HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1849-79

12.10 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

I beg to move, That this House takes note with approval of the Resolution of the Council and of the Ministers of Education meeting within the Council comprising an action programme in the field of education (Commission Document No. R/263/76) and also of the draft directive on the education of the children of migrant workers (Commission Document No. R/2085/75); and urges the Government to ensure that any instrument adopted by the Council on this subject does not impose unacceptable obligations on those responsible for the provision of education in this country. In its transmission to the Table Office, for which I must take responsibility, there has arisen a slight error in the motion. The words "takes note" should have been repeated after the word "also", as suggested by the second of the two amendments being discussed with the motion.

I am grateful for the vigilance of my hon. Friends who tabled the amendment.

I should not wish it to be thought that I approved the draft directive on the education of children of migrant workers. I wanted to suggest that we should only take note of that.

On the first amendment, which suggests the deletion of the words "with approval", I must leave my hon. Friends to decide at the end of the debate, but I hope they will agree not to press the amendment. They will know that I have been pressing, and shall continue to pursue, the view that the competence of the Commission in educational matters should be limited. To a large extent, co-operation should be between Ministers of Education and we should not allow the Commission's competence to be extended.

If the words "with approval" were deleted, the wrong interpretation might be suggested in some quarters as a result of that amendment.

No doubt I shall have the opportunity of replying to the debate and all these points later.

These two instruments have been discussed by the Select Committee on European Secondary Legislation, and it is as a result of its recommendation that we are considering them further tonight. The Education Ministers' resolution contains no proposals for legislation and imposes no mandatory obligations on member States. Nevertheless, I think it is right that it should be discussed by this House since it sets the framework for educational co-operation in the Community. Secondly, it is timely that the House should have this opportunity to comment on the proposal for a Council directive on the education of the children of migrant workers since the Council of Ministers is to consider it later this month.

The Select Committee expressed the opinion that the Education Ministers' Resolution raises questions of political importance. I agree that this is so, because the resolution accepts a degree of Community competence in the field of education. In this, it goes beyond the strict requirements of the Treaty of Rome, which contains provisions on mobility, on the mutual recognition of qualifications and on the provision of vocational training, but not on general education.

I believe that this extension of interests within the Community into the field of education is a good thing provided it does not go too far. Few of us, I think, would deny the importance of education to our lives, and if the Community is to flourish, it must have an interest in this area of human activity. I believe I can reassure the House that the Community competence and involvement have not been taken too far and that a sound balance has been struck.

I was at pains to make clear in the Council of Ministers that I was not in favour of an extension of competence and that, because of the great difficulties involved, it was singularly inappropriate to seek harmonised educational arrangements between States.

The present resolution had its origins in one which Education Ministers adopted in June 1974 and which expressed their agreement in principle to co-operate in seven priority areas. It is worth noting that from the outset the Education Ministers rejected the idea of harmonisation—or the convergence of educational policies and systems—for its own sake. Instead, a pragmatic attitude was adopted with a general acceptance of the need to take account of the existing diversity of educational policies and systems in the Community, and of the need to pursue and promote the exchange of experience and ideas within the Nine where this could be of benefit to individual national systems of education.

It is against that background that we need to consider the Education Ministers' resolution of 19th February 1976. The resolution sets out an action programe for co-operation amongst the Nine and includes proposals for development in the following areas—namely, the education of migrants, the promotion of closer relations between education systems, documentation and statistics, cooperation in higher education, foreign language teaching and equal opportunity for access to education.

I suggest that in considering the form and the scope of the instrument a number of points need to be noted—

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I hesitate to interrupt, but it might help the House if I do so at this stage. My right hon. Friend used the word "instrument". Perhaps he will give us some guidance on that as it could reduce pro- ceedings later. I thought the basis of what my right hon. Friend was saying was that it is not an instrument.

Mr. Mulley

The decision of the very lengthy meeting I attended of the Council of Ministers—to a large extent it was a meeting of Education Ministers within the Council rather than a Council of the Community—was that it should be a resolution. There was proposed, additionally, a draft directive. That is still under consideration. It derives from the provisions on the social side of the Community's work concerning the education of migrant workers' children. If it were agreed it would be an instrument. It is on the prospects of this draft directive that I have serious reservations; if I can continue I shall amplify the matter.

In considering the form and the scope of the instrument a number of points need to be noted. First, as a resolution it is not legally binding but expresses a common will amongst the Nine and a declaration of intent to proceed in a stated direction in pursuing the goal of educational co-operation. Secondly, the resolution was adopted by the Council and the Ministers of Education meeting within the Council, a formula which allows that some parts of the resolution's action programme will be undertaken within Community competence whilst others will be undertaken by member States acting individually or inter-governmentally. This means that parts of the programme, notably those related to internal policies and to proposals for bilateral exchanges of persons and information, leave the initiative, the tempo and decisions on the scale of expenditure with member States, though they have agreed to work within a common pattern.

Other parts of the programme, which call for joint activities such as studies and meetings for multilateral exchanges of experience and require central organisation and financing, have been labelled "Community level" activities. These activities are to be organised by the Commission in close liaison with the Education Committee. Third, this Education Committee is to be responsible to Education Ministers in their dual capacities as "the Council of Ministers" on the one hand and as a group of specialist Ministers of the Nine Community countries on the other.

Under the terms of the resolution, the Education Committee is to co-ordinate and have oversight of the implementation of the programme, and its members include representatives of the member States and of the Commission. I believe that the ways of working in common between the Commission and member States which the resolution fosters should ensure the development, in the long run, of a programme of educational co-operation that is both relevant and beneficial.

