HC Deb 05 February 1964 vol 688 cc1160-6
The Lord President of the Council and Minister for Science (Mr. Quintin Hogg)

Mr. Speaker. With your permission and that of the House, I desire to make a statement on university grants.

In the White Paper issued on 24th October the Government accepted the Robbins Committee's proposals for immediate university expansion in the next few years and for the 10 years down to 1973–74, and stated that recurrent and capital grants for the university institutions concerned would be adjusted accordingly. The University Grants Committee was asked to discuss with these institutions the best methods for securing the expansion. I am now in a position to make a statement about the adjustment of recurrent grants to universities for the remaining three years of this quinquennium, and the accelerated university building programme for the calendar year 1964. Consultations about the level of building starts for the calendar years 1965, 1966, and 1967 are in progress, and the Government's decisions will be announced in due course.

The total recurrent grant to existing universities for the remaining three years of this quinquennium will be increased by £3.5 million, £7.2 million, and £9.8 million, respectively, making a total of £20.5 million. The total estimated recurrent provision for the three years, including rates and salary supplementation, will thus rise to about £275 million, as follows: 1964–65, £82.1 million; 1965–66, £91.8 million; 1966–67, £101.5 million.

The new level of recurrent grant, together with the corresponding provision at present borne on Education Department Votes for institutions which are to have university status, is fixed with a view to attainment of the objective recommended by the Robbins Report of about 197,000 full-time students for the first year of the next quinquennium. The grants take account of costs as calculated to the most convenient date—July 1963—and the cost of the recently agreed increase in the wages of university technicians. In accordance with normal practice, any adjustment in academic salaries following the Report of the National Incomes Commission will be the subject of a special earmarked grant.

On the capital side, the Government are authorising an increase in the value of building starts in universities in 1964 from £33½ million to £48½ million. This increase will be devoted to an accelerated programme to accommodate the larger numbers coming into the universities up to 1967–68. The House will remember that the money figure for building work started expresses only part of the total cost involved, which must also take account of substantial expenditure on sites, professional fees, and equipment. The total capital commitment in respect of 1964 building starts therefore works out at about £70 million.

Appropriate provision will be made in the 1964–65 Estimates for the consequent expenditure in the coming financial year. The Vote concerned, at over £130m., will be more than four times the corresponding provision 10 years ago.

In reaching these decisions, the Government have had in mind recommendations 170 to 173 inclusive of the Robbins Report. They recognise, as, indeed, the Report states, that the achievement of the new objectives will mean improvision and pressure, and the deferment of many desirable plans in the universities during these years. They are, however, sure that they can rely on the universities to co-operate fully in extracting the best possible value for money from these increased allocations.

Mr. Rankin

Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman write that himself?

Mr. Willey

Is the Minister aware that although it is a pity that this statement has been delayed, it is welcomed on both sides of the House? On the capital side, this seems to meet the demand of the Robbins Committee that there should be a substantial increase in 1964. In fact, the measure of the increase is the measure of Government neglect in not providing this earlier.

On the recurrent grants, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the extra provision for next year of £3½ million is sufficient? Can he tell the House whether this meets the wishes of the U.G C. and the universities and whether this is all that can be accomplished next year? Can he say, in particular, whether this meets the needs of the universities in the provision of technical staff, secretarial assistance, library assistance and that sort of staff, which is emphasised in the Robbins Committee's Report?

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman also say whether the Government are now giving attention to the emergency measures called for in the provision of evening studies and correspondence courses, because the Robbins Committee asked for this to be implemented in the next year or two?

Mr. Hogg

The question of correspondence courses, and so on, is being studied either by myself or by my right hon. Friend.

On the question of technicians, the recurrent grants which I announced are on the advice of the University Grants Committee which, I know, has these needs in mind.

I am sure that the hon. Member will be pleased to remember that the expenditure on further education generally is now three times what it was four years ago.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

In regard to this large and welcome new university programme, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the effect that this type of construction will have on the movement of population? Will he therefore see that the North and the West get their fair share?

