HC Deb 10 April 1973 vol 854 cc1111-3
4. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will seek to pay an official visit to the United Slates of America.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no plans to do so at present.

Mr. Douglas

That is a disappointing answer. Will the right hon. Lady get her Department to examine the relationship of United States technological universities to the petroleum industry, with particular regard to how they are using the spin-off from the space programme, linking it to underwater research and the production of petroleum?

Mrs. Thatcher

I expected that the hon. Gentleman would ask a supplementary question about the petroleum industry. The United States having had an offshore industry for a good deal longer than we have, it is not surprising that it has many more extensive facilities for education and training. We have about six universities with relevant courses and a number of further education establishments which offer relevant training.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

Even if my right hon. Friend is not immediately visiting America, will she, in observing the American scene, see whether this country has anything to learn from American experience and its successes and failures in such matters as the maintenance of students in universities, the difficulties of comprehensive schools in poor neighbourhoods and the right of free education to exist alongside State education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am always willing to learn from the educational system of any country. I would add one more matter to my hon. Friend's list—the close cooperation between industry and the universities in that country. I agree with him in his list.

Mr. Faulds

If the right hon. Lady should decide to visit America, will she view British art treasures in the great American public galleries which have been bought with tax advantages to their donors? Does she accept that many more works of art of British national and historic importance are likely to leave these shores as a direct result of the fiscal Philistinism of VAT which discriminates against native buyers?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already seen and enjoyed very much some of the treasures in the art galleries of the United States. The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.