§ Mr. Speaker
I have a short statement to make. First, I want to remind hon. Members that we are on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill and hon. Members are able to speak but once. I hope that hon. Members will remember that.
Secondly, I have a more important statement to make. Two hours and 20 minutes ago I was advised that the next debate was one that could give cause for substantial doubt whether it was covered by the Vote under which it is to be discussed. I have given much thought to the matter and I believe that it is unreasonable and that it offends against one's sense of fair play to rule out the debate at such short notice. Therefore, I shall permit the debate, but I want the House to know that I shall certainly not regard this as a precedent. On the Consolidated Fund Bill we must keep to our rule that we debate that which is covered by the Vote. Since there is a little doubt in my mind on this occasion, I shall allow the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
I know that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) is eager, but I must remind the House that the next debate is not about the closure of teacher training colleges in Scotland. 1012 Passing references are inevitable but to go into it in depth would certainly not be covered by the subject which has been chosen by the hon. Member for Dumfries.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
My hon. Friends and I are grateful for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. We appreciate the opportunity to raise the matter this evening since many of us have come down from Scotland especially for the debate. I am pleased that the Under-Secretary is in his place, but I am sorry that I must begin by saying one or two unkind things about his handling of the situation. I shall relate the total complement of teachers in Scotland to the subject of the debate—superannuation. The hon. Gentleman must accept that he has handled this matter so far with lamentable inefficiency. I doubt whether any Scottish Education Department Minister has set out so successfully to put every back up in Scotland.
The consultative paper that we are discussing in relation to the provision of teachers opens up the numbers of teachers that will be required in Scottish education in the next few years and directly relates to the numbers who will require superannuation. It is this total, related to the number of colleges training teachers, upon which the sum of superannuation will in part depend.
Secondly, the Minister cannot have read the document, otherwise even he would have seen the consequences of publication. It was minus most of the facts required for anyone to make a balanced judgment.
The Under-Secretary and his right hon. Friend then had a chance in a two-day debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. Questions of great moment flowed from hon. Members on both sides. We waited full of hope for a reply. Reply there was none. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) initiated an Adjournment debate—he who had himself raised many questions in the Scottish Grand Committee debate. I am told that he gave the hon. Gentleman prior notice of the questions that he intended to ask that night and then allowed the Minister 28 minutes in which to reply. The Minister in fact filibustered his own speech. We waited breathless for the important information upon which hon. Members
1013 could make a judgment, but none of the facts was relayed to us. That is something upon which the Minister will look back with a great deal of regret.
The Scottish Education Department has a world wide reputation, and the Minister has done his best to destroy it in this instance. If he had come clean right at the start and told everyone what they wanted to know of the economic position in relation to the numbers of colleges and teachers, we should have shared with him a constructive effort to try and put matters right. Tonight we try again. The Minister has adequate time tonight, and he can—I hope that he will—reply in the greatest detail.
As I say, the principal cause of this whole unhappy saga was the document relating to the provision of teachers in the future. As a basic premise, we welcome the great improvement in staffing. Indeed, despite the difficult period and particularly the raising of the school-leaving age, it was forecast that it would turn out in the way in which it has. That was in the White Paper. I sometimes wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read it. It would not be a task of great magnitude to read the only White Paper this century on education, because it is full not of political dogma but of the practical development of education as such. Does it mean, with the economic disasters that have afflicted the Labour Party, that the great opportunity that the Minister had for developing the White Paper has gone for ever? He inherited an opportunity and he has cast it aside.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has also spoken recently on this subject. Again relating this to the number of teachers we require, it is sad indeed that he has turned his back on nursery education—which was in the Labour Party Manifesto in 1974—on nursery nurses, remedial education, in-service training, non-teaching duties, community education, deprived areas, and sport and recreation. The Under-Secretary is the Minister responsible for sport in Scotland. If the Secretary of State had kept on with the programme, all of these things would have been complementary and would have required a rising supply of teachers to come into education in Scotland, and eventually the provision of adequate retirement superannuation.
