§ 3.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
The House debated higher education on 25th March this year. That was a debate in which we achieved a wide measure of agreement in all parts of the House and a debate particularly notable for the similarity of views expressed by the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle).
In summing up that debate, in what was an admirable speech, the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, concluded by talking about educational building programmes. He said:As a nation, we have not had a large enough or good enough programme. Now we must have a mood of impatience in which we are prepared to go forward and expand higher education and all aspects of education at a faster rate than ever before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 841.]That was in March of this year. Last week we had the Chancellor's statement which made no mention of universities or colleges. It must have been a surprise to many people to discover that the stop on building programmes was to apply to universities, technical colleges, colleges of education and to the Youth Service. These programmes, except in development districts and in areas of high unemployment, are to be postponed for six months.
I do not wish to jog backwards to election promises, or to go over the ground that has been fairly adequately 1510 covered in lengthy censure debates in the past week or two. I want to inquire from the Minister of State what will be the effect of this very serious stop on educational building, because we have had no information so far. The Guardian reported the day after the Chancellor's statement that the Education Department had had to answer their inquiries by saying that the Department had no intimation of the Chancellor's intentions. Certainly in the succeeding days we have not been able to get any detailed information as to what this stop will mean. I want to look at the justification that has been given for these measures and to consider what alternatives might have been open to the Government and to the Department of Education and Science.
I would like to ask the Minister of State two preliminary questions merely asking for confirmation. I take it that when the Chancellor says this stop is not to apply to schools this means that the minor works programme is to go forward this year as planned.
§ Mr. Chataway
I am glad to see the Minister of State nodding. The second question is, will the school building programmes stand, to the middle of 1967–68, as previously announced?
§ Mr. Chataway
I see the Minister of State nods again. I am sure the House will be glad to know that. I pass on to five of the building programmes which have been affected.
First of all, the Youth Service. Since the publication of the Albemarle Report there has been something of a rejuvenation of the Youth Service in this country, and I believe that what has happened in the Youth Service is regarded with approval by most Members in this House. It is a fairly general view that there is a vital function to be performed by the Youth Service, voluntary and statutory organisations. Throughout that period, as hon. Members will know, the Youth Service has asked for bigger building programmes than we have been able to give. They have been substantially bigger in the pre-Albemarle days, but the Youth 1511 Service Development Council has never made any secret of its wish for a substantially bigger programme than the £4½ million programme of last year, which was to have been repeated this year.
This must mean a substantial reduction in that programme and must constitute about the most serious setback to the Youth Service since the publication of the Albemarle Report.
Secondly, the programme of building of sports and recreational facilities will be very hard hit. The curbs on local authority capital expenditure must mean that in the remainder of this year we shall see only a proportion of the building of sports facilities that would otherwise have occurred.
I have admired the enthusiasm of the Joint Under-Secretary of State to the Department of Education and Science, whose concern for the Youth Service and for sport is not in question. It is something of a tragedy that he should preside over the Youth Service and be responsible for sport at a time when both these programmes are to suffer such heavy cuts. He has been able to give out hundreds of thousands of £s of additional help to various sporting organisations, but those efforts will be completely overshadowed by this stop on the building of sports facilities.
Thirdly, I want briefly to refer to the colleges of education. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) hopes to be able to say something concerning teacher training. It seems, however, a curious choice of priorities that the Government should bring the colleges of education under this axe. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has again and again said that he regards the teacher shortage as his first priority. We have not thought it right to press him to agree to the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on the Supply and Training of Teachers, who wanted the Robbins target for 1973 to be brought forward to 1970, but to postpone the building of colleges of education for six months seems to be an extraordinary selection of priorities.
Those who have been members of Sub-Committee B of the Estimates Committee will not be in much doubt that the effect of the stop on building for the universities 1512 must be to put in serious doubt our ability to attain the Robbins targets at the Robbins standards of provision over the coming years.
It may be that the Estimates Committee took too readily and too wholeheartedly the view of the universities about building programmes after 1967, although I do not want to enter into that argument tonight, but certainly the Estimates Committee was persuaded that the existing provisional building programmes—I realise that they are only provisional—after 1967 were inadequate to the universities as they stood. The Estimates Committee was persuaded that the universities would not be able to reach the Robbins targets at anything like the Robbins standards of provision unless there were substantial additional capital grants before those years.
In paragraph 120 of its Report, referring to the years after 1967, the Estimates Committee stated:It is not for Your Committee to recommend a reduction in student numbers but they must make it clear that, if the Robbins target is to be achieved without prejudice to accepted standards of university education, a further large increase in the capital grant of the Vote which they have been investigating would appear unavoidable.To postpone starts over the next six months must mean a delay in completion of university buildings until well into 1967. The Government's decision must, therefore, make it seriously questionable whether it will be possible in the years after 1967 to reach the Robbins targets.
But what of the immediate building programme? My right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth, in a letter to The Times of 2nd August, said that it was the view of the University Grants Committee at the time that the last building programme was negotiatedthat the 1965 building programme, as announced, was the absolute minimum required if the Universities were to be able to meet the Robbins estimate of the short-term demand for places during the critical years of the bulge.I do not think that any hon. Member will accuse my right hon. Friend, who was quite largely responsible for the negotiations with the University Grants Committee, or my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), of pretending it was overgenerous. Indeed, I well remember how 1513 many suggestions there were from the other side of the House that the programme was inadequate to the needs of the universities. It is, therefore, a little strange that the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in his rather unhappy and uneasy winding up speech the other night, should have said that the Government still believe that the Robbins targets can be met. Nobody will be more delighted than I if the Minister of State is able this evening to substantiate that claim and to show that the Robbins figures or anything like the Robbins standards of provision can be met despite this postponement of the university building programme.
I now refer to the technical colleges and the fifth and last of this series of cuts, and perhaps the most serious of all. The House will be aware that since 1957 there has been a steady expansion of industrial training and of the technical colleges. I think that the least explicable of all is that the Government should have decided to include the technical colleges within this postponement of public building. These colleges are faced with a very heavy pressure of numbers indeed, and the passing of the Industrial Training Act, of course, has added to the pressure upon the colleges. Those who know the education world will know that most of the technical colleges are not luxurious places. They are not places in which there is a great deal of space to spare, and I am sure those who do know the technical colleges well will have difficulty in imagining that they can readily squeeze in greatly increased numbers, without additional building.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that any blanket view can be misleading, and that it does vary from region to region and place to place?
§ Mr. Chataway
Well, the hon. Gentleman may know of areas where there is no pressure upon technical colleges. All I can say is that in settling the last building programme for the technical colleges at £24 million we had at the Department of Education and Science requests from local education authorities 1514 for building programmes of not less than £69 million. We gave £24 million. The bids were for £69 million, and I do not believe that any hon. Member would seriously contend that those programmes, either, were over-generous.
The numbers in the technical colleges are increasing at the moment, probably at the rate of about 70,000 a year, and the House should be in no doubt at all that this recent action is a serious blow to industrial training in this country. A great deal of emphasis has been laid, and rightly, upon the necessity for more training and better training for industry. There is no shortage in this Government of Ministers who are supposed to be concerned with technology and technical training. One wonders what the Minister of Technology had to say in the Cabinet when this suggestion was put forward, and how hard he fought it.
I remember the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, being reported as saying, I think it was in Australia, that he was brought into active participation in Labour politics by the Conservative Government's decision at the time of the quinquennial review on grants for the universities, and that it was the Government's decision then not then to meet in full the requirements of the U.G.C. which persuaded him into active participation in the Labour Party's affairs. If that was so, and bearing in mind that the Government at that time were not going back on a building programme that had been agreed, and bearing in mind that the sums involved may even have been smaller, I think that this might even be an occasion for him to make his exit from Labour politics.
There is also the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who I rather hoped might be here for this debate. When the Government were being formed, he came out of Downing Street saying, perhaps a trifle self-importantly, that he had a job which did not exist in the last Government. It turned out to be the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour who was responsible in the last Government, as he is in this, for industrial training, in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman was even told that the Chancellor was to make 1515 this statement to cut back industrial training in such a severe fashion.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that it took his Government five years to give university status to the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow?
§ Mr. Chataway
I am not sure that that is directly relevant to the question of industrial training. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this matter, but I am not sure that I would regard it as an indictment of the previous Government to set against what we are discussing this evening, which is the most serious stop on education building for a number of years.
What are the justifications which have so far been given for this? It has been suggested by the Chancellor and by the Prime Minister that this decision is a result of the review of Government expenditure. This is an explanation which I find difficult to accept, and which I am reluctant to accept, because if we have these measures announced as a result of a carefully thought out review of Government expenditure, presumably the reduced programmes are to stay for a number of years, and it is not just a question of a six-months' postponement that we are discussing.
