. I am concerned about this problem, as my hon. Friend knows by the correspondence which we have been having. Apart from the ability of local authorities to provide council houses for accommodation for teachers, local education authorities have adequate powers to build or buy houses to mortgage or to lease to teachers. This is entirely a matter for the local authorities. The Bedfordshire Education Authority has a very good record in this respect. I understand that it will extend its efforts to provide accommodation for married and single teachers. I hope that [column 1119]other authorities will follow this excellent example.

Mr. Freeson

In view of that reply, will the hon. Gentleman indicate to the House the amount of loan sanction that the Department has given to local education authorities in the past 12 months to provide housing along the lines he has suggested?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I should be glad to provide the hon. Gentleman with the information he has requested.

Secondary Education

(Capital Expenditure)

5. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much capital expenditure on secondary education is provided for in her White Paper; and what proportion of this will be spent in the West Midlands.

Mrs. Thatcher

The school building programmes for 1975–76 and 1976–77 will each be increased by £10 million for secondary school improvements in England and Wales. The allocation of these extra resources is under consideration.

Mrs. Short

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, when he was in the Midlands before Christmas, said that the West Midlands would get the lion's share of that allocation of money? He obviously was talking off the top of his head again.

May I draw the right hon. Lady's attention to the fact that the West Midlands, and Wolverhampton in particular, is an educational priority area which has been denied any secondary school building capital investment since the right hon. Lady's Government took office? Therefore, there is a great deal of leeway to make up in replacing old secondary school buildings, Will the right hon. Lady see that her colleague's promise is carried out? We would be very grateful.

Mrs. Thatcher

Perhaps I might give an assurance that the West Midlands will gets its due and fair share of the moneys available.

Mr. Montgomery

May I add my plea to my right hon. Friend that the West Midlands should get its fair share for secondary school rebuilding? Will she underline to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-West (Mrs. Renée [column 1120]Short) that this is in addition to the biggest primary school replacement programme of all time?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It does, of course, come on top on an allocation of £50 million each year for the replacement of primary schools.

Mr. Hattersley

How many secondary schools does the right hon. Lady think £10 million will buy, and how many secondary schools need to be replaced? How does she relate those two figures with her announcement just now about a cut in the primary programme?

Mrs. Thatcher

We know of about 300 secondary schools that date from the last century. There are more if one takes into account the numbers that have quite an amount of temporary accommodation. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the programme of £10 million compares very well with the last two secondary school improvement programmes which were left to me, one of which, upgraded to current values, would be £2.9 million a year and the other £2.3 million.

Mr. Spearing

Is the right hon. Lady aware that just before Christmas her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that London would get one rebuilding project in two years costing less than £1 million if it was lucky? Does she think that that allocation is very small relative to the need for the rebuilding of nineteenth century schools to which she has referred and other Government expenditure of a very high order not very far from where we are sitting?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is smaller than I would wish. It is the start of a rising programme. It is very much better than the last two programmes of the last Labour Government. It is up by almost four or five times.

Offshore Engineering

6. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her policy with regard to the proposals of the International Management and Engineering Group relating to higher education.

Mrs. Thatcher

The proposals are being examined by my Department in consultation with the Department of Trade [column 1121]and Industry to determine what contribution education should make to meeting the requirements of the industries concerned.

Mr. Douglas

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. Is she aware of the imperative need, as expressed by the IMEG Report, to facilitate the expansion of offshore engineering education in our universities? Will she pay particular attention to establishing such institutions or supporting such institutions as the Heriot-Watt University where we already have an institution of offshore engineering which, in my view, is inadequately financed?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman has previously made that point about the Heriot-Watt in other ways. I think that we need first to determine whether there is an extra need for specialist courses over and above those needs which are already being met. Once we have done that we will certainly do our best to help.

Mr. Laurance Reed

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind in these deliberations that in America the Federal Government now spends up to 6 million dollars a year in this direction and that many of us feel that our Government will have to make a comparable effort if the nation is to reap the full rewards from this exciting development?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We have one specialist course in this sphere. We are looking to see whether there is a demand for more. I assure my hon. Friend that I am most anxious that the university system should respond to the needs of industry and commerce and be seen to be meeting those needs.

Lanchester Polytechnic, Rugby

9. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has received any recent communication from Coventry City Council about the future of the Rugby site of Lanchester Polytechnic.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, Sir.

