HC Deb 05 April 1977 vol 929 cc1132-90

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Bates.]

4.35 p.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

This will now unfortunately be a very short debate and will have to finish at 7 o'clock. If there were some facility for it, I would apply for injury time, but as many hon. Members want to speak, I shall try to be brief.

The subject of this debate is Scottish teacher training colleges and the threat to four of them and to Scottish education as a whole presented by the Secretary of State's proposals in the consultative document entitled "Teacher Training from 1977 Onwards". The Secretary of State has said that the conclusions on that document will be announced shortly and the object of this debate is to give the House an opportunity to hear the arguments and to express a view. We hope that the House will make it clear that the proposals in the consultative document are utterly unacceptable and that the Secretary of State should produce new proposals.

In 12 years in the House of Commons I have known no document so universally condemned and no proposals advanced in so ham-handed and insensitive a manner. The proposals are simply a cold, statistical exercise in economic butchery; the 25 pages contain no education or economic justification.

The proposals have been condemned by every section of educational and public opinion. They have been clearly condemned by the colleges themselves, individually and collectively. They have been condemned clearly by the university lecturers through their association. Their chairman, Mr. John Maxton, has said that the document was based entirely on figures, and added: The Department has displayed an uncanny ability to produce inaccurate predictions, estimates and planning policies. In a pamphlet circulated to all Scottish Members today, the association says: We believe that the Secretary of State has produced a very bad document—one which is based on questionable assumptions, simplistic economics and faulty logic. There is no doubt that the lecturers themselves are very angry not only at the proposals but at the way in which they have been treated by the Secretary of State. For example, I know that 200 lecturers were very bitter when they gathered on a very cold day outside St. Andrew's House for two hours to make their representations, only to discover that the Secretary of State had slipped out the back door.

We also know that the General Teaching Council, the only statutory body trying to advise on teacher training, was not consulted before the proposals were brought forward and has made it clear that it also condemns them. It has said: There is no educational justification for the proposals. Even the local authorities are united in condemning the proposals. COSLA considered them carefully and said: No decision on closures should be taken until alternative strategies have been fully considered in depth. So it has made its position clear.

We also had a lengthy two-day debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. Anyone who was present would have seen that hon. Members as a whole were opposed to the proposals. The vote was 39 to 25 against the Government. The majority of Scottish Members, including two Labour Members who had the courage to vote against the proposals, some who abstained and others who simply stayed away, made it clear that the proposals were unacceptable to them. Once again, we had the full support of the Scottish National Party and, I am glad to say, on that occasion the support of the Scottish Liberals.

In addition, the matter was further considered at the Scottish Labour Party Conference. I have never been to a Scottish Labour Party Conference, but I am told that they are tempestuous gatherings, because the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) plays a great part in them, that they are rather irresponsible, and that the delegates rarely agree. I understand that the only occa- sion in that long conference when there was complete unanimity was when delegates were condemning the Secretary of State's proposal.

We are all aware that the Churches are opposed to the proposals. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, is bitterly opposed to the proposals on Craiglockhart College, because it is concerned about the implications of the closure for the East of Scotland.

We also know that the teacher's unions are opposed to the proposals. The EIS, the principal teachers' union, in a document published shortly after the consultative document was published, said: The Paper takes no account of educational or social considerations nor even recognises that such considerations exist. The union has made it clear that it objects to the proposals and thinks that they are wrong. There is no doubt that these proposals have been universally condemned. There may be one or two people who support them but, if there are, they have remained strangely silent.

One rather strange feature of the whole debate is the fact that there may be some doubt whether the Secretary of State is even supported by his own ministerial team. We know that one of the Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing), led a deputation to his right hon. Friend about Callendar Park College and he is quoted as saying that Callendar Park would not be used as a sacrificial lamb. We know that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) is not one whom we can accuse of lack of enthusiasm. He is always very enthusiastic and only a short while after he took on the job of Under-Secretary of State for Scotland he submitted a long document to explain what a good job he was doing. We know that on this matter the hon. Gentleman has not shown his usual enthusiasm. The speeches he has made on the subject have been a series of rather self-conscious and feeble filibusters.

We find that even the Government's Scottish Whip, whom we all respect, has been reported in the Press this weekend as passing on a petition from his constituents against the policy document. That leaves only the other Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), who is adopting his usual low profile. He certainly has not been jumping to the defence of the proposals. I am sorry, I have missed out the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie), who has been silent as usual. He has not been standing up in Rutherglen or storming the barricades to explain the merits of his right hon. Friend's proposals.

In these circumstances it is quite clear that these proposals do not have a friend in Scottish education or in the House of Commons. For that reason, if for none other, I think that the Secretary of State should think again.

We also object to the fact that the consultations have been rather inadequate. We do not say for one moment that there have been no consultations. There have been limited consultations in which the Under-Secretary has sometimes listened and often talked a great deal, but the fact is that these consultations have been based on totally inadequate information.

If we are to consider whether the Government's proposals are good or bad, we want to know what the figures are, what the costings are, what will be saved, what are the alternative proposals, and what would happen if another formula were put forward. We have pressed repeatedly for figures and we do not have them. We do not have the cost of alternatives.

We even had the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) pressing the Government for information which the English Education Department has given time and again about shortages of teachers in certain subjects. We do not have the information telling us how short we are of teachers of mathematics or science.

Dunfermline College is one of the colleges which will be merged and effectively taken out of a separate existence as a result of this move. It has been asking for information which in the past it has readily received. In the document which it sent it said: During this period officials of the Scottish Education Department had no difficulty in giving projections of the number of physical education teachers required and the Governing Body regret that this year all our efforts to require such precise information have failed and only global projections are available. This is one of the colleges which are threatened. It has been trying to get information which it has always been able to obtain in the past.

We also wanted information about the Government's thoughts on residential accommodation. We have the astonishing proposal in the consultative paper that there is to be effectively the closure of Dunfermline and Craiglockhart, which together have over 586 residential places. They are apparently to be merged with Dundee, which has a total of 190 places. How will this work? We have not had this information. It is all very well for the Secretary of State to have consultations and meetings, but if the information on which we can consult and consider alternatives is not available, that consultation is a pretty hollow sham.

I make it clear that we accept that there must be a reduction, probably quite a substantial reduction, in the student intake into colleges. The question is whether the figures are right and whether the Governments' proposal in the consultative document has any merit.

As for the figures, we must make it clear that the Government are putting forward proposals based not on population estimates of children whom we know exist but on projections of children who may or may not be born. There have been wide variations in these estimates.

Mr. Harry Reid of the Scotsman, who is a splendid education correspondent, pointed out in one of his recent articles that the Government had said in 1975 that the total school population envisaged in 1985 would be 1,042,000. In May 1976 that figure was down to 845,000 and in November 1976 it was 929,000. That is a difference of about 150,000, which is enormous. Taking the 1986 projections, in 1975 the Government said that they thought the figure would be 1,047,000. In 1976 they thought it would be 925,000—over 100,000 down. We are dealing with projections which no one can prove. This is a dangerous basis on which to go ahead and propose the closure of four great Scottish colleges.

We are also concerned that the Government's calculations have not made provision for educational advance in some areas where we feel advance will be necessary and desirable. For example, we think that there is certainly a strong case for making provision for a lower pupil-teacher ratio in the deprived areas, which for a long time have been suffering from a shortage of teachers, which has given rise to part-time education. It is pretty certain, although we do not know, that the Pack Committee, which is looking into truancy and indiscipline, will recommend such a proposal. We want to ensure that there is some provision for this.

In his appalling Budget the Chancellor made one positive and sensible suggestion, namely, that additional resources would be made available for a crash programme to provide teacher training for more teachers of science and mathematics. I was shocked when the immediate reaction from the Scottish Office was that this would not apply to Scotland. I tabled a Question, which the Secretary of State answered on Monday, asking him how much of a difference this proposal would make to the Scottish colleges. He said: I do not expect these measures to have any significant implications for my recent proposals."—[Official Report, 4th April 1977; Vol. 929, c. 333.]

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

Would the hon. Gentleman make it clear that in Scotland the Government will not allow non-graduate teachers to teach special subjects such as mathematics and science in the secondary schools? Is it not the policy of the Conservative Party in Scotland that non-graduate teachers will be allowed to teach graduate subjects in secondary schools?

Mr. Taylor

It is the policy of the Conservative Party, and it has always been the policy of a Conservative Government, that if the Chancellor has the money available for England and Wales, the Secretary of State for Scotland should fight for at least a fair share of that money. That has not been happening. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but he is the responsible Minister who sat there when the Chancellor put forward proposals to increase petrol tax, a provision which discriminates against Scotland. He sat in the Cabinet and agreed to the ending of regional employment premium knowing that it would do great damage to Scotland. We expect our Secretary of State to stand up for Scotland.

Our real objection is that the document does not provide any costings of alternatives. This is a major grumble. We tried to find out the facts. For example, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), who has been helpful in this matter, asked on 14th February what was the net saving of the Government's proposals. That was a fair question. It is a question to which we all want to know the answer. How much do the Government think they will save as a result of these proposals?

In reply he was referred to a reply given to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central on 31st January. I looked up that reply and found that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central was referred to a reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton). When we look at the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West we are told that it is not possible to provide this information.

Therefore, we have three hon. Members searching for information being referred back to an answer to one, and in that answer we were told that it could not be done. For that reason, some colleges have themselves been trying to make their own estimates. I pay particular tribute to Dunfermline College, because it has been trying to work out for itself how much has been lost or saved.

In the Government's proposal we have a suggestion that Dunfermline College should be merged and moved to Dundee, which is surprising bearing in mind the annual cost of both colleges, on the latest figures, of £1,684 for Dunfermline and £2,701 for Dundee. But the Government's estimate of what it would cost simply to bring the colleges in Dundee up to the standard of Dunfermline on the PE side is £950,000, which is an awful lost of money, and that is simply to make sure that the PE facilities in Dundee would be the same—no better and no worse than they are in Dunfermline. This figure may be contested, but we have not got further figures.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

That sounds a great deal of money, but it works out at about one-third of the cost of the house of the Managing Director of the Globtik Venus firm, to whom the hon. Gentleman is parliamentary adviser.

Mr. Taylor

We are talking about something that is terribly important. I should be glad to have a personal wrangle with the hon. Gentleman, as he knows, but I suggest that he is aware that we are talking about something that is extremely serious and important, and I hope that he will take it rather more seriously than he has.

There are many who believe that, far from saving money, the Government will end up by having to pay more under their proposals. However, cost is not the only consideration in education. There are, in addition, compelling arguments for the retention of all four colleges. I take, for example, Craigie. It is the only college in the South-West of Scotland. It serves 370 schools. When I read the argument that it should be closed because it has a limited life, I find it rather surprising, bearing in mind that the college itself understood in 1964 that it was given a 60-year life-span.