It has also been suggested that the pressure on the building industry is too great, and that demand has to be reduced. It may well be—and I shall come to this in a moment—that there is a case for reducing Government expenditure, but the evidence that there is substantial pressure on the building industry—so substantial as to warrant huge cuts in Government expenditure—is difficult to discover. All the evidence that I have been able to collect shows that the pressure on the building industry is less now than it was a few months ago, and certainly that was the conclusion of the report of the National Institute to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred in his speech the other day.
In any event, surely it is now understood that cuts in capital expenditure are a very long delayed business? Reductions in capital expenditure do not have any immediate effect on the pressure of 1516 demand on the building industry. Their effect will be felt a year or 18 months hence, and I should have thought quite likely amount to a prescription for a recession in the building industry.
The truth of the matter—and it is probably recognised by many hon. Members—is that the Government believed that our creditors wanted to see a reduction in Government expenditure.
§ Mr. Chataway
I am coming to the case for a reduction. It is my view that the Government were persuaded that there was a case, or that our creditors believed that there was a case, for cuts in public expenditure, but that they were too afraid to make a reduction in current expenditure and were reluctant, for whatever combination of reasons, to make any reduction in consumption. They have therefore let the axe fall upon capital expenditure. This is a grave mistake.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
My hon. Friend has made a very valid point. The argument about trying to change our revenue affairs on capital account is irrelevant. The Minister of Transport today said that the cut of £75 million on our road building programme will be worth £1 million only in the current year on that account.
§ Mr. Chataway
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That shows that cuts on the capital side must have a long-delayed effect. But let us for a moment concede that there was a case for a reduction in Government expenditure. I am prepared to concede further, for the sake of argument, that it was reasonable to choose education to bear a substantial part of the brunt of that cut in expenditure. But does it really make sense—even if all that is conceded—to choose universities, technical colleges and colleges of further education for cuts in capital programmes?
We have no figures to go on, but I guess that about £40 million will be taken from capital programmes for educational expenditure as a result of the Chancellor's announcement. If it were decided that educational expenditure had to be reduced by £40 million, surely it would have been more reasonable to reduce by that amount the £93 million Exchequer subsidy on school milk and school meals 1517 rather than to cut back these vital building programmes. I see the look of horror on the face of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), but there are provisions for the relief of those who cannot afford to contribute towards the cost of school meals.
I am not advocating an increase in the price of school meals. It is not a reform that I am desperately anxious to see. But I believe that any reasonable Government would have chosen a reduction in expenditure here rather than on the capital side. Such a reduction would be far more relevant to the needs of our economy.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
"The hon. Member misinterpreted my expression. I may well wish to quarrel with any suggestion of cuts in the services that he has mentioned, but what is the connection between his suggestion and easing the strain on the building industry? How do we do this by cutting the subsidy on milk supplies in schools, and so on?
§ Mr. Chataway
I am sorry. I hoped that I had made it clear to the House that I saw little evidence that there was a need so substantially to reduce the pressure on the building industry a year or eighteen months hence as the Government's programme will do, and that the case that exists for reducing Government expenditure or the level of demand relates far more to consumption than to capital expenditure.
This is the contrast to the action taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in 1961. Then, school minor works were to an extent reduced, but no other capital programme was interfered with and, whatever criticisms are made, I believe that he was far nearer to a correct decision in those circumstances than the Government are in these circumstances today. He let his axe fall on consumption rather than on the capital expenditure which is vital to the future of this country. The Government have said again and again that these reductions are selective. All I can say is that they are very strange selectors indeed.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman recall that among the cuts made in 1961 was a 1518 sum of £40 million in subsidies to building societies for mortgages?
§ Mr. Chataway
While it would be in order to go on to roads, housing or overseas aid, we are discussing education, and it was to the education capital programmes that I was referring when I talked about the action of the previous Administration.
I find this action on the part of the Government hard to understand. I genuinely find it extremely difficult to understand how a Government could have the view of economic and educational priorities which is exemplified by the statement which we had from the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week. I can only say that it seems to me to show all the hallmarks of over-hasty decision and of a Government who are no longer in control of events. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to give us some figures and will be able to say by how much he expects these programmes this year and next year to be affected.
While I hope that we may have the figures I am not too confident, because I fear that the decision was taken without any detailed, clear assessment of the effect which it was likely to have on education. This is, as I have tried to suggest, a bad day for education. I hope that the Government or their successors will speedily be able to restore building programmes, particularly for the technical colleges, to the levels which those colleges have come to expect.
§ 3.43 a.m.
§ Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) said that this was a bad day for education. It is indeed, and I as a former technical college teacher and a man who has been engaged in education since 1931 as a teacher take a very serious view of the postponement of some of these capital expenditures, particularly in the two forms in which the economies have been directed, first to teacher-training and secondly to further education and the technical colleges.
Not long ago I initiated a debate in the House on the question of the training of teachers and the increase in the number of teachers which we might obtain. It is quite clear that we have been attempting to put pressure on the training colleges to expand and to adopt extraordinary 1519 methods to bring in more students. We have been asking them to adapt their programmes, their syllabuses, their buildings and their training methods to absorb more students, and now they are faced with this decision. I wonder, for example, how far these cuts will inhibit the capacity of the Ministry to raise the school-leaving age successfuly in 1970 or to reduce the large number of over-sized classes in primary and secondary schools. These are very serious problems. We have asked former members of the teaching profession to come back; we have asked the profession to adopt extraordinary methods in coping with the press of the increasing population in schools. Then they are faced with these severe cuts.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North, spoke about industrial training. As one who has taught in a technical college in an industry which I would describe as slightly old-fashioned, I am not so much concerned with industrial training. What I am concerned about is the liberal education which technical colleges provide. I have felt and have said in the House before that technical colleges could provide a tremendous opportunity for young men and women who have missed their opportunities at school to receive later in life a full and wide cultural education. This is what technical colleges should be looking at in 1965 and even more in the future.
We on these benches take a very serious view of these cuts, and I hope that my hon. Friend will tell the Government so. One question to which the hon. Member directed his attention was how much these cuts will be. What is the actual amount? I am sure that it was very difficult for him to present his speech on the basis of this ignorance, coupled with the doctrinal ignorance to which my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) referred. This combination of ignorance must make things very difficult. This is a very important question, with which I hope my hon. Friend will deal.
Having expressed our criticism of these cuts, I would say that it does not lie within the mouths of the Opposition to mount the attack which they are mounting tonight. The hon. Member spoke about election programmes. Let us look at some. I have here the White Paper 1520 which was the "dud" prospectus on which they fought the election. The figures show that, between 1963–64 and 1967–68, educational expenditure was to go up, in real terms—not just in figures—by 25 per cent. This was nonsense when it was written, and it is even greater nonsense tonight. Total public expenditure was to go up in this period by 17 per cent. in real terms—
§ Mr. Chataway
Is the hon. Member aware that the increase in educational expenditure proposed for these five years is slightly less than the increase which took place in the last five?
§ Mr. Hamling
We are talking in real terms, not just in money terms.
Let us look more closely at this. Let us look at the increase in capital expenditure which they were talking about, as exemplified in this White Paper—an increase of about 24 per cent. on the basis of a 4 per cent. increase in the national product every year, a figure which was never reached during the 13 years of office of the previous Administration. Yet they have the nerve in the White Paper to say thatthe costing is as accurate and realistic as the Government can make it at the present time.They further say that this isan approximate calculation of the prospective level of public expenditure in 1967–68 at constant prices on the basis of the Government's present policies and programmes.
§ Mr. Hamling
I will give way when I want to. I give way a great deal; the last time I spoke at any great length I was interrupted 28 times—not only by right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite, for some of my hon. Friends had a go, too. I give way very easily, and I will give way again when I have finished this section.
Will any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite say that at any time in their 13 years they approached an increase of 4 per cent. year by year in the national product, or that they came anywhere near it, or that there was any steady approximation towards 4 per cent. towards the end of their 13-year rule?
§ Mr. Hamling
The hon. Gentleman was not in office last year. Look at the graphs. They show that the average increase in productivity over the years was about 3 per cent.—nothing like 4 per cent., and there was no prospect of 4 per cent. This prospectus was false.
For hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk about promises is a little invidious, especially when the hon. Member began the debate by referring to the Robbins Report. Everyone knows that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) accepted that Report within 48 hours of publication. He mentioned the strictures of the Estimates Committee on the present programme of building—that it was "inadequate". This is not an indictment of my right hon. Friend but an indictment of the Tory Government. What was being said by the Estimates Committee was that the acceptance so lightly of the Robbins Report by the previous Prime Minister shows his abysmal ignorance of the basic preparation for the acceptance of that Report. A massive expansion of our education was agreed—and what basis in planning did they provide? None. It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise my right hon. Friend.