Mr. Price

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the promises given by previous Ministers, Coventry City Council is determined to do away with the Rugby site of the polytechnic? Is he [column 1122]prepared to stand by and authorise the sort of bare-faced robbery that would have brought a blush to the cheeks of Lady Godiva, or will he order a full inquiry into this sordid and miserable affair?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I must leave Lady Godiva to look after herself. I am aware that the proposals for the development of the polytechnic on the Coventry site and the future of the disposition of the Rugby premises have been agreed by the governors, by the joint education committee, by the Coventry City Council and by the Warwickshire County Council. Whatever the merits of these proposals, they do not require the formal approval of the Secretary of State.

New Schools (Cost Limits)

10. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now raise the cost limits imposed on local authorities in order that they can maintain standards in planning for new schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware that a number of authorities are facing cost difficulties and that the recent wage award in the building industry will influence school building costs. I am keeping cost limits under review.

Mr. Duffy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in the West Riding of Yorkshire some 48 schools due to be built in the coming year will be hit by inflation with the result that some may not even get off the ground? Is she aware, further, that tenders for school projects already are running £30,000 above her Department's cost limits and that unless she raises them soon local authorities will have to choose between building substandard schools or none at all?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are familiar with this kind of problem which happens when cost limits appear not to be wholly adequate and are not raised as often as hon. Members would wish. We are following the same procedure as is customary—that is, being specially understanding about any abnormal costs which have to be met.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is not an abnormal situation any longer and that it is now normal [column 1123]throughout the country? Is she aware, further, that a number of builders put in tenders knowing that they do not want the jobs in question? The difference between the tender price and the cost limits is such that school building is being held up. This is very urgent. Will the right hon. Lady please do something about it?

Mrs. Thatcher

Despite the hon. Gentleman's fears, I believe that we shall achieve our school building starts programme this year.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

What is the use of having rigid cost limits when the cost of living is rising and rising? Why not gear the cost limits to the cost of living so that they can rise pari passu?

Mrs. Thatcher

Because the cost of living index is not the best one in this case. The cost limits went up by 15 per cent. in April of last year, by 13 per cent. in April of the previous year and by 10 per cent. the April before that. On the whole the Department has not been slow to respond to the rising costs of building.

Medical Students

11. Dr. Stuttaford

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many medical students attended universities in 1972; and how this compares with the number in 1967.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In the academic year 1967–68 there were 12,600 under-graduate medical students in Great Britain. The exact number in 1972–73 is not yet known but is estimated to be 15,100.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my hon. Friend agree that as well as maintaining numbers it is also important to maintain quality and that when assessing quality it is just as important to have a personality assessment as it is to have an academic assessment, because the general practitioner service depends more upon dedicated service than upon high academic standards?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that personality qualifications are equally as important as academic qualifications. We hope to have both in the new schools being developed at Southampton and Leicester. We hope that high standards in both spheres will be maintained.

[column 1124]

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many women medical students attended universities in the two years in question? Can the hon. Gentleman also state why we seem to be so much against women becoming doctors in this country?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I should be glad to provide the figures for the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps it would be safer to do so after tomorrow.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Will my hon. Friend not only provide the figures but look into the fact that medical training is very much less available to women than to men and that that has been the case for years? Would it not be a good step for the present Government to see that that is no longer true and that women have the same chance as men?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If it were a fact, I should be prepared to look into it.

Mr. James Johnson

The hon. Gentleman referred just now to the new schools at Southampton and Leicester. Will he confirm that the city of Kingston upon Hull has staked a claim for a medical school in view of the fact that once we get over the Humber we shall have a catchment area of a million or more population? Can the hon. Gentleman say where we stand as regards having a medical school at our university?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in the subject but I am afraid that I can give him no undertaking that a new medical school will be started in that area. Our estimates are based on the need for doctors in the near future. We estimate that, with the two medical schools which have been planned and the expansion of existing schools, the need for doctors will be met fully.

Youth and Community Work

13. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will give her estimate of manpower targets for full time youth and community work posts for 1973–75; and what are the estimates of filling such posts.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Local education authority returns giving the relevant figures for 1973 will not be available until March.

[column 1125]

Mr. Bidwell

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is grave anxiety amongst those engaged in youth and community work about being able to fulfil manpower needs for the future? Does he agree that youth and community work is a vital aspect of education work, and will he undertake to look at this matter very seriously?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that this is a most vital sphere of the education service. It is the responsibility of my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State. We are training more workers. About 160 youth service workers qualify each year on two-year full-time courses. In addition about 200 qualified teachers, graduates and others with relevant experience currently enter the profession in the course of a year.

School Transport

14. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has yet received the report of her departmental committee investigating problems associated with school transport; and if she will make a statement.

16. Mr. Redmond

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a statement on the findings of her Department's working party on the subject of school transport.

34. Mr. Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to receive the report of the working party on school transport; and if she will make a statement.

