Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Mar 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 [852/1087-1106]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7051
Themes: Autobiography (marriage & children), Education, Primary education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Social security & welfare, Trade unions
[column 1087]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Special Schools (Staffing Ratios)

1. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she proposes to issue her circular on staffing ratios in special schools.

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

The circular was issued on 6th March. I arranged for a copy to be sent to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jones

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. I regret that it took two years to prepare the circular. Will she guarantee that the money for these improved ratios will be available for the coming financial year? May we have a detailed supplementary circular about the staffing in hospital schools? For example, what guarantees can the Secretary of State give that young handicapped children will get the good nursery education they deserve?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman has put three supplementary questions. The new ratios are dealt with in paragraph 29 of the circular, which says that the new standards required

“… might call for an addition of about 2,000 to the teaching force in special schools … it is envisaged that the build up will be gradual. An appropriate target for 31 March 1975 might be about 1,000 extra teachers drawing the special schools addition, building up thereafter to reach the standards envisaged.”

It will take a little time.

The hon. Gentleman's second point about hospital schools is dealt with in paragraph 28, where it is stressed that another circular is in preparation. [column 1088]

Thirdly, we shall give special attention in the other nursery schools circular to the needs of handicapped children together with deprived children by considering projects which local authorities put forward for the early stages of the programme.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is not the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) putting the cart slightly before the horse? More important than staffing ratios is the provision of sufficient numbers of schools so that all people who qualify for admission will get places. I think my right hon. Friend will agree that that has not yet been achieved.

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a waiting list. Many years ago there was a waiting list of about 14,000 for education in special schools. In spite of heavy building programmes, the waiting list remains about the same. It is this kind of consideration which led me to step up once again the capital provision in the White Paper for special schools, and I think that has been widely welcomed.

Mr. Dormand

In spite of that, is the right hon. Lady aware that not only staffing but all aspects of special education are so serious that no less than a full-scale Plowden type inquiry into special education is warranted? Does she agree that the several unconnected investigations which are presently taking place into special education do not add up to a meaningful whole? Why is the Secretary of State so afraid to institute a major inquiry?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that I have a standing advisory committee on this matter, which was set up towards the end of the life of the last Government. It does valuable work and it gives me advice. We have accepted its recommendations on a research programme for maladjusted children. That source of advice together with the special reports and other information which I have from the inspectorate and the increased provision which has been made, are, I believe, better than any large inquiry.

Miss Fookes

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations for the very generous staffing ratios and for the sympathetic way in which the varying handicaps are considered?

[column 1089]

Mrs. Thatcher

I am happy to do so. I agree that the staffing ratios in the circular show how much we appreciate the real needs of these children and how we are prepared to vary the teaching group according to the handicap of the child. Some of the groups will be as small as six. Sometimes, when blind children are being taught, the teaching group will be two or three.

Teachers (In-Service Training)

2. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her estimate of the period of time, after the introduction of the release of teachers for in-service training in the 1974–75 school year, before every teacher who has completed seven years' teaching will have had one term's in-service training.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not possible to give such an estimate, as it is not intended that in-service training shall be compulsory, although teachers will be strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the greatly increased opportunities for release which will be provided.

Mr. Chapman

I appreciate the magnitude of my right hon. Friend's proposals, which were mentioned in her speech in this House on 19th February, about in-service training whereby, for example, by 1981 at any one time 3 per cent. of teachers will be on in-service courses. Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of giving priority, where special courses are deemed necessary, to teachers in areas of high immigrant concentration?

Mrs. Thatcher

I accept my hon. Friend's figures. About 3 per cent. of teachers should be released on secondment by 1981. We hope that the first substantial expansion will come in 1974–75. The determination of priorities, such as the important priority to which my hon. Friend refers, will be one of the matters for negotiation which in the White Paper we suggest should take place between the teachers' associations and the local authorities once the programme is under way. Judging by the representations which I have had from teachers about teaching in areas of this kind, I believe that they will be the first to ask for courses for this kind of work.

[column 1090]

Student Grants

3. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many letters and petitions she has received seeking an increase in students' grants.

17. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations she has received calling for an increase in student grants; what action she now proposes in the matter; and if she will make a statement.

25. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, as a result of her meeting with the National Union of Students on 1st March, she will undertake a review of student maintenance grants; and if she will make a statement.

26. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further consideration she has given to a general increase in student grants.

35. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on her discussions with the National Union of Students concerning the future level of student grants and the provision of better facilities for centres of higher education other than universities.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have received representations from a number of organisations and individuals amounting to about 600 in all. My hon. Friend Norman St. John-Stevasthe Under-Secretary has had meetings with the Vice Chancellors' Committee and the National Union of Students. I am now considering these representations. I have had no discussions with the National Union of Students about facilities in higher education outside the universities.

Mr. Allaun

Does the Secretary of State accept that the cost of living has risen as fast for students as for anybody else and that they claim they need an extra £65 a year to keep pace with that increase? When will she reply to their proposals which were made to her last October—five months ago?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not necessarily accept their figures. The increase in student grants in 1970–71 was 13.2 per [column 1091]cent. During the next year the increase was 3.5 per cent. Students will be getting an increase in September, the third year of the triennium, of a further 4½ per cent. which amounts to £20.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Has my right hon. Friend received a recommendation, unanimously passed by the Conservative National Advisory Committee on Education, urging that action should be taken in this matter? For example, will it be possible soon to raise the threshold above which parents have to make a contribution?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have received that memorandum. The committee has taken a great deal of trouble with it. That was one of the main points that were made. We raised the minimum threshold in the last triennium. I agree that this is one of the most important points and we shall be considering it with the other representations.

Mr. Steel

Surely the right hon. Lady accepts the validity of the figures that her own Department gave to the House on 8th February showing that for students in halls of residence the equivalent grant to keep pace with spending power ought to be £532, not £445. How does she propose to deal with the £87 shortage?

Mrs. Thatcher

We do not deal separately with grants for students in halls of residence, and never have done. They are part of the grants system for students living away from home. Those living in halls of residence represent a minority of students. Part of the problem is looking at the facilities in halls of residence. The UGC is to survey that matter. I accept, if it is of any help to the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friends, that the value of the student grant has fallen slightly—perhaps a little more than slightly—because of inflation. However, I should point out that the increases were substantially cut in 1968.

Mr. Kilfedder

As the majority of students are over 18 years of age and as such are regarded in law as of full adult status, is it not inconsistent to expect their parents to make a contribution towards their upkeep? Are not many hard-pressed students suffering hardship because their parents are unable or, in some cases, unwilling to make the payments which bring the basic scholarship up to the standard level?

[column 1092]

Mrs. Thatcher

The age of majority has never been critical in determining the amount of parental contribution. The critical age has been 25, not 21, so a change in the age of majority from 21 to 18 has no significance in the system of grants that we now operate. To abolish the parental contribution completely would cost about £40 million a year on the existing rate of grants to the present number of students. Of course, the amount would go up year by year. If I had £40 million extra to spend I should not put the whole of it into this particular area.

Mr. Cronin

Despite what the right hon. lady says, the vast majority of students are now suffering serious financial hardship as a result of runaway inflation. Is it not essential that something be done long before the end of the present triennium? Will she also bear in mind the importance of standardising discretionary grants as far possible and putting an end to the absurd anomaly of married women students being treated so unfairly?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a later Question on the Order Paper about discretionary grants. I cannot accept that all students are suffering serious financial hardship. I again point out that students had an increase of 13.2 per cent. in 1970–71 followed by 3.5 per cent. last year, and they are to get another 4.5 per cent this year. I admit that they have fallen a little behind due to inflation, but so have many other groups of people who have demands to make upon the taxpayer.

Mr. Kellett-Bowman

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity in her busy life of reading the report of the Federation of Conservative Students, sent to her by the Lancaster University Conservative Association, in which, among other things, attention is drawn to the problems in the long vacation faced by students who are not aware of the support that is available to them? There are many who are aware of this assistance and grab with both hands, but many worthy students are not so aware. It would be of great assistance if my right hon. Friend would issue some advice in this regard.

Mrs. Thatcher

Apart from the element in the grant for help in the vacation, [column 1093]other matters would be for my right hon. Friend Sir K. Josephthe Secretary of State for Social Services, and I believe that he has had Questions put to him on this matter. I know from personal experience in my family that a number of students get jobs in the vacation and that this does both them and their pockets good.

Mr. Moyle

Does the right hon. Lady agree that as well as the Conservative National Advisory Committee on Education supporting the NUS, the Association of Local Education Committees and the vice-chancellors and principals of universities have called for a review of student grants? Does it not leave the Government in an isolated position if they intend to carry on with their hard line? The crucial fact is not that students are among a number of large groups affected by inflation but that their margins are so much narrower than those of many other groups. Is it not time that the Government took action?