1014 I shall nip smartly over the next few quotations. I should have loved to give them to the Minister. However, I was rather annoyed that the Secretary of State said on 15th February in the Scottish Grand Committee,With regard to the pupil-teacher ratio, the last time the Conservative Government said anything about this was in their statement of policy in December 1972."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 15th February 1977; c. 56.]The Secretary of State must have been terribly badly briefed by the Scottish Education Department. Does he not remember the Estimates debates? I shall not wave all the volumes about. However, I should like to quote what the Labour Party said about increasing the number of students into the colleges of education, and the Scottish Education Department papers—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I may take some guidance on this matter. I shall not go into the background to the discussions that we had prior to the debate, but Mr. Speaker said that passing reference would be allowed to colleges closed or to mergers. I suggest that what the hon. Gentleman has said is more than a passing reference.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
I vacated the Chair to enable Mr. Speaker to give his ruling, under the exceptional circumstances in which this debate has arisen, and I heard what Mr. Speaker said. As the Minister has said, Mr. Speaker said that there could be just a passing reference. So far, I have heard nothing at all about superannuation of any kind. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, having got the support of Mr. Speaker for this debate, will respect Mr. Speaker's ruling as to what is to be discussed.
§ Mr. Monro
I certainly shall, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, if you have a chance of checking in Hansard tomorrow, I think that you will find that I have mentioned superannuation about five times.
I am sorry that the Minister should intervene in that way, because it is much better that he should get this matter off his chest rather than sit back with the 1015 whole of Scotland looking at him and feeling that he has his head so deep in the sand that we cannot even see his heels.
In deference to Mr. Speaker's feelings, I shall move over a host of other quotation that I could give on the provision of sufficient teachers to raise the standard of education in Scotland during the period under discussion—between 1970 and 1976. This is confirmed not only in Estimates debates but in Scottish Office briefings and a host of other pamphlets. Therefore, Ministers must not in any way decry what the Conservative Party did to raise the standard of education in Scotland.
The one comment by the Secretary of State about which we were all very sad was his indication, by an interruption, that even if he had a great deal more money he would not do anything about raising the standard of education. In relation to the whole approach to the provision of teachers and, therefore, to the later provision of superannuation, the pupil-teacher ratio is not the end of everything. The minimum class size is much more important when we get down to individual schools.
While in Scotland we have reached our pupil-teacher ratio figures, we have not reached our objective on class sizes. The Minister will have read Circular No. 819 of March 1972, which very clearly indicated that it was a minimum supply of teachers and not a maximum supply. Therefore, he should have seen paragraph 3 of that document and must not try to hide behind that bush either.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will like what I shall say next. [Interruption.]
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie)
I am sure that provided that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is asked questions about superannuation, which in a spirit of good will Mr. Speaker has indicated can be discussed now, he will be only too happy to consider them.
§ Mr. Monro
I do not think that the Minister of State will save his hon. Friend. Perhaps the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary will bear in mind that the Under-Secretary would not give way in any of these debates. He has made 1016 the most impassioned refusals to give way to other people when he has been speaking, but he does not mind interrupting when others are trying to address the House.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that this is the third opportunity that we have given Ministers of the present Government to say something about some aspect—in this case, superannuation—of the details of their proposals for teacher training, and that on every occasion Ministers have tried to avoid giving information, as they appear to be doing once again tonight?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
What the hon. Member said is probably correct, but we must consider Class XVII, Vote 4 and the subject to which it refers. What we are debating tonight is what falls under that particular heading. It does not refer to redundancies in colleges. It refers to a situation in which people getting normal retirement pensions retire early. There is no provision made under this heading for discussing the Crombie Report, and the hon. Member knows that full well. I do not think that he will trespass too much on the kindness of the Speaker in making an exception in this case.
