HC Deb 10 April 1973 vol 854 cc1113-4
5. Mr. Millan

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue a progress report on discussions between her Department, the University Grants Committee and universities concerned with implementing the recommendations of the Internal Management and Engineering Group report.

Mrs. Thatcher

My Department and the UGC are still examining with other interested Departments whether further specialist courses are required to meet the needs of the industries concerned.

Mr. Millan

There does not seem to be a great deal of urgency in that answer. Is the Minister aware that, if we are to cut back the American lead which she acknowledged in reply to the previous Question, it is extremely important that we in this country should take quick action? The IMEG report makes certain recommendations for the establishment of a working party and draws particular attention to the absence of even one chain of petroleum engineering. Will the Minister pursue all these points with urgency, because a Government lead is required?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are six universities which have chairs relevant to the petroleum industry. Courses are available in further education establishments in drilling techniques and exploration methods. Before we decide to take more action we should decide precisely what action to take, because it needs not only to be more but to be appropriate.

Mr. Marten

Is not the lack of highly-trained experts a reflection on the failure of our educational system to look forward to the country's requirements a number of years ahead? Is there not a case for manpower planning with a long forward look?

Mrs. Thatcher

If manpower planning had been expert enough to tell us precisely what was required, the education services would have responded and produced the people. As it is there are six universities with chairs in subjects relevant to this industry, and we are still considering precisely what new specialist facilities are required. It is not a general "more" that we want, but particular courses in particular areas.

Mr. Moyle

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that Professor Ridell said in his report that, if the oil drilling business in the North Sea is to go to British and not to American subcontractors, we must take steps to ensure that there is an adequate body of British trained oil drilling engineers? What has the right hon. Lady done about achieving this body of personnel since the report was published? If she has not done anything, when will she be in a position to allocate Government resources and Government money and take Government action?

Mrs. Thatcher

The report was pub lished comparatively recently, and we are considering with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Scottish Office exactly how to tackle the problem. In the meantime, from what the hon. Gentleman says one would think that nothing was taking place in British universities but there are relevant chairs in Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, University College, London, Manchester and Liverpool Universities, Imperial College and Glasgow University.