Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Jul 24 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 [860/1380-1399]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7143
Themes: Education, Primary education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Public spending & borrowing, Housing, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Transport, Trade unions
[column 1380]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Class Size

1. Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of primary classes contained more than 40 pupils in January 1970 and in January 1973.

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

In January 1970, in England and Wales, it was 6.6 per cent. The figure for January 1973 is not yet available, but in January 1972 it was 2.5 per cent.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon Friend congratulate my right hon. Friend on the steady improvement throughout her record term of office? Will he ask her, when planning future teacher-training programmes, always to bear in mind that unfortunately a great deal of remedial teaching is still required? Will he urge his right hon. Friend to do all she can to encourage the courses required for specialisation in this most worthwhile branch of the profession?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall certainly convey the good wishes of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend. I assure my hon. Friend that I regard remedial teaching as extremely important, but we hope that as it gets under way the nursery school programme will reduce the the need for this type of education by bringing children into the educational system earlier.

Mr. Marks

When the Under-Secretary conveys his congratulations, will he point out to the Secretary of State that all the teachers concerned were in college when his party took office? Does he not accept that within the figure he quoted of 2.5 per cent. there are many variations? Is he aware that in Lancashire the proportion is twice as great and that in a number of schools in my constituency more than half the classes contain more than 30 children? Will the hon. Gentleman accept emergency building plans, particularly from Lancashire, because housing authorities are giving permission for the building of hundreds of houses [column 1381]which could be built within a year, while school building is at least two years behind?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I accept that regional variations exist. I quoted an overall figure. I assure the hon. Member that the needs of Lancashire will always be given appropriate consideration. However, to put the situation into perspective, the hon. Gentleman should take account of the fact that the incidence of team teaching in primary schools is increasing, which means that many of the apparently large classes are, in fact, groups of children under the guidance or control of more than one teacher.

Manningtree County Secondary School

2. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why she refused the Essex Local Education Authority's submission for the remodelling of the Manningtree County Secondary School to 450 places for inclusion in the 1975–76 or 1976–77 secondary replacement and improvement scheme.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Manningtree project was carefully examined, but the resources available had to be allocated to cases considered to be more urgent. It is open to the local education authority to resubmit the project for subsequent stages of the secondary improvement programme.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is a most disappointing reply, particularly as in this expanding area the school wishes to be remodelled and it is necessary to find more buildings in which to accommodate all the children in the area?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am aware that my hon. Friend would have found that reply disappointing. I am sorry not to be more forthcoming. The Department and my right hon. Friend are aware of the strong feelings among parents in Manningtree and that the lack of suitable buildings may delay the intended reorganisation of the school as a comprehensive school for the 11-to-16 age group. As my hon. Friend knows, however, the low rate of growth of the secondary school population in the area makes it difficult to justify additions to the existing Manningtree buildings on the basis of basic needs.

[column 1382]

Maintained Schools (Status)

3. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the average time taken by her Department to reply to applications for changes of status of maintained schools under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944 in the year ending 1st July 1973; and what was the equivalent time taken in the years ending 1st July 1971 and 1st July 1972.

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

To answer this Question would involve a special analysis of some 3,000 proposals. The information cannot therefore be provided without disproportionate cost.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is increasing concern among local authorities about the length of time which her Department takes to deal with these applications and that the delay is growing? Because of escalating building costs, every month of delay costs local authorities large sums. Will she do everything possible to speed up her Department's replies to these applications?

Mrs. Thatcher

Section 13 notices and the building programmes are quite separate and decisions on one are given without prejudice to the other, and that is always stated. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that within the past five months we have been gaining on the waiting list.

Mr. Hattersley

Would it not help local authorities by speeding matters if the hon. Lady laid down criteria for what she would regard as acceptable reorganisation proposals? Why does she not do that?

Mrs. Thatcher

Because many of them are different and each has to be judged on its merit. One of the other factors in delay may be that a local authority might ask us to hold things up to see whether it can make some of the required changes.

Adult Education

4. Mr. Boyden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in her consideration of whether to appoint a development council for adult education.

[column 1383]

14. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she now proposes to have discussions with the local authority associations, the appropriate teachers' associations and other interested bodies, on the Russell Report on Adult Education.

17. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has yet arranged discussions with interested persons about the Russell Report on Adult Education.

34. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in her discussions with interested parties on the recommendations of the Russell Report on Adult Education.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not yet completed my consideration of this comprehensive and detailed report, one of whose proposals is for a development council for adult education. As soon as I have done so I shall arrange discussions with the local authority associations, the relevant teachers' associations and representatives of the other main interests in adult education about the report's recommendations. Meanwhile, I am not ready to comment on particular recommendations of the report.

Mr. Boyden

Does not the Secretary of State realise that those who are interested in adult education are becoming irritated about the delay? The right hon. Lady has had the report since January. How much longer does she require before her Department comes to a view on the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the hon. Gentleman forgets that the report took four years to compile by people specially sitting to consider the subject. I hope it will not be long before it goes out to consultation. In the meantime, the number of people availing themselves of the splendid adult education service is increasing. It has increased by three-quarters of a million since the Russell Committee started its work.

Mr. Bidwell

Would the Minister recognise that there is great feeling about this matter in many organisations traditionally concerned with adult education? [column 1384]Would she think seriously about giving a date for stimulating discussion and getting the funds necessary to implement the report?

Mrs. Thatcher

I share the hon. Gentleman's sympathy about the subject and I wish to do more to help adult education. It is a highly complex report. We need more time to analyse it and to consult interested parties, but I hope that it will not be much longer.

Mr. Chapman

When my right hon. Friend discusses the report with interested parties, would she agree that crucial to the expansion of places for adult education must be the use of existing facilities in primary and secondary schools, colleges of further education and universities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will certainly bear that in mind. It was a subject to which the report gave a good deal of attention. We are all anxious that capital and equipment facilities should be used to the maximum.

Mr. Barnes

With the demand for adult education growing as the Secretary of State has said, would she not agree that it is important that the development council, if there is to be one, should have sufficient funds of its own, as the Schools Council has, to carry out its own research into varying needs and new curricula?

Mrs. Thatcher

The development council was one of the proposals put forward by the Russell Committee, and I would rather not comment on it at this stage.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

I realise the vital importance of full consultation, but can my right hon. Friend say to what extent the recommendations of the Russell Committee are likely to be covered by existing education commitments rather than by any extension of them?

Mrs. Thatcher

Extra money has been allocated since the Russell Committee started to sit, otherwise we could not possibly have had the growth of an extra three-quarters of a million people in the system. There is a certain amount of growth built in as we do our ordinary projection on the existing rate of expansion of numbers in adult education.

[column 1385]

Mr. Moyle

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we on this side of the House accept the Russell Report in principle? Can she say the same? If she cannot find it in her heart to do so, will she at least say that she considers adult education to be important?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already said that I am sympathetic to the ideas contained in the report.

Mr. Grylls

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that about 50 per cent. of industrial workers—those doing shift work—are effectively excluded from adult education? Can she give a date when statutory release for education courses will be the right of every citizen?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry, but I cannot satisfy the last half of that supplementary question. It is a broad question on its own. Some authorities, of which mine is one, have adult education centres during the day. For example, I know of one that uses a previous secondary school, which has been replaced, for daytime adult education purposes.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

5. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will publish in the Official Report details of the pupil-teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools in each of the past five years.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate the details in the Official Report.

Mr. Montgomery

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the figures show an improving trend, particularly in the primary sector? If so, does not this show up the hypocrisy of the Labour Party, which launched a recent attack on the Government on this issue?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am glad to say that my hon. Friend is right and that the figures show a steady improvement. The position concerning primary class sizes is improving faster than that concerning secondary class sizes. As the figures in the report show, the ratios for 1969–70 are much higher than those for 1971–72. The earlier figures are based on teaching staff and later ones are based on qualified [column 1386]teachers only, so that the figures understate the true improvement.

Mr. Carter

Is the Minister aware that, as a result of his right hon. Friend's refusal to implement the Birmingham Local Education Authority's proposals for the reorganisation of secondary education in the city, many schools will have a full complement of staff this coming year, though an insufficient number of pupils, because parents refuse to allow their children to travel from one side of the city to the other to attend an appropriate school? Can he tell the House on what criteria the education system in Birmingham has been so disrupted?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Any disruption of the Birmingham education system is not due to my right hon. Friend's decisions. She has based her decisions on educational considerations, local needs and wishes and, above all, on the needs of the children concerned.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Is my hon. Friend aware that, even if my right hon. Friend had accepted the radical proposals for secondary reorganisation in Birmingham, it was pointed out to the Birmingham education authority on repeated occasions that it would not be practicable to implement those proposals this September? Therefore, any blame to be attached must fall squarely on the shoulders of the chairman of the local education authority.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is an interesting point, but it does not arise directly from the Question.

