HC Deb 27 July 1971 vol 822 cc271-88

6.38 p.m.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)

I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State is here with us to engage with me in what I hope will be a non-partisan semi-professional argument or discussion about further education. As he and the House know, I come to this subject from a professional standpoint.

It is a long time since the House had an opportunity of having the Minister with us to give an indication of the Government's policy in regard to further education. By "further education" I do not in this context mean university education, and I hope that the Minister has had some indication of the limits within which my remarks will be kept on this occasion. I regard university education as a rather special field, and I wish to discuss that form of further education which is sometimes loosely called technical education. I say "loosely" because the students who go to these colleges are not all technical students.

A great many of the colleges in this branch of education have to do with the sort of education which one associates with those people who left school early and who are, as it were, trying in later years to gain the sort of general education which they missed in their ordinary school lives. The term "further education" covers a multitude of courses at evening institutes. It covers a great variety of subjects and activities. A great many of the students are full-time, some doing advanced work, some doing work to a university standard, and some doing work which can only be described as rather informal from an education point of view, some doing work, perhaps, not to a very high academic standard but none the less very useful from the point of view of the students and of the country as a whole.

Much of what I have to say will be couched in the form of questions in an attempt to get the Minister to say what the Government's policy is in relation to certain matters. One thing I must ask at once is whether the Government intend to give priority to the polytechnics, which I regard as having a very specialised function in further education, perhaps to the detriment or to the exclusion or to the neglect of some other very important aspects.

For a long time a great many people have felt that further education was a sort of poor relation to the universities, particularly in regard to advanced work, and some of them feel that as the polytechnics are, as it were, separated from the rest of further education they may become another priority section like the universities, and that other spheres of activity in further education will be left out in the cold.

For example, how far does the Department think that other colleges outside the polytechnics will be able to do advanced work of a high academic standard? I think of many colleges where some of the students are doing very advanced work leading to professional diplomas or qualifications of one sort or another. Is it envisaged that advanced work of this sort in colleges outside polytechnics will not be encouraged?

Another very important question is how much further education there will be, and how much the Government think we as a nation can afford. In the White Paper on Public Expenditure some projections have been made of expenditure in this direction. This is the reference I want to make to universities, but it is only a comparative and passing reference. For universities, the projected current expenditure based on the provisional outturn was £251.7 million in 1969–70 and in 1974–75 it was £355 million—an increase of over £100 million. In 1969–70, capital expenditure based on provisional outturn was £75 million odd, and the estimated expenditure in 1974–75 is £92 million.

In further education, however, current expenditure for 1969–70 was £249.7 million, and the estimated figure for 1974–75 is £286 million—an increase of only £36 million. Is this a realistic estimate and a realistic projection? In capital expenditure, so far from their being an increase, there is a decrease. The figure for 1969–70 based on provisional outturn was £54.3 million, and the estimate for 1974–75 is £52 million.

I do not know what estimate the Treasury made of costs in this sphere—movement of prices and movement of wages in industries concerned in capital expenditure—but it seems to me that this is a gross under-estimation of the capital expenditure which will be needed, especially bearing in mind that the White Paper says that further education student numbers, full-time equivalent, will rise by 10 per cent. by 1972–73, and then ease off for two years, when the 15-year-olds stay at school after the leaving age is raised instead of moving to further education. In the light of the considerable extension that has taken place in the last 10 years, this forecasting of numbers is not very realistic.

I want to give the House some idea of the tremendous expansion there has been in further educations since 1959–60. In 1959–60, full-time students numbered 98,000, by 1964–65 the number had risen to 167,000, and by 1968–69 it had gone up to 214,000. The figures more than doubled in eleven years—very roughly, I suppose, one can say that they have doubled in ten years. This is a considerable expansion in full-time further education, and anyone with any connection with this form of education knows that more and more students are becoming full-time instead of part-time students, with the demands that this makes on staffing, accommodation, laboratory work, and other things. That being so, to talk of only a limited expansion in the next five years is an underestimate.