Mrs. Thatcher

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the line I have taken is nothing like as hard as that taken by the Labour Government in 1968 when they halved the recommended increases. The hon. Gentleman knows this and does not like my mentioning it. A number of other groups are affected by inflation, many of them a lot older than the students who are a good deal younger and perhaps more able to help themselves than some of the older members of our society.

4. Mr. Horam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the income level above which a university student's grant becomes less than 100 per cent.

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

For a student who is following a first degree or comparable course, and who is not treated as independent, a parental contribution towards maintenance is payable when the parent's annual income, after allowing certain deductions, is £1,100 or more.

Mr. Horam

That is an absolutely scandalous figure. How can people on £1,100 a year, considering what they must cope with as regards other price rises, be expected to contribute towards a [column 1094]student son or daughter? Is it not scandalous that many alert middle-class parents exploit the situation and do not begin making contributions until the income level of £2,500 or thereabouts while ordinary working-class families must begin at this appallingly low level?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that £1,100 is a residual income figure which is reached after certain deductions have been allowed for dependent children, interest payments insurance policy premiums and school fees. Therefore, the threshold is higher than he indicated. Nevertheless I agree that, as a result of inflation, parents are carrying a greater share of the total cost of student support than hitherto. How ever, as money incomes increase we can expect the parental contribution to increase, and there may not be much difference if we look at the contribution as a percentage of the parents' income. It is clear that we need to look carefully at the effect of inflation on the parental contribution scale and, as my right hon. Friend has said, she will shortly be reviewing the whole position.

Mr. Wilkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for that indication of hope for the children of parents who have to make these contributions. May I particularly direct his attention to the position of married women students who are assessed on the same parental contribution basis as single students?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am well aware of the anomalous position of certain categories of married women students—those who live at home with their husband and are not subject to particular exemptions. As I have said from the Dispatch Box before, I am more than prepared to look at this position again when the review of the next triennium starts.

Mr. Freeson

Will the hon. Gentleman when he is undertaking or continuing the review, take note of the fact that whereas owner-occupiers may apply to have their mortgage payments taken into account when establishing their income levels for purposes of grant, people who rent their accommodation are not allowed to do the same with their rent payments? Is not this grossly unfair and is it not about time that this unfairness was ended?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said and I will [column 1095]certainly take that point into full consideration.

9. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will take steps to replace discretionary awards to students by local authorities by awards at a common level.

38. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will take steps to ensure that all awards paid to students in attendance at polytechnics are paid at a common level.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir, the courses covered by local education authority discretionary awards range from school level courses in local further education to degree courses involving foreign institutions and certain postgraduate courses mainly of a vocational nature. Courses in polytechnics may vary considerably from craft courses to courses of degree and postgraduate level. I agree that variations in practice among authorities, and variations in their rates of grant for similar courses are undesirable. My Department has drawn the attention of authorities to the need to reduce such variations.

Mr. McCrindle

I imagine that my right hon. Friend's attention will have been drawn to a recent survey which showed that grants of the type to which the Question refers range from £110 to £445. She will be aware, particularly in the light of the reply she has just given, of the unsatisfactory nature of this wide disparity and the friction that this might tend to create between similar classes of students who simply happen to come from different local authority areas. Will my right hon. Friend consider reinforcing her request to local authorities to see whether she can eliminate some of the unfairness that this situation reflects?

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall consider my hon. Friend's latter point. With regard to variations in grants, the reason for the variation is the great variation in courses and in students' needs. It is unlikely that we shall get exactly similar grants unless we have far fewer of them.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am grateful for what my right hon. Friend has said. Does she not agree that the purpose of the Government's policy is to give equal status to [column 1096]both sides of the binary system of higher education and that, therefore, there is no justification whatever for having a scholarship distinction between students at university and students attending polytechnics, because it introduces discrimination to put students who attend polytechnics at this sort of financial disadvantage?

Mrs. Thatcher

Many degree level awards would be mandatory unless a person had already had one particular degree level award, in which case the local authority would have a discretion whether to give another. If it exercised that discretion at degree level, it would have to be at the same amount as a university award. But I agree with my hon. Friend that we wish the polytechnics to have equal status.

Mr. Marks

Is it not largely from poor local authorities, in the sense of rateable value, that the low grants are coming, and does not this add to the handicaps of students who have fought all the other handicaps? Will the right hon. Lady establish minimum grants for these courses?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot confirm what the hon. Gentleman has said. Sometimes I find that it is from the authorities with a very high proportion of the age group going for university or polytechnic degrees that we have more problems with discretionary grants, because they have already put a lot of their resources into the mandatory awards. So I do not think that the point raised by the hon. Gentleman would necessarily bear further examination.