We have Callendar Park, in Falkirk, which has a unique record of in-service training and which is located in an area of economic growth. We have Dunfermline College, which is a relatively new building and is the only physical education college for women. It was built at immense cost and is a relatively new building. Here there are special considerations, because all the indications are that, whereas there may not be a shortage of teachers for some considerable time to come, there is no doubt that PE women teachers have a higher wastage rate than normal, fewer return to work after marriage, there is increasing demand in primary schools, and certainly there will be a bigger demand for teachers in the recreation and leisure fields.

Craighlock hart is an important college to the Catholic community for the maintenance of standards of denominational education. We note a statement by the governors: The governors strongly believe that, on Catholic religious and educational grounds, there must be a distinct Catholic teacher training establishment in the East of Scotland. By distinct' they mean an establishment the function of which is acknowledged as unequivocally that of training Catholic teachers in Scotland in premises and circumstances which are acceptable to the Catholic community. Craiglockhart College of Education has become part of the whole life of the Catholic community. Frankly, in my view and in the view of most of those interested in these matters, it would be impossible to retain a separate identity if a merger took place.

I do not believe that it will be in the interests of Scottish education for teacher training to be concentrated in the big, city colleges at the expense of successful small colleges. Therefore, for this reason we call upon the Government and the Secretary of State to abandon their plans to produce new proposals that will set out how the necessary reductions in the student intake can best be achieved within the framework of the continued existence of the 10 existing colleges. Such a solution would be better for Scottish education, better for the local communities, and certainly better for co-operation in education.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept very substantial cutbacks in the number of people in the provincial colleges?

Mr. Taylor

Yes, indeed. Obviously, if we were to continue with the 10 colleges, it would mean a larger reduction in some of the big city colleges. Jordan-hill and Moray House are two clear examples.

I have made clear that the Secretary of State has gone too far, but there is no way in which we can avoid the fact that a major reduction in student intake—not as large as the Secretary of State has proposed, but certainly a major reduction—is required. If we were to continue the 10 colleges, there would be fewer students at those proposed to be continued under these proposals. Whether this is the right answer or the wrong answer, we are at least entitled to know more of the facts about the considerations involved. What extra cash would be involved if we went to 10 colleges instead of six? What extra cash would be involved under the Government's proposals?

The Government have put forward the wrong proposals. They have been rejected by Scotland as a whole. It is time for the Secretary of State not to be so intensely stubborn, as he has shown himself to be, but to show flexibility. Frankly, if he insists on inflicting these plans, which have been rejected by all of Scotland, he will be doing a great disservice to Scottish education.

For that reason we call upon the House, as we called upon the Scottish Grand Committee, to reject the Government's proposals and to make it clear to the Secretary of State that he should go away, think again and produce more sensible and effective proposals.

4.56 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

In the concluding minutes of his speech, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) admitted and agreed that a very substantial reduction in the teacher training system in Scotland was required.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

We have always said that.

Mr. Millan

One may have been forgiven for not having noticed that the hon. Gentleman or, indeed, other Opposition Members have always said that.

Mr. Monro

Read it in Hansard.

Mr. Millan

A good deal of the debate has suggested that in fact there is some simple way of dealing with what is an extremely difficult problem. However, whatever one does in the way of final conclusions, there will have to be a substantial reduction in the teacher training system in Scotland over the next few years, and that has, for example, considerable implications for the staff involved. I shall come to that matter shortly.

First, dealing with the question of consultation, there has been an almost unprecedented amount of consultation on this particular document. I personally have had meetings with the Joint Committee of Colleges of Education—that is, all the colleges of education—the General Teaching Council, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church—last Friday—and, because I am well aware of the serious implications of my proposals for the staff of the colleges, I have had meetings on two separate occasions with ALCES, the Lecturers' Association. In addition, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has had meetings with representatives of various colleges, the teachers' organisations, the Education Committee of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the National Union of Students. In order that each college directly affected by the proposals for closure or merger should have the opportunity to discuss the detailed implications for them of these proposals, I arranged for my Department to have meetings with each of the boards individually. Therefore, there has been no lack of consultation.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Millan

I hope that I shall not be interrupted too frequently, because this is a short debate.

Mr. Canavan

My right hon. Friend said that he had consulted the staffs. Will he make clear whether he has also consulted the non-academic staffs, through, for example, trade unions such as the National Union of Public Employees, because the jobs of non-academic staff are also important in this respect?

Mr. Millan

I am not sure whether there have been meetings with the nonacademic staff, but they, as well as everyone else, have been perfectly free to make representations on this document. However, I agree with my hon. Friend.

I shall not announce decisions on this consultation process today. As I shall say a little later, I hope to do that reasonable soon now. What I want to do this afternoon is three things. I want first to make some comments on the result of the consultation, indicating some of the points which now seem to be generally accepted and others on which differences of view remain. Second, I want to say something about measures to deal with recruitment of teachers of shortage subjects. This is not a matter dealt with directly in my paper, but it concerns colleges of education and there have been recent developments about which I should like to say something to the House. Finally, I should like to indicate the stage which has been reached in the consideration of my paper and inform the House when I am likely to be in a position to announce decisions.

Let me start by saying something about what has emerged as a result of the consultation. The first point put to me is that the basic nature of the exercise now seems to be better understood. There was some suspicion at the beginning—and the hon. Member for Cathcart attempted to stir it up again this afternoon—that my proposals found their origin solely in a desire to reduce public expenditure, and that they were nothing more than another example of public expenditure cuts. I think most people now understand that the origin of the proposals was not financial, but demographic—relating to matters of population.

My proposals originated in an attempt to deal with the implications for the schools and the teaching profession of the great reduction in the birth rate, which is now at its lowest level since we started keeping statistics. It is the lowest birth rate since 1855. There is now a general willingness to accept that we ought not to train more teachers than will have a reasonable expectation of a job when they qualify, otherwise we are merely training people for unemployment. That is the harsh reality of the situation.

The consultation has shown other points on which there is general agreement. Again, despite a good deal of hullaballoo about the figures, there has been no serious challenge of the figures of projected pupil populations in the years ahead by the colleges themselves—and I have met every one of them—or by the lecturers, whom I met as recently as last Friday.

If I might now deal with the point about pupil projections, the figures in my paper assume an increase in the number of births as from next year. The paper does not assume a continuing reduction in the number of births in Scotland. If I were to do that, the projections of school populations and the problems with which we are dealing would be even more serious, but for good demographic reasons—which I shall not explain in detail—I am assuming that as from 1978 the number of births will rise again.

Let me give some figures to show what has happened to the birth rate. The figure of 104,000 births in 1964 was down to 65,000 in 1976. I am assuming that over the next few years that figure will go up to 85,000 by 1985. If that does not happen, if the number of births remains stable or even goes down, we shall be faced with very much smaller pupil numbers in schools than I have assumed in my document, and the problem with which we are dealing will be considerably greater. The fact is—and I want to emphasise this—that there has been no serious question by anybody concerned of the pupil projection figures.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Will my right hon. Friend say how it is possible to assume how many children will be conceived during the next few years?

Mr. Millan

No one can be certain on these matters. These are the Registrar General's figures, but let me give another figure, because my hon. Friend is interested in the Roman Catholic aspect of the problem. The birth rate among Roman Catholics has gone down more rapidly in the last 10 years than has the birth rate in the rest of the community. According to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the birth rate in the Roman Catholic community is little different from that in the rest of the community, whereas 10 years ago there was a tremendous difference between the two. Therefore, again it is not true to say that the figures that I have produced are open to serious challenge. We have found that this tremendous reduction in the number of live births in Scotland produces problems for us when considering teaching.

Another point on which there seems to be fairly general agreement is about the intake to colleges proposed for this year. This is one aspect of my proposals which I need not go over in detail, but with the reduction in intake last year, and the reduction proposed this year, the problem of falling student populations in the colleges is with us immediately. It is not something that will happen in 1985.

There seems also to be general acceptance of the need for some reduction in staff, and the hon. Member for Cathcart did not dispute that. The extent to which redundancies, as distinct from natural wastage, are required is a matter on which some differences of view remain, but the need to make full provision for any staff who do become redundant is acknowledged everywhere, and my proposal to make Crombie terms of compensation available has been widely accepted. I hope that much of the problem can be dealt with on the basis of voluntary redundancies.

I come now to some of the criticisms, which seem to fall under two broad heads. The first allegation is that the proposals do not make enough provision for improvements of various kinds—in standards of staffing in the schools, in teacher training in the sense of the introduction of a four-year primary degree, in a sufficient increase in in-service training for teachers, and in sufficient acknowledgement of additional work that the colleges could usefully undertake.

The second main point of criticism is that if sufficient allowance were made for the additional work that would fall on colleges as a result of employing more teachers in the schools, of increasing the length of training of these teachers, and of doing more in-service training there would be no need to consider any closures or mergers, because any temporary slack in the next few years would soon be taken up.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Millan

No I shall not, because I have given way enough.

I should like to say a few words about the criticisms to which I have referred. First, there is an educational justification for my proposals. It is, briefly—if the House wants an educational justification—that the existing policies and assumptions about teacher training to which we have been working in the last few years have not been shown to be in any way defective or to produce inadequate teachers. I put this point specifically to the General Teaching Council when I met it, and received the answer that I have conveyed to the House.

My proposals are based on the philosophy that, subject to one important proviso, existing policies in teacher training be maintained. The proviso is that the provision already being made for in-service training of teachers should be extended, particularly the contribution that the colleges can make to in-service training in the schools themselves.

My proposals make allowance for that, although it ought to be remembered that so far as in-service training takes place in the schools rather than in the colleges, it reduces rather than increases the demand for college accommodation. In-service training in the schools has gone up rapidly in the current session, so that in the second term of the current session there are no fewer than 420 schools in Scotland where in-service training is being provided by the colleges in the schools themselves. My proposals make allowance for that.

I must also make it clear that the existing pupil teacher ratio is, in my view educationally sound, and again I have not had very much opposition to that proposition. An overall improvement in these ratios beyond the substantial improvement that we have made in recent years cannot, therefore, in my view, in present circumstances, be an educational priority.

On the second question, that of the number of colleges that we require, one comes into territory where differences of view can perfectly validly be taken. I have told the House that I cannot yet say what decisions I shall reach, but there are two obvious general points that I make on that.

First, can a system that was designed to function in a society in which there were more than 100,000 births a year reasonably be maintained at a time when the number of births has fallen to not much more than 60,000 a year, and when we know that, even allowing for an increase in births, a much reduced system could cope with the demand until the end of the 1980s?

Secondly, granted the rundown in student intakes—which everyone seems to accept—and even allowing for some expansion of college activity, especially in in-service training, there is no conceivable way in which we can use the full capacity of all the existing colleges over the next few years. None of the proposals put to me has suggested that there is any way in which the whole capacity can be used, and therefore if all 10 colleges were to remain open and not be used for other purposes there would be a considerable amount of unused capacity that could be used sensibly for other purposes.