There has been quite a dramatic expansion in sandwich courses—perhaps to the detriment of day release, but it is none the worse for that. Anyone connected with technical colleges or further education and day release will welcome such expansion. In 1959–60 there were 10,000 students taking these courses, and the figure for 1968–69 was 29,600—an expansion of nearly 200 per cent. The expansion in part-time day release is shown by the fact that in 1959–60 there were 452,000 such students, and about 749,000 in 1968–69. Such expansion is quite dramatic, and indicates the thirst for education amongst a group of young people in our society whom the universities have not taken care of. Bearing in mind the figures I have quoted, one can only envisage even further expansion in the next few years.

In 1964–65, 138,000 students took advanced courses, and that figure rose by 50,000 during the following four years. These are all dramatic increases, and illustrates the fact that if we are to take further education seriously the Government estimates of projected expenditure ought to be re-examined.

Another aspect of further education is day release. In 1964, the Henniker-Heaton Report talked about the need for doubling the number of students on day release: in fact, the numbers have not doubled but have diminished. This is partly due to the expansion of full time courses, partly due to the expansion of sandwich courses, block release, and the like, but it seems that the numbers of students on day release have not kept up with our expectations of five years ago. What is the Minister's view of the next couple of years, particularly bearing in mind unemployment today and reports that employers are reducing the numbers of apprentices they are taking on? It appears that in many colleges next September the intake of students for day release will be down by upwards of 25 per cent., and in some cases by much more.

On top of that we have the impact of the raising of the school-leaving age. We may well ask where in four or five years' time we are to get the skilled apprentices normally associated with day release.

Another aspect of the figures that I want to ask the Minister about is the discrimination against women and girls. Perhaps "discrimination" is the wrong word, but certainly there are disparities. For example, in 1969, 198,000 boys under 18 were on day release and only 54,000 girls. That is a very sad contrast. But the contrast is even sadder in some other figures. In national colleges there were 1,177 men students and only nine women students. In polytechnic full-time courses there were 7,195 men students and only 3,196 women students. In regional colleges, there were 10,342 full-time men students compared with only 3,444 women students. Those figures are far worse than the figure for universities, and we know that even in universities for every woman student there are probably two men students. Here it would appear that the disparity is even worse. What is in the Minister's mind for trying to persuade parents, or teachers, themselves to persuade girls to take advantage of the opportunities in colleges of further education and technical colleges? In advance courses the figures are not quite so bad—36,900 men students compared with 17,800 women. That includes art colleges, where the comparisons are by no means as startling.

This is a subject about which I feel very strongly. We know very well that the maintained grammar schools provide as many places for girls as for boys, yet it seems that the girl products of the maintained grammar schools do not go to universities in anything like the number that boys do, and that they do not go to further education, perhaps, in quite the same way for advanced courses. Far fewer girls leave with comparable A levels. There must be in our society a pool of ability amongst girls in particular which is not being tapped in further education, and still less in universities.

I now turn to the circular on capital programmes from the Department of the Environment, Circular 2/70, with which I am sure the Minister will be familiar. It is very important from the point of view of further education in particular. What consultations take place between the Treasury, the Department of the Environment and the hon. Gentleman's Department on such matters? One large college in the North has made this statement: The Management Committee have decided that in view of the restriction on capital spending imposed upon authorities by the Department of the Environment Circular 2/70, it will not be possible to include within the local capital allocation the professional fees associated with the C.F.E. stage 2 building proposals. The Authority will therefore not be able to begin building during the financial year 1970–71, and it will be necessary to ask the D.E.S. to delete the programme from the 1970–71 building programme. The annexe to the circular says that projects in major building programmes for schools, further education establishments and so on are subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, but that professional fees, salaries, dwellings for teachers or caretakers, for example, purchases of land for existing buildings, vehicles, furniture and equipment, are exculded from those considerations. They are very relevant to further education. Those excluded sectors must be met out of the total sum for locally determined schemes.

