HC Deb 19 October 1972 vol 843 cc425-7
3. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is in a position to make a further statement on the reform of student unions.

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

Discussions with the parties mainly concerned are not yet complete, and I expect further talks to take place this autumn.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Do not the recent disgraceful events at Stirling University, involving a tiny minority of students, and the subsequent inability of the student council, as reported today, to take any action, show that the decent, law-abiding majority need protection from the militant minority and that the best way of doing it is by appointing an impartial registrar of student unions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that I shall comment on individual sug- gestions relating to this matter while consultations are going on, except to say that I slightly doubt whether they would have assisted in the events at Stirling. In respect of Stirling University, however, I feel sure that I express the views of the vast majority of the House when I say that what occurred there was a disgrace and ought never to have occurred, and that one of the most regret table feaures of all is that the present leadership of the National Union of Students has not felt able to condemn it out of hand.

Mr. Ewing

Although I represent Stirling and Falkirk, Stirling University is not in my constituency. Nevertheless, it has to be said—and I trust that the Minister will be aware of this—that the events at Stirling University highlight the problem not of student unions but of university administration, not only at Stirling University but at all universities. Will the hon. Gentleman give his attention to this problem when he is considering questions which are biased and distorted by Members speaking from a background of ignorance rather than of fact?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I hope that I have not got the correct inference from the hon. Gentleman's question, which seemed to have some element of support for what occurred. If that is the position, I do not support it in any way. I must make it clear that, as has been properly said, what occurred involved a minority of students, but I think that the rest of us are entitled to expect that the majority, who would always wish to show good manners to any visitor, would make their views very definitely heard.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a demand among the great majority of moderate students for a registrar? As we are to look forward, we are told, to a lighter legislative programme, will my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend take over the Bill which I introduced last Session?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am not sure that there is all that widespread support for one particular solution, but, as I have said, while consultations are in progress I do not think it would be right for me to come down firmly in respect of one solution or of another. It is impossible for me to forecast the legislative programme for the next Session.

Mr. Edward Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of an even more reprehensible development in student politics? I am referring to the recent plan of the Monday Club to prepare dossiers on Left-wing militant students, which presumably will be made available to prospective employers. What has the hon. Gentleman to say about that?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The only thing I know about it is what I have read in the Press. Certainly no action by my Department will encourage that kind of activity.