I shall not deal with individual colleges today. I have received representations—and some of them have been very impressive—on behalf of individual colleges. However, to take up the point that was made about Craiglockhart, let me tell the House that there is nothing in my proposals that in any way attacks the principle of the 1918 Act for Roman Catholic education. I had an amicable and useful discussion with the hierarchy only last Friday on the whole question of Roman Catholic teacher training.

I turn now to the shortage subjects referred to by the hon. Member for Cathcart.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Has the Secretary of State asked his office to look into the possibility of reducing the student intake and maintaining the 10 colleges? If he has costed that possibility, will he give the House and those whom he is consulting his conclusions?

Mr. Millan

It is possible to keep any number of colleges with a good deal of unused capacity. I have doubts about whether that is sensible, given the need for public expenditure constraints in the next few years and given that any college that we closed or merged would be available for other useful purposes, educational or otherwise.

Our main concern in recent years has been to increase the number of teachers generally. We have also been concerned about the availability of teachers in particular subjects. Far from nothing being done, I asked the colleges of education last year to weight their intakes in favour of shortage subjects. We do what we can—and I hope to do more this year—to let pupils in schools and universities know more about the opportunities for teaching in those subjects.

My Department was involved in proposals for a new form of training for teachers of technical subjects at Hamilton College of Education and Bell College of Technology which I am sure would have increased the supply of such teachers. I was disappointed when those proposals were not accepted by the General Teaching Council.

In recent weeks, we have told both the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the General Teaching Council—the latter at my meeting with its representatives on 28th February—that I should like to discuss with them arrangements for improving the supply of secondary teachers in the shortage subjects. I was already taking action on that before my right hon. Friend's statement in the Budget. I also discussed it with College heads at the beginning of March. I asked my Department to carry out a detailed analysis of the supply of teachers by subject based on information submitted by headmasters during the 1976 census. That information is now available and will be published soon. I can, however, give the House some information about the general picture.

There has been a great improvement since the 1975–76 session. At the beginning of this session, there was only one area in which there was an overall shortage of any significance—that of technical subjects in which there was a net shortage of 63 in Scotland, compared with 137 in the previous year. There were smaller shortages in physics and business studies. The supply was adequate or in excess in all other subjects. That included mathematics, in which a deficit last year of 153 was eliminated so that this year there is a net surplus of nine.

I emphasise that those are overalll figures. There are some shortages in particular schools and regions. In Strathclyde, for example, there is an overall shortage not only in technical education, physics and business studies, but in mathematics and art. On the basis of that detailed information, I propose to discuss the situation with the bodies that I have mentioned.

The impression was caused last week that the Chancellor was referring only to England and Wales. That is not true. Our discussions in Scotland must take account of three particular points on which there are substantial differences north and south of the border. The first is the general pattern of teacher supply in shortage subjects. We must take account of the particular Scottish problem.

The second is that our arrangements in Scotland for training teachers are different from those in England and Wales. It is fair to say that our training is more rigorous. Teachers in secondary schools in Scotland, although not in England, must have a specific qualification in a particular subject. It is, therefore, easier in England and Wales to convert from one subject to another and to arrange conversion courses for that purpose. It is not my wish, and I am sure that it is not the wish of the House, that we should reduce our standards of training in Scotland. I want to maintain our standards. In addition, we have a General Teaching Council which looks critically at any proposals for changes in training arrangements. Whatever we do must be approved by the council.

The third difference concerns organisation and finance. Most teachers in England and Wales are trained in establishments administered and financed by local education authorities. In Scotland, they are trained in colleges of education which derive all their income, apart from fees, from central Government. There are considerable differences, therefore. Taking them into account, I intend to see that special efforts are made to encourage and improve recruitment in the shortage subjects. I shall be entering into further detailed discussions with the colleges and other interested bodies with that in mind. I hope that that puts the record straight.

Finally, I wish to indicate the position that has been reached in consideration of my paper and the action to be taken. The consultation period is almost over. At least, no more meetings are in prospect with any of the interested parties. I can confirm to my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) that the paper was sent to the bodies representing the non-academic staff. I am not aware of any complaints that anyone who was interested has been denied a full opportunity to comment.

I have no more major meetings planned with the interested parties, but I shall take full account of any points made in the House today or at any time in the next few weeks. I have given that assurance to those whom I have met. Most of the meetings have been constructive. It is not true that we have not been impressed by them nor that our ideas have not been changed in any way by arguments made during the consultations. I shall take everything into account before I reach a final decision.

In the next few days, I propose to lay before the House regulations authorising the Secretary of State to give directions to colleges about the number of students to be admitted. That allows the statutory procedure to take its course. Draft regulations about Crombie compensation will be circulated to interesed bodies later this month and, in due course, regulations will be laid before the House.

I hope to make a full statement, probably in the early part of May, about the results of the consultation on my paper. It will deal with intakes to colleges in the autumn of 1977 and the question of closing or merging any colleges. At the same time, colleges will be sent a proposed breakdown of the total intakes between colleges. After they have had an opportunity to comment, the firm figures for each college will be set out in formal directions.

I understand the uncertainty of the boards of governors, the principals and staff at all levels—including the nonacademic staff—and the students at the colleges concerned. For that reason, I want to reach conclusions as rapidly as possible. I repudiate the suggestion that there has not been adequate and genuine consultation on the proposals. We are dealing with an extremely difficult problem. There are different ways of producing solutions, but the problem is still there.

There has been a process of consultation and, in coming to a decision about the colleges, I have had uppermost in my mind that we must achieve a balance between supply and demand for teachers, in fairness to those who wish to enter teaching. The worst possible outcome of the consultation would be a system that took in more students than reasonably could be accommodated in the schools. If that happened, young people would be trained for careers which they had no prospect of following. We have had a genuine process of consultation. I shall give my conclusions as soon as possible.

5.20 p.m.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)

I am grateful for the opportunity to put the case of the Dunfermline College of Physical Education. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Secretary of State. If he is to take his decisions early in May, I expect he will take them immediately after the local elections. The electors of Scotland are bound to take account of the possibilities that may occur.

The matter of Dunfermline College was raised in a very significant letter from the Scottish Physical Education Association about the proposed merger between Dunfermline and Dundee Colleges. The Scottish Physical Education Association confirmed that on 15th March its executive committee met senior officials of the Scottish Education Department to discuss the proposed merger. The association writes: During that meeting it became clear that if the suggested merger went through the opportunities for female students to study physical education would be severely restricted in comparison with opportunities for male students at Jordanhill College. The association bases this conclusion on two major points. The first is that it claims that the men at Jordanhill have exclusive use of purpose-built specialist facilities other than the swimming pool. I might add that there are two swimming pools at Jordanhill. Secondly, the facilities at Jordanhill are infinitely superior to those at Dundee and they match Dunfermline's facilities.

In its letter, the association also claims: The facilities at Dundee are of such a poor nature that the Scottish Education Department would require to spend £1.5 million to bring them up to the necessary standard. One of the major reasons for the proposed merger was a saving in costs; therefore we feel it is unlikely that the Department would sanction the expenditure required thereby further disadvantaging female students of physical education. In other words, if this college does move to Dundee to do the job properly and to bring the facilities up to the same standard as those existing at Jordan-hill and Dundee, the Department would need to spend about £1.5 million. This improvement would take three years to complete, and it would involve great upheaval. The Department cannot justify this at a time of great financial stringency. If the Government intend to transfer Dunfermline College to Dundee without upgrading the facilites, this will be savage discrimination against women teachers of physical education who will have infinitely worse facilities than their male counterparts at Jordanhill.

The Scottish Physical Education Association argues: We believe that female students of physical education will be seriously restricted in their opportunities to study physical education if the proposed merger proceeds. The possibility of discrimination is so serious that the full facts and circumstances of the case have been reported to the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The fears of the association are reinforced by answers to Parliamentary Questions given by Scottish Ministers. The Secretary of State has not consulted the Equal Opportunities Commission, and he claims that he sees no need to do so. Our inquiries have revealed that at no stage before the drafting of the consultation document were any of the specialists in physical education working in the Civil Service in Scotland consulted.

The Secretary of State refuses to do any costings or feasibility study on the cost of specialist facilities and residential accommodation. The Scottish Office says that it is premature to estimate the cost of any decisions or the time required to implement them. I can only take that to mean one thing—that the Secretary of State makes his decisions first and does his costings and feasibility studies afterwards. Surely it is not possible to have an effective and meaningful consultation in the absence of feasibility studies and costings.

Everyone at Dunfermline and Craiglockhart Colleges knows that no Scottish Office Minister has ever explained what is mean by the merger. In a Parliamentary Answer, a Scottish Office Minister said: I do not consider that a Ministerial visit to any of these colleges would be necessary or appropriate."—[Official Report. 28th February, 1977; Vol. 926, c. 4.] It is extraordinary that Scottish Office Ministers are forbidden to visit colleges in Scotland—the land of their birth. Why are Ministers not allowed to visit a women's college? Does the Secretary of State think the female of the species is more deadly than the male? However great his dread of coming into contact with women's colleges, it is a plain and unmistakable fact that no Scottish Office Minister can know that Dunfermline College is the most outstanding college of its kind anywhere in Western Europe. He cannot know this because he is not allowed to visit it if the annual intake were cut back the college would still be a viable unit.

The Secretary of State was incorrect when he said that the spare capacity of the college could not be used. It can be used to great advantage by offering it to the Scottish Sports Council. Only yesterday I had a full conversation with a representative of the Scottish Sports Council, who said that the Council would be delighted to enter discussions and investigate the possibility of using surplus facilities if the college's intake were cut right down. By giving such encouragement to a centre of excellence, the Government would be giving great benefit to both the Scottish Sports Council and sport in Scotland generally.

All the evidence suggests that there is no case whatsoever for transferring the college to Dundee. Such a merger would cost £1.5 million which cannot be justified at a time of financial stringency, or, on the other hand, the merger would involve savage discrimination against Scottish women physical education teachers and do great harm to women's sport in the country. Either way, Government policy is rotten and it does not deserve to endure.

5.27 p.m.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

At the outset, I want to agree with the Secretary of State on one point—I do not think that any major challenge has been made to the figures he has quoted on future births or requirements for teachers.

Many hon. Members on both sides might cavil at one or two subsequent assumptions, but I take the view that it is right to say to students that so many jobs can be guaranteed and if others wish to qualify as teachers they may do so at their own risk. I do not believe that it is always right to regulate the entry to colleges on the assumption of guarantee of jobs at the end of the day.

The wastage rate of teachers may change when the economic situation alters. The number of teachers needed may alter if future Governments take a different view of the ratio of teachers to students. These things may change, and to tell a student that he or she may not have teacher training qualifications today and may not enter the profession for the subsequent 50 years of his or her working life is a very different thing from telling the student that he proceeds at his own risk.