I am a member of the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions, which was not provided with a copy and was not consulted by the Department of the Environment. Perhaps the A.T.T.I. is not so important, but was the Association of Education Committees consulted? If so, what was its reaction? These are most important matters. The Government will at some stage be looking at the whole field of expenditure of local authorities.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

I am anxious to follow the hon. Gentleman carefully, though I think that some of what he is saying will be outside my Ministerial responsibility, and he will know, with his experience, that I must be careful. I thought that the hon. Gentleman said that a result of Circular 2/70 from the Department of the Environment would be that an education project which he did not identify—I make no complaint of that, and do not ask him to identify it—could not start building in the financial year 1970–71. Is that right?

Mr. Handing

I shall give this document to the Minister later. I am not anxious to make any partisan points, and I want to be helpful. The hon. Gentleman will find the statement in Technical Education for March 1971. When I make the document available to him he can check it. But I think that it is quite firm. I understand that the authority concerned is Newcastle.

The other relevant question is the impact of the reorganisation of local government. This was something over which we had battles in London some time ago, but happily, from our point of view, we kept London education intact and united.

There was a debate on the matter at the annual conference of the A.T.T.I. Strong words have been used, particularly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, because we may have black areas in education, particularly further education. One of the things that have struck me and other people is that in a small area with a population of perhaps 150,000 or 200,000, a county area or sub-division of a county area, there may be one large technical college.

Such a college can constitute a heavy burden on the local rates. There may well be a temptation for short-sighted councillors, when considering the rate burden annually, to look at the massive expenditure of the college and say, "We must hold down the rates this year. We have so many calls upon our finances—let us take half a million off the college because it happens to be the biggest single spender in the whole area." I know that this is not the direct concern of the hon. Gentleman, but it is a matter on which we in education—and I mean both of us, speaking, as it were, across the Floor—should make representations to the Minister concerned, because this is one of the most powerful considerations to bear in mind when discussing the reorganisation of local government.

It is not as though we were dealing simply with primary schools or secondary schools. Further education covers a vast range. The college where I taught before coming here drew students from as far afield as Reading in the west—indeed, from as far west as Basingstoke—from Luton and even further north, from Brighton on the south coast, and from Southend in the east. We drew our students from a very wide area. To try and disentangle the finances and fees for students from such a widely scattered area is extremely difficult.

Then there is the question of administration. Should we expect a college of this sort to be governed by one small local area when so many of the students are drawn from other areas? Is there a local identity here? These are important considerations.

There is also the problem of paternalism by the governing bodies. Happily, the Guildford situation has been resolved, and I am glad of it. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good offices there. It has been very successfully dealt with. It was an unhappy experience and we are glad to see the back of it. But there may be other Guildfords. There may be other cases where the independence of the teachers may be threatened. A technical college with a vast number of students—in my college we had some 6,000 or 7,000—drawn from a very wide area, and a large staff also drawn from an equally wide area, with members holding very high academic qualifications—indeed, many of them supreme in their subjects nationally let alone locally—may be subject perhaps to the administration of local councillors. I intend no disrespect to local councillors, but can one really expect them to be competent to judge the professional standards of such a college or its academic standards? I think it is asking too much of some of these local authorities to expect them to administer satisfactorily colleges of this sort.

Then there is the question of modern attitudes towards staff and students. Happily, in my college we got over the question of representation without fuss or bother. We did it at local level. We did not call in the authority. We settled it between ourselves. I was one of the union representatives, and together the chairman and I sorted the matter out with the principal with no fuss. That is the sort of situation we have had in London. In London, there has been no friction on these things. In some places there may be friction, however, and I often think that where one gets what I would describe as "parish pump politics" one may get such friction.