Mr. Hogg

I quite agree with my hon. Friend about that. Of course, the location of new universities and the expansion of existing universities is primarily something I consider on the advice of the U.G.C., which knows my views on this subject.

Mr. Woodburn

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell we whether his statement includes the cost of new universities such as the new university for Scotland, or is it just the increase for existing universities? If it includes the new university, does it also include contributions to be made locally, such as the amount of money to be guaranteed by Stirlingshire if the new university is situated there? Is that included in the total, or is it outside the amount stated by the Minister?

Mr. Hogg

The recurrent grants which I announced in the earlier part of my statement are confined to existing universities. The capital grants, which are, of course, for the calendar year 1964, do not apply to any specific universities. This is the total value of allowed starts to be allocated in accordance with the advice, when we receive it, from the University Grants Committee.

Mr. Woodburn

Was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make a definite statement about the new Scottish university within two or three weeks? Has that statement anything to do with the statement made today, or is it not yet included in this estimate?

Mr. Hogg

I am awaiting the advice of the University Grants Committee about the location of the new Scottish university. I think that I am right in saying that this statement has no direct bearing on that.

Mr. Gurden

Will my right hon. Friend recognise, despite what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench, how welcome these figures will be to this side of the House and to the whole field of education? Have all concerned the likelihood or a possibility of review of these figures annually, as there will be such a speed of advance?

Mr. Hogg

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. The current grants are for the three remaining years of the quinquennium. The figures for the 1965 and 1966 calendar years for the non-recurrent grants have still to be announced. They will, of course, take into account what I have said about the calendar year 1964.

Mr. Wade

Do the figures which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given provide for the necessary increase in post-graduates intending to enter the teaching profession to ensure that there are sufficient graduate teachers to meet our educational needs?

Mr. Hogg

They do not include the grants for post-graduate awards, if that is what the hon. Member has in mind. I announced that to some extent in my remarks to the House the other day. I suppose that they are included in the non-recurrent building costs, which must include a certain element for postgraduate work.

Mr. Prior

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his announcement this afternoon will be widely welcomed in East Anglia, where two new universities have recently been established, at Norwich and Colchester? What can he tell us about the increased rate of acceleration at these two new universities in the next two or three years?

Mr. Hogg

If I were to start answering about specific universities, I should get beyond my ability to give accurate figures.

Dr. King

While welcoming, as everyone in the House must, the Government's acceptance of a university expansion programme of this magnitude, may I ask the Minister how he has arrived at the figures and whether, this time, he has accepted not only the programme as put forward by the University Grants Committee, but the actual figures of cost put by that Committee, as distinct from two years ago when the Government accepted the expansion programme of the U.G.C. but refused to provide the money which the Committee said was necessary?

Mr. Hogg

I cannot go further into the question of two years ago than my right hon. Friend went in the debate last week, when he completely disposed of that point.

As to recurrent grants, as I told the House in answer to an earlier supplementary question, the decision announced in my statement was taken on the advice of the U.G.C.

As to non-recurrent grants for the calendar year 1964, as I told the House the other day I have not yet had final advice from the U.G.C., because it has to consult 37 bodies of university status. I thought it desirable, however, to make a statement in advance of that, because as this is for the calendar year, time is getting on.

Mrs. White

Can the Minister say, first, that he will meet the requirements not only for the first year of the next quinquennium, but also for the three remaining years of the present quinquennium, which affect the young people who were born immediately after the war and to whom the Robbins Committee made such a passionate reference?

Secondly, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, in his arrangements, he is paying special attention to the need for library provision on the arts side? The scientists get all the laboratory provision, but will the arts people have adequate library provision?

Mr. Hogg

The recurrent grants which I have announced are for the last three years of the present quinquennium. The non-recurrent grants will affect different buildings as from the date of their completion, but probably more in relation to the first year of the next quinquennium than during this one, for reasons which are obvious. I can, however, assure the hon. Lady that the figures which I have mentioned are designed to fulfil completely the targets that were accepted by the Government in their White Paper and recommended by the Robbins Committee.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.