I have referred to the long run because the programme for expenditure is modest. In the current calendar year the whole of the Community education programme will not exceed 600,000 units of account—or about £300,000. Inevitably, it has been necessary to select priorities within the programme, and these have included particularly the transition from education to employment, and also such items as pilot projects on the education of migrant children and pump-priming development projects on joint programmes of study in higher education.

The transition from education to employment, with particular reference to the needs of those who do not go on to higher education, was identified by Education Ministers as a priority area, and we asked for a report by July 1976. This study fits in well with our own priorities within our national situation. It also illustrates the practical nature of the aspirations which in various forms and in various degrees influence the education policies of all the member States in the Community.

Many of the measures will, at first sight, appear to cover the same well-trodden ground as that covered by other international organisations. To a certain extent that is true. But, although it is not new, educational co-operation is an ongoing process, and the contacts between the Education Ministers of the Nine have shown that they are faced with similar problems and similar pressures.

I hope that the House will agree that the Education Ministers' resolution offers the prospect of a modest but worthwhile and realistic programme of educational co-operation in the Community, and that this instrument, made by Ministers of Education acting as such and not as a Council within the EEC, creates the right balance for a programme that will be developed jointly by the Commission and by member States whilst ultimately remaining subject to control by member States.

One general principle which perhaps emerges from what I have said so far is the need to respect the autonomy of individual national systems of education and the differences in their structures and traditions in developing a new perspective of educational co-operation in Europe.

It is, therefore, interesting to compare how the theme of the education of the children of migrant workers is treated in the two instruments before us tonight. The resolution, while stressing the importance of the subject, recognises that proposals should in the main be left to member States to implement in accordance with their own ways and traditions and through a process of careful and gradual experimentation.

This optional principle is lost in the mandatory nature of the draft directive, which seeks to impose a rigid pattern of development without sufficient regard to differences in the circumstances and needs of individual States, of their education system or of their migrant population, and without allowing for gradual development based on experiment and for the emergence of consensus in educational opinion.

Let us consider what the draft directive says. In the form in which the Scrutiny Committee considered it, it requires member States to provide the following for those children of migrants— who are the responsibility of any national of another member State or non-member State"'— an educational reception system, including a crash course in the language of the host country; the inclusion of instruction in the mother tongue and culture of migrant children in the normal school curriculum; specialised training for some teachers and the employment of foreign teachers, if necessary, to provide tuition in the mother tongue.

We have consulted educational bodies on these proposals—

Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)

The Minister referred to the instrument in the form in which the Select Committee considered it. Am I to understand that it is now in a different form?

Mr. Mulley

These matters are constantly under discussion. The meeting of the Council of Ministers at which the resolution was finally adopted began. I think, at 10 o'clock and certainly continued until 3 a.m.

A number of the items for consideration appeared for the first time when we got into the meeting room. We had no prior notice of them. Similarly, the draft directive is still under discussion at official level within the community; the main part of it is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. Until we get to the meeting of Ministers it remains open to change.

But I was going on to give some reasons why I would not favour the directive in its present form or having a directive at all on this matter. This arises to some extent from the consultations with educational bodies on these proposals and also the comment we have taken from the Select Committee. I want, therefore, to make a brief statement of the Government's grounds for opposing these proposals in their present form.

First, the adoption of a directive could, depending on its scope and content, mark a possibly unwelcome consolidation of Community competence in the field of education soon after Education Ministers had set careful limits to that competence.

Secondly, the terms of the directive would call into question the distribution of responsibilities between central Government and local government and the teaching profession for such matters as the internal organisations of schools and the curriculum. In our decentralised system of education, such changes would require legislation, and all available indications suggest that they would be difficult to justify to educational opinion in this country, and would, I suggest, be controversial.

Thirdly, the definition of a migrant for the purposes of the directive is no guide to educational need. This is partly because the directive fails to make the distinction between the transient migrant and the immigrant settler whose educational needs are different in many important respects, and in particular in relation to mother-tongue instruction. It is partly, too, because a definition of a migrant based on passport nationality is ulti- mately of limited value in educational terms. It is likely, for example, that the needs of immigrants whose language is not English, for tuition in English, will be similar whether or not they are United Kingdom nationals within the meaning of the Treaty of Accession.

Fourthly, there is no conviction in educational circles that the directive offers the right educational prescription to the needs of migrants.

Finally, and on practical grounds, it would not be possible to implement many of the measures included in the draft directive. Immigrants in this country come from a wide range of countries with different civilisations, and this plurality and complexity of mother tongues and cultures is found even within individual schools. The statutory provision of mother-tongue instruction in schools for all these children would present intolerable burdens to local education authorities.

Moreover, the high cost of this provision—which one body estimated at £50 million—would present an additional demand on educational resources at a time of severe stringency in expenditure, and for a policy which does not deserve or command the highest priority among measures to assist the disadvantaged, including those in the ethnic minority groups.

The House will be well aware that we have recently asked local authorities to re-examine their current year's budgets to make sure that their total expenditure is kept within the agreed figure. We also reaffirmed that the 1977–78 rate support grant settlement will be based on the figures set out in the public expenditure White Paper. This is bound to be another limiting factor. I would only add that the proposal that teachers should be recruited from overseas would create grave problems at a time of teacher unemployment as well as raising questions about the status of their qualifications, their fluency in English, and their wider role in the schools.