Some of us want to see teacher training as a broad education that is pro- vided generally, similar to law and medicine, without a guarantee that a job will be available at the end of the course I am not happy with the assumption of fine tuning of the flow in and out of the colleges to the precise proportion of current jobs that are available at the end of the day.

I take the point made by the Secretary of State that even if he conceded this and allowed students to proceed at their own risk, it would not preponderantly alter the way in which we need to consider the use of both Scottish and national resources in teacher training at a time when the rate of births has altered so in Scotland. I do not think that there is any great future in asking whether the Scottish Office should have considered this matter a few years ago, before it authorised the building of Dundee College, which it now appears was unnecessary.

That is beside the point. What are the alternatives facing the Government, and how can they best resolve the tricky and unpleasant problems with which they are faced? We come to the question of the options and choices open to them. Consultation worthy of the word is possible only if the alternatives and the Government's thinking are put to people. My right hon. Friend says that there has been total consultation, because he can rattle off a list of bodies or agencies to which he has talked. That gives no evidence of consultation. Consultation is something more satisfactory. My right hon. Friend presumably thinks that he has had consultation in the House, when he refuses to allow me to ask a question in the middle of his speech.

I met the four principals of the colleges threatened with merger or closure as they came out of one of the consultations with my right hon. Friend. They came straight to Moray House and saw me. In a sense they have been consulted, but that was not the impression that I gained from them. They had been told. They had been given no insight into my right hon. Friend's thinking. They put to him in great detail that if the closures were to be carried out for economic reasons a certain set of options would arise. My right hon. Friend said in his speech, as he has said before, that this is a demographic exercise and not an economic exercise. I am glad to hear it, but if that is so the reduction in the numbers for teacher training means that spare resources are available which are at present under-utilised. In that case, the options open to the Government are not merely the closure of certain colleges but include the utilisation of those resources for other educational purposes. That has not been considered.

All that we have been told is that there is provision within the existing proposals for the continuation of the existing level of in-service training. But all of us who have been connected with Scottish education know that one of the great steps forward we could take, one which other countries have taken, is to tell all teachers that after they have been out of training for, say, seven or 10 years they can go back to the colleges for a sabbatical term or a sabbatical year, not the weekend course or week's course for which my right hon. Friend has allowed now, but something much more satisfactory.

I have been bothered over the years—like a number of hon. Members, I think—about the level of language teaching in the Scottish schools. One of the main reasons why our boys and girls do not come out more fluent in foreign languages is that many of the people teaching them learnt their foreign languages many years ago and obviously have had no practice in their use for a number of years. Nothing would be better than for those teachers to go back for a period of instruction or a refresher course in teaching.

Some hon. Members may not have spent 13 years in teaching, as I have. Those who have will know that one of the problems is that one dries up. One gives out and gives out and does not take in.

Mr. Millan

Hear, hear.

Mr. Mackintosh

It becomes repetitive and a little boring, as my right hon. Friend knows. I can see that I have struck a chord with him. One bores and bores, as he is well aware. One becomes a positive artist in boring people. That is not of the essence of teaching. A refresher course enables one to invigorate and excite students.

If my right hon. Friend is serious in saying that the closures are nothing to do with financial economies, any consul- tation should have considered the options open to the colleges or other forms of education. My right hon. Friend must accept that in his consultations he did not give that impression. He told the principals that several millions of pounds would be saved. He did not specify how. One of his Under-Secretaries carelessly left his speech, written for him by the Scottish Office, lying on the Bench in the Grand Committee. It was picked up by one of his colleagues, who said that the costing showed £750,000 saved. That was duly read out in the Grand Committee, but it was not supported or carried any further. Until we know whether this is a financial or an educational exercise, no proper consultation is possible.

Let us take what my right hon. Friend says at its face value and accept that there is no financial element. Even then there are alternatives. If we consider the need to cut down the number of teacher training places, at least four options become obvious. One is to close the colleges along the lines suggested in my right hon. Friend's document. The second is to cut the numbers in the big city colleges and keep the smaller colleges open, on the ground that small colleges have special merit in geographical areas where contact is needed between the colleges and the schools and pupils. The third is the closure of one college in particular, the one least utilised and most expensive—the Dundee College—and a certain amount of slimming down in the city colleges.

A fourth possibility, one which would have meant real consultation, was for my right hon. Friend to tell the education authorities and the principals These are my targets, gentlemen. Will you devise among yourselves a proposal to meet them and suggest to me how this can be done with the least damage to the education system in Scotland?"

What in fact happened in the so-called consultations was that my right hon. Friend—having produced a consultative document without costings, without an explanation of what mergers would mean and without an explanation of how they could be done or where the residential places would be provided—stonewalled and defended his document for hour after hour against questions, criticism and requests for information from the people he was seeing. That is not consultation.

Mr. Millan

That is quite untrue.

Mr. Mackintosh

That was the view expressed by the people who met my right hon. Friend, and it is very similar to the view in this House. When I wanted to ask for information my right hon. Friend refused to give way and allow me to make my point. He has only himself to blame if he gets this kind of reaction. If he is not willing to give way to hon. Friends raising a simple point of information, we must assume that that is his attitude when he is consulting people from outside, and if that is so he has no one to blame but himself if he acquires a reputation for being stubborn, difficult and unhelpful. He can shrug his shoulders, but that is what happens if he is not prepared to give way and answer questions from his hon. Friends.

If my right hon. Friend wishes to carry the whole proposal any further, if he wishes to have any plausibility in education in Scotland, he must make clear whether financial considerations have any importance. If they have, a whole different set of criteria come into play. If they have no importance, and if the matter is only demographic, as my right hon. Friend insists, the following question arises: which is the better pattern of teacher training—10 relatively small colleges or three very big ones and three half-sized ones, with closures elsewhere?

Serious discussion of that sort has not taken place. There has been no possibility of discussing it, given the curious idea of a consultative document that produces one proposal, does not cost it and does not explain the thinking behind it, and then stonewalls. In those circumstances, my right hon. Friend must understand that those of us who are not particularly concerned about the political aspect but who are concerned about the future of education in Scotland are not prepared to support him.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I shall be very brief. If I bore in any way, at least I shall be boring briefly.

I feared that this might be a re-run of the Grand Committee debate on 15th and 16th February, and to an extent it has been so far. But after the passing of six or seven weeks one could easily have expected answers to a number of questions in that debate. What alarms me most about the whole process—and I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said about consultation and the form it takes—is that not only have answers not been given to a whole number of questions but they have not even been attempted. If the purpose of Parliament is to scrutinise the doings of the Executive, how can it do that if the Executive refuses to give any answers?

I raised three main matters in the debate on 15th February. The first was the question of the financial logic. I asked whether what was proposed would mean a saving. That question was asked by others and was repeated today by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). No answer has been given. How can one reasonably evaluate the proposals in economic terms if one does not know the answer to that question? Our criticisms might be invalid. The Government should be able to say "There will be a saving of £X million, and you are talking nonsense."

Secondly, what is the statistical base? The Secretary of State said in effect this afternoon "Our statistics are super." Yet when I spoke on the last occasion I gave a single example—although other hon. Members gave many other examples. The primary population for 1980–81 that was forecast in the March 1970 White Paper was 518,300, yet today the forecast is 534,000. That is a difference of nearly 16,000 in forecasts of children who are already born. They already exist. It is not a matter of making suppositions about whether or not fecundity will improve, because they actually exist. If the statistics are as dubious and doubtful as that something may well be seriously wrong. If one looks at the history of the Scottish Education Department—and this was referred to a few minutes ago—in many cases there has been late provision of school facilities. The SED does not have a good statistical record.

There is also the matter of educational logic. I do not understand on what basis the Secretary of State asserts almost as Holy Writ that the present teacher-pupil ratio is educationally sound. That is a matter of great dispute and not a matter of fact at all. I should have thought that the general educational thinking is that the smaller a class is, the easier it is to teach and for the pupils to learn. There is much truth in that, but I find that it is brought into question.

There is also the matter of the regional consequences and the effect on in-service training—which the Secretary of State ducked today—because there is much evidence to suggest that if an educational college is removed from a region to further abroad, the amount of in-service training in that region drops. According to the White Paper proposals 51 per cent. of students will be trained at two large colleges in the centre.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

We also believe that if in-service training facilities are moved away from schools, costs, such as those for travel, also increase.

Mr. Johnston

That is perfectly true, and it is a fair point.

There is also the matter of the life and use of buildings that will be made redundant. We have heard nothing about that. The plain fact is that in the past the Scottish Education Department has been wrong and many people do not entirely trust its calculations. Therefore, the argument that many people have made recently for establishing some sort of teachers training commission or Select Committee or something of that kind to look at the whole question, while holding the status quo, becomes increasingly attractive in itself. It would also be a better opportunity than seems possible in the House of evaluating whether the Scottish Education Department is right in its proposals.

No sound educational or economic arguments have been advanced to justify these proposals. I say that flatly because the Secretary of State, in the latter part of his speech, went through the various bodies that he has consulted. There was a long, formidable and impressive list. He did not indicate that a single one of any of the bodies that he has consulted agreed with these proposals—not one of them.

Mr. Millan

As I said in my speech, college intakes is the immediate question to be decided this year and there has been no real disagreement at all. The matter that we are now debating is how one should distribute the reduced number of students among a lesser or greater number of colleges. On these other matters there is no serious disagreement.

Mr. Johnston

With all respect, a White Paper has been produced because of recognition of the fact that there has to be a reduction in the number of students and because of the demographic arguments to which the Secretary of State referred. The White Paper was produced to make suggestions on how to deal with that. There was no disagreement on that proposition because that matter produced the White Paper in the first place.

Mr. Millan

A few minutes ago the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) called the various figures into question. I have had all these consultations, and the figures on pupil projections that the hon. Member is disputing—for reasons that he has not produced to the House—have not been disputed by lecturers or the college principals. The process of consultation has been genuine and to suggest that no alternative uses have been discussed is absolutely erroneous.

Mr. Johnston

I say quickly in conclusion—because I promised to speak briefly—that I hope that, if the consultations were as genuine as the Secretary of State says, the right hon. Gentleman will take into account the opinions of all the people, not only in this House but in education in Scotland, who believe that this proposal to close a number of colleges is not generally acceptable.

5.48 p.m.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

We have already debated this subject twice in the Scottish Grand Committee and there have been several debates on the Adjournment. It would be understandable if some of us had a feeling of déjà vu in coming to debate this this afternoon. However, we have learned two interesting things.

The first was from the Secretary of State who clarified the fact that it really is a demographic argument and the second was from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) who made it quite clear that rather than cutting out a number of colleges he would keep all 10 open, but that he would severely prune the city colleges of education.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) will be replying to the debate tonight so I begin by giving him my congratulations—not on his consultative paper but on the fact that it is his birthday today.