Mr. Hattersley

Since the Secretary of State took her Birmingham decision with such objectivity, why did she think it right to brief Conservative Members of Parliament about her decision before she told either the Catholic Church or the local education authority?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. Friend took the proper steps to inform all interested parties.

Mr. Hattersley

Since the right hon. Lady claims such objectivity in these matters, why did she think it right to brief Conservative Members of Parliament before she notified either the Catholic Church or the LEA of her decision?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I did not realise that the hon. Gentleman's hearing was [column 1387]defective. I made it clear that my right hon. Friend took entirely proper steps to inform all interested parties.

Under-Fives

6. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children under five years of age are attending nursery schools or primary schools at the latest convenient date; and how this figure compares with those for the previous five years on the same date.

Mrs. Thatcher

The provisional figure for January 1973, for maintained schools in England and Wales, is 394 000. This compares with 351,000 in 1972, 318,000 in 1971, 291,000 in 1970, 275,000 in 1969 and 257,000 in 1968.

Mr. Cooke

I am sure that the House will wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend on this great progress. Perhaps she will tell the House whether it will be maintained. Does she agree that a really good start at that end of the education process is worth almost more than anything else that we can give to the children? Will she ensure that, in the work of the nursery classes and so on, parents are brought into the picture wherever possible so that education complements the home influences?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am happy to say that I agree with my hon. Friend on most of those points. It was for that reason that we put so much stress on the primary school programme first. We are having for the first time a 10-year nursery programme on the education budget and we shall put stress on parent-teacher relationships in the way my hon. Friend wishes.

Miss Lestor

I welcome any extension in nursery education, but will the right hon. Lady make two matters clear? First, on her figures, will she explain how much of the increase is due to the fact that many places that were full-time and taking one child are now part[column 1388]time and taking two children? Secondly, will she explain why she continues to include in figures for nursery education what is implied in the Question: that many children in primary schools—rising fives and four-year-olds—are receiving nursery education? Anyone who has looked at this matter, especially in the North of England, knows that many of these children are going into reception classes and are not receiving nursery education, despite what has been spelt out in the circular.

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the hon. Lady will agree that the reply which I gave answers accurately the Question. When I first went to the Department I was requested by the National Union of Teachers and many education authorities to admit children at the beginning of the year in which they were five. This was not previously allowed under the old Circular 860 but it obtained during the hon. Lady's tenure of office.

Miss Lestor

Will the right hon. Lady answer the supplementary question? How many of the full-time places are now part-time places, which has the effect of raising the figures, and what does she intend to do about the rising fives and four-year-olds in primary classes who are not receiving nursery education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the hon. Lady will find the answer to the last part of her question in the circular which said that it was better, as I have said many times in the House, for children under five to have full-scale nursery provision. It is better for children to be in school than not there at all, for them to be where their parents wished them to be. Many parents prefer their children, before the age of five, to go to school part-time, but there will be some provision for full-time education.

Mrs. Renée Short

As the education authorities have put in considerable demands for a share of the money allocated under the White Paper—this has now been exceeded—will the right hon. Lady say what she is doing to make more money available to meet the demands of the LEAs?

Mrs. Thatcher

This 10-year programme is a great advance on anything which has been achieved before, and the [column 1389]first two years of the programme will go ahead with the money allocated which, as the hon. Lady knows, was increased by 22 per cent. because of the recent cost limit increase.

Degrees and Qualifications

7. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue a list naming the institutions offering bogus qualifications.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. I have issued a list of authentic degrees and equivalent qualifications awarded in the United Kingdom. This is a more effective safeguard and anyone in doubt can consult the list.

Miss Fookes

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the only effective way of dealing with this matter is by legislation prohibiting completely the activities of such institutions?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not sure that that would be the only effective way. It would mean setting up a vast registration system, which would mean yet another extension of bureaucracy. At present the best way is to have a list of authentic degrees and to see that it is readily and easily available. The fault is not limited to bogus degrees in this country; many are granted abroad.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Lady aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) has introduced a Bill that would go some way to deal with the racket of “phoney” degrees? Will she see that the Government expedite the passage of that Bill?