For these reasons, we are bound to have strong reservations about the proposals made in the sweeping mandatory terms of this draft directive which do not reflect sufficiently the particular circumstances of our educational system, or the variety of situations that can be identified in terms of the needs of migrant children, or of the teaching methods of the schools. Of course, I regard it of first importance that we should make appropriate provision for the education of migrant children, but we must do so in a flexible, sensitive and sensible manner which meets genuine educational needs in a practicable and carefully considered and developed way. We would not be opposed in principle to some form of Community instrument compatible with these aims. Meanwhile, further consideration has been given in Brussels to the draft directive by an intergovernmental group of officials.

The Government will continue to work for a solution which in form and in substance takes account of different needs and circumstances, and which respects both the diversity of individual systems of education and the different needs of individual pupils.

I am indebted to my right hon. and hon. Friends for putting down an amendment to the motion which makes it clear that the Government do not approve the draft directive proposals. I am not so keen on the other amendment, which refers to the resolution of the Council, because I would like to feel that I had the approval of the House in seeking to limit the competence of the Community on educational matters and in proceeding along the general lines which I have indicated.

12.35 a.m.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I suppose I could guess correctly that the Secretary of State, having been elevated to his high office from his previous portfolio, may have said to himself "Thank goodness for that—it will be a long time before I have to return to those dreadful EEC documents." There were many more such documents on transport than there are on education.

Mr. Mulley

I want to make it quite clear that I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, who showed an interest in transport before, which I noted, has now decided to follow me to education.

Mr. Dykes

It is good to see both sides of the House being so catholic for a change. Lo and behold, as soon as the Secretary of State changes his job he has to contend with two education documents. The House might be sympathetic to a number of points which he made tonight on these documents, and to his expressions of misgivings, which reflect both the nature of the debate and the nature of the documents, and the underlying subjects they represent.

Aside from the fairly puzzling configuration of EEC documents—next week we have one on the separation of yeast, not to mention the Tindemans Report on Thursday, and it makes the mind boggle—we have this combination, which is peculiar save in respect of the inclusion in the directive of the massive subject referred to in the resolution. We have the difficulty here of dealing with two different kinds of document, and I pay tribute to the Scrutiny Committee for the way in which it tried to deal with the differences.

The Secretary of State is right in enhancing and pushing up some of the virtues of the resolution, which is relatively innocuous, and then launching into a strong attack on the directive. His misgivings are shared on this side of the House—at least on the Front Bench, and they probably will be echoed from all sides later in this debate. But that does not mean that it would not be right for the Community to try to make progress in this complicated matter in due course. This is probably the first time that the House has had an EEC debate of this kind on a matter which is not within the strict competence of the Treaty of Rome. But, as a result of Articles 48 and 49 and the embracing significance of Article 235, Community institutions and the Council feel obliged now to deal with this matter of education. Even the most enthusiastic supporters of the Community can legitimately say that care is needed when competence is extended into matters which are beyond the immediate purview of Community instruments on legislation.

That is certainly so in terms of the resolution. It is really, however, an expression of intent, a loose expression of policy by the Education Council or by Education Ministers. It is therefore difficult to quarrel with the main heads of the resolution. Questions are bound to arise over it, however. Perhaps I may put one or two of them in the hope that the Secretary of State will deal with them later. I was not sure, for example, that the Secretary of State was able to explain to the satisfaction of the House how he sees the status of the resolution. It is possible that the Education Council, or a majority of its members, will decide in the near future to take these matters somewhat further, perhaps by way of an additional resolution. I cannot recall a resolution couched in these terms.

Secondly, there is an inevitable problem with action programmes. They are often virtuous as expressions of faith, but, while their vagueness is useful to some, it has meant that in the past the programmes have not produced much action and they have tended to get bogged down.

May we have more information on the education committee which is to be set up? The Commission will be represented on it, but there would be a strong tendency for the Commission to be a powerful voice in the Committee, perhaps at the expense of the more pragmatic political views taken by the Ministers or their representatives.

The document is not satisfactory on higher education and we should like more information about the Government's views on suggestions under that head. Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about progress, because the original target date of 1st July is still regarded as valid by the other member States?

There is then the much more difficult problem of the draft directive. I must at the outset welcome the expressions of the right hon. Gentleman's misgivings. Unusually and in contrast to many previous draft directives on a whole range of different subjects where the United Kingdom has been ahead of the highest standards in the directives, the targets in the draft directive are way ahead of anything that can be regarded as achievable in practical terms for this country or any other.

I think I am right in saying that the misgivings the Secretary of State has expressed have been echoed by other ministerial spokesmen in other member States. This has varied. For example, in Holland there is a tradition of absorption of migrants, although it is a smaller territory. The problems can be described as being less in intensity but there is more enthusiasm to overcome the problems set by these elaborate procedures, to try to cater for migrant children in a comprehensive sense.

I hope that the Government will not be complacent about this, not only in saying that they cannot accept this directive, as it now is, but when going back to the Education Council. It may be a matter for the European Council, so important is it. It deals with subsidiary matters other than the commanding heights of the Community's affairs. I hope that the Government will put their foot down and demand an alternative course of action containing only parts of this directive.

I want to refer to the contrast between the traditions, history and atmospheres of the highly centralised education systems of other countries, particularly France and Germany—not now so much but in the old days—and those of this country, where the system is highly decentralised in spite of the attempts of this Government to gather these things unto themselves. In this country education is also decentralised in matters of curriculum and syllabus and in the freedom of local education authorities to make decisions on education and on patterns of education. This is important, because one has the uneasy impression that the Commission directive reflects Continental habits and systems far more. The preparatory work for the directive was started before we became members of the Community, and one would be keen and anxious to know what the Secretary of State has done to discuss this with his Irish and Danish colleagues to discover their reaction. Perhaps he could say something about this.