Nursery Education

5. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions she has had with the Inner London Education Authority regarding her proposals for the development of nursery schools as outlined in her White Paper.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have asked all local education authorities to submit by 18th May their proposals for building for nursery education in 1974–76. I have had no separate talks with ILEA or any other education authority.

Mr. Cox

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a report will be submitted tomorrow [column 1097]to the education authority at County Hall which is highly critical of her proposals? In view of that, and in view of the importance of nursery provision to London, is it not time that she sought a meeting, as a matter of urgency, and allowed ILEA to know how much money will be made available? Will she give the House and ILEA an assurance that the bias that she has shown in other aspects of London education in recent months—be it on the minor works programmes or on the London teachers' allowance—is not now to be extended to nursery provision?

Mrs. Thatcher

If there has been any bias, it has been slightly in favour of the Inner London Education Authority on the primary school improvement programme and on the formula for calculating minor works. The authority has never had as much money for replacing its old primary schools as under this Government. The hon. Gentleman is asking rather much when he asks me to let it know how much it may have before I have received all the bids from other local authorities. That could hardly be a fair basis for proceeding.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is my right hon. Friend giving guidance to local education authorities about the rôle that pre-school playgroups may play in the expansion of nursery education—guidance going beyond what is given in her White Paper?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have given some guidance, I believe, in the circular. It will take some time before we can have a full nursery programme over the country as a whole, and the pre-school playgroups have a very important part to play, not only between now and then but also in the longer term because they deal with younger groups of children and are frequently open during the vacation, when the nursery schools are not. So we have given some guidance, and we are very keen that the work of these excellent groups should continue.

Mr. Spearing

In her White Paper the right hon. Lady said that there was a possibility of nursery education being given some of the surplus space in primary schools. Can she assure us that this surplus will be defined by the teachers and the local education authority and not by her regulations about floor space, about which there is some difference of opinion?

[column 1098]

Mrs. Thatcher

What I can assure the hon. Gentleman is that, where there is space, it will be properly equipped for nursery classes to take place.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of us on this side are not anxious to overextend expenditure on nursery education but feel that it should be for special situations and not generally? The reason why we think this is that we believe that the general expenditure on education will not allow of too much expansion and that, for example, student grants can hardly be increased if we spend too much money on things like nursery education.

Mrs. Thatcher

In nursery education, I believe, we get a lot of value from a comparatively small outlay of money. The reasons why I have embarked on it are strictly educational. I think that many parents would welcome the opportunity for their children to attend nursery schools part time, either morning or afternoon, before they have to go to primary school full time. I think that it is a very good idea at last to embark on a systematic programme.

Adult Education

6. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of the education budget is now devoted to adult education compared to the figure in 1963.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This information is not available. Adult education is provided mainly in schools and college maintained by local education authorities primarily for other purposes, and the authorities do not apportion the cost of each such establishment between the different kinds of provision made within it.

Mr. Carter

That is a very disappointing reply, bearing in mind—[Interruption.] The Minister laughs, but this is a very important subject. I am aware that there is an inquiry——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

Mr. Carter

Is the Minister aware that an inquiry is at present being conducted. May I have an assurance from him that if this inquiry finds that too small a per centage is being spent on adult education [column 1099]he and his right hon. Friend will give that report most urgent consideration? Does he agree that higher education should not simply be lavished on the young but that all age groups have a justified entitlement and that, furthermore, adult students can at times put rather more back into the economy and society than younger people who might have benefited from higher education?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I was not laughing at the hon. Member's remark; I was agreeing with him and thinking what a disappointing reply it was. The difficulty is that it is simply not possible to give other than a disappointing reply, because it is the local authorities which make the main provision for adult education. In doing so they use administrative, teaching and other resources, as well as premises, which are provided primarily for school and further education purposes. The cost of adult education is inextricably bound up with the cost of the main provision because of this shared use of resources.

With regard to the second point, the Russell Committee has certainly made inquiries of local education authorities about the cost of providing adult education, but we must await the report to see what conclusions it has reached. The report has reached the Department, it is being printed and we hope to publish it as soon as possible. It is only after the report has been published and there has been full discussion of its recommendations that the hon. Gentleman would expect a firm decision to be taken.

Mr. Marten

Can my hon. Friend enlighten me? It would appear from his answer that there is a difference between adult education and the education of adults. Is that so?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Adult education is the education of adults: I am sure that my hon. Friend, being essentially a simple person, will understand that.