I want to take a number of points up in detail. I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) on the matter of training people for the dole. I know what was in his mind, namely that it is better if a person receives a training. The difference between training people for teaching and training people for industry or commerce is that a governmental decision determines the intake and output in teacher supply whereas, by and large, market forces determine the intake and output of training for industry and commerce. I should not be happy about training people for the dole.

What concerns me about the consultative document is that there is too little evidence of what is intended by way of individual studies and the shortages that we know have plagued Scottish education in mathematics, science and technical studies. I am glad that the Secretary of State was able to explain a little more clearly the Chancellor of the Exchequer's intentions regarding a boost to the training of teachers in mathematics and science. However, I really should like to have more information about the Scottish Education Department's assessment of how many teachers in the specialist studies we shall require in the foreseeable future. Otherwise it makes a nonsense of talking in global terms about student intake and subsequent teacher supply.

I wish to say a few words about the distribution of college places between the West, the East and the North-East of Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), when he was Under-Secretary with responsibility for education, told me in September 1974 that about 56 per cent. of all college places were regarded as being within the West of Scotland. One of the problems for the former Glasgow education authority then was that it felt that there should have been a larger supply of students from the West of Scotland who would subsequently teach in the city. The same consideration applies with equal, if not more, force to the Strathclyde education authority. We must ensure that there is a proper distribution of college places for future intakes.

The present Under-Secretary published a note towards the end of last year in which he mentioned his hopes fo educational priority areas. This is a matter that I have taken up with him in correspondence and interviews. It is a worthwhile concept, but I am trying to establish how it will operate in practice. I do not just want to see staff ratios increased in the stress areas; I want to see the teachers in the classroom.

We had quite a "to-do" last year over early retirement for teachers. All sorts of figures were floating around about the numbers that would be involved when we made it compulsory for teachers to retire at 65. Is the Minister satisfied that we have sorted out the SED's statistical department, because last year's episode was not a happy example of how we do our sums?

My hon. Friend will be aware of the consultative document issued by the Department of Health and Social Security on the four options suggested by the Equal Opportunities Commission in respect of earlier retirement for men or the prolonging of the active working life of women.

In the next five years, there may well be a reduction of the retirement age for men, perhaps to 64 or 62—I do not think that it will be to 60. This will obviously affect the teaching profession and, therefore, the subsequent intake. Has the SED been considering this problem? From what one hears from teachers in their late 50s and early 60s, there will be an almighty rush for the school gates if we introduce flexible retirement below the age of 65.

Turning to the number of colleges that are required, I and many other hon. Members have read the ALCES document and I know that the Minister has been given a copy. How is the Treasury investigation into the cost of college closures progressing? My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised this matter in an Adjournment debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) raised a point that I want to press home with the Minister. What is the position regarding the non-academic, behind-the-scenes staff in colleges of education? What guarantees will they get?

What is the present role of Her Majesty's Schools Inspectorate? When we were debating the college mergers and closures in the Scottish Grand Committee, there were several references to the fact that no visits had been paid to the colleges by appropriate members of the inspectorate. It may be that they work in a more subtle fashion, but if we are contracting the colleges of education sector, will some of the higher legions also be contracted, since, in theory overheads should go down if the production area is declining? Now that we have regional education authorities with all their advisers and the rest, they seem to be cutting across the work previously undertaken by the inspectorate.

I should like to question other aspects of the future of colleges of education. Are we satisfied that they provide the most appropriate prepratory training for teachers in the comprehensive school era? Are young would-be teachers getting the sort of training that is required for the classroom?

It would be useful to have figures of the wastage rates during college courses and in the years immediately afterwards, both within the cities, which have the main sress areas, and outside.

Are we convinced that we shall continue to have the present two-tier system of education with primary schools and secondary schools in a period of our history when young people are maturing much earlier, when the demands on education are changing greatly and when some teachers are not sure of their rôle in the classroom? Pupils and students now are also far more questioning and are not prepared to accept the sort of authoritarian attitude that has prevailed in the past.

I have been brief because I had the chance to speak in Committee. There has been considerable unease about the way in which the SED has gone about its business. It is up to Ministers to explain why things have worked out in the way that they have during the preparation of the consultative document.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The presentation of this consultative document has been one of the all-time disasters of the Scottish Education Department. Napoleon's retreat from Moscow was nothing compared with the handling of this situation by the Under-Secretary of State. It looks as though the hon. Gentleman has retreated not under gunfire but under points of order.

No one accepts the consultative document, particularly in the guise that it was presented to the Scottish nation. Of course, the White Paper produced by the last Conservative Government accepted that there would have to be a reduction in the intake to colleges of education. It also said there would be a much improved pupil-teacher ratio which, in fact, has happened. What it did not say was that the present Minister should increase the intake to the colleges in 1974–75. We are still awaiting an answer as to why he allowed that to happen.

A most interesting point was put forward by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) about whether we have a duty to train a certain number of college entrants for the teaching profession for their own wish. They may want to teach abroad, or in England, or elsewhere. While I am not suggesting that this should be a large number, we must view this in the light of whether we would ever wish to restrict the number of entrants to universities, which I am sure we would not.

The major failure of this Government has been their refusal to give any indication of the financial implications. We hope that the Minister will come to grips with this tonight. If consultation means anything it surely means being frank with everyone including the House of Commons. We are entitled to know what the costs of the proposed closures are. I hope that the Minister will say something about the rôle of the inspectorate in this whole affair. How will the hon. Gentleman affect this reduction which we all accept is necessary? An overall 15 per cent. reduction on the present figure of 10,600 would get us back to about 8,000, which the Minister says is the necessary figure. If that were weighed against Jordanhill and Moray House, which most people seem to agree are too large, we would not be far away from the figure that the Minister wishes to attain.

I accept that this would leave some spare capacity. But the Secretary of State and the Minister have not indicated what sort of use would be made of that spare capacity or what it would cost. This is all part of the consultation. The Minister must have some idea in his mind about what the spare capacity can be used for. I hope that he will tell us tonight.

I want to raise two particular issues. The first relates to Craigie College, which has a most important impact on my constituency. I have received a vast number of letters, all individually written, and all raising different points, from the staff and students in the college, from people in South-West Scotland and from the Roman Catholic hierarchy as well. It is most important to South-West Scotland because teaching practice stems from Craigie as well as research into curriculum development and accommodation. There is also the conference centre, which is so important to Craigie College, and the reading centre. All of that adds to the experience of teachers in South-West Scotland and to the quality of life in the area. Most important, Craigie provides the in-service training for teachers in South-West Scotland.

Again, with regard to Craigie, I hope the Minister will say something about the durability of the buildings. Anyone with any experience of the building industry is convinced that the buildings have at least a 60-year life expectancy. The Minister must not base his argument on the fact that there is a degree of temporary building at Craigie and that this may not survive for a sufficient length of time. That argument will not hold water.

I hope that the Minister will apply his mind to the argument that it is important to have a college of education in an area where teachers are required. The argument which was put to me as a Minister frequently, and which I accepted, was that if we want to have more teachers in the West of Scotland—and we do—we must make certain that there are a large number of places in the West of Scot- land for the pupils to come to. In 1973–74 we conceded that there would be an over-supply of teachers. In the first place that would have meant a cutback in the East where teachers were less urgently required than in the West. If we are to maintain our supply of teachers in South-West Scotland it is most important that we have a college of education to feed that area.

My second and final point relates to Dunfermline College. I speak with a particular interest in sport and recreation. In Dunfermline we have a quite outstanding PE college which is unique and unchallenged in Scotland and, inded, within the United Kingdom. It has had a great record since 1905 of producing women teachers of the highest calibre, many of them internationals and Olympic competitors. The college also has a record in music and dance unparalleled in Britain.

The Minister for Sport is going around the country trying to develop centres of excellence from which stem the high quality competitors and participants in sport in the generation ahead, yet here is a centre of excellence in women's sport which the Under-Secretary of State is doing his level best to close. The Under-Secretary must have a word with those who know something about sport because he is obviously woefully out of touch with what is going on not only in Scotland but in the United Kingdom.

The consultative document says that Dundee appears to possess all the facilities for training. The Under-Secretary must be out of his mind if he allowed that statement to be published. He should listen to what his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has been telling him week in and week out. Dundee has insufficient pitches for a college of physical education. There is an insufficient number of courts to play tennis and the gym needs major construction. Has the Minister gone on to the trampoline and hit his head on the roof? Has he discovered that the floor is not sprung for country dancing and does he realise that the swimming pool is far below the standard for international competition and training? Has he discovered that the changing facilities are woefully inadequate and that the residencies are 1½ miles away from the facilities?

The Minister cannot go on saying that there will be no drawback if Dunfermline is moved to Dundee. Does he also appreciate that Meadowbank and the Commonwealth pool are within a reasonable distance of Dunfermline College and are hopelessly out of touch with Dundee?

Rather than trying to maintain a high standard of women's sport in Scotland the Minister is doing his level best to destroy it by suggesting that we remove this high quality college from its present site. Does he not accept that at the moment Dunfermline College has 576 students, although it was built for 500? A reduction of 10 per cent. would have no major impact on the college being full or under-used. The Minister will have to bear all these points in mind and I hope that when he comes to wind up he will give the answers to hon. Members of this House who have every right to know but who have not been consulted in the true sense of that word.

6.9 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) who, rather than wishing the Under-Secretary of State a happy birthday, seemed to be inviting him to bang his head on the ceiling.

I have listened with some incredulity to what the Secretary of State had to say, because many of us hoped that the debate would be used as an opportunity for the Government to state their future intentions. There was not one crumb of hope held out to anyone who cares about Scottish education. All the arguments that were put forward following the publication of the consultative document were totally ignored, be they educational, economic, or demographic. Not one of those arguments was answered by the Secretary of State. We are not one bit further forward, except that we are told that we might have an announcement some time early in May.

One can assume, therefore, like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), that if some hope is to come from that document, the announcement will be made on Monday 2nd May, but if it is a bad statement, we can expect it on Wednesday 4th May in view of the timing of the district elections. But I am sure that whenever the right hon. Gentleman makes his statement it will not make one jot of difference to how the people in Scotland vote, because they have seen through this government and are determined to show their strength of feeling at the district elections, since they have been denied a General Election because of the Liberal pact with the Government.

I return again to the very important educational arguments, which have not been answered by the Scottish Office. The Secretary of State says that if we continue to have the same level of intake into our colleges, we are training people for unemployment. He still accepts that the present standards in our schools are the best that we can have and the best that we can expect from now on. We heard once more the argument that the pupil-teacher ratio is the best we have ever had and that there is no part-time education. That argument is educationally and statistically unsound.

First, anyone who knows anything about what goes not in Scottish schools know that the way in which these statistics are worked out does not reflect reality in the schools system. Administrative staff—teachers who have become administrators—and others are not taken into account in working out the ratios, with the exception of the headmaster and the deputy headmaster. The method totally ignores those who, like careers masters or guidance teachers, spend a great deal of their time outwith the classroom but who are included in the working out of the ratios. It is unusual to find in a secondary school a teacher with only 15 pupils, unless it happens to be in a remedial department, where special considerations apply.