I have spoken about the White Paper. Looking at the tables for the National Income and Expenditure, it is seen that particularly in the last four or five years there has been a fair expansion of education which contrasts sharply with some other social services, which have been comparatively neglected. I refer, in particular, to the Health Service. Since 1953 it has been increased by only 98 per cent. One of my hon. Friends referred to the policy of the previous Administration, and I should like to comment on what the attitude of the Conservative Party might have been if they had been faced with the massive financial crisis which we have faced over the last nine months and which we inherited from them. It is not a crisis which we invented. We inherited it from them. What would have been their reaction?
Remembering that there has recently been a salaries award, it is well to consider the attitude of the former Government to the Burnham Committee award 1522 of 1961. Instead of it being £47½ million the Minister arbitrarily reduced it to £42 million and, remarkable though it seems, he not only reduced it but also altered the terms of the award. That was quite unprecedented. That was the policy of the former Government when faced with an economic crisis which was nothing like as serious as the crisis which we face today.
§ Mr. Chataway
The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends must stop trying to dine out on this one. They must realise that the award of £42 million given by the former Administration at that time was slightly more, in real terms, than the award to the teachers which came out of arbitration on the last occasion.
§ Mr. Hamling
Ask the teachers what they think. Did it correspond to a 13 per cent. increase? I was a teacher and I know the answer. And the answer is that it did not. The hon. Gentleman will have to go back to school and learn his arithmetic a little better.
The hon. Gentleman then referred to minor works, although he did not give any figures. The policy of the former Government resulted in minor works being reduced by 50 per cent. in 12 months. Then he went on to speak about cuts which are now taking place, but his remarks did not reveal the true situation. The previous Administration made cuts in major works by £10 million. In this connection, one of my hon. Friends put a Question to the then Minister in April, 1961, about major works for education. The Answer was concealed in a Written Reply. That was the attitude of the Tory Administration, who reduced from about £65 million to about £55 million the major capital works programme.
§ Mr. Hamling
That was the policy of the hon. Gentleman's party. The facts are on the record. The Director of Education for Derbyshire said about minor works that the programme was a specific slowing down of the 1958 White Paper's plan for secondary school organisation. The National Association of Divisional Executives commented:By August, 1961, all attempts at the systematic remodelling of older schools were abandoned".1523 It added that the minor works programme was made… an economic cushion to absorb the shock of demands for economy".It should be remembered that the National Association of Divisional Executives is not made up wholly of Socialists. Most divisional executives are in county areas, which are Tory constituencies. It is, therefore, no good the hon. Gentleman coming to the House in a white sheet tonight expressing pious appreciation for the education policy followed by his Party when he looks back at the former Government's record. In general, their policy was to produce a White Paper before the election—a White Paper full of grandiose schemes—and then, a year after the election, to cut the programme. They did that in 1957 and again in 1961. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had gained power at the last election they would be making much more massive cuts than my right hon. Friend has announced.
Then, for the hon. Gentleman to talk about the Industrial Training Act, was a real piece of impertinence. What provision did they make in technical colleges for industrial training? They did nothing. They drew an arbitrary distinction between training and further education. What was the first act of the present Government in that field? They set up a co-ordination committee between three Ministries—Scotland, Education and Labour—to provide for the implementation of industrial training. No such machinery was ever set up by the previous Government. They had no ideas.
One might ask what financial provision had they made for developing industrial training, and the answer is none. Every time that my friends at the Ministry of Labour have produced draft plans for industrial training, they have objected. It does not lie within their mouths to criticise the educational policy of the Government.
Let us look at the figures of education expenditure by this Government so far. Expenditure on teacher training is up by 25 per cent. since 1962–63. Expenditure on further education is up by 46 per cent. since 1962–63.
§ Mr. Hamling
I will not give way. I am in the middle of giving some figures. 1524 I will give way when I have finished my sentence. The hon. Gentleman knows that I will give way; I have given way twice already.
As I have said, expenditure on further education is up by 46 per cent. Expenditure on universities has increased by exactly 100 per cent. since 1962–63. Does that sound like a Government which are economising on education?
If we look generally at expenditure on capital projects by the Government, the increases are substantial, notwithstanding that ever since we came to power we have been facing an economic crisis. It does not lie in the mouths of the Opposition to criticise Her Majesty's Government on this point tonight.
§ 4.02 a.m.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
The purpose of my right hon. and hon. Friends in raising this subject was to try to get some clarification of the impact on the educational world of the announcement which the Chancellor had to make last week. It would be very much more to the point if I directed my remarks back at the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply later on to try to get some of that elucidation from him rather than follow the example of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), who seems to be trying out the election speeches that he is going to have to use fairly soon. I can assure him that if he tries out the same inaccuracies on a Saturday afternoon in his constituency, he will certainly get the 28 interruptions about which he has spoken.
§ Mr. Hornby
When the hon. Gentleman referred to the comparison between the salary award this year and the one of my right hon. Friend he was certainly making a mistake. When he attempted to run down the record of the previous Government and talked of cuts in education, he failed to realise that year by year, throughout our period of office, educational expenditure had risen to a point where there was only one other country in Europe, namely, Sweden, which could remotely compare with what we have done. However, as I have said, it 1525 is more to the point to return to the question of getting some elucidation of the meaning of the Chancellor's statement for educational authorities.
One has a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman opposite and his Department in a time of retrenchment like this. It is never easy for big planning Departments in times of retrenchment, and everyone on this side is happy to know that his Department is one of the very biggest spending Departments in the country. That is what we are concerned about, when we realise that education is vital to our national development and to the growth that we want to see.
The first anxiety on this side, and I am sure that it is shared by many people in the Ministry, is about what the total expenditure is likely to be. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer talks of reshaping the programme, one has a nasty feeling that the shape to come will not necessarily be quite as expansive as the shape to which we had until recently been looking forward. The sooner the authorities know what is intended, the more helpful it will be to them in the planning of their programmes.
Secondly, what priority are the colleges of education to get? Much has been said on both sides, in the House, in election speeches, and on many other occasions by Ministers and by my right hon. Friend's about priorities. I say that the top priority should rightly be ascribed to the supply and training of teachers, and good teachers. The election manifesto of the party opposite said:… Labour will give to teacher supply a special priority in its first years in office …
§ Mr. Hornby
I recognise that we have had statements from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, and I will come to that point in a moment or two.
In February, the Secretary of State assured us that the target was to be 122,000 teachers by 1973–74. Will the hon. Gentleman be able to tell us this evening that that figure still holds good as the share of the Robbins target? I hope so, but I am sure that it will be a very big and tight squeeze. It will not be easy to achieve that target, bearing in mind, again, that in paragraph 72 of its Report the Advisory Council said that 1526 it was of the opinion that it is accommodation… that sets the over-riding limited …and it is accommodation that is bound to suffer by the six months' delay we are now discussing.
When the right hon. Gentleman addressed the N.U.T. in the Isle of Man, in an impressive speech in which he looked in great detail at the problems of teacher supply, he made 14 points. We have debated those points which, as I am sure he would be the first to admit, were largely an amalgamation and collection of a great many suggestions from all quarters over a period of time. How many of those 14 points still stand? Are they still to make the contribution for which he hoped when he made that speech? Are the colleges of education to be allowed to rent additional buildings and to purchase houses in their vicinity? Will that be affected by the present measures?
Will the colleges of education, under the new conditions and with the effect of the six months' delay, be able to help in the way that was foreseen? Are the technical colleges to be able to make the contribution to the supply of teachers that the Minister hoped from them? Are we to have, at the date we hoped for, the four or five day colleges that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in his Isle of Man speech? How will all this affect the size of classes, and the total picture which, as we all know, is difficult and gloomy enough, with the prospect, even before these setbacks came along, of not being able to reach the standard of 40 in primary schools and 30 in secondary schools in 1978 on present trends?
These are not easy questions. I come back to the point raised by my hon. Friend—that one is bound to question whether the priorities have been judged rightly in letting the cuts fall in this field rather than in the more politically difficult but, in the long term, better field of consumer expenditure.
The schools, we are told, are to be contained within the existing programme. Does this mean up to the figure already agreed or is the level likely to be less? This is of special importance to Kent. I am happy to say that Kent is not an area of unemployment but it has genuine problems. The growth in school population 1527 is estimated to be as high as 65 per cent. over the next 20 years. I recognise the pressures on school building and on the building industry in the area and, in that context, I hope that the Minister of State will look at the methods of tendering in some of the areas where pressure is high. He may learn from the experience of some universities that there are ways in which tendering by the building industry for school projects could be more attractive.
