Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Jun 26 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [858/1293-1313]
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7404
Themes: Education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Energy, Environment, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Social security & welfare
[column 1293]


Art Education

1. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will ask Her Majesty's Inspectorate to prepare a report on the structure of art education.

15. Mr. Guy Barnett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will ask the Inspectorate to prepare a report on the structure of art education.

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

No, Sir. A major review of the whole field was carried out by the Coldstream Committee which published its report on the structure of art and design in 1970. Action is continuing.

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Miss Fookes

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is widespread alarm and despondency in art education, particularly about the suggestion that two A-levels should be the prerequisite for entering to study for the diploma of art and design? Will my hon. Friend reconsider this?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am aware that there are some widespread misconceptions about the recommendations and status of the report, which is advisory. It is not the intention of the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design to confine entry to its courses after 1976 to holders of two A-levels but to admit also alternative qualifications some of which it intends to settle in consultation with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Under-Secretary aware that there is widespread agreement with what the hon. Lady the Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) said about the concern in the art world? It is not only about the question of two A-levels, which I am glad to hear are not to be compulsory, but also about cutting down on part-time teachers who are absolutely essential to art education and could be used a great deal more in other forms of education. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that no action is taken to cut the number of part-time teachers?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As far as I know, there is no recommendation to cut the number of part-time teachers. There is another Question on this subject on the Order Paper. Perhaps we can discuss the matter more fully then.

School Building Standards

2. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what deputations she has recently received to discuss the adequacy of the standards laid down in the current school building regulations.

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

None, Sir.

Mr. Spearing

Is the right hon. Lady aware that within the last six months both her Under Secretaries—the one sitting next to her and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead—have refused to give me an interview to discuss very important matters concerning standards of school building? [column 1295]

In view of recent events, and as the pressure on architects to skimp on maintenance, on standards, and on the standards laid down about the numbers of pupils, are quite unrelated to educational needs, should not her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and the right hon. Lady herself see me about this subject?

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend Norman St. John-Stevasthe Under-Secretary has just indicated that he is unaware that he has ever refused the hon. Gentleman an interview.

Mr. Spearing

Quite wrong—he has.

Mrs. Thatcher

There may be some misunderstanding. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to come and see me.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

As regards the school building programme, will my right hon. Friend look closely at the facilities being provided for teachers and staff in schools? Does she recognise that many of these facilities are hopelessly inadequate in many schools, such as Handsworth Grammar School? Although I agree that the provisions of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act do not apply to educational establishments, should not those minimum requirements apply?

Mrs. Thatcher

Those minimum requirements are for different circumstances from those prevailing in schools. I am aware of the circumstances at Handsworth Grammar School, which my hon. Friend raised with me before, Hitherto the standards have been well above minimum standards, but I know that some difficulty arises and this was pointed out in the debate we had on the cost limits. I hope that the recent increase of 22 per cent. will help to overcome the difficulty.

Mr. Stallard

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is widespread alarm and despondency in my constituency following last week's disaster at Camden School for Girls? Is she aware that the technical study she has promised to institute will leave many questions unanswered? Will she reconsider her decision and have a full-scale public inquiry in view of the repercussions of that accident on many similar structures?

[column 1296]

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Member knows from a reply he has received, we thought it best to set up as a matter of urgency an inquiry conducted by the Building Research Establishment into the technical reasons for the failure. We expect that to take about two months. I have undertaken to publish the report. When it is published and we know what it says, I shall decide whether further action is required.

Special Schools

3. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many schools for the mentally handicapped she has visited in 1972 and 1973.

Mrs. Thatcher

My Ministers and I have visited 12 special schools in this period. Among those visited by myself were two concerned with mentally handicapped children and two with educationally subnormal children.

Mr. Jones

Is it not alarming that in hospital schools as many as 75 per cent. of the teaching staff can be unqualified, a great deal of the equipment often unsuitable and dozens of children totally ignored educationally? What urgent and special measures will the Secretary of State make to improve education for the mentally handicapped? Is it not shameful that the Government can build their Concordes and allow the Lonrho directors to get away with murder while these luckless kids are pushed into dark corners?