The same applies to primary schools, where we have the development of composite classes. In a new primary school in my constituency there are six empty classrooms, but the teachers are taking 33 pupils per class, as laid down in Circular 819. The headmistress's view is that if she could have the teachers, she could reduce class size and get rid of composite classes, which no one wants. Yet these are the standards that the Government accept.

The posts are available for teachers if we would only care to admit it. But the Government are not happy about admitting that their statistics can sometimes be wrong. This week I had letters from lecturers saying that part-time education existed in other ways, such as earlier closing, or saving time both at the end and beginning of the day.

From this Labour Gvernment we have had no reference to the possiblity of compensating the deprived areas, which exist not only in West Scotland—although particularly so there—but elsewhere. Ministers representing such areas should be black ashamed of themseslves for not saying that the Government will give compensation to the children in them for the years of deprivation that they have suffered and their years of part-time education. It seems that they have no humanitarian concern for the children in those areas.

A reduction in standards has occurred under this Government. The standards in areas such as my constituency, which were fortunate and had a good pupilteached ratio, have been reduced by the Government's policy, because teachers were not replaced. Yet the Secretary of State is happy to say that this is the best we can expect. But Labour Governments usually adopt the lowest standard as being the best.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

Surely the hon. Lady must be aware of the problem in the so-called deprived areas where there are too many pupils per teacher. Surely she must be aware of the problem of getting teachers to those schools. Does she think that, even if we increased the teacher numbers in Scotland, short of directing teachers to these schools, there would be any improvement in them?

Mrs. Bain

I accept the difficulties and that one cannot direct labour in the teaching profession any more than one can in any other work. But I know teachers in my area who would be willing to travel to some of the deprived areas if they were guaranteed that it would help the educational progress of these youngsters. But the jobs are not available in the deprived areas under the present standards laid down by the Government.

I return to the subject of the intake and pre-service training of teachers. I have visited four or five colleges of education since this consultative document was produced. In each all the lecturers indicated that they would like to be able to spend more time with the students when the students are out in the schools training to be teachers, but because of the amount of work that is put on the lecturers, they cannot do so. We all know that the best place for learning how to teach is within the schools system. With the help of tutors there more often for longer periods, many of the problems of new young teachers could be ironed out at that stage.

The Secretary of State said that at no point had anyone ever conceded that lecturers had not been able to cope with the various divergent areas of education—the new processes, the new ideas. The Association of Lecturers in Colleges of Education in Scotland brought out a document early in this affair, indicating that lecturers had the feeling that they had not been able properly to prepare youngsters for end courses—for example, on such matters as the raising of the school leaving age and curriculum development. It admitted that the colleges had not helped the young people adequately. On that basis we can rule out the idea that, because we have a reduction in the number of students in the colleges, we can also get rid of lecturers.

I want to refer to the Bachelor of Education course. I noticed with some interest a month ago that, according to The Times Educational Supplement, the Advisory Council south of the border had recommended to the Department of Education and Science that there should be moves towards an all-graduate profession south of the border. Notre Dame College of Education lies in my constituency. It is not to have provision for a B.Ed degree, unlike other colleges in Scotland. The small provision that it has had is to be taken away, with the result that students who could have been offered the course will be turned down. Yet this stage in the education debate would be an ideal opportunity for the Scottish Office to introduce a four-year B.Ed degree course into all the colleges of education.

Mr. Dempsey

Would not the hon. Lady agree that the B.Ed Course being taken away from Notre Dame is bound to make that college less attractive to students in future?

Mrs. Bain

I could not agree more. That was one of the points put to me by the lecturers there. They are deeply anxious lest, taken in conjunction with what has happened at Craiglockhart, not enough Roman Catholic teachers will be trained to teach the Roman Catholic population.

I was saying that this would be an ideal time for the Scottish Office to consider the introduction of a four-year B. Ed. course in all the colleges, so that we could move towards an all-graduate profession. There would not necessarily be much greater expense, and it might not have to be met until about 1981, when, so we are told, we shall see the economic miracle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would also allow absorption into the education system of those teachers who are now unemployed. It would give a great deal of status to student teachers, who would like to see themselves take more courses and not just one or two.

We have heard the old argument about economics and saving money. I ask the Secretary of State and his colleagues "What price education?". Any savings made as a result of this ridiculous document will be at the expense of future generations of Scottish children. I cannot accept the flippant attitude of the Scottish Office towards the demographic argument—its idea that some years will be good years for the birth rate and that others will be bad, and that we should keep our fingers crossed. Are we to understand that the Secretary of State plans to bring out a consultative document frequently, depending on the birth rate each year?

Finally, I refer to a telegram that I received today from lecturers in Scotland saying that the debate must put on the Westminster record what many Scots have thought for a long time—that the SED is incompetent in educational matters. I endorse that view and hope that many of the points raised by hon. Members, including myself, both in today's debate and in previous debates, as to the effectiveness of the SED, will be answered by the Under-Secretary, since they were not answered by the Secreary of State.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

One of the biggest disadvantages, among many, of our entry into the Common Market is that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is unable to be with us tonight. In an Adjournment debate four or five weeks ago my hon. Friend posed some very interesting questions to the Under-Secretary of State. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the answers. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will try to give an answer to some of the questions posed at that time, and also to questions put in the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee.

When he is winding up the debate he should not pay too much attention to what was said by some of the Tory spokesmen. Frankly, I have never heard anything so hypocritical. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, claims that it is because of cuts in public expenditure that we are having to suffer all this injustice within the education system.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

I did not say that.

Mr. Canavan

Yet it is obvious that if the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) were the Prime Minister, if the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) were the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if the hon. Member for Globtik were the Secretary of State for Scotland, we should have to suffer cuts in public expenditure that would make even the present Chancellor of the Exchequer look like Santa Claus. We should be lucky to have even the remnants of an education system left in Scotland.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

We do not know whether this is a cut in public expenditure. What are the savings, if any, of scheme A? What would be the savings of our schemes B and C? We have not been given the facts on which to come to a conclusion.

Mr. Canavan

I take that point and I hope that we can be given more financial information in the winding-up speech, but the hon. Member said that saving public expenditure was one of the main reasons behind the document, and he has suggested it openly elsewhere. It is a pity that he cannot substantiate this claim and propose better economic policies, because, if a Tory Government were in office at the moment, it would be interesting to see what exactly they would do about diverting resources from unproductive things, such as defence, into more important things, such as education and the other social services.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will pay more attention to the voice of the Labour movement in Scotland—for example, to the constructive alternative suggestions made at the Scottish conference of the Labour Party in Perth. We did not just look at the document and condemn it negatively. We also put forward constructive alternatives.

We do not believe in training teachers for unemployment. I do not know whether I misheard the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain), but I do not think that any teacher has at yet been paid off within the public sector of education in Scotland. I know that the Highland Region—which is Tory-controlled under the guise of "Independent"—tried to do that, but, fortunately, the EIS and the unions stopped it. Perhaps the hon. Lady would clarify what she said.

Mrs. Bain

The hon. Gentleman does not realise that in the Dunbarton division of Strathclyde those qualified teachers who taught part time were paid off irrespective of whether the school was to have an equivalent number of teachers in the following year.

Mr. Canavan

I am glad to have the hon. Lady's clarification—that it is part-time teachers. My information is that the part-time teachers were given the option of taking a full-time job or resigning. That is not the same as being given the sack.

However, I agree with what the hon. Lady said about the pupil-teacher ratio. It is not the best measure for judging teacher sufficiency or teacher shortage. It can cover a multitude of sins within the individual school situation. I hone that the Under-Secretary will bear that in mind. It is not enough to say that the pupil-teacher ratio is the best ever. My mother was taught in classes of 50 and I was taught at times in classes of 40. Now that we have got it down to just above 30, there is no room for complacency. We have not yet reached the optimum standard by any means.

A composite resolution was passed at the Scottish conference of the Labour Party. If the hon. Member for Cathcart, who is very fond of making seated interjections, had bothered to come to Perth, he might have got some education himself. At the conference we suggested ways of improving staffing standards in deprived areas, and we made suggestions about the extension of pre-school education, which is very important. We have almost had to abandon temporarily the pre-school building programme, and so it is more important than ever that we should try to use whatever manpower of womanpower there is available to begin educating children before they even go to school, and not just within the formal nursery school situation. Even in play groups children and parents could do with some of the help and advice of qualified teachers.

Another suggestion put forward at the conference referred to the extension of education for the mentally handicapped. Recently the convener of Strathclyde Regional Council, a good friend of mine, said that in Strathclyde part-time education had been ended completely. With respect to Geoff Shaw, that is not true. It appears from the reply that I have had from Mr. Burns, the deputy director of education in Strathclyde, that there are several hundred mentally handicapped children in Strathclyde having either part-time education or no education at all. This is one of the many important gaps in the education service throughout Scotland.

Another suggestion was for the extension of adult education, involving implementation of the Alexander Report. This would involve an additional 200 full-time staff, but the proposals would also mean a great many more part-time staff. Some of the staff, full time and part time, may already be in the education service. Some of them are in the universities, for example.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who is a university teacher, is not here. I do not know whether he is a qualified teacher in a school. I know many university teachers who could do with a bit of training in what might be called the pedagogic skills necessary for teaching rather than just academic attainment.

Another suggestion was for the extension of in-service training for teachers, not just on a city-based structure but on a regional structure. This is very important in regard to Callander Park College and Craigie College to enable people in the regions to have access to training.

As for the introduction of a four-year degree course for all teachers, another suggestion made at the conference, I endorse completely what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East said. I was very disappointed with the one word reply that I had to a recent Question asking the Secretary of State to undertake a reexamination of the case for a four-year Bachelor of Education degree for Scottish teachers in place of the existing diploma. The answer was "No"—full stop. There was no justification. No reason was given. Nothing further was said in reply. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, either today or at some future date, will give some education arguments in support of these one-word answers.

Lastly, the conference touched on the need for diversification of courses as part of a radical reappraisal of the whole of tertiary education in Scotland. There is a multiplicity of kinds of colleges in Scotland, and the colleges of education are only one part of tertiary education. We cannot look at the colleges of education in complete isolation from the rest of tertiary education, and I should like to see the colleges being encouraged to diversify. It is not enough to have colleges specialising or sub-specialising exclusively in subjects, no matter how important a skill may be—for example, physical education in Dunfermline College. All colleges should be encouraged to diversify and to build up resources in order to give a more comprehensive choice of subject and courses.

One subject not mentioned in the debate is the need to use whatever resources we have to help educate and train overseas students for teacher-training. I asked the Minister for Overseas Development a question about this last week and he said that the Government have in fact put some money towards education facilities for overseas students in this country. Would it not be possible to use some of the vacant places in the college structure in Scotland to her) under-developed countries? Craiglockhart may be a small college, but it has done much in this respect, as befits a Catholic college. The Catholic Church is an international institution very concerned with under developed countries.