When the Chancellor refers to the deferment of purchases of equipment in the schools, does that apply to books, scientific equipment and so on? If so, again this is of great importance to the education authorities and the sooner we can have accurate information on it the better. One regrets the necessity for these measures but I question above all the wisdom of letting them fall in the places they are falling, in particular on the colleges of education which, time and again, we have been told are to have top priority. Patently, they have not received it.
§ 4.13 a.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Let us pursue the subject of university accommodation and tendering raised by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby). I had the good fortune the other day to go to his county of Kent, to Canterbury to see the new University of Kent. I will say at once that the concept of halls of residence, with their great refectory windows, picturing out the Cathedral, is wonderful. But what strikes one in general terms, in a situation of rapid higher education expansion, is the question of whether we are certain that we can afford these sort of excellent facilities.
Many of us here have benefited from a residential education. But if the choice is to be a residential education for some on the one hand and higher education for more on the other, I would come down on the side of higher education for the more because of a deep belief, shared, I am sure, by most hon. Members, that any boy or girl capable of higher education is entitled to it from the State. This is his or her right.
It was for this sort of reason that 18 months or two years ago I and a number of others were great supporters of a possible university in north London, per- 1528 haps based on Mill Hill. Professor Medawar was very frank and said that of course he would like a university in north London based on the existing facilities of the M.R.C. research unit at Mill Hill, and that the presence of expert staff, many of whom would be very happy to take part in university work, was not the over-riding consideration. The overriding consideration in Professor Medawar's view was that students would be going in the reverse direction to the major flow of the traffic. That may seem to be a fairly mundane consideration when discussing universities, but it is nevertheless important, in relation to resources devoted to residence. My first point is that faced with the difficulty of accommodation, which is exceedingly expensive, we have to face the choice that more students will have to travel daily from home to colleges of advanced technology or universities.
The hon. Member for Tonbridge spoke about tendering. Here I quote not my own opinions which are extremely critical, but those of the Public Accounts Committee, opinions to which the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and a number of other hon. Members opposite subscribed. Nor shall I quote from the more censorious Amendments which I tried to persuade the Public Accounts Committee to accept. This is the considered view of that Committee with all the expert knowledge at its command in the shape of the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff of 600 and which in its Third Report, available on 26th July, 1965, said:Your Committee note that the study bedroom unit formula for halls of residence, which was first introduced at the end of 1958, is only now being replaced and that the financial savings expected under the new system will not start to materialise for nearly two years; that so far no bulletin has been published to give advice and guidance to universities on the planning and design of halls within that formula, and that a bulletin based on the new cost system is only now being considered"—the hon. Gentleman was right to wonder about the whole system of tendering—and that the analysis and assessment of standards for even the simplest type of academic building has not yet been completed.We as a House of Commons are entitled to ask why not. The Committee added:Your Committee are dissatisfied with the progress which has been made in the review and reassessment of standards and cost limits 1529 and urge upon the Department of Education and Science and upon the U.G.C. the need for much greater efforts to ensure that as much as possible of the university expansion programme is brought under the improved system of financial control.When the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) talks of having to have cuts somewhere in the education system, he may agree that the point at which superfluous expenditure is most easily eliminated is not the primary schools, not school meals or school milk, but higher education. Here is the greatest scope for saving.
§ Mr. Hamling
Is my hon. Friend aware that in their White Paper the last Government forecast a heavy increase in expenditure on school meals and milk as a result of their policy?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That just adds to the number of contradictions from hon. Members opposite.
The Public Accounts Committee went on to speak of capital expenditure, furniture and equipment. It says:Your Committee regret that the Department and the U.G.C. have not obtained more information about the possibility of securing financial savings by bulk purchase of furniture through the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and have not made more rapid progress in developing financial control, through monetary allowances and cost limits, over grants in respect of furniture and equipment other than for study bedrooms and kitchens. They welcome the assurance that information about the Ministry's costs will be sought and recommend that this enquiry and the further work on the determination of monetary allowances and cost limits should be expedited.When a Select Committee makes those sort of remarks, strong language by their standards, we are entitled to ask who was in control at the time to which they refer. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has some explanation to do here because he and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) were in control at the time to which the Public Accounts Committee referred. Either he can admit a great deal of strength in the evidence of and questions put to his then Permanent Secretary or say that the Public Accounts Committee was wrong. He has either to say that the Public Accounts Committee was misguided or that there is 1530 some reason for very considerable stricture on the lack of economy when the right hon. Member was in charge.
I wish to refer to a general point of a non-party nature. Under the present cuts, let me say frankly that it seems that research, particularly post-graduate research, will be harmed. The facts as I understand them are that every year for the last six or seven years research which is State-financed has been increasing at an annual rate of 15 per cent., compound interest. It is well known arguments are going on in the Treasury that this should be pared down gradually, so that by 1970 it will be 8 per cent. Apparently this year 15 per cent. has been allowed. My hon. Friend the Minister of State can either confirm or deny this. If he can confirm it, it will be to the credit of the Government that they have done so in a situation of financial difficulty. The university world has got wind of the fact that by 1970 the amount will be pared down to 8 per cent. increase. Its grounds for alarm are substantial. It is said that the number of research students is increasing 7 per cent. each year, that there is an annual increase of 5 per cent. in "sophistication" factors and it is argued that in order to stand still there has to be an increase of 12 per cent. in research expenditure each year. If in fact this is pared down to 8 per cent. there will be regression in per capita expenditure.
In a situation where the gross national product is expected to rise by 4¼ per cent. or 5 per cent. a year, how long can the university world expect to go on increasing by 15 per cent.? Clearly it cannot go on for eternity. The question therefore arises, what savings can be made? A 7 per cent. increase each year in the number of researchers may be questionable. It is not always practicable for a politician to say so, but it is the general impression of some of us that much research taking place is of monumental irrelevance. Some of the resources should go into advanced forms of regular training for those who are going to be regular teachers at universities and colleges of advanced technology.
When we are looking seriously at how expenditure on higher education can be brought under some reasonable form of control, because that is what we are 1531 debating, we should look at the expense attached to the lonesome Ph.D.—a highly expensive course and a course which some of us would guess is not rewarding for the expense involved. Of course there have to be individual projects going on, but there are many advanced courses that can be arranged at less expense, and at a saving of the nation's resources, which would do at least an equal amount of good to those who are going to be university teachers.
Could we put the day behind us when it is necessary, in order to be a university science teacher to embark on a Ph.D.? Let the Ph.D. no longer be a passport to university teaching and let us have other avenues to becoming a don. So I offer, in shorthand because of the hour of half-past four, some measures which will bring our financial situation, in relation to higher education, into a more realistic sphere.
§ 4.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I intend to save the time of the House by not referring to the controversy, about which we have heard so much, about who is to blame for the present economic situation, and the difficulties in which the Government find themselves today. There have been some very good speeches in the past few weeks about this from both sides of the House, and some speeches that were not so good, and it has certainly crept into this debate.
As I understand it, if the Labour Party's policies for this period of Government mean anything, they certainly put everything on the expansion of science and technology. I think that my hon. Friend's who have spoken are quite right to highlight the cuts now proposed in this matter, because they seem to strike at the very roots of what the Government intend to do or originally intended to do.
While we are talking about the cuts being made in this field the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) reminded me that we ought not to forget some of the serious needs in education. The capital projects of today and the primary schools came to my mind at once, because expansion is needed in the primary schools and the back-log there is rather serious with the 1532 higher birth rate and with so many immigrants coming in, even under the new proposals. Primary schools are very important indeed. The comments made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Lothian which brought this to my mind were the suggestions he made about residential accommodation for colleges and universities.
One has, as he quite rightly said, to ask oneself, is it right, in the present situation to see these elaborate and expensive halls of residence go up, as they are going up, in Birmingham, and to know, at the same time, of the needs for new capital expenditure so urgently needed in other fields of education, such as primary schools? This is disturbing, and although we like to see these halls of residence one has to look at it in perspective.
The other question we have to ask ourselves, in the light of the announcements which we have had, is what is going to happen to the raising of the school-leaving age? Will this be achieved by 1970? It was agreed upon by both parties and we all hope that it will be possible. Let us face the fact, however, that it now looks more and more impossible to achieve that aim.
I wish to raise another matter which might be helpful. I wonder whether we are handling in the right way the proposals for capital projects put forward to the Ministry by the local education authorities. The building programme priorities submitted by the local education authorities are the result of comparisons only within their own areas. Since the economic squeeze is with us, as it always has been to some extent, should we not view the situation nationally and compare the priorities on a national basis which can be applied to the whole country, so that priorities in one area can be matched against those of another area? The result of this might well be that some local education authorities would have greater cuts than others, while others in greater need would have more money.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) has mentioned the need that will arise in his county, and it is very real. The same thing applies in areas which have a high intake of immigrants. I do not consider it right, therefore, to continue any longer on the 1533 basis that capital project priorities are decided simply for each separate area. The needs of one area should be matched against those of another area.