The idea is that the draft directive should apply equally to member and nonmember States and children from them, but that would be enormously difficult to reconcile with anything which educationists are saying about precisely differential treatment for children coming from such different territories. We need not go even beyond Europe to consider this. There is the classic difference of the French worker coming here and bringing his child, but that absorption would be potentially easier than that of a Portuguese worker coming, in due course, or going to Germany, as many did in the last period of economic expansion. The needs of the Portuguese child would have to be met.

As the Secretary of State said, there is a need for teachers to integrate and to deal with foreign teachers' qualifications. This is a minefield, and we must be glad that the Government are taking a strong line.

It is not true to assume that the keen adherents to Europe see no need for the British Government to take a strong line against or in favour of some proposal when there is a need. Perhaps this is the first lime the Government have sounded so tough.

On behalf of the Opposition, I sum up by welcoming the Secretary of State's attitude, subject to hearing from him and subject to the rest of this debate. I think there are individual points about which the Secretary of State could go into more detail. I expect to hear from other hon. Members other points which may include more constitutional questions.

The motion before the House is in a new form, and the way that it is couched confuses the House. We see the words "takes note with approval". The Secretary of State explained that in its application to the directive, and that is fair enough. The second part reads: and urges the Government to ensure that any instrument adopted by the Council on this subject does not impose unacceptable obligations on those responsible for the provision of education in this country. That is also fair enough if the Secretary of State means to adhere to it when the time comes.

I do not think that the Secretary of State gave the game away, as may be suggested later in the debate, when he talked about the change in the draft document in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies), because that is how the Community works. There is some virtue in seeing a succession of draft documents which change and are adjusted. There is nothing sinister about that. It enables the Council of Ministers or any other Council to make up its mind finally and to reach a definitive decision on a legislative document. It may be undesirable for the Scrutiny Committee of this House to consider a text which subsequently is adjusted, but that is not the main central point—

Mr. John Davies

My anxiety, and that of the House, is that there should not be an alternative and changed document when we are discussing in the Scrutiny Committee or on the Floor of the House a document which, to the best of our knowledge, is the most recent one. That is the point.

Mr. Malley

We have given the House the information that we have. But, because the intergovernmental committee is still working, it cannot be the final text. In any event, it would make nonsense of the meeting of Ministers if it was not possible for us, in that meeting, to seek to get into the document the view of this House. If it were not open to amendment, there would be no point in having a meeting.

Mr. Dykes

I shall refrain from replying to those points, because I know that our time is limited. I thought that I was saying the same as my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford.

There is nothing sinister in the progressive elaboration of documents of this kind within the Councils. It is an excellent way of legislating, provided that there is full publicity, which there is not yet, although we hope that it will come as soon as possible. But, in these arguments so far, the Secretary of State has represented the country's interests in an agreeable and satisfactory way, and we on this side of the House endorse what he said.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I am greatly embarrassed. There are at least three senior Privy Councillors who wish to take part in the debate, as well as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who is about to move his amendments. There are 53 minutes left for debate. I hope that that fact will be borne in mind.

12.48 a.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall endeavour to bear in mind what you said.

I beg to move to leave out "with approval".

My second amendment is, after "also", to insert "takes note".

The difficulty that we are in is highlighted, Mr. Speaker, by what you have just said, and I reiterate yet again that I do not consider it right that the Mother of Parliaments should have to discuss a very important matter of this kind in an hour and a half. We are witnessing a twin constitutional disgrace in debating the matter at this hour of the day and, what is more, in having to debate it under a time limit imposed by contested Standing Orders upon which this House divided on 3rd November.

First, I must thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his kind remarks at the beginning of the debate. However, the fact that he has had to make them is very serious. He said that the Government did not find the second document on migrant children acceptable, yet the motion asks the House to note it "with approval".

We all understand that there are clerical errors, mistakes, and so on. But I do not think that this motion has been on the Order Paper for more than a day. Quite apart from what I said about the time limit, in future it is beholden on the Government to see that a motion of this kind appears among the Remaining Orders of the Day in sufficient time for everyone to see that it may be defective. If this happy chance had not occurred, either the Government would not have moved the matter or they would automatically have talked it out. I do not regard that as satisfactory when we deal with matters of directives which are not matters of legislation. They are directives as to what this legislation shall put through.

Mr. Mulley

I said quite clearly that it was an error that we did not make it absolutely clear in the text that we did not wish to give approval to the second part of the document. My hon. Friend would at least acknowledge that had he not been so vigilant I would have had to ask for Mr. Speaker's indulgence to table a manuscript amendment or something of that kind. I did not have to do that because my hon. Friend had been so vigilant in the matter.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I appreciate what he says but, in this context, I think it emphasises—I hope he will make this point to his right hon. Friends in the Government—that those of us who are accused of being somewhat cynical, and somewhat enthusiastic, on this issue have every reason to be so. The proceedings tonight underline that point.

I hasten to the document. Is it a resolution of the Council of Ministers or is it the Council of Ministers of Education within the Council? It is a very strange affair indeed. My right hon. Friend talked about a formula, but the words in the document are convoluted. I have the Official Journal of the European Communities C38/1 where all this wording is printed, which states that there shall not only be this curious thing the "Council of the European Communities" and the "Ministers of Education meeting within the Council", whatever that means. It adds: An Education Committee shall be set up consisting of representatives of the Member States"— it does not say "Ministers"— and of the Commission. It could conceivably be an education committee of civil servants of the United Kingdom and civil servants of the Commission and the other member States.