Mrs. Thatcher

The whole building programme for special schools has been increased substantially. The building programme that I have approved for the next three years is 45 per cent. greater than that for the last three years, which is a great achievement. We have just moved the capital programme for hospital schools from the regional hospital boards to the Department of Education and Science and a circular about hospital schools is to be sent out comparatively shortly.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is the Secretary of State aware of the grave shortage of speech therapists in many of the schools for handicapped children? Will she comment on it?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have just accepted some of the recommendations of the special report on speech therapy, namely, [column 1297]to have a unified service operating under the area health authorities. Another suggestion was to increase the number, but I believe that would be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mrs Kellett-Bowman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the standard of hospital teaching in my constituency is exceptionally high and that many children who are severely subnormal are getting as far as fractions in their maths and are able to read with great facility?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments. The hospital school that I saw comparatively recently was excellent and I confirm what she said about the teaching. It may be that some of the teachers have not got the special qualifications for teaching these handicapped children, but they are nevertheless very good, devoted and dedicated teachers.

Wooden Hut Classrooms (Derbyshire)

4. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps are being taken to assist Derbyshire County Council in its proposals for the replacement of 40-year-old wooden huts used by schoolchildren as classrooms in the county of Derbyshire.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. Friend has recently announced projects for the improvement or replacement of primary schools in Derbyshire to the value of over £1¾ million for the 1975–76 school major building programme.

Mr. Skinner

Perhaps the Minister would like to know that 27 out of those 28 schools are in Tory-held constituencies and were approved by a Tory county council. Is he aware that now that his right hon. Friend has set up this technical study into the various structures of schools he should look into the question of half-inch thick plywood that is used in these 40-year-old temporary wooden sheds? Is he aware that 150 of these were in existence three years ago when the Tory Government came to power and that at the latest count there were still 150?

Mr. Loughlin

I do not think that my hon. Friend likes the Tories.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whoever was responsible for putting up these buildings 40 [column 1298]years ago, it was neither myself nor the Government. The important point is whether they are being replaced. Replacements which are already programmed will provide new school places for nearly half the Derbyshire children. [Interruption.] The hon. Member must wait to hear the answer to his question before rejecting it. Nearly half the Derbyshire children who are now being taught in these old wooden huts will be relocated when these programmes come into operation.

Mr. Rost

The majority of parents in Derbyshire are well pleased with what the Government have done to provide new building. However, they object to the lack of consultation concerning the arbitrary zoning in some areas, particularly in the Kirkhallam area.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful to hear that the parents in Derbyshire are satisfied with the Government. I am sure that they are also satisfied with the representation of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost). I assure him that neither my right hon. Friend nor myself act in an arbitrary manner.

Teachers (Recruitment and Training)

5. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will seek powers to make herself responsible for the recruitment and training of teachers.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. Under Section 62 of the Education Act 1944 I have a duty to secure that sufficient facilities are available for the training of teachers. Recruitment and deployment in the schools is essentially a matter for the local education authorities.

Mr. Duffy

Does the Secretary of State recall her Folkestone speech last month in which she argued for a more economic deployment of the present teaching force? This is simply not borne out by the experience of Sheffield where the teacher/pupil ratio in sixth forms is half the national average. Is she aware that it has been revealed that the teacher/pupil ratio in the primary schools for the coming year will be considerably higher than was originally planned and that this seems entirely to falsify her Folkestone argument?

[column 1299]

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think so. That argument was put as a result of a number of surveys in the schools by Her Majesty's Inspectorate when it was revealed that the increase in the number of teachers in schools was not wholly reflected in the reduction in the size of classes. Of course, arrangements made by different education authorities vary. Where good practice exists we naturally wish to see that it is maintained and that difficulties are drawn to the attention of the authorities.