Mrs. Thatcher

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on asking that question a day before the House rises. I hardly think there would be time before then.

Mr. Boyden

Surely the Government could prosecute firms in England which issue bogus degrees. Will her Department consider that?

Mrs. Thatcher

Prosecutions are not a matter for my Department; they would probably be for my right hon. Friend R. Carrthe Home Secretary.

8. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is [column 1390]satisfied with the distribution of the information she has prepared on recognised degrees and qualifications; and in how many countries this is now available.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. The number of countries to which the information has been sent is 134.

Miss Lestor

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that the whole education world is angry about the attitude of the Government, particularly her own attitude, to the whole question? Many of my hon. Friends and I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) about legislation. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with the people my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) and I have mentioned who have done a great deal of work—Mr. Day and Mr. Lydden-Jones—on bogus qualifications and their repeated recommendations about legislation?

Mrs. Thatcher

The subject was brought to my attention by the Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges. As a result, we went into the problem and we have taken steps of which the hon. Lady knows.

Arts Council Grants

9. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will introduce legislation to enable grants made by the Arts Council to be subject to parliamentary approval and control.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, Sir. My noble Friend is satisfied with the present procedures for the grant-in-aid.

Mr. Iremonger

How am I to get some money for the Redbridge Youth Brass Band?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Not from me, I am afraid, nor from the Arts Council, since the Arts Council does not make grants to individual local bands, brass or otherwise. Local authorities are able to make grants to students to attend the National Youth Brass Band courses, of which there are two a year, and many students do. I do not know whether the local authority represented by my hon. Friend makes grants, but that could be another source of income. About 100 youngsters a year attend each course. They obtain modest grants of about £15 [column 1391]and I believe that they are extremely profitable.

16. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the percentage change in the amount of money granted to the Arts Council since June 1970.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Eighty-seven per cent. more.

Mr. Clark

Hon. Members will be pleased with the considerable increase in the amount of money granted to the Arts Council, but will the Minister draw to the attention of the Arts Council the importance of the brass band movement to culture in certain parts of this country and request it to give money either through the regional councils to individual brass bands or direct to the National Youth Brass Band?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is not my function to make such a request but I have been in correspondence with the Arts Council about this topic, in which the hon. Member has for a long time taken a keen personal interest. I am pleased to be able to say that I heard recently from the Chairman of the Arts Council that its music panel reacted encouragingly to general proposals from the bands' musical adviser and that the musical director of the Arts Council has written for costed, specific proposals that will enlarge its musical scope. Although the responsibility rests with the Arts Council, I am sanguine that the hon. Member's campaign will eventually have a happy outcome.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Is not this a classic example of the way in which popular art receives far greater emphasis under the present Government? Will my hon. Friend encourage this trend?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I think that we need both popular and élite art.

Mr. Faulds

Does the junior Minister realise that it is well past time that his right hon. Friend increased Arts Council funding specifically to deal with the great needs of housing the museums, as recommended by the latest report which, apparently, the Paymaster-General has peremptorily dismissed, and housing music throughout these islands?

[column 1392]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I think that the junior Shadow, if there be such a creature, has not studied his Order Paper, because there is a later Question on this subject in his own name.

Careers Guidance

11. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has yet received the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate on careers education and guidance in secondary schools; and whether she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

The report which has just been completed reached me yesterday. I have not yet had time to study it fully.

Mr. Knox

In view of the considerable public interest in this matter, does my right hon. Friend intend to publish the report?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir.

Scientific Research

12. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions she has had with the European Space Research Organisation on the level of the British contribution to scientific research.

Mrs. Thatcher

In December 1971 the future total level of expenditure on the scientific programme of the European Space Research Organisation was agreed by member States of the organisation and the British contribution to it remains in line with that agreement.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it accepted that on 15th August the Government will have to make a critical decision for high technology in this country, namely, whether to accept the American offer of participation in the post-Apollo programme? In these circumstances, what is the position on the crucial question of a maritime satellite?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman is asking about the technology side of the space programme, which he knows full well is a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry. I am responsible for £3.2 million on the fundamental research side and a £500,000 contribution to ESRO, which was in line with the December 1971 agreement. The hon. [column 1393]Gentleman is asking about the contribution from the Department of Trade and Industry. Negotiations will be conducted through it between now and the middle of August.

