§ 34. Mr. van Straubenzee
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why the recent cuts in university building ordered by the University Grants Committee have not been made public.
§ Mr. Edward Short
Following their normal annual review of public expenditure and probable future calls on their resources, and not because of changes in the economic situation, the Government asked for the universities' building programme for 1968–69 to be reduced. The U.G.C. informed universities of this on 1st August. After consulting all universities, the Committee sent them revised programmes, reduced from £28.7 million to £18.7 million, on 26th September. No building work in progress has been stopped. It is not the Committee's practice to publish its communications to individual universities; but universities themselves are free to do so where, as was the case here, the letters are not confidential, and most did so.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
While clearly understanding the confidential nature of the communications between the U.G.C. and individual universities, does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that it was, to put it mildly, unfortunate that such a major change in policy should not have been publicly announced, so that we could all form a judgment upon it?
§ Sir E. Boyle
Was it not a very extraordinary thing to reduce the university building programme by that very high percentage, by £10 million, a week after Parliament had risen, with no statement by the Government? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, when we have talked about priorities this year, we have always been assuming existing progress? Is he aware that we feel that this was a very serious decision, to cut university building programmes by a 1581 further £10 million at a time when the universities have not yet fully recovered from the moratorium imposed in 1965?