Then there is the attitude to the students. But here, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I am trespassing on your good nature, so I will not go into detail. I can well understand, however, that student attitudes are a very important factor in the future administration of these colleges.

Finally, there is the question of salaries and conditions of service. I know that a salary claim is in and I shall say nothing about that, because this is neither the time nor the place. I will only say that it has been in a long time and that, like all things, the mills of Burham grind slowly——

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

And too small.

Mr. Handing

—and they do grind too small sometimes. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones), who is from another branch of the profession, speaks truly. I hope that an answer on the claim will be forthcoming soon and that is all I shall say about it.

I want to refer to local variations. Unlike other sectors of Burham, with which I have had experience going back over 30 years, technical education provides all sorts of local variations because of the policies of different authorities on conditions of service, on which there is as yet no national agreement. In my last college, I was a lecturer Grade B. I have always regarded London as the best education authority in the country and that means probably in the world. I say that not as a Londoner but as an immigrant to London. It has one of the happiest of staff relationships. The Authority has always been generous to its teachers, both in ordinary schools and in further education. It has been understanding and tolerant. Not all authorities are as good as that. London has always been very generous in its allocation of lecturers, Grade B, senior lecturers, and so on. Other authorities have not always been as generous. Certainly, when it comes to things like class contact hours, London has been much more generous than other authorities. I ask the Minister to have a look at this and see what can be done to try and get some uniformity. By that I do not mean scaling things down, as it were, in London, but bringing the rest of the country up to the high standards enjoyed in London.

In London, 19 or 20 class contact hours is the norm. I wonder what it is in other parts of the country. In so many authorities, lecturers and teachers are expected to be in attendance at college throughout the college day, whether they are taking a class or not. Some of the authorities seem to exercise a quite disproportionate authoritarian attitude in this respect towards lecturers who, after all, are people with very high professional standards. In addition, holiday entitlement and leave of absence are all matters about which staff members also feel very strongly, and I would like to know how much consultation the Department encourages with local teacher associations. We have been very fortunate in London, but other parts of the country have not been so fortunate. There are one or two dangerous signs that conditions may worsen. The college year is normally 36 to 38 weeks, but, with the impact of industrial training there may be inroads into holidays and so on, so that in a few years the college year may look quite different. I wonder what the Department thinks about this and what it has in mind in this respect for the future

I have put my questions to the Under-Secretary in an entirely non-partisan fashion. I approach this subject with a professional and educational point of view. Throughout, there has been no sort of party attitude on this issue. The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to come to our annual conference this year, and that was much appreciated. What struck us was that he was not only interested in making a speech, but was eager to stay and listen to the speeches of delegates. I thank him for that and for his interest in our work in this respect.

7.11 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) started his elegant little speech by saying that he hoped that this would be a semi-professional discussion. I am grateful to him for saying that, but I think that it will so turn out that he will be the professional and I shall be the semi. But I shall do my best to answer.

I have a large sheaf of notes about what he has been saying and I will do my best to answer as fully as I may as many of his comments as possible, but I know that he will acquit me of discourtesy if there are one or two matters which I openly skirt round. With his considerable experience, he knows the limitations of answerability in certain of these matters, and I must carefully observe the proprieties in that regard.

He was good enough to start with a kindly reference to my attendance at the conference in Nottingham of the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions of which he is a distinguished member. No Minister could have had a more kindly welcome. I learnt a great deal from the occasion, which is why I went. I have something of a horror of Ministerial visits which are an Olympian descent from on high, the delivery of a splendid message, followed by a swift departure. I wanted to stay longer, and I was grateful that that was made possible for me. Sometimes on these occasions one learns a tremendous amount from the off-duty as well as the on-duty moments.

I was already aware, but it was brought home to me even more at the conference and it has been forcefully underlined by the hon. Gentleman tonight, of the anxiety in some professional circles that the future pattern of further education might be such as to make for an overwhelming concentration on the polytechnics at the expense of other institutions: I noted down the hon. Gentleman's phrase—the fear that priority would be given to the polytechnics to the exclusion or neglect of the other institutions.

