HC Deb 30 January 1969 vol 776 cc1507-9
21 and 22. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) what systematic progress-chasing he has done of the recommendations of the Swann Committee Report;

(2) what systematic progress-chasing he has done of the recommendations of the Dainton Committee Report.

Mr. Edward Short

These two Reports, raising many important and complex issues, have been and are being considered by a wide range of bodies in industry, science and education, by the Royal Society, the University Grants Committee and individual universities, by the C.B.I., the Research Councils, the Schools Council and others. The lively discussion continues. Appropriate action is being taken by such bodies as the Science Research Council in its postgraduate awards and by the Schools Council in its development programmes. My Department is in close touch with these efforts and with the continuing debate.

Mr. Dalyell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us very much agreed with his remark yesterday that higher education was consuming too much of its own product, but in these matters would it be possible for someone to lay out clearly what action has been taken, recommendation by recommendation, on these Reports? Much good work is being done, but could we be clearly told what is happening?

Mr. Short

I should be happy to write to my hon. Friend on this. There is an impressive list of individual items on which action has been taken, but it is extremely important not to regard these Reports as a cut-and-dried blueprint for action. They are a contribution to thinking on a very important problem and that is the way to regard them.

Sir E. Boyle

Is it not important that there should be a wide debate on these Reports, not just by way of speeches and memos circulated by the right hon. Gentleman, but also in the organisations and in publications like the Universities Quarterly and higher education journals? Will he give an undertaking that he will ensure reasonable liberty for officers of the Schools Council to put their views publicly so that there can be the widest possible exchange on these important subjects?

Mr. Short

I certainly endorse what the right hon. Gentleman says. I do not believe that I have any power to prevent officers of the Schools Council expressing their views on anything, and I should welcome an expression of views on this. Perhaps some of the most hopeful action is being taken in curriculum development in the improvement of science and mathematics teaching in schools. I am not sure whether this is not the most fruitful way of all to tackle the shortage of scientists and mathematicians,