Mr. Hattersley

Does the Secretary of State's speech to the AEC last week mean that she is prepared to revise upwards the teacher training figure which appeared in her White Paper?

Mrs. Thatcher

The speech pointed out that we have taken an initial step to reduce the numbers going into the colleges of education in view of the forecasts of 10 years ahead. It also pointed out that after two or three years we may need to have another look.


6. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will publish her estimate of the percentage of the gross national product to be devoted to education during each of the next 10 years.

Mrs. Thatcher

Figures are not available for 10 years ahead. However, in 1971–72 public expenditure on education was 6.5 per cent. of the gross national product. Over the subsequent five years expenditure on education is projected to grow at 5.0 per cent. a year in cost terms. This may be compared with the illustrative growth rates for the economy as a whole over the same period of 3.5 per cent. and 5.0 per cent. referred to in Cmnd. 5178.

Mr. Carter

Is that not an evasive reply? Are not the Government intending to cut the percentage of GNP devoted to education? Following the proposals for adult and nursery education, should we not be thinking in terms of expanding this percentage?

Mrs. Thatcher

Far from being evasive the reply I gave was a full one, bearing in mind that Governments do not publish forecasts of growth of the economy. They make assumptions about it and [column 1300]we have made two sets of assumptions, one of 3.5 per cent. and one of 5 per cent., for hon. Members to compare with the growth rate of education. The expected growth rate of education expenditure is 5 per cent. and that is compared to a 5 per cent. increase assumed for the GNP.

Mr. Marten

Was it not the previous Government which set the pattern for looking five years ahead and not 10 years ahead on these matters?

Mrs. Thatcher

Indeed, and it was also the previous Government which left me with plans for spending very much less on education than I am now spending.

Mr. Ellis

Will the Secretary of State give equivalent figures for adult education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give those figures at the moment.

Secondary Reorganisation (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

7. Mr. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is yet able to approve the proposals for the reorganisation of secondary education in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. Friend will give her decision as soon as possible on these proposals. The LEA withdrew two of its previous proposals in February of this year. The authority was informed of certain difficulties on 30th May and we are still awaiting a reply.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that there is grave anxiety in Newcastle-under-Lyme because of the delay, and is he further aware that this anxiety is particularly marked in respect of the Wolstanton-Watlands project which I understand was to have started this year and to have been completed by 1975? Is he also aware that £300,000 has been approved for the project and that if work does not get under way very quickly the unsatisfactory conditions in which teaching is taking place and has taken place for 20 years will have to continue?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As the hon. Gentleman will know, there has been considerable local difficulty and conflict over the proposals. Owing to the withdrawal [column 1301]which I have mentioned, we have faced particular difficulties. But I am aware that the hon. Gentleman and the local authority are particularly anxious for a decision on the proposals affecting Wolstanton Grammar School, and if it is possible to consider those proposals separately my right hon. Friend will give her decision very soon.

Colleges of Art

10. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further representations she has received following the recommendations of the Pooling Committee on staff/student ratios in colleges of art.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

A further 55 letters have been received, more than half through hon. Members, since the reply to the hon. Member on 13th March. This was also a topic raised with my right hon. Friend by a deputation brought by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Mr. Barnes

With reference to the question asked earlier by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about the position of practising artists teaching part-time in art colleges, is the Minister aware that some of the assumptions on which the recommendations of the Pooling Committee are based are not valid for the art colleges because of the much longer hours of contact between students and teachers in them than in other subjects? Does not the Minister think that he should advise local education authorities to treat those recommendations of the Pooling Committee with some caution?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I should like to stress to the hon. Gentleman, who I know takes a keen interest in the subject, that the implementation of the Pooling Committee's recommendations on student/staff ratios rests with the local education authorities. The recommendations are purely advisory. The report said that in no case should teachers be made redundant. It is certainly my view that the employment of practising artists as part-time teachers is a great gain to art education.

