HC Deb 19 January 1967 vol 739 cc621-2
1 and 2. Mr. Bob Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) if he will introduce legislation to make the University Grants Committee responsible to Parliament in respect of public expenditure;

(2) if he will introduce legislation to make individual universities responsible to Parliament in respect of public expenditure.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

This matter has been under examination by the Committee of Public Accounts and I would like an opportunity of considering its Report.

Mr. Brown

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is outrageous that such vast sums of public money are being spent by these bodies without any accountability?

Mr. Crosland

This is a matter on which many varied and different views are strongly held, but I think that it is only reasonable, as we know that the Public Accounts Committee's Report is shortly to come out, for me to have an opportunity of considering it before I decide what to do.

Mr. van Straubenzee

While I understand that the inquiry may well be necessary, may I ask the Secretary of State nevertheless to keep very carefully in mind the evidence given to the Robbins Committee that the rest of the world looks with admiration at this method of injecting Government finance while re- taining the independence of universities, and it should be tampered with only with very great care?

Mr. Crosland

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Mapp

Will my right hon. Friend, without prejudice to the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, not appreciate that there is an overwhelming need for some form of democracy? The question asked for legislation. Is my right hon. Friend not aware that some kind of democracy must be put into this machinery in a new form? Will he keep his mind open in that respect at least?

Mr. Crosland

This exchange from both sides of the House has demonstrated what I said earlier, that strong views are held on this matter but the views are not always in agreement. Since I believe that the Report is due to be published next Tuesday, it would be more sensible for me not to express a strong personal view.