I take my right hon. Friend's point that he wants to get education out of the hands of the EEC, or words to that effect, but the very document he commends to us does nothing of the sort. Indeed, dangerously, it may do the very opposite. In respect of his plea to us perhaps to consider it again and that "with approval" should be left in, I am afraid I cannot agree with him. The document virtually does not do what he claims. I know he has done his best, and I am sure the House is glad he tried to get some other formula. Whether it is legal or not I do not know, but we cannot say we view this with approval. Still less, and this is more important, to note "with approval" is not noting "with approval" the stratagem he has successfully tried to some extent. But it applies to the contents. It notes with approval the contents of the resolution, which is the action programme to which I now turn.

Paragraph (iv) states: Better facilities for the education and training of nationals and the children of nationals of other Member States of the Communities and of non-member countries. I think that was the children of migrants directive which my right hon. Friend referred to in the second part of his remarks. Yet he said this resolution is not binding. He is really commending to us a document which he said is not binding but, clearly, the first item in the action programme is the directive which is. I hope the Minister will clear that up. I do not think the Scrutiny Committee noticed that, because it said no mandatory obligations are imposed on member States.

I shall not go into the action programme in detail, but paragraph 5 states: In order to give a European dimension to the experience of teachers and pupils in primary and secondary schools in the Community, Member States will promote and organise". It goes on for a whole series of things, including advisory services necessary to promote the mobility and interchange of pupils". There is then a wide phrase—I know that you, Mr. Speaker, will appreciate what may be subsumed within the title— educational activities with a European content. I do not think that means European regional geography, including Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia, and so on. I should think that in a European Communities Official Journal it means Community content. We are straight into the content of education. We are straight into curriculum—something that even this House dare not touch in relation to schools, bar the question of religious education. That is in the resolution.

When we come to the directive it is even more apparent. I do not take my right hon. Friends view of this resolution of a council within a council or a committee that is not a committee, or whatever it is. I hope that my right hon. Friend will catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker, to talk about that.

I will not talk about vires. I do not think that a case has been made out for vires in this respect under either the social provisions in Title 3, Chapter 1, Articles 117–122 or Article 48, referred to by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), which has to do with workers, not education. Article 235 is to fulfil the objectives of the Treaty. There is no objective in the Treaty about education as far as I know. Even if Article 235 is invoked, it must be the unanimous view of the Council after obtaining the opinion of the Assembly, and that has not been done. I suggest that we are being very irregular. If we were in a court of law in this country arguing about statutes, my right hon. Friend would be in trouble straightaway. Therefore, we are on dangerous ground.

Mr. Dykes

Was the hon. Gentleman saying that the view of the Assembly had not been received on the draft directive?

Mr. Spearing

I am not sure. If Article 235 is used—I am not sure whether it has been—the opinion of the Assembly must be received.

Mr. Dykes

It has been received.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman says that it has been received, but it has not been referred to in the debate. Therefore, it is even more reprehensible. I know that the hon. Gentleman has a lot to do, but he should have told us that it was under Article 235. I hope that my right hon. Friend will follow that up later.

I turn to the draft directive. That is an even more important document, if possible, than the resolution, or whatever it is that we have been talking about. The House has been poorly served there, because the Scrutiny Committee cannot tell us much about it. It has told us a bit about it in its Seventh Report of this Session, but it is just an outline. Our Scrutiny Committee cannot go into the merits. It is curious that greater powers reside with their Lordships than with this House. Their Scrutiny Committee can not only say whether it is of importance but give an opinion. Indeed, it has done so. I have the 33rd Report on the European Communities of their Lordships' House. This document is dealt with in a comprehensive fashion in 15 pages. That matter has not been referred to so far in this debate, and I dare say it might not have been referred to at all had I not raised it.

Not only have their Lordships taken evidence on this matter from the educational organisations, namely from the Joint Four, as they are called—but they also heard evidence from Lord Alexander, whose name is well-known and respected, although I must confess that I have not always agreed with the noble Lord in other respects.

This matter was debated in the other place yesterday. It is a pity that wed have not before us a copy of Hansard setting out that debate. I thought that that was part of the idea of the complementary nature of the two Chambers. Whatever our views about the nature or competence of those Chambers, let us at least use what we have got. But it has been so arranged by chance that we have not had that opportunity. Fortunately, I knew of the debate in the other place and I listened to their Lordships airing this matter yesterday afternoon.

Let me quote from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the European Communities, paragraph 12: With regard to the proposed compulsory instruction in the mother tongue and culture of the country of origin in school curricula, the Committee have grave reservations. In the final part of its recommendation, in paragraph 15, the Scrutiny Committee said: Thus the draft Directive is not appropriate to the conditions prevailing in the United Kingdom. The Committee believe that a Directive is not the best vehicle for such proposals as are contained in this document and that they should instead be promulgated in the form of a Recommendation which Member States may voluntarily pursue and report upon from time to time. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not say that this was what the Government propose to do. Perhaps he will say when he replies.

Mr. Mulley

I thought I had made clear that I was not in favour of the directive. If my hon. Friend persuades me, I think that I could go as far as the recommendation, but he will have to be persuasive if he wants to go that far.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I am sure that on this matter, leaving aside the question of the other House, there is no disagreement across the Floor or between my right hon. Friend and myself.

The best persuasion I can use is to use the words of Lord Donaldson, who a few hours ago replied to the debate in the other place on this subject. He said—I wrote it down—"We unequivocally accept the advice given." Presumably, that was the Government's advice. Lord Donaldson persuaded me. I can only hope that that will also persuade my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That would seem to be the most appropriate way of dealing with that matter.

Mr. Mulley

The persuasion I need is to go as far as my hon. Friend in wanting the recommendation. If he wants the recommendation, I shall seek to obtain it, but my hon. Friend should not be disappointed if we do not go as far as that.

