Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Apr 10 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 [854/1109-1129]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7465
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Autobiographical comments, Education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Energy, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (USA), Science & technology, Transport
[column 1109]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Local Government Reorganisation

1. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations she has had concerning the administration of education under the Local Government Act 1972.

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

My Department consulted the associations of local authorities and the staff interests chiefly involved before the issue of circulars Nos. 1/73 and 8/73.

Mr. Dormand

The Act contains no provisions to decentralise the administration of the education services. In those circumstances, is the right hon. Lady aware that the advisory committees, with or without an officer, that are recommended in one of the circulars she men[column 1110]tioned—circular 1/73—are utterly useless? She will get no responsible people to serve on such committees when they realise that they have no powers. By the same token the Minister might tell us what became of the extra powers that were talked about for managers and governors. The local touch in this most personal of services has been lost under the Act. What does the Secretary of State propose to do about it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to go back on an Act that has already passed through the House. I do not agree with him that people will not serve on advisory committees because they have no executive authority. We find no shortage of people to sit on them and no shortage of recommendations to set them up.

Priority Areas (Northern Region)

2. Mr. Horam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the spending on educational priority areas is in the Northern Region; and how this compares with other regions.

3. Mr. Radice

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how expenditure on education priority areas in the Northern Region compares with that in other regions.

Mrs. Thatcher

Educational priority areas have not been designated as such. The sum of £7.9 million has been approved for educational projects in England under the urban programme and £1.25 million or 16 per cent. of that total has been allocated to the Northern Region where the pupils in maintained primary and secondary schools represent 7.7 per cent. of all pupils in such schools.

With permission, I will circulate in the Official Report details of the amounts allocated to the other regions.

Mr. Horam

Does the Secretary of State agree that the total spending on positive discrimination as such nationwide cannot be more than about £10 million in a year? The Government have just given mortgage borrowers £15 million for three months. Does not that show that educational priority is a sham? When will the Minister put real resources behind the programme?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the hon. Gentleman is criticising his own Government for the smallness of their assistance. [column 1111]I have carried out precisely the urban programme for the education services in conjunction with the Home Office. As to the regional figures, the Northern Region has had a fairly big share of the available money.

Mr. Radice

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the North is an area of exceptional need, as shown by the fact that, according to recent statistics, over 50 per cent. of school leavers there left without a pass grade in any national examination? Does she realise that educational progress in the North, as elsewhere, is being held up by the unrealistic cost yardstick applied by her Department?

Mrs. Thatcher

The cost yardstick does not, I think, come under the urban programme but comes under the capital school building programme. If the hon. Gentleman looks at all the figures in the whole table, he will find that the Northern Region, in receiving 16 per cent. of the money while having only 7.7 per cent. of the pupils, did as well as, if not better than, any other region.

Mr. Hattersley

In her main answer the right hon. Lady said that educational priority areas have not been designated as such. I urge her again to consider setting objective criteria for determining such areas. How can we ever measure that the right amount of resources is going into educational priority when we do not know which areas should be helped in this way?

Mrs. Thatcher

I repeat that no educational priority areas have ever been designated, but schools of particular difficulty have been designated. There are nearly 600 such schools. It was thought that that was the best way to tackle the problem.

Following is the information:

[column 1112]

United States of America

4. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek to pay an official visit to the United States of America.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no plans to do so at present.

Mr. Douglas

That is a disappointing answer. Will the right hon. Lady get her Department to examine the relationship of United States technological universities to the petroleum industry, with particular regard to how they are using the spin-off from the space programme, linking it to underwater research and the production of petroleum?