Mr. Marten

Does my right hon. Friend relish having responsibility for matters of space satellites in her Department?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am always happy to have fundamental research done on a budget within my Department. It is a limited amount of the space programme.

Office for Scientific and Technical Information

15. Mr. Adam Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the results being achieved by the work of the Office for Scientific and Technical Information; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am satisfied that there is wide recognition of OSTI's work in investigating thought about information needs, methods of handling and presenting information, and problems of system management and of professional and user education. All projects supported by OSTI are independently refereed and the balance of work so supported is reviewed annually by the Advisory Committee for Scientific and Technical Information.

Mr. Hunter

Is the right hon. Lady satisfied that all computerised technical information services are more efficient and less costly than other systems? Is she aware of the strong feeling that there has been a great deal of wasteful expenditure by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information? Would not the right hon. Lady agree that, because the argument about manually operated and computerised services will continue for some time, an independent inquiry should be held and a committee composed of non-scientists should be set up to discover the merits and demerits of both systems?

Mrs. Thatcher

I doubt very much whether, on research projects, a committee of non-scientists could adjudicate on computer or manual methods for the retrieval of information. I think the hon. Gentleman knows that OSTI receives few applications for work of a manual kind and that none has yet won support from [column 1394]independent referees. OSTI has set up a committee to consider this matter, and one of the persons about whom the hon. Gentleman is particularly concerned has been invited to attend.

Student Unions

18. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has for the reform of student unions.

Mrs. Thatcher

Responsibility for approving changes in student union constitutions rests, generally speaking, with the authorities of universities and colleges. Proposals to change the present system of financing the unions have been under discussion between my Department and the various interests concerned, but no agreement has been reached. I propose to consider the matter further in the light of the Government's decision to finance 90 per cent. of the cost of mandatory student awards.

Mr. Lamont

Does my right hon. Friend remember the case in which Mr. Justice Brightman recently ruled that student unions were educational trusts and could disburse their funds only for educational purposes? Is it not also the case that the Secretary of State has responsibility for educational trusts stemming from the 1944 Act? What action does my right hon. Friend propose to take to exercise those responsibilities and to prevent the abuse of student union funds, which I believe was one of the reasons for her previous proposals?

Mrs. Thatcher

The charitable jurisdiction of the Department is in process of being transferred, but from my recollection the case to which my hon. Friend refers was a specific one. It would not mean that all unions were themselves charitable trusts. Therefore, the rule in that case would not apply to them all.

Mr. Moyle

While we are on the subject of students and mandatory awards, may I ask whether the right hon. Lady knows that the regulations she is laying before the House this afternoon for improving student awards do not include provision for the £20 increase for married women about which she made such great play in her announcement on 15th May? Is not this either massive cynicism towards married women students or massive incompetence?

[column 1395]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This Question is about student unions.

Mr. John Mendelson

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that a large body of opinion both inside and outside the universities is completely opposed to any action which would stifle freedom of expression for student unions and which would stifle the growing interest among students in public affairs and their bearing witness to the moral involvement they feel, which they also want to show by contributing their funds? Will she refuse to listen to the reactionary voices behind her?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that many of the hon. Gentleman's questions arise from the original Question. Other people, who feel equally strongly about moral involvement, think that there should perhaps be, for the better freedom of expression, rules which monitor student unions as regards their regulations with regard to elections and taking decisions, to make certain that they are properly and democratically taken. The objective may well be the same as the hon. Gentleman's, but there are different arguments about the way in which those objectives should be achieved.

Provincial Museums and Galleries

19. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she can now state what action she proposes to take on the recommendations contained in her departmental report on provincial museums and galleries.

44. Mr. Faulds

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she intends to take following the publication of the report on provincial museums and galleries.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would refer the right hon. and hon. Members to the answer given by my right hon. Friend on 28th June in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke). My noble Friend has sent the hon. Members copies of his speech to the Museum Association conference in Dundee on 13th July.