36. Sir Robin Turton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to receive the report of the working party on school transport.

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not expect to receive the report of the working party on school transport for some time. When I receive the report I shall consider its findings and make a statement.

Mr. Hicks

May I impress upon my right hon. Friend the urgency of this situation? Is she aware that in rural areas such as Cornwall there is a widespread feeling that the present stipulations are outdated in the context of the situation and present-day needs?

[column 1126]

Mrs. Thatcher

I constantly draw the attention of the working party to what hon. Members say during Question Time. But I stress that the working party has a substantial task

“to review the present arrangements, including the existing law affecting the provision of school transport, and to report on changes which may be needed”
, and this will take some time. In the case of Cornwall the chief education officer is a member of the working party, so Cornwall 's interests should be looked after properly.

Dr. Marshall

Will the right hon. Lady draw the attention of the working party to the need to amend Section 55(2) of the Education Act 1944 to require local education authorities to give financial assistance to special school buses which have been provided as a result of the efforts of parents and teachers, as is the case at Old Goole in my constituency?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is one of the provisions in the terms of reference of the working party.

Mr. Redmond

Will my right hon. Friend take it that this is not just a matter for rural areas but is a very serious and confusing problem in close-knit boroughs such as Bolton? Has my right hon. Friend seen the reply sent to me by her noble Friend the Under-Secretary concerning a letter which I received from a constituent whose son had had his bus fare “pinched” in the school changing room? Was not the reply merely passing the buck to the local authority?

Mrs. Thatcher

I also know about the needs of places such as Bolton. But I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the assistant chief education officer for Lancashire is also on the working party.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the right hon. Lady agree that with the closure of rural schools many young children, especially primary schoolchildren, may have to travel very much greater distances to school than they did in the past? Prior to receiving the report which the right hon. Lady awaits, will she bear in mind that it is very important too that the buses in which the children travel should be modern and comfortable? What instructions or advice is the right hon. Lady issuing on this point to local authorities?

[column 1127]

Mrs. Thatcher

None on that point. However, all these matters are properly within the terms of reference of the working party. Children who travel longer distances are likely to have their fares paid because those are covered. It is some of the shorter distances which can be along dangerous roads that cause the problem.

Mr. Grylls

Is Surrey's education officer on the working party? If not, why not? On a more serious note, may I ask my right hon. Friend to consider cases in which transport is not provided but children have to cross busy roads which often lead to motorways, causing great danger? Does she agree that this is a matter which the working party should look into?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am afraid that I cannot please my hon. Friend as well. Surrey's education officer is not a member of the working party. What is more, looking through the list of representatives on it, I cannot even get anywhere near Surrey.

Professional Standards and Qualifications

15. Mr. Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will resist proposals by the EEC for regulating professional standards and qualifications in the United Kingdom.

25. Mr. Body

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps the Government intend to take to resist proposals by the EEC for regulating professional standards and qualifications in the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Thatcher

Our attitude towards specific EEC proposals in this field will be determined after full consultation with the United Kingdom interests which would be affected.

Mr. Jay

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a great deal of concern has been expressed about this matter, notably by Lord Bowden of Manchester University? Will she undertake not merely to consult but to be guided by the professional bodies concerned before giving way to these damaging proposals?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes. I have read Lord Bowden 's speech. Indeed, I was at the same conference. I assure the right hon. [column 1128]Gentleman that we are in full consultation with the particular United Kingdom interests, which would include the professional bodies, as the question of recognition of each qualification comes up.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Scotland there is great concern that harmonising with the EEC might result in the harmonising of standards between Scotland and England? Bearing in mind that traditionally Scotland has had graduate secondary school teachers, which we regard as very important, may I ask my right hon. Friend to assure us that she will take fully into account the interests of Scotland before any move is made?

Mrs. Thatcher

It would be difficult in this House not to take the interests of Scotland fully into account. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we in England are tagging after Scotland in aiming at a fully graduate teaching profession.

Mr. Moyle

Will the right hon. Lady take the matter further and undertake that the British Government will have nothing to do with the standardising of professional qualifications on the basis of hours of instruction?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that what I have said is correct. We are looking at each directive as it somes up, making our full contribution to it and consulting each of the professional interests. I cannot go further than that.

School Counselling and Careers Guidance

17. Mr. Roderick

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the time of a school counsellor is taken up in careers education and guidance.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Department does not collect this information.

