HC Deb 15 February 1977 vol 926 cc248-50
17. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has to deal with the problems involved in the relationship between education and industry.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I hope to announce proposals relating to the schools when the extensive consultations now in progress are complete. I am also considering how the many existing links between industry and higher and further education might be strengthened but intend to have discussions with others concerned before reaching conclusions.

Mr. Forman

I welcome that promise of a policy, if not its fulfilment. Does the Secretary of State recognise that a career in industry for many young people will become attractive again only if they can see some real prospect of avoiding the crushing tax burden that is put upon them by the Government? Does she also recognise that it is vital to give adequate teaching in mathematics and technical subjects that will better equip young people to enter industry, where the demands of technology mean that they will require those skills in order to succeed?

Mrs. Williams

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and not for me. However, I should point out that the Opposition consistently argue for individual increases in public expenditure as well as strongly favouring general cuts.

On the second part of the question, there is at present a project for teaching about industry mounted by the Schools Council and another, "Understanding British Industry", mounted by the CBI. In addition, we are discussing with the schools the whole question of making industrial studies part of the curriculum. That matter will be covered in the debate.

Mr. George Rodgers

Will my right hon. Friend constantly bear in mind that the purpose of education is not simply to provide a service to industry?

Mrs. Williams

My right hon. Friend constantly bears that in mind and is very much against the idea that education is concerned with producing vocational pegs to go into square holes. I am also very much aware that, at a time when industrial democracy may be the next horizon of democracy in this country, it would be irresponsible of the schools not to familiarise young people with the pattern of industry.

Mr. Emery

What consultation has the Secretary of State had with the Consultative Council of Professional Management Organisations or with individual management institutes, which would be delighted to help her to save money by co-operating in her general scheme?

Mrs. Williams

My Department is generally in touch with a number of professional institutes, the CBI, chambers of commerce, and so forth. Many of them will be represented at the debates which are shortly to take place.

Mr. Corbett

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to the need to improve the educational standards of managers? Is she aware that, for example, less than one-third of managers in British manufacturing industry are educated up to university or equivalent standard?

Mrs. Williams

For reasons which others of my hon. Friends have advanced, I do not think that management education is a suitable subject for schools. I am aware that management education at the higher education level is important. Consideration is being given to how we can direct more of it to the problems of management in industry.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is the Secretary of State aware that a principal reason why there are difficulties in getting young people to go into industry is that a considerable section of the Labour Party spends its whole time propagating the gospel that the purpose of industry is to exploit those who work in it?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman can no doubt pursue that argument with others. Industry, whether in public or private hands, is the source of the basic wealth of this country, and that aspect needs to be got across in education.