Mrs. Thatcher

I expected that the hon. Gentleman would ask a supplementary question about the petroleum industry. The United States having had an offshore industry for a good deal longer than we have, it is not surprising that it has many more extensive facilities for education and training. We have about six universities with relevant courses and a number of further education establishments which offer relevant training.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Even if my right hon. Friend is not immediately visiting America, will she, in observing the American scene, see whether this country has anything to learn from American experience and its successes and failures in such matters as the maintenance of students in universities, the difficulties of comprehensive schools in poor neighbourhoods and the right of free education to exist alongside State education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am always willing to learn from the educational system of any country. I would add one more matter to my hon. Friend's list—the close co-operation between industry and the universities in that country. I agree with him in his list.

Mr. Faulds

If the right hon. Lady should decide to visit America, will she view British art treasures in the great American public galleries which have been bought with tax advantages to their donors? Does she accept that many more works of art of British national and historic importance are likely to leave these shores as a direct result of the fiscal [column 1113]philistinism of VAT which discriminates against native buyers?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already seen and enjoyed very much some of the treasures in the art galleries of the United States. The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend A. Barberthe Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Petroleum Engineering

5. Mr. Millan

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue a progress report on discussions between her Department, the University Grants Committee and universities concerned with implementing the recommendations of the Internal Management and Engineering Group report.

Mrs. Thatcher

My Department and the UGC are still examining with other interested Departments whether further specialist courses are required to meet the needs of the industries concerned.

Mr. Millan

There does not seem to be a great deal of urgency in that answer. Is the Minister aware that, if we are to cut back the American lead which she acknowledged in reply to the previous Question, it is extremely important that we in this country should take quick action? The IMEG report makes certain recommendations for the establishment of a working party and draws particular attention to the absence of even one chain of petroleum engineering. Will the Minister pursue all these points with urgency, because a Government lead is required?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are six universities which have chairs relevant to the petroleum industry. Courses are available in further education establishments in drilling techniques and exploration methods. Before we decide to take more action we should decide precisely what action to take, because it needs not only to be more but to be appropriate.

Mr. Marten

Is not the lack of highly-trained experts a reflection on the failure of our educational system to look forward to the country's requirements a number of years ahead? Is there not a case for manpower planning with a long forward look?

[column 1114]

Mrs. Thatcher

If manpower planning had been expert enough to tell us precisely what was required, the education services would have responded and produced the people. As it is there are six universities with chairs in subjects relevant to this industry, and we are still considering precisely what new specialist facilities are required. It is not a general “more” that we want, but particular courses in particular areas.

Mr. Moyle

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that Professor Ridell said in his report that, if the oil drilling business in the North Sea is to go to British and not to American subcontractors, we must take steps to ensure that there is an adequate body of British trained oil drilling engineers? What has the right hon. Lady done about achieving this body of personnel since the report was published? If she has not done anything, when will she be in a position to allocate Government resources and Government money and take Government action?

Mrs. Thatcher

The report was published comparatively recently, and we are considering with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Scottish Office exactly how to tackle the problem. In the meantime, from what the hon. Gentleman says one would think that nothing was taking place in British universities but there are relevant chairs in Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, University College, London, Manchester and Liverpool Universities, Imperial College and Glasgow University.

School Leaving Dates

6. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied with the arrangements for the dates during the academic year when children may leave school; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied with the present arrangements.

Mr. Madel

As there are three terms in the academic year, could not there be three leaving dates? May I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention the children whose sixteenth birthday falls in the early part of September 1973 and who have been offered a job on 1st January but cannot take it up because they cannot leave school until Easter 1974?

[column 1115]

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, there are particular hard cases which would have occurred almost wherever we had set the date for school leaving. It is a problem and very hard luck on those who fall just on the wrong side of the line. It would be unwise to return to having three school leaving dates because it would be difficult to arrange a relevant curriculum for just one term, and a great deal of the good work done by raising the school leaving age would be undone.

Deaf Children

7. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue advice to local education authorities that further education classes for the deaf to learn to lip-read need not conform to the minimum number required for other subjects; and that for the most effective results no lip-reading class should have more than eight students.