Mr. Spearing

My right hon. Friend may be right, and I would not persuade him to go as far as a recommendation in this matter. We must remember that the demands of migrant workers and immigrants are so different. I shall not persue that point now. I think my right hon. Friend has persuaded me that a recommendation is not now appropriate. The only point was that it was not binding.

I believe that the Community has within its borders about 2 million migrant children. Their requirements and needs are quite different from the needs of what are termed immigrant children in this country.

The House of Lords published some figures on this topic. Those figures show that in Germany there are 528,000 Turkish citizens, 466,000 Yugoslavs and 268,000 Greeks. There is a total of 1,779,000 migrant workers in Germany alone from outside the EEC. The problem is very different from our own.

Let me conclude by mentioning the speech made this afternoon by Lord Fulton when opening the debate in the other place. He said that what was denied to Westminister and Whitehall should not be conceded to Brussels.

1.5 a.m.

Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)

It really is a pity, when we meet at such a late hour, that questions of substantial importance are inevitably taken in an empty House, and with very little attention paid to them elsewhere, either. Some of the issues raised in these two papers are quite important, and merit a little wider thought and consideration.

I should like first to take up a question raised by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) on the subject of the activities of the Scrutiny Committee. I am bound to tell him that I was very doubtful whether the Scrutiny Committee was in order in considering the first document at all. The terms of reference of the Committee require it only to consider documents which emanate from the Commission. This particular document did not emanate in the normal way from the Commission. If the hon. Member is looking for an enlargement of activity for the Committee, I personally would welcome this aspect falling under consideration.

There are one or two such matters which have arisen and which constitute certain impediments to the work of the House. The negotiation for the admission of Greece to membership of the Community is one example. We have some papers which are not appropriate to the terms of reference of the Committee. It is worth mentioning this because it has some importance. There are underlying issues here worth mentioning in addition to those brought forward by the Secretary of State and the subsequent speakers.

There is one in particular to which I must give great emphasis. The advantage of considering the first paper is that it is dealing with matters at a very early and formative stage of consideration in the Community. I personally welcome, with a great deal more warmth than has been expressed hitherto, many of the lines of thought which are implicit in this paper. The truth is that in the educational circles in which I am involved there is a crying out for some better and more effective method of devising systems of cross-frontier education and providing systems for interchange and the like of the kind which the paper specifically sets out to encourage.

It would be damaging to the reputation of the House if we gave the impression that in the United Kingdom our feeling was that we wished to push these things away, and that we do not want any interference by any extraneous body. This is the kind of thing which gives us the reputation of being a great deal more chauvinistic in outlook than we really are.

I believe that many of the issues raised here—especially on constitutional questions—are the very ones for which many educational authorities today are crying out. I applaud the first paper and agree with the Secretary of State's recommendation that we should take note of it with approval. I hasten to add that I am perfectly satisfied with his discarding of the directive. However, from both these considerations I must register serious censure on our Government's handling of matters in the Community.

The truth is that consistently—it happens more regularly in agriculture than in education—we see issues emerging from the Commission which quite patently have not had the weight of advice, pressure and the representation of the British purpose and interest that they should have had. They still, after three and a half years of membership, look like six countries working out a formula which suits them. That is a criticism of government in action in the Community. It is absolutely unnecessary that it should be so. If the proper pressures were exercised in the proper way, many of these things would be properly drawn up to take account of what, to any sensible man, are obviously differences of condition between this country and some of the countries of Continental Europe. The Government cannot escape their responsibility.

Figures are always difficult to reconcile with one another because of the dates of censuses. But in Germany there are about 2 million so-called migrant workers, of whom about 430,000 come from within the Community, about 1,400,000 from the rest of Europe and North Africa and about 250,000 from elsewhere. In France there are 1,900,000 migrant workers, of whom 300,000 come from EEC countries, almost 1,500,000 from the rest of Europe and North Africa and 145,000 from elsewhere. In this country there are nearly 1,700,000 migrant workers, of whom 630,000 come from the EEC—including about 450,000 from the Republic of Ireland—107,000 from Europe and Africa and nearly 1 million from other areas.

Those figures reveal a totally different situation for this country with all its consequences for family conditions, the number of children involved and the prospects of staying or returning which makes nonsense of the directive. The Government was responsible for seeing that directives of this kind, which obviously disregard our situation and which should demand special consideration, are not put to the House in this form.

We have little ability to intervene. The House is totally dependent upon Commission documents. That is why I commend the first piece of paper to the House. Our ability to intervene is limited to the period after the Commission has given birth to a document. But the Government are not in that position. They have great powers of representation at the time of formulation of policy within the Commission through committees which can bring pressures to bear to ensure that the special circumstances of each country are clearly understood. The House does not have that ability. The totally unsatisfactory nature of the directive cannot be shuffled off on to the Community. The Government have a real responsibility which they have not met.

1.14 a.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, I think that you showed great wisdom in selecting both amendments, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) showed great acumen in detecting the error in the Government's first motion.

I agree with the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) that it is no doubt highly desirable that there should be sensible international agreements about the proper treatment of migrant workers, but that is not the issue here. If there were a suggestion that there should be voluntary agreements of that kind, with those objectives, I do not think that anybody would disapprove. But what we are being asked to approve is far-reaching intervention in educational policies by the EEC, including the Commission.