Mr. Strauss

I appreciate that the Minister is increasing the purchase grant for the provincial museums and galleries, but does he not realise that their out[column 1396]standing need is money with which to improve the wholly inadequate accommodation in which the present exhibits are shown? In view of the recent resolution passed by the Museums Association deploring in the strongest possible terms—those words were used—the rejection by the Minister of the Wright Committee's major recommendation that a fund should be established for the housing of the museums similar to the housing of the arts, will he rapidly reconsider his regrettable decision?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know that the right hon. Gentleman's disappointment is shared by a number of people, but to set up such a fund at a time of cutback in general Government capital investment would be merely to stimulate demands which could not be met and which would, therefore, increase frustration. I am happy to say that the Government are prepared to consider, together with local authorities, whether some form of central Government assistance within the arts programme would be justified in special cases of more than local significance. I hope that this will go some way towards meeting the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Crouch

May I remind my right hon. Friend that there are many of us who are particularly interested in pianos and organs? Could he pull out a few more stops and endeavour to rehouse the British Piano Museum at the David Salomans House, about which I have written?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I share my hon. Friend's interest in those instrument, as I play both of them myself. However, the responsibility for David Salomans House lies with the Department of Health and Social Security and not my Department.

Mr. Faulds

I thank the hon. Gentleman for salvaging my Question from the end of the Order Paper. As it is known that the committee, with the exception of the two departmental members, was unanimously in favour of a mandatory rate, will he get his right hon. Friend to carefully consider this proposal——

Mr. Fell

Carefully to consider.

Mr. Faulds

To carefully consider—I will use my own words; we need no [column 1397]training from whippersnappers—because, contrary to the Paymaster-General's assertion, this does not involve centralised control?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If I may intervene in this grammatical seminar, my noble Friend the Paymaster-General attaches the greatest importance to voluntary local effort and believes that a mandatory rate would not be appropriate but that we should encourage local authorities to fulfil their responsibilities in this respect.

School Transport

20. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many meetings have been held by the Working Party on School Transport.

Mrs. Thatcher

Fifteen.

Dr. Marshall

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the working party, which was set up on 7th March 1972, is taking too long over a most urgent problem for my constituents—those who live in old Goole, Knottingley, Ferrybridge and Darrington? Will she specify dates by which the working party should make its final report to her?

Mrs. Thatcher

The working party has three more meetings arranged and I hope that the report will be available by the end of the year.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is considerable urgency in this matter? I have been pressing her for over 18 months to come to a conclusion about changing the existing system. By the end of the year for the working party's report is too late. Cannot she hurry on the working party and give the House her conclusions when we come back after the Summer Recess? The matter is urgent.

Mrs. Thatcher

There will be more meetings before the House returns. I have been squeezed between both sides of the House, if I might put it that way. I shall convey the views of both sides of the House to the chairman of the working party.

Deprived Areas

21. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her policy regarding the provision of [column 1398]additional teaching resources for schools in areas of social deprivation.

Mrs. Thatcher

Authorities can apply for an increase in their quota of teachers to meet the needs of these areas.

Teachers in schools designated as of exceptional difficulty receive special additions to pay.

Capital programmes for the replacement or improvement of primary and secondary schools give some preference to deprived areas and a degree of priority will also be given in the new nursery programme for bids in respect of these areas.

Mr. Deakins

Is the right hon. Lady aware that one of the major difficulties facing London local education authorities is the worsening housing situation which affects their ability to attract and retain younger teachers? Is there anything further she can do to help local authorities like mine in this respect?

Mrs. Thatcher

As regards the housing problem, local authorities themselves have the best means to make houses available to teachers if they wish to do so. The initiative lies with them.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Minister aware that the latest Schools Council survey shows that no fewer than one-fifth of those leaving school at the age of 16 are judged to be capable of GCE A-level and that most of them are the children of semi-skilled and unskilled parents? Cannot she provide more precise information about how she intends to stop this continuing massive wastage of ability in our education system?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have taken the major step of raising the school leaving age. It has been raised for only a term and it is too soon to judge the effects. If young pupils wish to do so, they can stay on voluntarily after the school leaving age, or alternatively, go into the further education system.

Student Grants

22. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on maintenance allowances paid to pupils attending maintained schools beyond the compulsory school leaving age.

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Mrs. Thatcher

I have nothing to add to the reply given to the Question by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) on 15th May.—[Vol. 856, c. 1213.]

Mr. Dormand

Inadequate maintenance allowances are the biggest deterrent to pupils staying on at school. Is not that particulary true of pupils in the Northern Region? Has not the time now arrived when there ought to be national scales for maintenance allowances instead of having some of the pitifully inadequate allowances which some local education authorities provide?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not believe that that is the biggest deterrent to pupils staying on after the compulsory school leaving age. Again, however, the remedy lies with the local authorities, and if we are to take all their discretions away there will be little point in having local authorities.