Something else which might be helpful in the discussion which has taken place concerning the low productivity which is obtained from the capital assets in use in education. A tremendous amount of money is invested in the buildings used throughout the education system, and the extremely low productivity is a vital point. I know that we cannot expect schools to go on to night shifts, but one cannot help feeling that far too little use is made of the expensive buildings and material. Certainly, one could point a finger at universities in this regard.
In considering savings that might be made, we must look again at the wastage in teacher training. As we all know, teacher training is expensive, but we are not getting the goods out of the pipeline. We have to pay for a lot of teacher training which never produces anything, or produces very little, in the schools. All these are difficult problems, otherwise they would have been dealt with before, but I hope that a fresh look will be taken at some of these things in a further endeavour to find a solution. Let us ask the teachers' organisations and unions to look at these problems for us to see whether they can come up with any ideas to effect savings.
I suggest to the Minister that he should have another look at the suggestions about comprehensive schools. I do not, however, want to enter again into this argument, which goes on not only in this place, but throughout education. I think, though, that it is relevant to talk about this in relation to money because, obviously, it is going to cost money if we are going to change the system and rush into a comprehensive system and push local authorities into it. This might begin to the detriment of the primary school building, if more is to be spent on secondary school building. It will have to come out of the total programme.
It may be worth having another look at what the Ministry has been recommending to local authorities. I hope that the constructive suggestions which have been put forward this morning will be looked at, since we have had quite enough of accusing each other about who is to blame for the present situation.
§ 4.36 a.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
There must be a very strong reason for keeping you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, out of your bed at this time of the morning. My reason is that I hope it will be possible to persuade the Government to treat this matter somewhat differently from the way it has been dealt with in announcements which have been made and, I suspect, will yet be made this morning.
The strongest condemnation which can be made of the cuts in the building programmes in education are that they bear too much resemblance to the steps taken by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) and the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) in 1961 and 1962. I should like to remind the House of what the late Hugh Gaitskell had to say in the debate on 5th April, 1962, dealing with the cuts at that time. He quoted from a letter from the vice-chancellors about the cuts in the University Grants Committee grant, saying,'Nor can it be supposed that the promise of a review next year will enable lost ground to be recovered.'Hugh Gaitskell said:I can only describe what the Government are doing in this matter as discreditable in substance, dishonourable in presentation, and deplorable in its consequences. It would at least have been a somewhat redeeming feature of the whole thing if the Government had come clean and said, 'We cannot and we will not reach even this inadequate target'; if they had said, 'Sorry, the rate of expansion must be cut. …' Brains and skill are the nation's chief assets; we have not much else. … All our prospects of higher productivity and higher prosperity depend on this. I should have thought that everyone was really agreed on that. I know the Government will plead the pay pause and speak of their economic difficulties in recent months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 731–2.]And so he went on.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) made an important statement when he said they would prefer to see cuts in school meals and school milk rather than the capital programme of school building. One may differ about this, but certainly I would entirely accept what he says about the uncontrollability of changes in the capital expenditure programme.
On the limited point of controls on the level of activity in building Mr. C. E. D. 1535 Wooster, Director of Building Management in the Ministry of Public Building and Works, had this to say at the neutral date of 13th October last year at a conference on planning. He said:Because of the long time cycle, whatever measures have been taken by Government to regulate building investment in the past the tendency has been to produce the wrong trend at the wrong time.This is not the time to debate the full range of possible Government measures which might have been and might still be taken. We must now, I think, accept that these cuts have been made, and we must look at what the effect of these will be. How many student places will be affected? It is quite possible to say they will not affect any, for this reason, or that, impossible to equate them with a particular number of places. That ways and means will be found of adjusting accommodation in class and the coverage of teachers. But we do have to look still at the number of places affected.
The number of students in higher education was planned by the Robbins Committee to increase by 66,000 between 1964 and 1967 if there were an adequate building programme. To accommodate those students, even under great pressure, the building programme would provide an additional 10,000 places for each six months' work of construction. Therefore one can assume that a postponement of six months in the building programme will, in one way or another, have the equivalent effect of reducing the number of places in high education by 10,000 by 1967–68.
We have the saving clause in the Government's announcement that the programmes in development districts and areas of high unemployment will not be affected, but I would hazard a guess that in the higher education programme, in the university programme in particular, this will not save more than one-fifth of the projects. I take this not as a condemnation of the saving clause, but as a condemnation of the mis-location of the development of higher education in this country, that so little of the investment is in those areas where the social benefits to the surrounding community can best be felt. So the development district clause does not now very much affect the position.
1536 Because of the record of the previous Government in cuts in university expediture, and because of these regrettable cuts in educational investment, universities might well be justified in calling down a plague on both our houses and simply fume at the Government, demanding recompense. I very much hope that this will not be the reaction of the universities, not out of any desire to protect the Government, but because of the 10,000 boys and girls whose future and whose services to the country are being threatened.
There are obviously other needs. The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of primary school needs, and who can doubt the need for them. And the country is facing an economic crisis. But because of this crisis, there is even more need to make the best use of our resources and to safeguard the future. I devoutly hope that the reaction of the universities and of the higher education world to what will undoubtdly prove in the weeks ahead to have been a great shock to them will be to seek to rationalise the existing university organisation and methods of university government.
The Secretary of State, in his speech at Woolwich Polytechnic on 27th April of this year, which was widely reported, distinguished between the autonomous sector and the public sector of higher education. He treated as the autonomous sector the universities and colleges of advanced technology under the U.G.C. and as the public sector as those colleges under the control of the Department of Education and Science. Among the distinctions that he made was that it was desirable that a substantial part of the higher education world should be under social control responsive to social needs. This was the rôle of the public sector. But the implication that what he called the autonomous sector is not responsive to social needs is wrong. This must become the feeling in the world of the universities and C.A.Ts.
I think that the Secretary of State must now call for a far higher degree of social responsibility and a greater acceptance of this in the universities and C.A.Ts. than any Secretary of State has previously been able to assume. We had a very encouraging statement from the Chairman of the U.G.C. in this respect. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite and on this side of 1537 the House who were present at Cambridge when we explored some of the problems here were surprised at the gain which would come directly in the university world from a greater acknowledgment and greater provision for the exercise of social responsibility in the universities.
The Chairman of the University Grants Committee has described the present system as crypto-dirigist, in that we are able now to direct new development in as rational and economic a way as possible in the expansion in the universities, but we have no means of reshaping the existing activities of universities. We have the appalling situation of fragmentation in classics, modern languages, sciences, arts and technologies, grossly mismatched in students-to-staff ratios, with far too small classes in many cases, through lack of co-ordination between universities and, indeed, between technical colleges in particular areas.
It would be far more satisfactory, both from the research and teaching point of view, if, in the course of the next two years—which is the time it would take to put up the buildings which are now being deferred—the universities were to carry out a major measure of rationalisation of their existing courses.
To do this the U.G.C. will undoubtedly need to help them. It will also need to develop its own organisation. The Estimates Committee has pointed the first step on the way. It has recommended that there should be a full-time deputy-chairman. I think there might need to be three or four deputy-chairmen. Further, the organisation of responsibility in the universities can no longer be left simply to the universities themselves, with each professor having to plead his case before his own senate or court of the university, among men who, to all intents and purposes, are laymen and amateurs in the matters on which they are being asked to judge. Instead the appeal should be, in each subject, to a commitee of the peers of that particular professor in his subject, thus having, at the University Grants Committee level, an active committee in each subject area.
This would not be like the present U.G.C. technological sub-committee, which meets once a year and is totally ineffective, but a committee which is more like the medical educational sub- 1538 committee, meeting twice a week under the University Grants Committee at the moment. There is a similar need for rationalisation in the local technical colleges in certain areas. In the North-East there is no serious attempt to co-ordinate the courses between the regional colleges or, at the lower level, between the area colleges. There is a great waste of staff time as a result, and too small courses. The encouragement of students to go to certain places where scope exists for them in the course in which they want to study needs to be much more highly developed in the technical colleges.
The Secretary of State could wait for the storm of protest which will brew up in the university world and the world of higher education in the next few weeks—if he does that I would not care to be in his shoes—or he can step out and go further than any Secretary of State has yet gone, and say to the universities, "We have been forced into this desperately unsatisfactory position. What I am asking you now to do is to share the responsibility which rests upon us nevertheless to provide for the education of these 10,000 boys and girls who are threatened, and to undertake that major measure of rationalisation which is needed to employ our resources more efficiently not only for these but for the whole future of the country."
§ 4.49 a.m.