Mr. Paget

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that his answer shows that this aspect of education is not being taken seriously? Would he also agree that the best-educated people are mainly self-educated and that this is just the phase where education is at its most productive? Will the Minister take this subject a little more seriously?

[column 1100]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I think I have taken it very seriously. I merely made a light passing reference to a question which I took was being asked in a light vein by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). I could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman's thesis about self-education in its entirety. Some self-educated people may indeed be well educated, but I could not possibly agree that the best education is always provided through self-education.

As for the importance of adult education, I certainly agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. As a Government we have shown what importance we attach to this by appointing this important committee to make a special investigation into the future of adult education.

Deprived Areas

7. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied that sufficient additional resources are being made available to the education service in areas of great social deprivation.

Mrs. Thatcher

A start has been made on the replacement of old primary schools in deprived areas and there has been an increase in the provision of nursery education under the urban programme. The continuing improvement in national staffing standards in schools, the further expansion of nursery education and the improvement of old secondary schools, all announced in the White Paper, and the continuation of the urban programme will all bring further benefits to deprived areas.

Mr. Deakins

Is it not a fact that we are still only playing around with the problems of education and social deprivation, which are both linked? Will the Minister provide, for example, additional resources over and above those already in the urban aid programme for the next four years so that we can improve the pay of teachers in areas such as mine, in Walthamstow, where we have a very high turnover of young teachers and the effects of this are educationally damaging to children who are already suffering from social deprivation?

Mrs. Thatcher

Regarding the education contribution, we are doing a lot more than tinkering with the problem. We are making a start on nursery education. We have made a big start on primary education. We have raised the school leaving [column 1101]age. We are starting on improving the old buildings in secondary schools. We are switching our urban programme from nursery education to other sectors.

Concerning teachers in deprived areas, as the hon. Member will know there is a special increase for teachers in education priority area schools, which at the beginning certainly helped to keep more teachers in those schools for a longer period.

Mr. Wilkinson

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the good work she is doing in EPA areas, particularly in the West Riding, which I know especially well. May I also bring to her attention the fact that more needs to be done for similar areas outside the West Riding for the provision of special language tuition facilities for immigrant children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that the West Riding has had a particularly big primary school improvement programme because it had a lot of old schools. There has been some active research there, too, on how best to bring help to deprived areas.

Mr. Armstrong

Is not the real need in EPAs to persuade dedicated and able teachers to stay on and to follow their careers in those areas? Apart from that, the replacement of old buildings is nothing like enough. We need more ancillary helpers, a better staffing ratio and so on. Would the right hon. Lady consider doing a project in the north of England so that we can see exactly what is required and can direct the resources there? This is a very urgent matter indeed.

Mrs. Thatcher

There have been one or two projects in the north of England, which are referred to in Dr. Halsey's report. I have the impression that, certainly in primary schools, a number of teachers are making a point of staying longer in those schools. But we still have problems in dealing with secondary schools. Altogether, the contribution of the education service in this area is very considerable indeed.

Miss Lestor

I accept what the right hon. Lady has said about some of the moves that have been made in EPAs and I welcome them. Does she not agree [column 1102]with what the Halsey report said, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), that we are still only tinkering about with these priority areas, that what is needed is a massive expansion of resources directed towards those areas and that unless we embark upon a policy of positive discrimination we shall not meet the needs of children in socially deprived areas who are rapidly losing out on any expansion in education that is taking place?

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand what the hon. Lady is saying, but if she thinks of all the resources that have been deployed together—new nursery provision into deprived areas especially, primary provision into deprived areas especially because they have a lot of old schools, the raising of the school leaving age which applies particularly in deprived areas, and more secondary school improvements—she will realise that a quite massive increase has been going into those areas. But we cannot do it alone in the education service.

Secondary Reoganisation

(Harrow)

8. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now announce her decision regarding Harrow Council's submissions on secondary reorganisation.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This is a very complex scheme involving 72 schools. Furthermore, some 34,000 objections have been received. My right hon. Friend hopes to announce her decision by Easter.

Mr. Dykes

I appreciate that reply and the setting of a target date for the announcement. Does not my hon. Friend agree that the continued delay which is somewhat longer than many people were expecting, has caused grave difficulties for the boroughs in reaching decisions because much forward planning needs to be done for the autumn term?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot accept that there have been unjustified delay in this case. The detailed consideration of these very complex proposals required additional information from the local education authority. The Department officers also visited the authority's area [column 1103]We had to consider the 34,000 objections. My hon. Friend will agree that the most important thing is not so much a swift decision as a right decision in this case.