I have every confidence in the objectives of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I entirely approved of his speech today, but that is not what he is asking us to approve. He is asking us to approve the resolution, which contains what it calls "an action programme". There is no time to outline what that programme is. I quote only one sentence: The following measures will be implemented as Community level: —exchange of information and experience concerning the organization of suitable types of teaching, taking the form of a limited number of pilot schemes to enable these types of teaching to be compared and assessed, and co-operation in the training of teachers required to assume responsibility in this field". It is not exactly clear to me what all that means, but it is not confined to the vocational training of migrant workers.

The question raised here is whether under the Treaty of Rome the EEC has any competence to intervene in education matters of this kind. In what article of the Treaty of Rome is there any authority for this far-reaching intervention in education? There are references to social welfare, but education is not just a branch of social welfare. There are references to vocational training, but I do not think that my right hon. Friend would suggest that what is called in his memorandum "culture tuition" is just a branch of vocational training.

It seems to me—and I speak as a layman, not a lawyer—that the whole of these proposals are ultra vires of the treaty of Rome. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) mentioned Article 235, which has some portmanteau words, all of which are, however, governed by the purposes of the Treaty. If it is to be suggested that under Article 235 the EEC can launch out from being an economic community and from all the previous articles of the Treaty and take education policy within its sphere, I do not know why it should stop at education. It could proceed to religion, literature, pornography and sport, for all I know. We might one day have a directive for harmonising the offside rule, or, if we are to have mutton and lamb in the common agricultural policy, perhaps the LBW rule as well.

Mr. Mulley

The offside rule has been harmonised throughout Europe already.

Mr. Jay

I am delighted that it should be done voluntarily by the football organisations and not through a directive by the EEC. That is the issue.

I should not like to attribute views to you, Mr. Speaker, but I have a feeling that in your previous incarnation you, like the noble Lords we have heard about today, would have had some anxieties about a proposal to intervene in methods of teaching and curricula, a proposal that intervention which has never been permitted to this Parliament or the central Government of this country should suddenly, with the plea of easing the difficulties of migrant workers, be handed over to authorities in Brussels with no apparent validity under the Treaty of Rome.

My right hon. Friend said that perhaps on a strict interpretation of the Treaty this might be ultra vires. When we are discussing increases in food taxes and the imposition of levies which everybody, including the Government, regards as highly undesirable from the point of view of social and economic policy, we are told that we must do it because it is a strict interpretation of the Treaty of Rome. Now we are apparently being told that if the Treaty is contrary to our interests, it is legitimate that it should not be strictly interpreted.

I have the gravest doubts about the resolution and the directive. I do not approve of either, and I do not see why the House should be asked to approve them.

1.20 a.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has drawn attention, not for the first time, to the constriction of time under which these debates take place.

Just before this debate, the House dealt with a Northern Ireland Order. In the past, those Orders have almost invariably been debated for one and a half hours. At this sitting, by an innovation, the rule was suspended and it was discovered that although the House spent just over two hours, instead of one and a half hours, on the Order, the whole atmosphere of the debate was altered and everyone, including hon. Members on the Government Front Bench, agreed that the debate was far more satisfactory than any of its kind in the past.

I hope that the Government's business managers will learn a lesson from that debate. They do not necessarily, by constriction of time, achieve any valuable results. If there were no such constriction, a little extra time might be used, but a great deal better use would be made of it.

The two instruments—if they are instruments—before the House illustrate what a greedy, incompatible and dangerous animal the EEC is.

Take the resolution. I quote, almost at random, from paragraph 13. It says: While respecting the independence of higher education institutions, the following action will be undertaken at Community level". The words: action will be undertaken at Community level are incompatible with "the independence of higher education institutions", for reasons perhaps less obvious than appear on the face of that sentence.

For the requirements of the programme in the resolution to be carried out, individual Governments of the component member States have to be mobilised and have to take action. The Minister has illustrated how he thinks many of the parts of the programme would be implemented by Governments of member States. The effect of the resolution and the thinking behind it is to substitute for academic and educational freedom, which we regard virtually as a birthright, a duty and, therefore, a right of the State to intervene. So the arrogation to the EEC of competence in these most unexpected spheres has the effect not only of giving the Community power but of substituting State power for internal freedom in member States. After listening to the Minister, I cannot imagine how the House can be expected to pass a motion which "takes note with approval" of the resolution of the Council particularly as that resolution embodies the principle of the very Directive which the Minister tore to pieces with unsparing talons.

The directive refers to the education of migrant workers. They are defined as the nationals of another member State or non-member state". I can understand that it may be regarded as being implicit in the freedom of movement, settlement and employment, which is one of the basic principles of the Community, that the education of children of migrant workers from member States might be regarded as a very proper concern of the Community. But this is not dealing with the children of nationals of member States; it is dealing with the children of nationals of member and nonmember States. Thereby it automatically carries the matter into the entirely different sphere of international relations external to the Community—of course, each nation has an interest in the manner in which the children of its own nationals are treated when they are abroad—and it carries it into educational policy in the broadest sense of the term.

This directive represents a major and totally unauthorised extension of the scope and purport of the activity of the Community. But, as has been made clear, this excursion is in itself totally inapt. It illustrates the incompatibility of legislation that is designed for continental nations and legislation which is to be appropriate to this country.

The term "national" appeared in the definition of "migrant worker" to which I have referred. Attached to the Treaty of Accession there is a declaration which explains what "national" is to mean in its application to the United Kingdom. In that declaration we find that a national is defined virtually as a United Kingdom and Commonwealth citizen who has the right of abode. I have abbreviated, but that is broadly the purport.

That is not what a "national" means in the other States of the Community. In those States a person who is not a national does not have the vote; but the New Commonwealth immigrants in this country, although not nationals within the definition of the declaration attached to the Treaty of Accession, have the vote almost without exception. They have the principal characteristic, the political power, of being a member of a State; yet they are not nationals for the purposes of the Community, nor are they nationals for the purposes of the definition of a migrant. Consequently, we have the nonsense that a document is produced which in its application to the United Kingdom will refer to large numbers of children who are totally different in the circumstances in which they find themselves in the host country from the children of the Gastarbeiter or migrant workers on the Continent.

The logic is entirely different. The logic in approaching the children of migrant workers in the continental sense is that measures should be taken, not necessarily compulsorily, not necessarily through Community instruments, but in such a way as to maintain the cultural, linguistic and educational links of those children with their own countries, to which they will continue to belong and to which their parents in most cases expect to return and will return.

There is no comparison and no relationship between that situation and the circumstances of a population who, not primarily to take up jobs here but under all kinds of political and general economic pressure, migrated from other parts of the world to settle in this coun- try and which there is a general desire, if it be possible, in some way to assimilate permanently into the population of this country. There is no analogy between that situation and that which prevails among migrant workers and their children on the Continent of Europe. However, we are presented with the nonsense of a directive which purports to tell us—and, incidentally, to oblige us to agree to it by 1st July—what policies we are to adopt towards children who are our responsibility in this country.

I want to know what will happen. The motion before us simply "takes note", without approval, of this intolerable and unacceptable directive. The only rider attached to it is that we urge the Government to ensure that any instrument adopted by the Council on this subject does not impose unacceptable obligations on those responsible for the provision of education in this country. That is part of the point, but it is only part of the point; and it is not at all satisfactory that we should part with the directive having taken note of it with that rider. We are told by the Minister that he does not expect it to be adopted—indeed, he cannot imagine that it would be adopted in its present form. In that case, let us make clear what our position is in this House. The way to make it clear is to say that we do not approve the directive.

Furthermore, as the directive in its present form or anything like it is totally unacceptable, let us be told whether we shall see in its subsequent form any reincarnation of this directive. Before there is any question of its being accepted by the Government, let us be told that it will be reconsidered de novo by the Scrutiny Committee of the House. In the form in which it is presented to the House, I do not see how it can be consistent with our acceptance of the motion unamended.

1.32 a.m.

Mr. Mulley

I have very little time before the House has to form a view on the motion before it. I have great sympathy with those who complain that we have very little time. One thing we have in common with the Community is that we deliberate at this late hour. The meeting which dealt with the resolution of the Council sat beyond this hour. It might be a useful innovation if discussions in Community committees were restricted to one and a half hours. I am unable to give assurances about the procedure of the House. That is not my responsibility. I shall, however, pass on the valid points made by the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken.

We are genuinely in a dilemma, not only in this matter but generally. If we bring matters to the House at an early stage, hon. Members complain that they do not have the final text. If we wait until the matter has been decided in the EEC beyond amendment by the House, hon. Members validly complain that it is too late for the House's view to be taken into account. We cannot possibly give the House the opportunity to influence events and at the same time give it a final text. All we can do is to get the views of the House before the meeting of the Community Ministers.

Mr. John Davies

That is not the issue. The issue is that on several occasions we have found ourselves debating a paper which had already been bypassed by a paper which had been superimposed.

Mr. Mulley

To the best of my knowledge, that is not the case today. The latest version of the resolution is exactly as it is printed. The matter is at an early stage because the resolution is an indication of intention, and in that sense it is valuable for me to have the views of the House upon it.

The question of jurisdiction arises. Community aspects are covered under Article 235. We agreed that the Community should be involved in this matter because it is beneficial to us. Higher education has been mentioned. Universities in this country benefit because the Community with its resources can encourage contacts, exchanges and joint seminars. I see no harm in that. It in no way interferes with the independence of the universities. People do not have to go to meetings if they do not want to, and they do not have to involve themselves in contacts. Before we agreed to the promotion of those contacts, we had consultations with the vice-chancellors and everyone else.

We had this unusual system of Minsters of Education meeting within the Council of Ministers because we wanted to make clear that the involvement of the Commission and the Community as such was very limited but that nevertheless there were many things that the nine Ministers of Education wanted to do working collectively but on a national basis. It was agreed that it would be convenient for them to do this within the framework of the administrative arrangements available in Brussels rather than that each should have to write to his eight colleagues. It is a beneficial system and I see no harm in it.

I know that some of my right hon. and learned Friends find it difficult to give approval to anything done in the Community, but I am seeking approval for the fact that we have insisted that there should be this distinction and that for the most part we are not prepared to put our education system within the framework of the Community. We are insisting on national member status.

In the time that remains, I cannot, unfortunately, answer all the points raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), however, asked a number of important questions in a constructive speech. I assure him that we are making beneficial progress in the exchange of students and the rest. The date July 1976 was in the narrow but important area of the l6-to-19-yearolds, and I hope that we shall reach the target.

We have the Education Committee in order to underline the fact that it is different from the Community as a Community. It is officials within the Civil Service, working under the direction of their Ministers, who attend these meetings. It would be quite impossible for me to spend two or three days a week in Brussels in dealing with these matters, so it is reasonable that the Education Committee should be attended by civil servants.

I hope that the House will accept the second amendment but not the first and will then pass the resolution as amended.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: After "also" insert "take note".—[Mr. Spearing.]

Main Question, as amended, put:—

Division No. 174.] AYES [1.40 a.m.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
English, Michael Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Strang, Gavin Mr. Joseph Harper and Mr. J. D. Dormand
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Mr. Nigel Spearing and Mr. Douglas Jay

It appearing on the report of the Division that forty Members were not present, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided, and the business under consideration stood over until the next sitting of the House.