§ The Minister of State for Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)
It is a tribute to the seriousness with which this House treats education that we have had a debate of this length and quality at this unearthly hour in the morning. I will do what I can to reply to the points which have been raised in relation to the effect of the Chancellor's measures on education. I must restrain myself from replying to all the other points which have been raised by hon. Members who have ranged widely—naturally and properly—in some of their contributions. If I tried to reply in detail to every speech I should be at this Dispatch Box for the next two hours. Nevertheless, all the points raised will be studied within the Department.
I welcome very much the chance to discuss at this stage the effects on the education service of the measures which the Chancellor has had to announce. I 1539 accept straight away that these are serious effects and that all of us on both sides of the House will regret their necessity. At the same time, I do not face the House in any apologetic mood. We have to see this matter in the perspective of the economic situation facing the country and we have to recognise that that affects every aspect of our national life—education along with everything else. There is no such thing in an economic crisis as being able to contract out of it. The nation can only afford the education service that it earns for itself, just as every other aspect of its national wealth has to be earned. Everything has to be seen in that relation.
It is the easiest thing in the world to say that economic crises are for other people and that there are special cases and exceptions. The fact is that we as a nation have to face up to what we mean by the term "economic crisis" and recognise its harsh realities. I say as a member of the Government that we made it perfectly clear before the election and during the election that the social progress to which we were committed as a party was something in which we would give a lead to the country in terms of economic recovery and that the nation had to face the problems of the economic malaise which had been facing us for so long, that we had to find our way out of that and that it was only in that context that we could fulfil our programme. We said that before we knew the extent to which the country was running into debt under the late Government, and the situation which we have been facing since last October has made it more imperative to take the economic steps which have had to be taken.
Here I ask the House to see in perspective what we have done. First, it is wrong to speak of measures which have affected education as reductions or cuts. They are a number of postponements of improvements. In other words, we are dealing here with programmes which are improving and expanding, and the Civil Estimates for education in the current year are up, to a far larger proportion than the estimates of any other Department of State. We are seeing a service which is expanding and improving and saying that an economic situation has compelled us to enforce a postpone 1540 ment for six months of capital improvements in the education service as a whole, except for schools.
This is a serious matter but it is a postponement of improvements rather than a cut in an existing service. We must see this in that perspective. Some of the comments made by some hon. Members have been of a rather exaggerated nature and a rather alarmist character. For example, when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) speaks, as he put it, of almost the impossibility of raising the school-leaving age to 16 in 1970 I need remind him only of two facts. One is that we are not imposing any postponement on the school-building programme. The other is that the teacher supply position, in terms of teacher-training and the numbers of teachers in training in our colleges, is somewhat ahead of schedule at the moment. For these two reasons there is no need to come to the conclusion to which the hon. Member came.
§ Mr. Gurden
Does the hon. Gentleman really think that we will have enough teachers to do this by 1970?
§ Mr. Prentice
Yes, Sir, I do, and I will expand on that in a moment. At this stage I merely ask hon. Members to see what is perhaps a serious measure but not to exaggerate it. It is simply not true to suggest, as the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) suggested, that somehow or other we put all our restrictions on capital investment and none on consumption. The postponements of improvements affect consumption as well as capital. For example, one measure of social reform to which we attach great importance on this side of the House and for which many of us have argued for many years is the concept of an income guarantee in regard to social insurance, and the Chancellor had to announce that this was postponed and that the prospect of doing it next Session had given way to that of doing it in a future Session. There were other things—which I need not list—which dealt with consumption and not merely with capital.
A number of hon. Members asked me to define the total cost of these measures in regard to the education service. I am afraid that I cannot give a figure. If I were to try to give an estimate, it might 1541 not be right, and I would rather not give it. I would explain that by telling the House that there are some aspects of this which we are still working out. The House will be aware that areas which are not really development districts as defined in the usual way but which have heavy or above-average unemployment are to have a measure of exemption and those areas have not at the moment been defined. There is also the problem of how far we are going to impose a complete ban on all projects, however small.
This is something which we are examining. I am not sure to what extent we may be able slightly to modify the impact of the policy in this regard. We are also working on the problem of projects which could be regarded as being of a series. I can say that we shall certainly be able to look exceptionally at a case of a building which has been nearly completed but for which a contract has not yet been signed for the plumbing or heating arrangement and where the whole of the previous work would have been wasted but for this contract. There will be the need to define—we have not yet had the time to define—exceptional circumstances of that nature.
Therefore, although one could make an approximate guess at this, it would not be right to do so. There are a number of factors besides those which I mentioned which might influence the total figure. But the essential policy—it is more important to recognise this than to quote figures—is that we are saying in general that, for educational building projects other than school building, there will be a postponement for six months, just as there is for other kinds of public expenditure.
I should like to deal with this briefly in relation to the various main categories. For the universities, this is clearly a serious matter, particularly in the sense that the current programme, which, as the House will know, is a 15-month programme ranging from January of this year to April of next year, was designed particularly to provide accommodation for the bulge year of 1967–68, when it is hoped to reach the Robbins target for that year of 197,000 students. This presents many universities, of course, with a serious problem. I do not want to quantify, but my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) 1542 said that a six months postponement in relation to universities may have the effect of about a 10,000 decrease in the number of students who could be taken on.
If other things were equal, something like that effect might be true, but other things need not necessarily be equal. This is where I come to the statement which my right hon. Friend made in answer to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) the other night. We are hoping that a number of steps can be taken and will be taken within the universities to reach that target, despite the difficulties which the economic situation is imposing on them. We are making the kind of appeal to the universities which my hon. Friend made in his speech, which I thought he made very well. His general sentiments deserve and have the support of the Government.
We are bound to ask the universities in this situation to look at the effect on this generation of students and to see what they can do to meet their needs. This is not an easy thing to ask, but the economic situation is not an easy situation for any of us to face. There are a number of ways in which universities can approach the problem. There are a number of ways in which some are approaching it already—and others are not approaching it so well. There is the intensive use of all existing accommodation and taking steps to plan that use intensively so that it does not remain idle as long as it sometimes does in some cases.
This is the kind of operation which has been going on this year in the colleges of education and which could go on to a greater extent in some of the universities. There is the possibility in certain cases of expanding their accommodation by taking over other buildings and perhaps by renting other buildings—the sort of thing on which no ban is imposed within the framework of the measures which we have announced. There will be the possibility when we are able to sanction building to start again of their considering in certain appropriate cases the use of temporary buildings to get accommodation more quickly then would have been achieved by more traditional means.
Some suggestions have been made to them in the Robbins Report which have 1543 not yet been acted upon in as many cases as one would have liked. For example, the Robbins Committee recognised that this period, around 1967, when the bulge of the population would be making extra demands on the universities, was a period which would require them to consider some extraordinary measures to try to meet that demand. In paragraph 820 of the Report there was a suggestion of the establishment of more evening courses for first degrees, perhaps combined in suitable cases with study during vacation under special arrangements. In paragraph 821 there was a suggestion of the establishment by more universities of correspondence courses, perhaps combined with special courses in the vacation. None of these expedients, we know, is as good as traditional methods of organising a university year in the way in which we should all prefer, but there were suggestions made by the Robbins Committee in relation to a particularly heavy demand and this is the kind of solution to which we should like universities to be turning their minds.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
In his helpful remarks the hon. Member has not mentioned the University Grants Committee. Do I take it that the University Grants Committee will be circularising universities to see what they are able to do and the number of places which they are able to provide, despite the complications and difficulties caused by the six months delay?
§ Mr. Prentice
I would rather put it this way: we should expect the universities on their own initiative and the University Grants Committee, too, to be looking at this problem and trying to devise methods of meeting it. I do not think that I want to spell out precisely in what way the U.G.C. should approach universities. It is a problem for them as well as for individual universities.
I was about to point out by way of example that in the immediate post-war period a very great expansion took place in the student numbers in this country virtually without any capital development at all. A figure of over 85,000 students was reached in 1949–50 compared with 38,000 at the end of the war and 50,000 immediately pre-war. In other words, 1544 there had been an increase from pre-war to 1949 by 70 per cent. in the student population by crowding them in, often in uncomfortable circumstances—and I speak as a student of that period myself. Nevertheless, the expansion was achieved without the capital expenditure which would have been desirable. It is in that spirit that we have to ask the universities to approach the problem, and we hope that in spite of the difficulties which are forced on them by the economic situation they will manage to achieve the target which we all have in mind.
There is one other aspect which I ought to mention briefly before I go to further education, because in a sense it links the two. It has been envisaged that part of the expansion of higher education would be within the technical colleges—within the degree courses and equivalent courses offered in the technical colleges. The Robbins Report made a special reference to this and pointed out that the technical college world was, in some ways, more flexible and more able to cope with student demands than the university world.