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

I do not think advice is necessary. Local education authorities can provide classes for small numbers if local circumstances permit.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although they can, they do not? The largest cities are applying arbitrary figures which do not permit the decent teaching of lip-reading. As this is a very neglected area, will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer and set up a departmental inquiry? It is a disgrace to civilisation that we are not doing more in this field.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about this subject, but in fact local education authorities are more sympathetic than perhaps he allows. In reply to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, my Department, in consultation with the Department of Health and Social Security, is working on an inquiry to find out the extent, actual or intended, of local education authority provision of classes in lip-reading. When we have this information it will be publicised by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and through other suitable channels.

London Allowance

8. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 1116]what has been the increase in the cost of living since the last increase was made in the London teachers' allowance.

Mrs. Thatcher

London allowance is not calculated on the basis of the retail price index, which has risen by 20.2 per cent. It is calculated on the differential between the cost of living in London and elsewhere, using a special index devised in 1967.

Mr. Cox

Is not the Minister aware that, however it may be calculated, there has been an extremely large increase in the cost of living since the London teachers' allowance was last increased? Against that background, the offer of £15 a year to London teachers is derisory. For how much longer are we to see teachers generally and young teachers especially leaving London schools before the Minister faces the seriousness of the problem and allows free negotiation on the merits of the London teachers' allowance?

Mrs. Thatcher

The retail price index is taken into account in the ordinary pay negotiations of the teachers as it affects the whole country. From 1st November 1970 there have been two salary awards, a 10.8 per cent. increase overall from 1st April 1971 followed by a 9.6 per cent. overall increase on 1st April 1972. The London allowance is based on the differential between the increased cost of living in London and elsewhere, and it is on that basis that the formula resulted in the £15 increase, which is in fact a 12 per cent. increase.

Mr. Grylls

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Burnham Committee to consider special allowances for teachers in the Home Counties who find the extra cost of housing difficult to bear on a teacher's salary?

Mrs. Thatcher

The extra cost in the Home Counties comes in on the other side of the equation in a reduced differential between the cost of living elsewhere and in London. It would be open to the Burnham Committee to make such a recommendation if it wished.

Mr. Stallard

Will the Secretary of State come back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) and give us an insight into her intentions about the position facing the Inner [column 1117]London Education Authority because of the difficulties of young teachers in finding accommodation in inner London at rents they can afford?

Mrs. Thatcher

Some of the London areas either provide travelling allowances or make special arrangements for the allocation of council houses for their teachers. It is a matter for them. This is a problem that concerns not only teachers but a number of other people.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Will my right hon. Friend carry out negotiations with those London boroughs like the London borough of Lewisham which are extremely unhelpful in providing housing for teachers? The position is made more difficult when they are running a campaign to reduce the number of houses for sale, even if teachers could afford to buy them.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that the London borough of Lewisham will take account of the point made by my hon. Friend and I will make certain inquiries.

Mr. Hattersley

The Secretary of State has told the House of the traditional criteria for determining teachers' salary increases. Have not the Government laid before the House an order to make sure that those traditional criteria are subsumed by their policies concerning pay increases?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. The hon. Gentleman referred to traditional criteria for pay increases. The criteria to which I think he refers in the context of the Question relate to the London allowance, and it would be a matter for the Burnham Committee, if it wished, to take those as continuing. How they are to be dealt with against the global sum is again a matter for the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Hattersley

The Secretary of State must begin to answer at least some of the questions. May I put this question to her again? Is there not an order now laid before the House in the Government's name to make sure that if the normal criteria for London or anywhere else are agreed by Burnham, that shall be overruled by the requirements of the Government's pay policy?

Mrs. Thatcher

The London allowance is part of the global sum. It would [column 1118]not be open to the Burnham Committee or any other committee to come to a total settlement in excess of the global sum.

Teaching Profession

9. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she last met a deputation from the National Union of Teachers on the subject of the future size of the teaching profession; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

On 2nd April 1973. I have nothing to add to the statement made by Norman St. John-Stevasmy hon. Friend in the debate on 4th April.