I want to make it clear that the present Government, following the decisions of their predecessors, which in turn were a logical extension of the policies of the 'fifties, attach the greatest importance to the polytechnics and the increasing concentration of advanced work in those remarkable institutions. I yield to nobody in my regard for them and my admiration for their work. Many young people now contemplating doing degree work at a university or polytechnic would be well advised to consider the polytechnic as the place where they might well have the most rewarding course. But, that said, I make it perfectly clear that this is not to be, in the hon. Gentleman's phrase, to the exclusion or neglect of other institutions.

I believe that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman by reference to the figures. He will know that the list of further education major and minor projects authorised to start in 1971–72 notified to the L.E.A's last autumn totalled £27.8 million, which allows for the recently announced 20 per cent. increase in cost limits. A substantial but still minority proportion was for the polytechnics. For the following year, there is an admittedly substantial programme for the polytechnics, £8.8 million, but this is still only a proportion of the whole. It is important to say that, because it would be unfortunate if the whole weight of the Government effort, as exemplified by the F.E. major projects, were thought to be put into the polytechnic programme. The figures speak for themselves in the current year and for the year beginning 1972–73. We have yet to announce the preliminary list from which the 1973–74 starts will be drawn.

I am therefore happy to give the assurance in the terms for which the hon. Gentleman asked for it, and I make it clear that the concentration process, which in any case is gradual, following precisely from the 1966 White Paper and all that, about which the hon. Gentleman knows more than I, is not to the exclusion of other projects; and that the Government attach great importance, as is shown by their building programmes, to the remainder of further education.

The subject of projected expenditure was raised at Nottingham. The hon. Gentleman may not have had the opportunity of appreciating that the figures in the White Paper, to which he properly referred, have to be read against the background of the raising of the school-leaving age, which is relevant, as he and I would agree. If he studies the figures—and I am grateful to him for the way in which he put them—he will see that further education pro rata gets a fair share of the growth forecast. In any event, it is a total figure that the hon. Member fairly quoted. This covers some of the further education sectors which are expanding at a greater rate.

I also hope we may establish, as I am sure we can, that the figures mentioned are at constant prices. I make that clear because I noticed at Nottingham some understandable anxiety at the effect on the programme of increased costs. It is only fair to make it clear that the White Paper figures were at constant prices.

I share the hon. Member's interest in the sandwich courses and the improvement in the figures, but I am certainly not satisfied. I do not want him to think that I am. He will know that taking the whole further education sector, advanced and non-advanced—but more particularly, I think, in the former—there are, unfortunately, signs of difficulty in obtaining industrial places for some of our students on sandwich courses. I am glad to have the opportunity of mentioning that and to take up what the hon. Member has said. He will, I think, know that the C.B.I. has made a helpful intervention and has given cogent advice to its members about the making available of industrial places for students of this kind.

I believe that something like 60 per cent. of C.N.A.A. courses are of the sandwich type. As the hon. Member said, the number of students enrolled has been increasing steadily since the C.N.A.A. Council was established. The figures, which I happen to have with me, show that over 14,000 C.N.A.A. degree students are now following sandwich courses in polytechnics and other further education colleges in England and Wales. About 12,500 are on sandwich courses leading to Higher National diplomas, about 4,000 are seeking other higher education qualifications and about 6,000 are taking lower level sandwich courses. In other words, including the university sector, in which there is also some sandwich course work a fact which is not always appreciated outside—something like 50,000 students in all are affected. It is an important part of the work of further education and I am glad to underpin the hon. Member's expression of its importance.