When a speaker from Craiglockhart College came to speak in my home town of Bannockburn, the college did not send an English, Welsh, or Irish spokesman; it sent a lecturer and a student from Sierra Leone. Perhaps that is some indication of the importance placed on the education of overseas students by that college.

I briefly wish to mention the subject areas in which there is still a shortage of teachers. The Government have been criticised for not taking advantage of the money raised by the Budget. I hope that the Secretary of State takes full advantage of any money mentioned in the Budget. No one seems to realise that there has been a mathematics conversion course in existence for the best part of a decade. As a former teacher of mathematics myself, I still have some contacts in this field, and when I did some research I found that in Dundee College of Technology, Stow College, Kirkcaldy Technical College, and Falkirk Technical College, there are, or were, in-service courses to enable students qualified as primary or secondary teachers to qualify in mathematics.

Unfortunately the college is thinking of abandoning these courses because of lack of applications. I do not know whether this is entirely a financial disincentive. It might benefit Scottish education if the Secretary of State could get his hands on some of the Treasury's money, advertise the shortage of applications, and get more students on such courses.

I ask him to suspend judgment on this document until he has studied all the evidence put to him. I plead with him to avoid any closures or hastily conceived mergers. I voted against the Government in the Scottish Grand Committee and, unless I receive a very encouraging response from the Under-Secretary tonight, I shall be very seriously tempted either to vote against again or to abstain.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) made clear in the opening debate that there was no argument or disagreement on the Conservative side of the House about the view that a reduction in teacher supply in Scotland is inevitable. The difference turns on the question of how that reduction should be brought about and how the colleges should be asked to cope with the reductions in teacher supply and teacher training.

The Government believe that four of the 10 colleges should be closed. That is the effect of the Secretary of State's consultative document. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart said, consultations have taken place, but these consultations leave us with the significant knowledge that no organisation or independent person has appeared from anywhere to support the Secretary of State's proposals.

We have tried hard to understand these proposals, not least to find out what financial benefits might flow from the closures—if that is the object—and what would be the implications for Scottish education. That was why we initiated the two-day debate in the Scottish Grand Committee in February, one month after the consultative document was published. In that debate the Secretary of State stated and re-stated the problem. We do not deny that a problem exists.

On the final day the Under-Secretary of State treated us to what proved to be a series of personal disclaimers that the subject was one for which he had responsibility in any way. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) took advantage of almost an entire Adjournment debate to entertain the House with his unique brand of filibustering, while again attempting to disclaim any personal responsibility. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies to this debate tonight we shall have a more serious approach from him. Although there seems to be some doubt about whether that Under-Secretary and the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) actually support the Government's proposals, there is clearly no evidence that they consider the matter an issue on which they should resign and, because of that, I think it all the more important that they should treat the subject with seriousness today.

We continued to press the hon. Member for Queen's Park, and on 7th March, in the debate on the Consolidated Fund, he assured us: No final decision has yet been made on any particular college."—[Official Report, 7th March 1977; Vol. 927, c. 1045.] Once again in this debate we are asking Ministers what consideration they have given to the education aspect of the question.

A number of hon. Members have already mentioned the four-year degree courses in primary degrees. I do not think that any satisfactory answer has yet been given on why the opportunity has not been taken to introduce them.

Extending in-service training was mentioned by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackinosh). The whole question of in-service training is not just about how it has been done or is being done now. This is an opportunity for the colleges to give a new look to the whole question.

On the provision of additional teachers in deprived areas, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) mentioned a letter that the Under-Secretary issued on 24th December, a letter that seemed to be motivated more by the Christmas spirit than by any serious intention. I should like to know what action has followed that letter and what action he proposes to take following publication of the book that I received yesterday from the Scottish Education Department entitled "English for Slower Learning Children"—

Mr. Ian Campbell (Dunbartonshire, West)

Is that why the hon. Gentleman is reading it?

Mr. Fletcher

I do not think that this is a funny matter or that we should laugh at the misfortune of some children in Scotland who are struggling with an education system that is far from satisfactory. Section six of the book is concerned with working with slower-learning children. I shall read it slowly so that the slower-learning children here can understand it: In no other teaching situation in a school is the relationship between the teacher and pupil so important. Upon it hangs not only the possible advances in the pupil's learning, but, just as importantly, his development as a happy and mature human being. The book goes on—I hope that the Under-Secretary will pay attention, because it does not look as though he has had time to read the book yet— If the class consists mostly of less able children, the numbers must certainly drop, and for work with children of the lowest ability, struggling with literacy, five or six should be the maximum. Slower learning children are so insecure that their first requirement is a stable one-to-one relationship with the teacher. Surely, as the Under-Secretary's Department has pronounced on the subject and published this book and as there are discussions taking place about the future of education and pupil-teacher ratios in Scotland, it would be encouraging if we could be told that some consideration is being given in these consultations and in the final decision to questions such as these.

The reduction in teacher training places will not automatically put teaching applicants themselves on the dole, but many of them will take up places in further education colleges, thereby reducing the number of places available for ordinary school leavers, the least able of whom will have to join the queue of the unemployed. Just what will that do to the Government's grand plans for job creation?

I was particularly impressed by the reference of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian to the intake and to the fact that there should be some margin for those who are willing and able to train as teachers, although there might not be a guaranteed job at the end. The Minister should discuss that matter with the profession, if he has not already done so.

The shortages of teachers in specific subjects bring into question the competence of Ministers. Last week's Budget made provision in England and Wales for the retraining of teachers in maths and science subjects, but it seems obvious to any observer that Scottish Ministers were caught unawares by the announcement and that they cannot tell us today what share of the funds made available will be allocated to Scotland.

The Minister knows why he and the Secretary of State were caught unawares—because the Scottish Education Department, at least until today and with little likelihood that that will be changed today, did not know what subject shortages existed among teachers in Scotland. That is entirely the fault of Ministers. I do not support those who say that the fault lies somehow with civil servants. If there is anything wrong with the way in which the SED is run, that is clearly the fault of Ministers and it is up to them to sort things out.

On 13th January I asked the Secretary of State for details of the shortage of maths teachers. He said that the information would be made available in a few weeks and that he would send the details to me. I heard nothing more, so on 24th March I repeated the Question, only to be told that the information would be published "shortly". Since then we have had the Budget and the statement that in England and Wales there is a need for 1,120 more maths teachers, 420 more physics teachers and 520 more teachers of craft and design.

I should dearly like to know how in England and Wales, which must have about 500,000 teachers, this information can be produced on demand, yet in Scotland, after months of asking, we still do not know the facts of teacher shortages. Why does it take so long to get this fairly straightforward information from Scottish Ministers?

It is no wonder that with that sort of track record there is little confidence in the ability of the Secretary of State and his Ministers to provide any useful information and make any worthwhile recommendations on teacher training in Scotland. He can hardly do that when he does not know what the problem is and what the shortages are. It is not surprising, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he has no intention of submitting a revised consultative document to Parliament. Clearly, the rigours of parliamentary scrutiny are far too much for the right hon. Gentleman and for his rather detached hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary.

In a letter to me dated 23rd March, the Under-Secretary said: It is not the Secretary of State's intention to submit a further consultative paper to Parliament before reaching decisions. Why not? Of course, one might ask what makes the right hon. Gentleman think that he will get it right a second or even a third time when he has made such a mess of his first proposals to Parliament and the profession.

What have we learned today from the Secretary of State? Again, he stated and restated the problem. That is not a matter in dispute. He then said that existing policies in teacher training are all right and will be continued and that existing pupil-teacher ratios are all right. With respect, is that not just a little complacent in view of the evidence of dissatisfaction in Scotland about education standards?

The Secretary of State has again assured the Catholic population of Scotland that if Craiglockhart is closed, that will not be a threat to the 1918 Act. I am not a Catholic, but if I were, I would not believe him. If Craiglockhart is closed, Notre Dame will be terribly exposed and Ministers will be asking in the near future, "If the East of Scotland can manage without a Catholic college, why do we need one in the West of Scotland?"

Mr. Campbell


Mr. Fletcher

There is no shame in that. That is a real fear. I would say to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Campbell) that I have taken the trouble to consult on this matter. I know that this fear exists.

Nothing is happening in Scotland in regard to maths and other teachers, and we must wait until May for any final conclusions from the Secretary of State. Scottish Ministers have made heavy going of this whole operation because the Secretary of State does everything himself. This is the biggest Scottish Office team that we have ever had, but it is by no means the best. The organisation seems to consist of a Cabinet Minister and five Parliamentary Private Secretaries. There is no proper delegation of authority and responsibility, so the Under-Secretary of State cannot act as he should act—as the Minister of Education in Scotland.

The trouble with that situation is that people start blaming the system of government and the constitution for Ministers' ineptitude. There is no solution to be found there, because the reason that we are in such a mess in education and with these colleges is simply that the Secretary of State and his colleagues have done a rotten job on the question and look like continuing to do a rotten job. That is why tonight we shall force a vote to try to force some sense into the Government.

6.47 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)

I feel sorry for the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher): he is not really a bad lad but he started off bad and then he fell away.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Give us some answers.

Mr. McElhone

The hon. Gentleman came to the conclusion that there was some doubt about the authority of the Secretary of State as regards his Ministers. Anyone who knows the situation in the Scottish Office and has had some Scottish Office experience will understand that situation, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) understands it.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

I do not understand it.

Mr. McElhone

Time does not allow me to go into all the points made this evening—

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Here we go: try some.

Mr. McElhone

I shall not rehearse the arguments about the birth rate, the pupil-teacher ratio or the number of college places, but I should be wrong if I did not correct the record in view of the many misleading statements made tonight and in other debates about the use of colleges. Time permits only a brief comment, but I would mention the occupancy rate. Callendar Park has a 45 per cent. occupancy rate, at Craigie it is 49 per cent. and at Dundee 42 per cent. I hope that all those Conservative Members who keep talking about Dundee College will remember that it was started under a Tory Government. I hope that that will be borne in mind by those who criticise Dundee.

In terms of numbers, Callender Park has 900 teaching places and 404 students; Craigie has 800 places and 397 students; Dundee, built by the Tories, has 1,800 places and 753 students.

Everyone will accept that there must be a reduction. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Cathcart agree that there has to be a substantial reduction in student intake. That is different from his earlier statements—

Mr. Teddy Taylor rose

Mr. McElhone

It is not untypical of the hon. Member, who is prepared to shift his ground on any occasion—

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the Minister allow me a second?

Mr. McElhone

—on any occasion—

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Give us the quotation. Where is the evidence?