Mr. Roderick

Does the Under-Secretary recognise that the answer which his right hon. Friend gave to me on 29th January could be misleading since people would imagine schools counselling to be careers guidance in education? Will he make a statement indicating that there should be two separate services? Further, [column 1129]will he take steps to set up an inquiry to consider the extent of a counselling service and the need to have a full-time department in each school doing this work?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This is a very important sphere of the education service. There is a gradually growing acceptance that this subject should have an identifiable place in the academic curriculum. Meanwhile the number of full-time qualified counsellors is small, but a number of these will have attended in-service courses of short duration or longer courses lasting a year. Whilst specialist teachers are required, this subject should not be considered as being confined only to specialist teachers.

Mr. Cormack

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is of paramount importance that every secondary school should have a careers master who devotes much of his time to this subject and that by 1974 or 1975 every school should have virtually full-time careers guidance?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As I said, this is an extremely important part of the education service. Most schools already have a part-time staff member who has special responsibilities in this sphere.

Mrs. Renée Short

That is not true.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, it is true. We are advancing towards a position where there will be more teachers employed full-time in this sphere.

Sixth Form Conferences

18. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science on how many occasions Ministers from her Department have spoken at sixth form conferences during the last six months.

Mrs. Thatcher

Ministers accepted the invitations to speak in their personal capacities on five occasions in all. My Department was in no way concerned in the arrangements.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the objection that many of us have to the recent series of conferences organised by the Conservative Central Office, in which at least one of her Ministers participated, was not to what was said at the meetings but to the [column 1130]way that head teachers and local education authorities were deceived about the true nature of the conferences? Would it not be better if in future such conferences were organised by teachers, not by political parties?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not responsible for the organisation of conferences by any political party. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has no complaint about the speeches made by Ministers.

Mr. John Wells

Is it not about time that the natural Socialist bias of the teaching profession was overcome?

Mr. Lipton

rose——

Mr. Wells

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did not my right hon. Friend hear my question?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter of order for me.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry. I heard the first four or five words of my hon. Friend's question and the rest disappeared into oblivion.

Mr. Lipton

Has the Secretary of State——

Mr. Wells

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not a matter of order whether the Minister hears a question or answers it.

Mr. Lipton

Has the Secretary of State received any applications from convents about the services of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas)?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am happy to report that Norman St. John-Stevasmy hon. Friend is in great demand everywhere.

23. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will send a circular to local authorities about the question of holding conferences for sixth formers organised by political parties during school hours.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir.

Mr. Lyons

Is not the crux of the issue that conferences are being organised in school time, as is the one due to take place in Bradford? Is it not the responsibility of the right hon. Lady that headmasters are expected to release boys and girls from school to attend conferences, [column 1131]and should not conferences of this sort be organised outside school hours and preferably by the schools themselves?

Mrs. Thatcher

This House has given me no specific powers over secular instruction. Indeed, the history of British education has been to keep Ministers out of control of curricular matters and to put that control with either local education authorities or governors, who usually delegate it to the head teachers. I believe that they are the best judges in these circumstances.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reason for the coming sixth form conference in Bradford is that the headmasters of the schools involved, after having been asked whether they would like to withdraw, have insisted that the sixth form conference would be of benefit to their children and want the children to go?

Mrs. Thatcher

I was not aware of that, but I stress that I am happy to leave the judgment of these matters to the head teachers.

Mr. Heffer

Are not my hon. Friends wrong in objecting to members of the Conservative Party attending these conferences? I have seen youngsters appearing on television following such conferences and they are totally disenchanted with the Tories and will obviously never vote Tory because the Tory speakers at the conferences were so totally boring and useless.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's implied request that there should be a conference in every area will have been noted by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer).

Mr. John Wells

Is it not about time that the natural Socialist inclination of the majority of the teaching profession was overcome?

Mrs. Thatcher

Whatever teachers' personal political views are, they have a duty, which I believe they discharge, to teach impartially.

Industrial Relations and Trade Union Studies

19. Mr. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will approve the establish[column 1132]ment at polytechnics of courses leading to Council for National Academic Awards post-graduate diplomas in industrial relations and trade union studies separate from management courses.

Mrs. Thatcher

Proposals for new courses are considered on their merits, but I must have regard to existing provision.

Mr. Golding

Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is most important that courses in trade union studies should remain in the social studies departments of polytechnics? Is she further aware that it is important that courses in trade union studies should not be put into management departments and treated as subsidiary sections in those departments?

Mrs. Thatcher

One of the problems is that, while a large body of opinion may now accept that those studies should be separate from management studies, many people hold the view that they should be an integral part of management studies.

School Uniforms

20. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of Station for Education and Science what has been the percentage increase in grants for school uniforms since 1970.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This information is not available in the Department. The grants are made at the discretion of local education authorities.