Mr. Grimond

But does not the Minister agree, when he recommends that no teacher should be made redundant, that, if the local authorities have to come down [column 1302]to anything near the ratio, it of course means that they will retain their whole-time teachers, most of whom are on long-term contract, and get rid of their part-time practising artists?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is not my recommendation; it is the recommendation of the committee. [Interruption.] That is an important distinction. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's prognostications, there are other means of getting to the recommended ratios—by normal wastage and retirement, for example.

Mr. Moyle

Would the Minister care to give an undertaking that he will use the offices of his Department to ensure that, before even any part-time art teachers are declared redundant, there will be consultation between the local education authority and the appropriate associations representing the art teachers? Will he bear in mind that the artist has always required a patron? If one form of patronage is to go, will he take the initiative and make sure that another form to replace it is under consideration?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot give undertakings on behalf of local education authorities, but I think I have made it quite clear that I regard the use of artists in a part-time capacity as very valuable, and I am sure that local education authorities will take note of those remarks.

Student Grants (Married Women)

11. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on the latest developments in her correspondence with student bodies concerning the ending of discretionary grants and improving grants for married women.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. Friend has told the National Union of Students that discretionary awards are now the subject of consultation between the Department and the local authority associations; and that the whole basis of the married women's grant will be examined in the forthcoming triennial review.

Mr. Judd

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of the very deep feeling in the student community about [column 1303]the problems surrounding discretionary grants? Can he assure the House that as he goes into consultations with the local authorities about discretionary grants the Government have a completely open mind on the issue?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In spite of the guidance that has already been given by the Department, I am aware of variations in practice, which do not always appear to be justified. In accordance with a recommendation of the Expenditure Committee on further and higher education, I am exploring with the local authority associations whether stronger and more detailed guidance should be given.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a very difficult subject which is causing a great deal of disquiet among students? Is it not time for the abolition of discretionary grants?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Their total abolition would involve an astronomical sum, running into hundreds of millions of pounds. But I am willing to discuss the whole question of discretionary grants with representatives of the National Union of Students if they agree to discussions opening on the triennial review, as I hope they will.

Mrs. Castle

How can the right hon. Lady possibly justify penalising women students just because they marry? Will the hon. Gentleman tell his right hon. Friend that women totally reject the concept of dependency and demand to be treated as individuals in their own right on an equal basis, whether they are married or single?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

With the complete support of my right hon. Friend, I have already said in the House that when the next review opens we shall consider the anomalous position of the married women's grant. Perhaps it is fair to point out that the anomaly was created in 1968 by the Labour Government when they pegged this rate of women's grant at the 1965 rate and other rates of grant were allowed to go up. The right hon. Lady must accept her share of responsibility for this anomalous situation.

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Deaf Children

12. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the educational provisions for deaf children.

Mrs. Thatcher

Much good work is being done but there are also some problems to overcome. As I said in reply to a question by the hon. Gentleman on 3rd April, these are being studied in the Department. Following this, I shall decide on any action to be taken.—[Vol. 854, c. 60.]

Mr. Ashley

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is an acute shortage of qualified teachers for the deaf, and that a daft Burnham award has deprived qualified teachers of a special award, thereby exacerbating the shortage? As deaf children suffer enough from educational deprivation, will she do all she can to take urgent action to ensure that there are enough teachers for deaf children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot comment on the Burnham aspect of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I agree that there is a shortage of teachers for deaf children. The working party to which I have referred, which has a number of Her Majesty's inspectors on it, is especially considering new diploma courses and part-time courses for this purpose.

Mr. Money

Will my right hon. Friend consider approaching the Independent Broadcasting Authority to see whether some of the off-peak time on the new local radio stations could be used to try out pilot programmes for the parents of deaf children to give them some training in some of the educational needs their children may have?

Mrs. Thatcher

I at least undertake to draw the attention of the authority to my hon. Friend's suggestion. What it wishes to do about the suggestion is of course a matter for it.