Resources (Allocation)

10. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the results so far achieved by policies of positive discrimination in allocating resources in education.

Mrs. Thatcher

A great deal still remains to be done but a useful start has been made. There are a number of research projects to devise and evaluate new approaches.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Minister aware that positive discrimination programmes were seen originally as massively expanding in the early 1970s in order to produce greater equality of opportunity? Why has the right hon. Lady, therefore, kept down such expenditure to a pathetically minuscule 1 per cent. or so of the educational budget, which cannot possibly seriously influence educational standards in the deprived areas and at present offers no more than a mere political shop window facade of concern about these areas?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is nonsense. What is involved in the raising of the school leaving age cannot be called petty cash in either capital or revenue expenditure. We are discussing £50 million a year on improved primary schools. That cannot be called petty cash. Nor can the nursery school programme be called petty cash. None of them was able to be undertaken by the hon. Gentleman's own Government.

Mr. Hattersley

Has the right hon. Lady thought of using her Department's resources to establish objective criteria for education priority areas to ensure that resources are allocated to areas with a general national need rather than leaving it in part to the decision of local authorities?

Mrs. Thatcher

The criteria are those for the urban programme. But they would inevitably be comparatively crude criteria, and for our nursery programme we must leave some element to local education authorities.

[column 1104]

South-East England (Teachers' Allowance)

11. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will consider introducing a South-East teacher's allowance, similar to the London allowance, similar to the London allowance, in those counties around London absorbing London overspill; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Such an allowance would be part of pay, and therefore a matter in the first place for the Burnham Committee. Separate scales for service in different parts of the country were abandoned by the Burnham Committee in 1945 and since then only a London allowance has been paid.

Mr. Madel

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider this matter since the cost of living in these counties is now at London levels? Could not the Pay Board be asked to look into the London teachers' allowance so that teachers in the South-East immediately outside London could have a better deal when stage 3 comes into effect?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with my hon. Friend that problems like increasing house prices have affected areas way beyond the London area. This factor has also entered into the other side of the balance sheet and reduced the differential between those areas and the London area. But teachers would be at liberty to ask for a case to be put to the Pay Board under stage 3 if they felt that anomalies had arisen in the period of stage 1 and stage 2. My hon. Friend's suggestion would, however, have wider repercussions than for teachers.

Mr. Atkinson

The right hon. Lady has just made a very important statement. She has changed the whole basis of the method of wage bargaining for the teaching profession. Is she now saying that the London allowance is linked in the sense that it is part of the wage structure and therefore can be referred to for some adjustment during the next period of the wage arrangements? How will this affect the Burnham Committee? Is the right hon. Lady saying that the Burnham Committee is to become redundant?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman did not listen to my answer. Such an [column 1105]allowance would be part of pay and therefore a matter in the first instance for the Burnham Committee. That stands. I went on to say that if teachers wished to ask to have a case put to the Pay Board in stage 3 they would be at liberty to do so. But in stage 2 it would be covered by the limits already announced.

Brent Teachers' Association

12. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what answer she has sent to the Brent Teachers' Association on its representations concerning the cost of housing accommodation in the London borough of Brent, and London weighting.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Department has replied that on 3rd November last the teachers rejected the offer of £133; since then any increase has been ruled out by the standstill and must now count against the stage 2 pay limit; housing costs are no doubt one reason for the high rate of turnover of teaching staff, but this is a problem not confined to Brent or, indeed, to London.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency the cost of a three-bedroom flat is £16,000, that rented accommodation does not exist and that the price of furnished accommodation is astronomical? The hon. Gentleman has referred to turnover. The turnover of teachers in the last two years makes education in one of the finest education authorities in the country virtually impossible. Will the hon. Gentleman budge from the rigid freeze position that he has adopted in London and get our schools open again?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sympathetic to the housing problems facing teachers in the London area. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are powers to get mortgages for teachers through local authorities and for local authorities to give teachers priority on their housing lists and even to build and acquire houses for teachers. I hope that local authorities will use their powers much more widely.

Mr. Spearing

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the management side of the Burnham Panel has said for its part that the London allowance should not be part of any national wage award under the [column 1106]£1 plus 4 per cent. formula? Does his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree with that interpretation? If not, will he and the right hon. Lady give their views about the matter?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The London allowance is taxable, superannuable and negotiated in the same forum as salaries and therefore has to be treated as pay. It is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact.