HC Deb 02 March 1967 vol 742 cc687-9
22. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in view of the difficulties it will cause to girls wishing to study agriculture, horticulture and farm management, he will reconsider his decision to close Studley College; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

My right hon. Friend satisfied himself before deciding to discontinue grant to the college that suitable places can be provided at other agricultural establishments for girls who wish to follow the type of courses now offered by Studley.

Mrs. Butler

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the widespread sense of outrage at this decision is partly due to a fear that it will debase the whole status of women in agriculture, particularly since, of all the agricultural establishments offering diploma courses to men or women, Studley is the only one which has successfully trained women for degree courses? Instead of stubbornly sticking to his guns, would my hon. Friend at least have discussions with the college to see if a way out can be found?

Mr. Roberts

There is opposition to any closure, but there is also support for the policy of concentrating scarce resources to the maximum educational advantage. As regards opportunities for women students in agriculture, there are 40 other agricultural education establishments which admit women and offer a wide choice of alternative places. We do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty in placing the women of Studley in alternative courses.

Dame Irene Ward

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I fully support the case put by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), and is he further aware that I shall be getting out a couple of guns to shoot him if he does not get on with it?

Mr. Roberts

I am aware of the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, but apprehensive of the second part.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that I, too, fully support the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), in view of the fact that not only do I have a charming young lady in my constituency who attends this college, but that the Agriculture Bill gives grants to farmers to do this job and this college provides the type of education and secretaries to do this work?

Mr. Roberts

I agree that the college has done extremely well in the past. This raises a question which one must tackle firmly, namely, the concentration of very scarce resources in the way of finance, highly qualified manpower and equipment.

Mr. Rowland

The Minister gave me an almost exactly similar Answer last week on this issue. Is he aware that I have since been informed that, although there may be 40 other colleges, only two offer courses leading to the National Diploma in Dairying, and at those two colleges there are fewer girls than there are at Studley at the moment?

Mr. Roberts

If there are fewer, there is obviously room for women from Studley—

Mr. Rowland

No, places.

Mr. Roberts

On the first point, my information is somewhat different, but I will make it available to my hon. Friend or to any other hon. Member who is interested.

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