Mr. McElhone

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has got off to his usual abrasive start and is trying to disrupt the debate. Hansard will show that time after time, while I have been trying to give answers, he has been jumping in with totally irrelevant interjections. All I would say to the hon. Member for Cathcart is that he now leads a very mixed crew. There was the exercise that he held in the Grand Committee, when he brought out the Tory dinosaurs. The hon. Member tried to claim that it was a meaningful vote, but it was a vote that meant nothing.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire) rose

Mr. McElhone

I am sorry, time does not allow me to give way. I will deal with the comments of the Member for Edinburgh, North. He played a dangerous game in the latter part of his speech.

Mr. Fairbairn

Give us some information.

Mr. McElhone

I repeat, there is no risk to Catholic education in the West or East of Scotland. No one has done more for Catholic education than my right hon. Friend when he was Under-Secretary of State. I hope that we shall not go down that road again.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

I do not believe the hon. Member.

Mr. McElhone

It is unscrupulous of the Conservative and Unionist Party to play the green card for political purposes. As for subject shortages, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North obviously did not hear my right hon. Friend's speech. He gave the figures for subject shortages and explained that—well before the Budget—he and I had been considering this subject, in particular in Strathclyde, which is the only region with shortages in mathematics, technical subjects and physics.

There are unemployed mathematics teachers in the Grampian area and an excess of mathematics teachers in the Lothian area. Are the Tories suggesting that we should direct labour? I would love to be able to say to the teachers in the Lothian and Grampian regions "Go down and teach in Strathclyde."

The hon. Member for Cathcart knows the situation. Incidentally, I doubt whether the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) has taken the opportunity of teaching in a deprived area. I would like to see her stand up and say that when she loses her seat, as she surely will, she will teach in such an area. The truth is that during our period of office in Glasgow Corporation all too often the teachers opted out of the deprived areas and went instead to other counties. We set up the Roberts Committee with a view to ensuring the provision of extra teachers to go into Easterhouses and other areas. We still could not get them.

I was delighted to receive a letter from Strathclyde's Director of Education thanking my right hon. Friend and me for our efforts in getting extra teachers into Strathclyde last year. We no longer have part-time education. There are now 800 extra teachers. I accept that there are subject shortages but for the first time in 25 years there is no part-time education.

I come now to the blatant hypocrisy of the Conservative Party. If I treat the Opposition in a frivolous fashion it is because they do not deserve to be treated seriously. They know that the only White Paper which they brought out on this subject during their period of Government said that they would need 25,800 primary teachers by 1975–76 and 27,300 secondary teachers by 1977–78. That is a total of 53,100 teachers—an ambitious programme. The then Tory Government said that after that they would have to stop employing teachers in Scotland. Today, instead of 53,100 teachers there are 55,000 teachers. I am not taking that hypocrisy from the Conservative Party, which time and again pleads the case of the deprived areas yet makes no attempt to help them when it is in office.

It is all right for the hon. Member for Cathcart to go on complaining, but I warn the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North, who is a nice fellow, that in taking Maggie's shilling he has taken on a dangerous crew and captain. All I got today—and I am sorry to be unkind—was the squawking of the parrot sitting on Long John Silver's shoulder. The only difference is that this particular Long John does not have a leg missing.

I address myself now to a former Minister in the Scottish Office, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro)—

Mr. Teddy Taylor rose

Mr. McElhone

The hon. Member for Dumfries slumbers away like an old political dinosaur. I cannot help quoting the story of the man who stood up—

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Answer the questions.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McElhone

I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. and learned Gentleman. [Interruption.] The tragedy is that the SNP does not have a policy on education.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Has the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. McElhone

Once the SNP has a policy I shall consider its views.

I return to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. They know the extent of their hypocrisy when they claim to be concerned about the teaching profession yet have to admit that if they had been in office now the number of trainee teachers going into colleges would have long since dropped.

We have to accept that my right hon. Friend has gone through a meaningful consultative exercise. The tragedy is that the Tories do not understand consultation, as they learned only too well when they butchered UCS and Rolls-Royce. They must understand that my right hon. Friend has carried out a meaningful exercise in consultation. All of those whom we have consulted are grateful for the time and care that has been taken in ensuring that all views have been considered before reaching a final decision.

Mr. Fairbairn rose

Mr. McElhone

I am sorry. The hon. and learned Gentleman keeps standing up but I cannot give way with about three minutes to go before the end of the debate.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman has not said anything yet.

Mr. McElhone

All I want to say to a motley crew who keep on shouting is that until they come forward with an alternative strategy—

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

We have.

Mr. McElhene

Tory Members should be peaceful and listen. My right hon. Friend has considered the views of everyone. The Opposition know that a delegation led by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), comprising Conservative Members and Members of other parties, came to see us. I heard the delegation's views. I have met people at the colleges. I have discussed this with Craiglockhart, Callendar and Dunfermline. I know the views of the colleges, as does my right hon. Friend.

It is no use the Opposition coming along with mere indignation. The people I speak to in education have no respect for the Conservatives. They must be honest and accept that if they were still in power they would have cut back teacher training long ago. That is in the Tory White Paper and it has never been challenged. [Interruption.] I am sorry that we get this tirade of abuse—

Mr. Alexander Fletcher


Mr. McElhone

—each time a Government Minister stands up. The truth is that the Opposition do not want to hear the answers. They want only to make political capital out of the difficulties in education.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 203, Noes 185.

Division No. 103] AYES [6.59 p.m.
Alison, Michael Grist, Ian Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Arnold, Tom Grylls, Michael Page, Richard (Workington)
Atkins, Rt. Hon. H. (Spelthorne) Hall, Sir John Pardoe, John
Bain, Mrs. Margaret Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Penhallgon, David
Baker, Kenneth Hampson, Dr Keith Pink, R. Bonner
Beith, A. J. Hannam, John Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Bell, Ronald Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Benyon, W. Hastings, Stephen Raison, Timothy
Berry, Hon. Anthony Hawkins, Paul Rathbone, Tim
Biffen, John Hayhoe, Barney Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Blaker, Peter Henderson, Douglas Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Body, Richard Hicks, Robert Rees-Davies, W. R.
Boscawen, Hon. Robert Hodgson, Robin Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bottomley, Peter Holland, Philip Rhodes James, R.
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hooson, Emlyn Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Bradford, Rev Robert Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rifkind, Malcolm
Brittan, Leon Hutchison, Michael Clark Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Brooke, Peter Jenkin, R. Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Brotherton, Michael Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Royle, Sir Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Kershaw, Anthony Sainsbury, Tim
Buck, Antony Kilfedder, James Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Bulmer, Esmond King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shersby, Michael
Canavan, Dennis Knight, Mrs Jill Sillars, James
Carlisle, Mark Lamont, Norman Silvester, Fred
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Channon, Paul Lawrence, Ivan Skeet, T. H. H.
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Lawson, Nigel Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Le Merchant, Spencer Speed, Keith
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Spence, John
Clegg, Walter Loveridge, John Sproat, Iain
Cockcroft, John Luce, Richard Stainton, Keith
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) McAdden, Sir Stephen Stanbrook, Ivor
Cope, John MacCormick, Iain Steel, Rt Hon David
Costain, A. P. McCrindle, Robert Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Dean, Paul (N. Somerset) McCusker, H. Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Dempsey, James Macfarlane, Nell Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey MacGregor, John Stradling Thomas, J.
Drayson, Burnaby MacKay, Andrew James Tapsell, Peter
du Cann, Rt. Hon. Edward Mackintosh, John P. Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Durant, Tony Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Dykes, Hugh McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Tebbit, Norman
Eden, Rt. Hon Sir John McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Emery, Peter Mates, Michael Thompson, George
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Mather, Carol Townsend, Cyril D.
Eyre, Reginald Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Trotter, Neville
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mawby, Ray van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fairgrieve, Russell Maxwell-Hyslop. Robin Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Farr, John Meyer, Sir Anthony Viggers, Peter
Finsberg, Geoffrey Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Wakeham, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Moate, Roger Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Fookes, Miss Janet Molyneaux, James Watt, Hamish
Forman, Nigel Monro, Hector Weatherill, Bernard
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Montgomery, Fergus Wells, John
Fox, Marcus More, Jasper (Ludlow) Welsh, Andrew
Freud, Clement Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Morris, Michael (Northampton S.) Wigley, Dafydd
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham) Morrison, Hon. Peter (Chester) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Goodhart, Philip Neave, Airey Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Goodhew, Victor Nelson, Anthony Younger, Hon George
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Newton, Tony
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Nott, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gray, Hamish Onslow, Cranley Mr. Jim Lester and
Grieve, Percy Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.
Allaun, Frank Bagier, Gordon A. T. Bradley, Tom
Anderson, Donald Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Archer, Peter Bates, Alf Brocklebank-Fowler, C.
Armstrong, Ernest Bean, R. E. Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Ashton, Joe Bishop, E. S. Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)
Atkinson, Norman Blenkinsop, Arthur Buchan, Norman
Buchanan, Richard Hooley, Frank Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Horam, John Richardson, Miss Jo
Campbell, Ian Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Carmichael, Neil Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Roderick, Caerwyn
Carter-Jones, Lewis Huckfield, Les Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Rodgers, Rt Hon W. (Stockton)
Clemitson, Ivor Hunter, Adam Rose, Paul B.
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cohen, Stanley Janner, Greville Rowlands, Ted
Coleman, Donald Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ryman, John
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen John, Brynmor Sandelson, Neville
Concannon, J. D. Johnson, James (Hull West) Sedgemore, Brian
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C.) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Corbett, Robin Kaufman, Gerald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cowans, Harry Kelley, Richard Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Kerr, Russell Silverman, Julius
Cronin, John Lamble, David Small, William
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cryer, Bob Lamond, James Spearing, Nigel
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Lever, Rt Hon Harold Spriggs, Leslie
Davidson, Arthur Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stallard, A. W.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lipton, Marcus Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Luard, Evan Stoddart, David
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Stott, Roger
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Strang, Gavin
Deakins, Eric McCartney, Hugh Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Doig, Peter McElhone, Frank Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dormand, J. D. MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce MacKenzie, Gregor Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Duffy, A.E.P. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dunnett, Jack McNamara, Kevin Tinn, James
Eadie, Alex Madden, Max Torney, Tom
Edge, Geoff Marks, Kenneth Tuck, Raphael
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Urwin, T.W.
English, Michael Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Meacher, Michael Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Faulds, Andrew Mendelson, John Watkinson, John
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mikardo, Ian Weetch, Ken
Flannery, Martin Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) White, James (Pollok)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshwe) Whitehead, Phillip
Freeson, Reginald Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Gilbert, Dr John Moyle, Roland Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Ginsburg, David Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Golding, John Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Gourlay, Harry Newens, Stanley Wise, Mrs Audrey
Graham, Ted Ogden, Eric Woodall, Alec
Grant, George (Morpeth) Park, George Woof, Robert
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Parker, John Young, David (Bolton E)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pavitt, Laurie
Hatton, Frank Pendry, Tom TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Perry, Ernest Mr. Joseph Harper and
Heffer, Eric S. Price, William (Rugby) Mr. James Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Adjourned at thirteen minutes past Seven o'clock.

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