I am also happy to join with the hon. Member on the whole subject of day release. It is possible—I always try to be watchful of this—to make play with figures in almost any direction. The hon. Member fairly said that he was approaching this matter in an entirely non-controversial way and I hope that I respond in the same manner. We can, however, take pleasure from the fact, since this is a matter which spans both Governments, that the proportion of employees in the 15–17 age range who are receiving day release has increased from 19 per cent. in 1964–65 to 24.7 per cent. in 1969–70. This latest figure is the highest ever. In case, having said that, I appear to be complacent, I also join the hon. Member in saying that I am not satisfied that that is a sufficiently fast growth rate.

The hon. Member mentioned one area for concern and I would mention another. That is that the rate of release for those in clerical and commercial jobs is particularly low. This is something which I hope very much we can improve upon. I also join the hon. Member, however, in deploring that day release for girls is generally at a markedly lower rate. In 1969–70, 40 per cent. of young men in the 15–17 age range were being released, while the corresponding figure for girls was only 10 per cent.

The hon. Member has done a service by drawing attention to this. He fairly asked what I would propose to do about it. I must give him the equally clear answer that in terms of directive—which I know he would not expect, but others outside might—the Government clearly do not wish to have powers of direction in this sense. I very much hope, however, that we can between us take every opportunity of exhortation and example.

I should simply like to say that in spite of the year being 1971, my view in a number of education sectors is that we still have a remarkably Victorian view towards women. The hon. Member is absolutely right in saying that there is a pool of ability available to the country which is being untapped. It is in part debates of this kind which draw attention to the deficiency.

Mr. Hamling

I do not look for direction. I certainly hope that as a result of this sort of debate, we shall get encouragement to teachers and parents to help to put us right and, as the hon. Gentleman says, to get away from the Victorian attitude.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. We obviously think alike on this. He would, I know, agree that the place where the most effective propaganda can be made available is at the school level. It is important for us to get this across in the schools, and with parents, too, who rightly have a great influence on their children. This debate has once again drawn attention to the deficiency and in so far as I have any modest influence in this, I lose no opportunity on appropriate occasions of drawing attention to it.

To sum up this section of my reply, I do not think that in the non-advanced sectors of further education we can surely expect to have the same exact type of forecasting as we rightly expect in advanced education and in the university sector. In part, the reason for that is part of the strength of the further education sector in that it is constructed to be, and is, very receptive to both local need and short-term demand. It can respond very much more quickly than the other sectors to requirements locally and also to requirements which show themselves at comparatively short notice. I simply say that I do not think we shall ever be able to have the exact type of forecasting in this sector that we would expect in, for example, the university sector.

I was asked about the Department of the Environment's circular 2/70. Although, as the hon. Member will appreciate, I am slightly trespassing—I do it because he has been skilful in drawing me out—I am advised that there was consultation with the local authority associations. For my part, I am aware that there have been certain difficulties, one of which the hon. Member fairly drew to my attention. I merely wanted to be quite sure that I had heard him aright because until he courteously said that he would give me the appropriate paper, I wanted to follow up the particular case. But he has told me that he believes it to be Newcastle. I think that he would like to know that there have been within my Department consultations with those concerned with the case. There is another case in a different part of the country which also calls for consultation. If I find that there are some residuary problems, perhaps I can write to the hon. Gentleman or to those with whom I know he is in close touch.

The hon. Gentleman raised the pertinent question of the reorganisation of local government in relation to this subject. I wonder whether he would feel that one, although only one, of the reasons for proceeding with a reform of local government is that which he has given, namely, that in our unreformed local government some local authorities are perhaps not sufficiently large to be able effectively to look after what have become wide-drawing further education colleges and that the act of reform in the larger areas goes at least some way to meeting his point.