It is interesting to note that in November 1964—that is, at the beginning of the last academic year—there were 39,640 students in technical colleges doing degree or equivalent work, which is two years ahead of the expansion programme for that sector expected by the Robbins Committee. We are, therefore, ahead of Robbins in that sector and it may be that there is scope there for a faster advance than the Robbins target.
That brings me to the subject of technical colleges in general, and here I suggest that although, of course, the decisions which have been announced are serious for the technical colleges, we feel that, on present evidence, they are probably less serious than some hon. Members have tended to suggest. We are finding that in many parts of the country there is a bottleneck, so to speak—that a number of local education authorities are starting projects later than they had hoped—that a number of building projects which have started are taking much longer than planned and that some local education authorities have already told us that the six months' delay will not have very much practical effect on their progress in this sphere.
1545 The building programme for the technical colleges in the current year is much higher than last year. From £17 million last year it has gone up in the current year to £26 million, almost a 50 per cent. rise. Although I agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, North, who said that this is not over generous, it does represent a big rise. This shows that the practical effect of the measures is not likely to be of the order suggested by some hon. Members.
I agree absolutely with hon. Members who have referred to the importance of the Industrial Training Act in this context. That Act will lead to a bigger demand for day and block release facilities and other courses in the colleges. It is our intention and hope that the demand will grow and that the system will be able to carry it.
We look forward to the system being able to carry it by a number of means, partly through the building projects which are already under way and those which we hope will take place in the next few years; partly because the number of these classes for day release students and others are at the moment too small, and everyone recognises that there are too few boys and girls in classes of this sort and that there is room for expansion; and partly because there is scope for the reorganisation of courses and the use of accommodation in technical colleges so as to make them more efficient. We have already announced that a study group within the National Advisory Council for Education in Industry and Commerce is looking, under the Chairmanship of Sir Harry Pilkington, into the problem of making more productive use of technical college resources.
It is against this background that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was able to announce recently, in connection with the Industrial Training Act, that he will normally only approve training orders which recognise day release or an equivalent for apprentices and others, young workers under 18, who are continuing the training period for 12 months or more. This announcement was made after close consultation with my Department in regard to the various means by which we believe that these facilities can be improved. It is fair to point out that the extra demand may 1546 well be irregular; may vary in different parts of the country. Therefore, I would not want to preclude some local difficulties in connection with the Industrial Training Act. However, generalising about the whole country, we expect to meet this extra demand.
I ought to refer to the colleges of education with a tribute to the way in which, in recent years and in this year in particular, they have taken steps to bring more students into their existing accommodation by reorganisation, by taking over temporary premises and that sort of thing. The figures are very impressive. In September 1962, there were 17,000 entrants. By the following year, it had become 21,000. By last year, it became 24,000. In the coming September, we believe that it will be of the order of 28,000 entrants into the training colleges, which will give us a student population in those colleges of about 70,000. That is three years in advance of the Robbins targets, so we can be very pleased with and ought to congratulate the colleges of education on the work that they have done.
They will be disappointed by the effects of the postponement in the building programme. We have to admit that they will be a great disappointment to them. I can only modify it by saying that the period ahead did not include the beginning of any major new developments. The current year and the coming year were, on the whole, periods by which the building programme in the colleges was for various ancillary additions such as kitchen accommodation, dining room accommodation, private study accommodation, and so on. It is very important, and I am not minimising it or the effects of postponing it; but it is not of the same relative order of importance as that in the university field.
§ Mr. Freeson
Referring back to some earlier remarks the hon. Gentleman made about universities, he suggested that since the ban only applied to capital projects, it would still be possible for universities to commence buildings, possibly houses, to improve their facilities. Would that be a possibility in the mind of the Ministry for the colleges of education? The hon. Gentleman will know that there are some cases where requests are being made for the conversion of office blocks which are 1547 already constructed and are standing empty, and such conversions would not impose any great strain on the building industry.
§ Mr. Prentice
Yes. That was one of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), and I am glad to have an opportunity to tell him and my hon. Friend for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) that the renting of premises is not affected by this measure, and therefore we can go ahead and, in certain instances, we will be going ahead in the period concerned.
On another of the points raised by the hon. Member for Tonbridge, the fourteen points set out by the Secretary of State at Douglas still stand. The hon. Gentleman's other main question was whether we stood by the target of 122,000 places by 1973. Yes, we do; and, as I indicated a few moments ago, we are ahead of what Robbins expected to be the progress towards that target by now. We have recently asked the colleges of education to consider further methods of improving their productivity. We have sent a circular letter suggesting to them a number of alternative methods of taking more students in their colleges by such schemes as those known as the Box and Cox scheme and the four-term year scheme. Those and other methods are being considered in the college of education world at the moment, not without a certain amount of controversy and a number of difficulties being raised. But, here again, we hope that they will begin to make a contribution to the number of students in training during the coming year.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North raised some questions about the Youth Service. It is difficult to be precise, partly because we are considering the impact on small projects, and we are concerned here with a very large number of projects, some of which are fairly small, although they vary in size. The Youth Service programme in the current year is £4½ million. If it were all postponed, it would mean projects to the value of £2¼ million being postponed for six months, because there is a fairly even flow of starts throughout the year. But I do not think that it is necessarily the true figure, and I would rather leave it at that point. There will be some impact, which it is difficult to 1548 assess, on projects for grant under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, and projects sponsored by the Central Council for Physical Recreation. I understand that all or most of the projects in connection with the World Cup series have been commenced, so that programme is not likely to be substantially affected by what we have in mind.
Here, I should like to answer the specific question asked by the hon. Member for Tonbridge on the subject of equipment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement asked all public authorities to review their stocks of goods of all kinds, to see that they were not overstocked and, if they were, to run down those stocks and reduce purchases and, in general to review the level of their purchases. This applies to educational institutions and local education authorities as to everyone else.
On the whole, we do not think that it will have a big effect here, because we do not think that, in general, there are many relevant big stocks. Nevertheless, I assure the House that it is no part of this operation in any way to reduce standards of equipping schools, or authorities, but a matter of so handling all stocks and purchasing power that, where practical and without reducing standards, it is possible to have a smaller effect on the economy—
§ Mr. Dalyell
We have the assurance that my hon. Friend's Department will study very carefully the strictures of the Public Accounts Committee on the administration under the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), and learn there-from.
§ Mr. Prentice
Yes. I was resisting the temptation to refer to them, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall study that matter very carefully. So many points have been raised in this debate that I was rationing myself to the central theme of the impact of the Chancellor's statement.
I would conclude by reminding the House that what we propose is the postponing of some capital improvements. It is a postponement that we all regret, but we are not proposing cuts in existing standards. The postponements are 1549 serious postponements—it would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise—but they have to be regarded in the context of the economic situation.
During their latter period of office, the last Government undertook a lot of new commitments in education, as in other parts of social expenditure. I do not know what credit they want to take for that, but I believe that the nation will judge them by what they actually did in those 13 years, and not by what they promised in that latter period of office. It is true to say that they then committed the country to a number of advances that could be afforded only if the nation achieved a rate of economic growth which it never did achieve. While in office, they committed the country to a higher school building programme of major works rising from £60 million last year to £80 million this year, and a further education building programme increasing from £17 million last year to £24 million this. They accepted the Robbins proposals, with all their implications of higher expenditure.
I do not criticise these objects; I simply say that whatever Government are in power they have to relate this to the rate of economic growth and the general economic situation of the country. We are determined to do this, and a lot more besides. We are determined to get the economic situation right, and then achieve a rate of social advance based on real prosperity. That will be our aim in all these matters.
§ 5.20 a.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I am sure that the House would like to express its thanks to the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, for that helpful and informative answer. Perhaps, on a non-controversial note, I could start my own remarks this morning by expressing what I am sure are the thanks of the whole House for the very courteous and lucid way in which the hon. Gentleman has addressed it during the Session. The House should know that the hon. Gentleman has three more debates to answer before our proceedings finally come to an end.
I hope he will feel, as I do, that it has been worth spending some time on this subject, because the education implica- 1550 tions of the Chancellor's statement were of high importance and it is important that the world outside should realise that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, between the hours of three and 5.30 a.m., have tried to address themselves to this in one of the most coherent debates in the early morning that I can recall during my 15 years in the House.
I do not want to say a great deal about the past, and I will deal with it shortly. I should be sorry if anyone gave the impression that education expansion in recent years only began at the end of 1963 at the time when the Robbins Report was accepted and the new building programmes were announced. It has been happening over a number of years.
Even before the Robbins Report, expenditure on higher education in the last Parliament went up from an annual rate of £100 million to one of £275 million between 1959 and 1963. It is a fact that not only in 1961 were there no changes announced in the major programmes but also that expenditure on education building as a whole did rise sharply in the last Parliament. Starts were about £100 million in 1959–60, rising to £160 million in 1963–64 and to £220 million, if my memory serves me right, in the current year.
