HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1382-5
4. Mr. Boyden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in her consideration of whether to appoint a development council for adult education.

14. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she now proposes to have discussions with the local authority associations, the appropriate teachers' associations and other interested bodies, on the Russell Report on Adult Education.

17. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she has yet arranged discussions with interested persons about the Russell Report on Adult Education.

34. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made in her discussions with interested parties on the recommendations of the Russell Report on Adult Education.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not yet completed my consideration of this comprehensive and detailed report, one of whose proposals is for a development council for adult education. As soon as I have done so I shall arrange discussions with the local authority associations, the relevant teachers' associations and representatives of the other main interests in adult education about the report's recommendations. Meanwhile, I am not ready to comment on particular recommendations of the report.

Mr. Boyden

Does not the Secretary of State realise that those who are interested in adult education are becoming irritated about the delay? The right hon. Lady has had the report since January. How much longer does she require before her Department comes to a view on the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the hon. Gentleman forgets that the report took four years to compile by people specially sitting to consider the subject. I hope it will not be long before it goes out to consultation. In the meantime, the number of people availing themselves of the splendid adult education service is increasing. It has increased by three-quarters of a million since the Russell Committee started its work.

Mr. Bidwell

Would the Minister recognise that there is great feeling about this matter in many organisations traditionally concerned with adult education?

Would she think seriously about giving a date for stimulating discussion and getting the funds necessary to implement the report?

Mrs. Thatcher

I share the lion. Gentleman's sympathy about the subject and I wish to do more to help adult education. It is a highly complex report. We need more time to analyse it and to consult interested parties, but I hope that it will not be much longer.

Mr. Chapman

When my right hon. Friend discusses the report with interested parties, would she agree that crucial to the expansion of places for adult education must be the use of existing facilities in primary and secondary schools, colleges of further education and universities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will certainly bear that in mind. It was a subject to which the report gave a good deal of attention. We are all anxious that capital and equipment facilities should be used to the maximum.

Mr. Barnes

With the demand for adult education growing as the Secretary of State has said, would she not agree that it is important that the development council, if there is to be one, should have sufficient funds of its own, as the Schools Council has, to carry out its own research into varying needs and new curricula?

Mrs. Thatcher

The development council was one of the proposals put forward by the Russell Committee, and I would rather not comment on it at this stage.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

I realise the vital importance of full consultation, but can my right hon. Friend say to what extent the recommendations of the Russell Committee are likely to be covered by existing education commitments rather than by any extension of them?

Mrs. Thatcher

Extra money has been allocated since the Russell Committee started to sit, otherwise we could not possibly have had the growth of an extra three-quarters of a million people in the system. There is a certain amount of growth built in as we do our ordinary projection on the existing rate of expansion of numbers in adult education.

Mr. Moyle

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we on this side of the House accept the Russell Report in principle? Can she say the same? If she cannot find it in her heart to do so, will she at least say that she considers adult education to be important?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already said that I am sympathetic to the ideas contained in the report.

Mr. Grylls

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that about 50 per cent. of industrial workers—those doing shift work—are effectively excluded from adult education? Can she give a date when statutory release for education courses will be the right of every citizen?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry, but I cannot satisfy the last half of that supplementary question. It is a broad question on its own. Some authorities, of which mine is one, have adult education centres during the day. For example, I know of one that uses a previous secondary school, which has been replaced, for daytime adult education purposes.