Mr. Carter

Is not the hon. Gentleman being rather shy about these figures? Does he agree that the figure for school uniform grants is now almost equal to that for free school meals? The figures, which are now running at historic levels, graphically illustrate the appalling priority of the Government's social and economic policies. Does the Under-Secretary agree that under the present Government more families than ever before are unable to provide for the basic needs of their children?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That statement is neither factual nor, more important, does it arise from the Question. There is no question of being shy about the figures. Local authorities have no obligation to submit schemes to the Department about their provision of school uniforms. As far as we can tell, grants are in the region of £12 to £15.

[column 1133]

Expenditure

21. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total cost of educational services provided from public funds in the last financial year; and what proportion of this amount was carried by local authority rates and by the Exchequer, respectively.

Mrs. Thatcher

£2,646 million on education in England and Wales and on universities in Great Britain. Of this total local authorities spent £2,232 million and of this sum 45 per cent. was borne by rates and 55 per cent. by the Exchequer.

Mr. Jessel

In view of the burden of rates upon households, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, from the point of view of her Department, she would see any objection to a larger proportion of the costs still being borne by the Exchequer and less by the rates?

Mrs. Thatcher

The proportion of the rate support grant has recently been increased with the very object of reducing the burden on the rates, and the contribution from the Exchequer has gone up steadily over the last few years.

Mr. Marks

Is the right hon. Lady aware that with the proposed monitoring of rates by the Department of the Environment there are dangers to the education service if authorities are asked to cut their rates? The dangers are in repairs to buildings, equipment and staffing. What part is the Department playing in this monitoring of rates and what steps is the right hon. Lady taking to see that the education service does not suffer?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that I have taken great steps to see that the education service gets an increasing proportion of what is going. I think that it will continue to do very well from local expenditure. We will watch the point that the hon. Gentleman has made.

Secondary Education (Reorganisation Schemes)

26. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the maximum period of transition she has permitted in a scheme to phase out [column 1134]separatist secondary education in favour of a comprehensive system of secondary education.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no powers to prescribe time limits within which statutory proposals approved under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944, as amended, must be implemented.

Mr. Spearing

I thank the right hon. Lady for that information. Will she confirm that any application for a change which extends over a period of, say, 10 years will not be turned down purely on the ground of the length of time it takes to initiate? Does she agree that that is not necessarily a matter on which she should turn down a scheme which may come to her at any time?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the whole we have not been asked to give approval to schemes taking that length of time. What usually arises is the other way round, at what point of time approval lapses if no steps are taken to implement it, and that would be a matter for the courts.

Frank Holland Collection

27. Mr. Faulds

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will support the setting up of a Piano Museum from the collection of Frank Holland in David Salomon's House, Tunbridge Wells.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My noble Friend has no powers directly to assist the establishment of this museum. He has been in touch with the museum and indicated from what sources financial help might be sought. The museum would be free to apply to the Victoria and Albert Museum for assistance in purchases. The grant-in-aid for this purpose will, subject to parliamentary approval, be increased from £150,000 to £400,000 in 1973–4.

Mr. Faulds

May I simply thank the Under-Secretary of State for that typically helpful reply.

Rickets

28. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take immediate steps to restore free school milk in the light of the evidence of the return of the disease of rickets.

[column 1135]

29. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make arrangements for the free distribution of milk and vitamin D tablets to children of school age in the light of new evidence of an increase in rickets.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. Recent reports on the increase in the incidence of rickets are being considered by a panel of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy and it is too early to say what action may be needed.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the report in The Times that there is now virtually an epidemic of a new form of rickets, biochemical rickets, which could be affecting 100,000, and that about 20 per cent. of the schoolchildren tested recently were found to have symptoms of rickets? Is it not time that she reversed her policy on school milk and made up for the mistake the Labour Government made on the same subject?

Mrs. Thatcher

The only evidence I have has been submitted to the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy. That was the evidence of the Birmingham trials which involved about 600 children between 14 and 17. Of these children, 133 were examined radiologically and 24 displayed radiological evidence of rickets. All 24 were immigrant children; 17 were boys—12 Asian and five West Indian—and the seven girls were Asian. With respect, I think that this is a much more complex matter than the Press reports have given us to understand.

Mr. Montgomery

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to an article which appeared in the Birmingham Evening Mail on 12th February by Dr. Trevor Cooke, a nutrition expert at the Birmingham General Hospital, in which he said that rickets will always be with us and advocated the remedy of dollops of cod liver oil? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite who complain about school milk being withdrawn recommending cod liver oil as a better substitute?

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand that the remedy appears to be a greater supply of vitamin D and that milk is not a rich source of this vitamin.