The logic of what the hon. Gentleman was saying might appear to be that the Government should take the administration of further education colleges from the local education authorities as reformed. I would regret that—and it is not in the Government's mind to do it—in part for the reason that I have outlined, namely, that I genuinely believe that the ability of such colleges—and I am thinking of non-advanced work now—to respond to local needs and local short-term demands is valuable and this asset might be lost if the administration were to be centralised. The hon. Gentle- will know—I do not need to say this, but I put it on the record for the benefit of those who read our debates—that in the advanced sector, such as the polytechnics, where financial arrangements are being pooled, the constraints of which he spoke do not apply.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of what he described as paternalism in some governing bodies. Here there is very considerable progress to report. I can recall, when in opposition, taking part in the debates on the Bill, as it then was, which did a lot to bring up to date the governing bodies and government of colleges of education. This was followed by action being taken in the sector which we are now discussing. Circular 7/70, which gave advice to local education authorities about college government, is being worked on. I have been spending quite a considerable time on this matter because it is the articles, not the instruments of government, which we approve. We are in process of doing this throughout the sector we are discussing. I am at one with the hon. Gentleman in believing that this is a very important matter.

We should keep the matter in perspective. It is true that there are some who are not successful in their dealings with staff and students. There are some, not only in further education colleges, who deal in a high-handed way with staff or students. But it must be said that they are very much in the minority. One of the agreeable features of this sector is that the conditions which as the hon. Gentleman outlined so persuasively are to be found in London are also to be found elsewhere. I would think that that is so in the great majority of instances. However, one or two authorities feel uneasy about the move in the direction proposed in Circular 7/70. The representatives of one or two of them wish to see me about it. But the Government take on the commitment from the previous Government. There will not be a move away from that. When in opposition, we supported the previous Government and, I hope, helped them to pass the legislation in question.

Turning to the question of salaries and conditions of service, here I have to duck. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Inner London Education Authority as being overwhelmingly the finest in the country. I do not wish to enter into any controversy about the league table, but the hon. Gentleman and I are surrounded, not because of his eloquence or mine, by a number of Welsh colleagues. Recently I was the guest of the Glamorgan Local Education Authority, which would reckon to put its boxing gloves on pretty sharply if it heard the Inner London Education Authority described as the finest education authority in the country. One would have to go a long way to find anything to better Glamorgan's warmth of welcome and hospitality. But, mercifully, there is a large number of local education authorities which are run in the most efficient and humane way.

I have considerable understanding of and sympathy for the sense of irritation felt by members of the A.T.T.I. and their colleagues at the delay in dealing with their salary claim. This is essentially a matter for the Burnham Further Education Committee and I must be careful not to enter into a discussion about it. I have no authority whatever to speak for the Committee. The management panel took the view that the outcome of the arbitration on school teachers' pay was a very relevant factor and that is why it did not make an offer. However, that arbitration is, to our pleasure, behind us. I understand that the Burham Further Education Committee is to meet on 2nd August and that the management panel intends to make an offer at that meeting. Any settlement will be back-dated to 1st April. I say that because I do not wish people to feel that they may be out of pocket.

I must be careful what I say about the question of local conditions of employment. I doubt whether many lecturers or those employed in the colleges we are discussing would want the Department to have a centralised authority. I may be wrong, but I do not think that that would be all that popular. I am sure that it would not be popular in school teaching. Therefore, I must give no impression of wishing the matter to be centralised. I genuinely believe that this is a case for professional representation through the appropriate body. The A.T.T.I. is well able to deal with this matter, and, in fact, deals with it very effectively. It would not be appropriate for me to indicate a personal preference in case I inadvertently appeared to want to concentrate the matter in the centre.

I am conscious that my reply has been slightly ragged—I had no time to put my notes in order—but I hope that I have dealt in a courteous way with all the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. I trust that this necessarily short debate has directed the searchlight of attention on an extremely important sector of our education effort.

It is a wonderful thing that there should be interest and concern in the universities. I am behind it all the way. I do much to try to assist the development of the polytechnics, which I believe are one of the British people's great contributions in further education. But sometimes the non-advanced further education colleges are left out of this interest and concern. They play a vital part in our educational efforts, as the hon. Gentleman has shown effectively by his figures. It is right that from time to time the House should pause to consider them and to consider them profoundly.