Mr. Spearing

Is the Secretary of State aware that some of the pet figures given by her hon. Friend were not available to the deputation which she saw two days previously? Is she also aware that the hon. Gentleman said that she would provide any figures that she considered necessary? Does she not consider that she ought to supply the expected numbers of teachers who will leave the profession and the projections of pupils becoming 16—plus between now and 1981? Will she also provide the range of expectation? Surely these figures are required to prove her target figure of 510,000.

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend gave a great number of figures to the House in reply to the hon. Gentleman's Adjournment debate on 4th April. I am now attempting to set up a national advisory committee on the supply and training of teachers which I expect will go further into these figures.

Mr. Deakins

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how areas in the urban aid programme are to set about reducing class sizes in the next decade if the teacher supply is not stepped up beyond the forecasts in her White Paper?

Mrs. Thatcher

The teacher supply is being increased very considerably. I fail to see how going from 385,000 to 510,000 in a decade is not substantially increasing teacher supply.

Polytechnics (Research)

10. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of polytechnic resources are being devoted to research.

[column 1119]

Mrs. Thatcher

Complete information on the research expenditure of polytechnics is not available in the Department. About 4 per cent. of their total expenditure in 1970–71 was for scientific research.

Miss Fookes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful if there were more information on this matter? Does she also agree that there is a need for a radical reappraisal of the hitherto limited rôle allocated to research in polytechnics?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the whole, polytechnics are meant to be centres of teaching rather than of research, with sufficient research to carry out the teaching function in the best possible way. I cannot give complete figures because of the way that polytechnics are financed. As my hon. Friend knows, Committees of this House have had certain comments to make about them.

Adult Education

11. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she intends to take following publication of the Russell Committee report on adult education.

29. Mr. Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she proposes following the publication of the Russell Committee report on adult education.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. Friend is studying the report which was published a fortnight ago. She will in due course be consulting those organisations which have a special interest in adult education.

Mr. Price

While all of us would hope to see the maximum numbers possible involved in adult education, may I ask what evidence there is of long-term Government planning to ensure that people's expectations are met regarding employment and what evidence there is that the jobs for which they are qualified will be available?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is hardly a matter that comes within the province of my Department, but the Government's foresight regarding adult education is shown by the importance which we attach to this report.

[column 1120]

Mr. Ellis

In view of the general criticism that the report is modest, may I ask whether the Minister can find it in himself to give the merest hint of the likelihood of a strong positive lead in due course by his Department?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's interest, but he must be reasonable. The report has been published for only a fortnight and it has taken four years to prepare. I think that we must be given reasonable time to study its implications.

Mr. Wilkinson

In the light of the report, may I ask my hon. Friend to give some indication of his attitude to the Open University which is a major influence in the whole sphere of adult education and has done extremely good pioneering work? Will he say whether the Government feel that the multi-media approach and the credit system of assessment over the fairly long period in which adults are engaged in study are useful contributions in this area?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have always thought that the Open University was making a most important contribution to education. I was glad when it was founded and pleased to go with my right hon. Friend to pay an official visit there a few weeks ago.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has exposed the White Paper as a complete “con” trick on the public as there is no provision in it for adult education. If the Russell Report is to be implemented, surely the White Paper must be rewritten?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I believe that the White Paper on Education will count as one of the seminal educational documents to be published and will be remembered long after the inaccurate comments by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) have been forgotten. The adult education programme was not considered in the White Paper because it was the subject of a separate report.

Deaf Children

12. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science [column 1121]whether she is satisfied with the availability of teachers for deaf children; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I will, with permission, answer this Question—I am sorry, it is for my hon. Friend to answer.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It merely shows the zeal of the Department.

The Department is already considering various matters connected with the education of children with impaired hearing. They include the training and supply of teachers, and my right hon. Friend will decide later on any action to be taken.