Mentally Handicapped Children

13. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied that local authorities have the most complete information about the numbers and needs of [column 1305]mentally handicapped children living in their areas; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local authorities, through their medical, educational and social services, and through the hospitals, normally identify mentally handicapped children at an early age. I believe that local education authorities are giving a high priority to meeting the educational needs of these children.

Mr. Haselhurst

But is it not true that as information on the subject increases, more and more different classifications of mental handicap are being discovered, and that local authorities may not have within their area sufficient of a particular type to be providing the most appropriate form of attention? Therefore, will my right hon. Friend consider holding an inquiry into the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are not encouraging multiplication of classification of handicap, because it is not thought wise. I know that there is still a shortage of places for many children suffering from mental handicap, which is why we have raised the special building programme. Of the bids we have received for 1973–74, one-third were for projects for the educationally subnormal. I hope that the extensive action on which we are embarked will do more, quickly, than a full-scale inquiry could do.

Energy Requirements (Research)

16. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the number of universities in the United Kingdom undertaking research into the United Kingdom's energy requirements.

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand there are at least seven university institutions doing research of this kind.

Mr. Douglas

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. Will she address her attention to two matters? First, does she agree that the urgency of developing our offshore industry requires a great deal more resources of a university character to be devoted to research? Secondly, can she say whether the reviews of the central policy of the review unit, [column 1306]which has examined energy policy, will be transmitted to the universities?

Mrs. Thatcher

The universities are not normally slow to take up any views of that kind. I do not think that we need transmit them through the University Grants Committee. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman on the first part of his supplementary question.

Mr. Dalyell

Does not the right hon. Lady recognise that there is a problem and that, because of the nature of the quinquennium, universities are unwilling to finance comparatively new projects out of funds which many people in the universities think are allocated? Is there not a case, because of the importance of North Sea oil, for some special Government grant?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. It is reasonable to expect that from the quinquennial funds, which provide for a considerable expansion, the universities should put high priorities on those projects which can help commerce and industry.

Consumer Education

17. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement in the light of the Right to Consumer Education put forward in the Consumer Protection Charter adopted on 28th May by the Council of Europe.

Mrs. Thatcher

This proposal of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently under consideration by the Council's Committee of Ministers and it is not yet clear to what extent member States can implement it. My hon. Friend knows that responsibility for the curriculum in the county schools in England and Wales is in the hands of local education authorities.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the inclusion of consumer education in secondary school curricula would be extremely valuable? Does she agree that if that were done we might have a new generation of consumers emerging which will have some idea of their rights and obligations? While I accept that my right hon. Friend has no powers to direct curricula, will she consider sending an advisory circular from her Department informing local [column 1307]education authorities that the Council of Europe is recommending that children should be trained in consumer affairs?

Mrs. Thatcher

The recommendation has not yet gone through the Council's Committee of Ministers and, therefore, it is still being considered by them. I agree that it is advisable to have some education on consumer protection. I think my hon. Friend will agree that it need not necessarily be taught as a distinct subject. It will often come into home economics, craft courses and general study. A good deal is already being done in those subjects.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the right hon. Lady say how far mathematics teachers are teaching children about the percentage rate of increase in food prices over the last two or three years? The right hon. Lady talked about mentally retarded children being taught fractions. Perhaps they can be taught how to read the cost of living increase.

Mrs. Thatcher

I expect so. I hope that teachers are also teaching them about increased production.

Disabled Children (Integration)

18. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will provide funds to encourage and enable local education authorities to integrate physically disabled children into ordinary schools.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It has long been the policy of the Department that handicapped children should not be placed in special schools if they can be satisfactorily educated in ordinary schools. Most of the special facilities required for them in new or existing school buildings can be provided within normal cost limits, but additional allocations have been made in some cases.