I hope that it is common ground on both sides that we rightly expand education expenditure at a more rapid rate than the gross national product. This is something I believe to be right even though, as a whole, we have to plan expenditure in line with resources. Expenditure on education is something which, on both social and economic grounds, should rise in real terms at a faster rate than the gross national product.
There is one question I want to put to the Minister of State in particular. One sentence of the Chancellor's statement sounded to me a little ominous. The Chancellor said:I am giving instructions to Departments that the 1966–67 Estimates shall be drawn up within a limit which has been determined for each Department within the agreed total."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1965; Vol. 717, c. 229.]Of course, the Chancellor—and I understand his reasons—did not give any percentage figures for that limit but I put this to the Minister of State: In our 1551 White Paper at the end of 1963 we envisaged expenditure on education rising annually in real terms at a little below six per cent. a year. I hope that, whatever the temporary difficulties, that figure has not been abandoned as a long-term approach, and that that percentage figure, in real terms, remains the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Prentice
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman wants me to forecast the Estimates for next year, but I can assure him that there is nothing in the Chancellor's statement to suggest that the basic assumptions of that policy have been altered in any way.
§ Sir E. Boyle
That is a highly important point that I wanted to clear up in this debate.
Now I come to the capital postponements. Here it is legitimate to consider just how serious these are going to be and whether they really represent the right priorities. I will just say a word briefly in turn about the universities, the technical colleges and the colleges of education in the same order as the hon. Gentleman did.
I was glad that the hon. Gentleman did not in any way minimise the seriousness of this matter to the universities. It is important to realise the seriousness to them both in terms of money and of timing. From the point of view of money, it would not be right for me now or at any hour of the day to go into too much detail about the negotiations which took place between the Government and the universities, through the University Grants Committee, last year. But I will say that, in order to accommodate the extra numbers, the universities and the University Grants Committee felt that a minimum extra capital sum of £60 millions was necessary over and above the rate of £33 million a year on which we were then working. I am referring, of course, to the year 1964 and to the 15 months represented by 1965 and the first quarter of 1966.
Eventually the University Grants Committee was prepared to agree that the Robbins short-term expansion target could be achieved by the universities for the sum of a little under £40 million extra, but I am bound to say that that was always looked upon as the absolute 1552 minimum. There was also the consideration, which is of high importance, that 1965 is of crucial significance from the point of view of projects to be completed by the end of 1967.
It was always the view of the University Grants Committee that while we worked on the 15-months basis it was highly desirable that as many projects as possible should be started in 1965 so that we would be pretty close to the same level of starts in this current year as in 1964—that is to say, pretty close to £48 million. Therefore, while it is entirely right that the universities should be asked to consider other possible ways of increasing numbers, I do not think that anyone ought to be in doubt about the seriousness of the postponement of capital projects for the universities at this time.
While I listened with great interest to what the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) had to say, I do not think that to increase the number of home-based students is a complete solution by any manner of means. In any case, the proportion of home-based students has been falling in recent years from 27 to 21 per cent. While the fall will be less steep during the next few years, there are many who wish to go to university from parts of the country which are not near universities. I can assure the House that when the programme for last year was announced, it was with the fullest determination not to waste money unnecessarily on residence and so far as possible to provide residence where that could be done most cheaply. I very much doubt whether there is a large-scale saving to be made by increasing the number of home-based students.
Frankly—and this is the point which the University Grants Committee itself would make—it is not easy to say to a girl in Dorset or parts of Somerset, "If you had happened to live in the Thames Valley, you might have had a choice from a number of university places, but because you live a long way from a university, you have no chance of getting a place." It must be recognised that an irreducible amount of residence must be provided.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is not the right hon. Gentleman being too gloomy about those who do live in the Thames Valley? 1553 Could they not go to Reading University, for instance, on the basis I suggested?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not want to argue this out at great length now, but this approach may not be altogether easy. In the north of England, for example, and taking two towns at random, one could not say to a headmistress in Rotherham, "I am sure that your girl has a good reason for wanting to go to a university in the South, but I am sorry to say that as your school is at Rotherham, she must go to Sheffield and like it." Beyond a certain point, dirigisme—and I am not having an ideological quarrel with the hon. Gentleman—makes for acute difficulty in individual cases.
§ Mr. Hamling
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that to working-class students in crowded homes it is a great advantage to be able to study in residence?
§ Sir E. Boyle
There is a great deal of truth in that. I realise that we must not carry on this debate too long and I will not develop the point further. I am only making the point that in making these plans and deciding upon the figures we carefully considered all these matters and I believe that there was no wasteful provision of residence in the programme of the universities.
I have already had my say in The Times on the subject of the technical colleges. In the debates in the last week hon. Members have been discussing the importance of efficiency and productivity and so on. There can be no doubt that further education, and in particular the work of the technical colleges, is of particular importance to Britain's economic efficiency. I do not think anyone doubts that we need in Britain not merely top-line scientists and technologists, but also technicians and craftsmen to back up their efforts. It could not make sense to pass the Industrial Training Act, thereby greatly stepping up the demand for technical college places, and then drastically to reduce the supply. That is why, while I accept what the Minister of State said about the larger programme not being able to be rapidly undertaken, I hope that there will not be any real cut back in technical colleges this year and 1554 that the number of postponements will be as few as possible. Particularly in the south of England and the Greater London area there are real problems of "roofs over heads".
I was bothered by the number of times that the Minister of State referred to improvements. We are not dealing here with improvements. When we replace an old primary school or a thoroughly bad Newsom secondary school, we are making improvements to the system, but what we need in technical colleges are not so much improvements as provision for basic needs. In the larger programme the actual improvement element is very small.
§ Mr. Prentice
I was using the word "improvement", not in the narrow sense of replacing a building, but in the sense that it represented an advance. If we have more students in universities and more young workers getting day release, that is the kind of improvement I meant.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I accept that. We should remember that we are dealing overwhelmingly with the pressure of demand for new places.
Now I pass to the colleges of education which, as we all know, are doing remarkably good work. I can tell the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) that the expansion of the colleges has gone on steadily—and indeed dramatically—for a number of years. Since 1958 there has been a steady expansion—larger building programmes being used by the colleges to take in larger numbers than one would have dared to hope a few years ago. When I first become Minister in 1962, winding up a debate somewhat analogous to this but not at this late hour, we were pleased that there were nearly 50,000 at those colleges. Now we are looking forward to 70,000, which is an outstanding achievement.
A circular has gone out asking that the colleges should step up their productivity. The six months postponement will come to them as a great shock. It is very much harder to expect people to crowd up and adopt proposals like box and cox—and even to consider one or two others which I shall not be so tactless as to mention now, if one is then going to say that plans will be held up. This decision will come as a great shock to a number of college 1555 principals and staffs and to a number of local authorities.
There is an aspect which has not been referred to in this debate. I recognise that we are ahead of the Robbins target, but the National Advisory Council has wanted us to go further still and to reach the Robbins target of 122,000 by about 1971. This is not a matter on which we have pressed the Government very hard. It was a considerable request. None the less, I do not think we should take a step which will make it impossible to do this. It is a matter on which the Government of the day should reserve their freedom of action. This postponement will make it very much harder to achieve the figure of 122,000 as early as many would like.
Those are some of the reasons, and I could cite others, why we on this side feel extremely anxious about these decisions that have been taken. I quite agree with the Minister of State that we do not want to be alarmist, that we do not want to exaggerate here. Maybe the hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Dr. Bray) was exaggerating just a little in estimating the shortfall of places threatened as being as great as 10,000. I only say that because, as the Minister of State pointed out, quite fairly, we are ahead of Robbins so far as degree courses at the technical colleges are concerned.
The number of those doing degree level courses in the technical colleges are higher than Robbins pictured at this moment, and I hope that the short-fall will not be as high as 10,000. None the less there is the risk of quite a considerable shortfall here, and I think that one cannot help wondering whether these were the right measures to take, assuming that economies had to be made.
I agree with the my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) that, in general, there is very much to be said, both on educational and economic grounds, for considering economies in consumer spending and recurrent expenditure, rather than in capital expenditure. The hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) in his remarkable speech in last night's debate spoke, most courageously, on this topic and I am bound to say that I think that this is the right approach.
1556 We have expressed cur doubts about the Government's decision. I think that the whole House has had a thoroughly useful debate and all I can say is that we, on this side, strongly hope that the expansion of higher education, and further education and of the colleges of education will not be too severely handicapped by these postponements. We are bound to say that we have very considerable doubts whether the priorities here are right or wise, and we think that it is right that our anxieties and criticisms should be expressed.