Mr. McCrindle

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to a recent report which said that teachers were leaving schools for deaf children twice as fast as they could be replaced and that it was not unusual for a child to wait two years for entry into a special school? As this is a particularly debilitating complaint for a child, may I ask my hon. Friend to show some of the zeal to which he has just referred by doing his best to recruit additional teachers in this sector?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am familiar with the Press reports to which my hon. Friend has referred. Those reports about the teaching situation in schools for deaf children have been greatly exaggerated. For example, the report that nearly one-third of the teachers did not hold the necessary qualification was completely misleading. The matter is being thoroughly investigated within my Department. We have already had two meetings with specialists and a third is in prospect. We hope to reach a conclusion on this important subject before the end of the year.

South Africa

(Secretary of State's Visit)

13. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on her visit to South Africa.

15. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement about her recent official visit to South Africa.

Mrs. Thatcher

I attended the inauguration of a new observing station [column 1122]for the South African Astronomical Observatory as the Minister responsible for the Science Research Council which is a partner in the observatory with the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Mr. Judd

Does the right hon. Lady feel no responsibility as the guardian of all the finest traditions of liberal education? Why did she not take the opportunity, whilst in South Africa, to make it absolutely clear beyond doubt that the British people and Government are fundamentally opposed to the persecution of students and academics in South Africa and anywhere else in the world?

Mrs. Thatcher

At my original conference I made very clear indeed the Government's views on apartheid and how we view the rôle of students.

Mr. Huckfield

Did the right hon. Lady feel moved to say anything about the case of John Hosey from Coventry, about which I sent her a telegram? Does not she realise that he has already been imprisoned without trial for six months and that he could face a sentence of at least five years' imprisonment if he were convicted under the Terrorism Act when his only crime was handing out leaflets?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman sent me a telegram and I sent him a reply. The person to whom he refers is a citizen of the Irish Republic, and as such I felt that I had no locus.

Mr. Maclennan

If the Secretary of State is not prepared to make a protest, will she at least consider that the South African Government are depriving Africans of education, and black Africans in particular? Will she give thought to the possibility of offering places at higher institutions of learning in this country to black African students who are debarred by the Government of their country from access to technical education in their own country?

Mrs. Thatcher

While I was in South Africa I visited two educational establishments. I visited the Oral Learning Centre School in Cape Town for disadvantaged children in the coloured part of Cape Town, and the University of the Western Cape, which is a university for coloured people.

[column 1123]

Mr. Evelyn King

While we deplore much that happens in South Africa, is not the last question a little misjudged? Is it not a fact, and should not the fact have been brought out, that the educational provision for black Africans in South Africa is better than in any other State in the African continent?

Mr. Huckfield

Rubbish.

Mrs. Thatcher

With respect, I do not think that is a question for which I am responsible. I visited the Oral Learning School.

School Transport

14. Mr. Redmond

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she can yet announce the findings of her working party on school transport.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir.

Mr. Redmond

While obviously the work of the working party should be thorough and in the end right rather than quick, may I ask whether we can hope for a quick decision on this matter before the new school year starts? If a decision is made we will not have the upheaval which we had at the beginning of the present school year, which was caused because parents could not understand the nonsense.

Mrs. Thatcher

I doubt whether any decision will come in time for the new school year. I understand that the working party is coming up against the difficulty that it is taking longer than it had thought to get from all the local authorities the necessary factual information about their transport practice. Most of the information has now been received, and the working party has recently heard oral statements of evidence from the representatives of nine remaining organisations. I still doubt whether the result will be out before the end of the next school year.

Mr. Terry Davis

Will the right hon. Lady publish the names of the authorities which have been so slow in producing the facts?

Mrs. Thatcher

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is being a little critical of the authorities. They have on their hands a complete local government reorganisa[column 1124]tion as well as many of the demands which we are now making upon them. It would be better if we took that factor into account.

London Teaching Staff

16. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she is proposing to take to help greater London boroughs which are losing young teachers because of the high cost of living in London.