Mr. Janner

The Minister happily accepts that wherever possible disabled children should be absorbed into the normal atmosphere of normal schools. Does he accept that schools which do that successfully, including many in my constituency, perform a public service? Does he agree that more schools should be encouraged to do so? Further, does he accept that there is a heavy burden of care and of finance resting on the [column 1308]schools that perform this public service? Will he encourage schools to do more and will he provide more finance for the purpose?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

A letter was sent to local education authorities which have the responsibility in this matter in July 1966 about the need for buildings to be accessible to the physically handicapped so as to make it possible for more of them to be educated in ordinary schools. We encourage authorities to improve access to existing buildings as well as new ones. When plans are submitted for new special schools, our experience is that with a little encouragement here and there the authorities respond. Of course, we have no power to enforce directly our wishes.

Sir R. Thompson

Will my hon. Friend consider giving even further publicity to what he has just said? Does he not agree that one of the most useful things he can do is to encourage the people who are handicapped, who form a substantial part of the population, by ensuring that they do not face from the outset a separate career and a separate existence? Does he accept that anything which he can say publicly to encourage local authorities to do their duty in this respect will be most gratefully received by these unfortunate people?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. This is not a sphere of the education service which falls directly within my responsibility. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's remarks to my noble Friend. I concur entirely with his remarks.

Student Grants

19. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations she has received on the level of grants to students.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since the interim settlement announced by my right hon. Friend on 15th May, she has received about 50 letters from hon. Members, members of the public, students' associations and other interested bodies.

Mr. Molloy

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that they all condemn that paltry award. Is he aware [column 1309]that the current situation in our universities, including the student body and the staff, is now very serious? Can he tell us whether he has plans for trying to assuage the serious situation regarding student grants?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sorry to have to correct the hon. Gentleman. While it is true that the majority of the replies suggested that more should be done for students, other replies, including letters from vice-chancellors and students, indicated that they thought the award was about right. I regret to say that others thought it was too high.

We are concerned to review the position of student grants. The interim settlement of £10 million extra was, in the circumstances, a remarkable achievement. My right hon. Friend intended it to be an interim settlement. I hope that we shall have a full and frank exchange of views with the representatives of the National Union of Students in the near future.

Mr. Grieve

Might there not be more money available in the form of grants for serious students if the university authorities were more particular in sending down those who forfeited the education which they are receiving by misconduct and by aggression against people who are going to exercise the right of free speech in the universities?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The vice-chancellors, whose responsibility the universities are, have made it clear how strongly they condemn the recent incidents interfering with freedom of speech which have been perpetrated by a small minority. While we accept that the university authorities must be firm with the minority of trouble-makers, we must always be sure that we are utterly and completely fair to the majority who also condemn these incidents.

Mr. Moyle

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that he must be out of touch with feeling in higher education if he thinks that the award has been accepted with good cheer by the authorities or the students? Does it not now appear, as a result of the discussions which have been taking place, that the idea of the parental contribution causes more hardship to students than any other aspect of student grants? Will he undertake that that aspect [column 1310]of grants will be considered in the near future?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In the interim settlement we raised the threshold so that parental contributions start from £1,500 residual income. That was a great relief to a number of students. Some students will receive as much as an extra £60 because of that. The hon. Gentleman suggested that I am out of touch with university opinion. I have indicated the contents of the letters which we have received. My experience—and I have been recently to more than a dozen universities and colleges—is that many students are quite happy with the increase they have received.

Metropolitan Architectural Consortium

21. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she last met the Chairman of the Metropolitan Architectural Consortium for Education.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not met the chairman in that capacity.

Mr. Cox

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the very deep concern which the chairman has expressed over the cuts in the school cost limits? As something has to suffer when forcible costs are cut, does not the right hon. Lady agree that she has some obligation to say what she thinks should be cut? For example, does she think that classroom space, staff facilities and the quality of materials ought to be cut? Surely she has some obligation and it is her duty to give a lead in such a matter.

Mrs. Thatcher

Not merely have I given a lead, but I have increased the cost limits by 22 per cent., making an increase in total since I took office of some 58 per cent. Even before the latest increase in the cost limits, 97.6 per cent. of the projects last year were actually started.

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. Lady has received a letter from the chairman written after the 22 per cent. cost increase was announced, which is described as inadequate. How did the right hon. Lady reply?

Mrs. Thatcher

The letter was acknowledged. The chairman sent me a [column 1311]copy letter which I understand she had sent to other people, and naturally I acknowledged it.

Mr. Spearing

Will the right hon. Lady confirm that in her letter she stated that she had nothing to add to what she had said in the debate? In view of my earlier question, will the right hon. Lady now agree to see a deputation from the Metropolitan Architectural Consortium for Education to discuss this matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. I agreed earlier to receive the hon. Gentleman, and that I will do. I think that he will have plenty to say.

Art Teachers

23. Mr. R.C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many full-time and part-time art teachers are at present employed in colleges of art in England and Wales.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The provisional total of full-time teachers in art establishments was 2,381 in March 1971. In addition, a number of teachers of art are employed in the art departments of polytechnics and certain other education establishments but separate figures for these, and for part-time teachers, are not available.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that reports are coming in from all over the country that there is to be a considerable reduction in the number of art teachers in the term starting next September, particularly because many local authorities seem to be dismissing or declaring redundant large numbers of part-time teachers? What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about it?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If local authorities are declaring teachers redundant, they are acting contrary to the recommendations of the committee set up to consider the matter. They are free to do it, but I cannot answer such vague accusations. I am willing to look into any particular case which the hon. Gentleman cares to bring to my attention.

Mr. Moyle

Can the hon. Gentleman now give an answer to my earlier question? I did not ask him to give undertakings on behalf of local education authorities but asked him to use the good offices of his Department to secure, if [column 1312]possible, undertakings by local education authorities that they would not regard part-time art teachers as available for redundancy without consulting the appropriate associations representing them. Will he now undertake to use the good offices of his Department both in that and on the patronage point?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whom local education authorities consult must be a matter for them. I can only repeat that it would be a great tragedy for art education if distinguished artists no longer gave their services part-time in art schools.

Nature Conservancy

24. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent discussions she has had with representatives of environmental organisations about the future of the Nature Conservancy.

Mrs. Thatcher

Recently, officers of my Department and of that of my right hon. and learned Friend Geoffrey Ripponthe Secretary of State for the Environment have consulted the Natural Environment Research Council, the Nature Conservancy Committee and the staff interests concerned about the detailed arrangements for implementing the Government's decision concerning the future of the Nature Conservancy.

Mr. Dalyell

Now that the complex arguments have been fully deployed, is not this one occasion in politics when a Government could honourably change their minds?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think at the moment that there is any question of the Government changing their minds. I believe that the Bill has just passed through the other place and will be coming before this House.

Medical School Places (Women Students)

25. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many applications were received from women students for places in medical schools during each of the past four years; and how many were accepted.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Within the scheme run by the Universities Central Council of Admissions, the numbers of [column 1313]women applying to read medicine for the four years from 1969–70 to 1972–73 were 1,805, 2,091, 2,642 and 3,192 respectively; the corresponding acceptances were 660, 731, 880 and 909. The total numbers of women accepted to read medicine in the United Kingdom in these years were 778, 861, 1,019 and 1,030 respectively.

Mr. Wainwright

I am delighted by the speed with which the hon. Gentleman read out that answer. Does he not agree that it is deplorable that in this country, when we are so short of doctors, we cannot even find more places for women in our medical schools? When will the Government do something about providing more places to ensure that more women can take up medical courses which they are willing to take but cannot do so because of the attitude of the Government against women doctors?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The whole question of women in medical schools is being examined and I do not wish to anticipate the advice of the Select Committee or the Green Paper which the Government intend to publish. But I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that women formed 26 per cent. of the applicants in 1969–70 and 28.6 per cent, in 1972–73 in UCCA terms, while for admissions, the proportions were 27.4 per cent. and 30.8 per cent. In terms of United Kingdom totals, the admissions were 28.3 per cent. and 31.3 per cent. The point is that a higher proportion of women applicants were admitted than in the case of men applicants.