Mrs. Thatcher

First, we need to establish the facts about the rate of turnover in London and elsewhere and, as far as possible, the reasons for it. I am considering setting up a sample survey covering the whole country.

Mr. Deakins

Why did the Government insist before the recent Burnham negotiations that the London teachers' allowance must be considered as part of the global sum when that has not traditionally been the case? As nothing is likely to be done about an effective increase in the London teachers' allowance, is not the right hon. Lady aware that in educationally and socially deprived areas such as mine in Walthamstow, and in many other parts of London, the educational system will gradually be run to a halt, to the detriment of the interests of working-class children in those areas?

Mrs. Thatcher

The London allowance was treated by virtue of the White Paper in the same way as any other sums which are counted as remuneration. It fell under that particular head.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that without any working party it is fairly clear that the cost of housing in London makes it difficult for teachers to live in the area in which they teach? Many local authorities do not do much about this. Because of the difficulty for teachers, does my right hon. Friend propose to consult her right hon. Friends and to ensure that local authorities do their utmost to help in the provision of housing for teachers?

Mrs. Thatcher

That consultation has already taken place. I said in reply to my hon. Friend's last question, although I do not think he heard it, that I would make inquiries from his authority.

[column 1125]

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that Mr. Aubrey Jones' Prices and Incomes Board specifically ruled that London weighting for teachers would not and should not be part of the global sum? That is why teachers in London feel that the right hon. Lady is cheating them. In consequence there is great bitterness. It has been put to me by many teachers in London “If you want to get on in teaching, get out of London” . Is not that a serious condemnation of the right hon. Lady's attitude towards the problem?

Mrs. Thatcher

The counter-inflation policy and the pay and prices legislation have already passed through the House. The Inner London Education Authority still has one of the best pupil/teacher ratios in the country.

Universities of Technology

17. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has received from the University Grants Committee on financial resources available for universities of technology.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Before my right hon. Friend settled the total grants for the 1972–77 quinquennium the University Grants Committee gave her its confidential advice on the whole range of university development. The UGC decides the individual allocations.

Mr. Eadie

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the finance allocated, for example, to offshore engineering technology is ridiculously inadequate? Are not the Government shamed when they find that a distinguished draper gave £180,000 to the Heriot-Watt University to assist it in its offshore engineering technology? Have the Government no statement to make? Should not the Government apologise to the House for treating such a serious position in so niggardly a fashion?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think there is anything to apologise for when recurrent and equipment grants under the quinquennium will total £1,790 million. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Heriot-Watt University. That university has benefited by a raising of the recurrent grant, which is to increase by 65 per cent. from £1.87 million to £3.09 [column 1126]million. It is perfectly acceptable that such major provisions should be supplemented from private sources.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the great technological developments evident off the shore of Scotland are reflected in the grants which were probably evolved, developed and calculated long before the extent of North Sea natural gas was fully evident to my hon. Friend's Department and to the University Grants Committee? Has the sum of money for the Heriot-Watt University, for example, been beamed specially towards North Sea exploration and development?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That must be a matter for the university to decide. For specific research projects any university, including Heriot-Watt, can apply to the research council. It is also wholly justifiable for Heriot-Watt to see what help it can get from the petroleum industry. Heriot-Watt is establishing an institute of offshore engineering, thanks to the generosity of the Wolfson Foundation.

Mr. Dalyell

Are the Government prepared to match Wolfson's £170,000?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As I have already said, we have made grants to Heriot-Watt which are very much in excess of the grant from the Wolfson Foundation.

Student Grants

18. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in her consideration of representations submitted to her on student maintenance grants; and if she will now make a further statement.

23. Mr. Stallard

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now make a further statement on the National Union of Students' claim for increases in maintenance grants.

35. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a further statement on her consideration of representations made to her on student maintenance grants.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no statement to make at present.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that such a casual reply to such an [column 1127]important question will be viewed with grave dismay by the universities? Is she further aware that from vice-chancellors downwards all staff, as well as the students, now realise that the poverty level of students' grants and ever-increasing prices are having a grievous effect on their desire to study and a deleterious effect throughout our universities? Will the right hon. Lady consider the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not accept the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. There will be a small increase in September, because this is the last year of the triennium and, therefore, we have about a 4½ per cent. increase still to come. I am still considering the matter further, but I have no statement to make today.

Mr. Stallard

I realise that the very mention of students immediately raises the blood pressure of many of the Secretary of State's right hon. and hon. Friends, so I appreciate some of her difficulties. Will she say whether it is true that local education authorities are picking up more by way of parental contributions than her Department budgeted for when fixing the present level of student grants? Does not the right hon. Lady consider that that fact and the fact mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) provide sufficient grounds for her to review and increase the present level of grants?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot accept the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. In view of what the present Government have done to help to increase the number of people attending universities and to increase the polytechnic and further education building programmes, I scarcely think that it could be said that they were anything other than in great favour of students. The other point, about parental contribution, is one upon which I have received representations, and these are being considered along with the point about the increase in grants.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

As the National Union of Students has now taken as part of its settled policy the making of non-advanced work in further education a subject for mandatory awards, will my right hon. Friend give an indication of what the cost might be?

Mrs. Thatcher

It would be very difficult to tell, but I do not think there is [column 1128]any question of making every award mandatory along the lines which, I understand from reports, the National Union of Students required. There are two different points: one is about making all awards mandatory; the other is about making awards for certain courses equal to mandatory awards. They are rather different.

Mr. McNamara

Regarding the examination which she is to make of this matter, will the right hon. Lady say whether she will do away with the terrible discrimination against married women students, and in particular the younger married women students, who are subject to two means tests, first on the husband's possible income and, secondly, on the parents' possible income? Is not this particular form of discrimination grossly unfair and will not it encourage people to live in sin?

Mrs. Thatcher

The question of the grant for the married woman student is a matter for the next triennium. We are now coming to the last year of the present triennium. The hon. Gentleman is wrong perhaps about many things, but about one thing certainly. The married woman student whose husband is not a student does not have his income meanstested.

Mr. Redmond

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, although many students have totally alienated themselves from public sympathy by their behaviour, there are many decent students who are getting seriously into debt and that this is really hindering their studies when they are anxious to do well at university?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should not judge the great body of students by the reported behaviour of one or two. I shall certainly take into account the point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Moyle

Why are the Government so perverse? Where groups of workers do not want to have anything to do with the Government's £1 plus 4 per cent. formula, the Government try to force it upon them, but where it would be of help to students, the Government withhold it from them. How can the right hon. Lady justify someone buying a £40,000 house and receiving further aid [column 1129]from the Government and the Government withholding everything from students receiving a few pounds a week?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman is fundamentally wrong in equating remuneration with grants.

School Building Programme

19. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she will announce details of the next school building programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope by Easter to have given most local education authorities details of their preliminary lists of projects on which work is expected to start in 1975–77.

Mr. Hill

Will this programme maintain the trend in expansion? To what scale of cost limit will it be geared? When the local education authorities have received notice of their allocation, will my right hon. Friend consider placing copies of these allocations in the Library for the convenience of hon. Members?

Mrs. Thatcher

The new programme will be on the existing cost limits. I shall certainly place copies in the Library. We have just announced the first new improvement programme for secondary schools, with some 54 new secondary schools replacing old schools.

Mr. Marks

Will the cuts which the right hon. Lady is making in the total school building programme over the next two years be felt more in the primary school sector or in the secondary school sector?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not aware of the cuts to which the hon. Gentleman refers. There is a vastly increased primary school building programme and a secondary school improvement programme for the first time. Basic needs are certainly down. This is a matter of the number of children. Both the raising of the school leaving age and the countercyclical programme have now been completed.