§ Mr. Monro
The number of teachers who have to retire and have their superannuation depends directly on the number of teachers in post. If we are not training sufficient teachers we shall have a different situation—one in which not only will there be an insufficient number in colleges, but under the Minister's programme they will be forced to retire earlier, and more superannuation will be required than would otherwise be necessary.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Let us get this straight. We are discussing a situation in which members of the scheme are, under the regulations, eligible for pension benefits on retirement, on or after attaining the age of 60. We are not discussing premature retirement, and there is no provision in the regulations before the age of 60, other than in cases of incapacity. That is what we are discussing.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I shall finish on this note. What we are not discussing—and the hon. Member must appreciate the particular distinction—is the question of what happens if colleges close and consequent upon those closures teachers are asked to retire before the normal superannuation. We are not discussing that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not think that the hon. Member for Dumfries is deliberately trying to fail to understand the matter. The heading of Class XVII Vote 4 does not cover the situation he has just mentioned.
§ Mr. Monro
I do firmly believe that the action taken by the Minister will inevitably affect the number of teachers who have to retire. I think that the Minister is wrong in the recommendations he has made in the paper before us. I have said many times that I accept that there has to be a reduction in the number of teachers. That is not the point in argument. But the Minister is wrong in his attitude towards the closure of colleges rather than taking an overall percentage reduction, weighted against Jordanhill College and Moray House, which are the largest colleges.
I will hurry along with my speech as others wish to speak and I do not wish to unduly delay the House—
§ Mr. Monro
I really do wish to ask the Minister the question that he has dodged so often in the past. I presume that he will try to dodge it yet again tonight. This is indicated by the fact that he raised a point of order before the debate had got under way. The Minister will rue the day that he treated us so offhandedly. He must answer the question about Dunfermline and Craigie and the number of teachers required from these 1018 two colleges. Craigie is of particular importance to South-West Scotland as colleges should always be in the area where the teachers are required. Dunfermline is unique in Scotland and it must be retained as a centre of excellence. Will the Minister spell out the cost of the change to Dundee, which we believe will be catastrophic in relation to both sport and recreation and the supply of physical education teachers?
I hope that the Minister will not opt out once again. He can rest assured that if he does we shall come back on a more broadly based debate until he produces the answers and shows Scotland that his heart is in the right place even if his mind is not.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
It is marvellous to behold the glee of the Scottish Office at the way in which they have managed to avoid yet again answering questions on this matter.
§ Mr. Younger
No, I shall not give way to the Minister. I shall confine my remarks to the narrow point, and remind the Minister that Mr. Speaker has accepted the subject matter on the notice board, and that it does refer quite clearly to the question of superannuation for teachers whose colleges are subject to closure. I accept Mr. Speaker's ruling in that spirit. I do not intend to speak on the deplorable way in which the Scottish Office has handled this matter. I simply leave that at what I have said in Scottish Grand Committee, and those remarks stand on the record.
It is not possible now to go into the question of the treatment of teachers who come to the age of superannuation, but I am grateful that once again we have brought Scottish Office Ministers kicking and screaming to the House to answer questions about it. Whether we like it or not, there are many teachers who will be relying on superannuation to get them out of financial difficulties. Those getting superannuation may well have been affected by terrible family and personal disruption resulting from the Government's current policies, and those expressed in the consultative document. In that light, we must look at the superannuation we are able to give them.
1019 It is not just a question of the Government doing anything they like to their employees without thought. The Government are quick enough to criticise private industry when it is laying off people or superannuating them. The Government are quick to criticise private industry on that. They jump in and make noises criticising firms such as Plessey, and Scottish Aviation in my constituency, which has had its business decimated by the Government's defence cuts. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that the superannuation of teachers is something that the Government can carry out just as it suits them, without taking account of the fact that every one of these lecturers and other senior people in teacher training colleges has great professional training behind him, has great dedication to his job, and in many cases has a family relying upon him.
One of the most distressing types of case that will need to rely on superannuation in future involves those who will find themselves having to leave work because the college is to be closed, but who previously had good jobs in other teaching training colleges that are not being closed. I know some people who will find that when they come to require superannuation, and so on, they will bitterly regret having left their previous teaching posts, for a better job perhaps, and now find themselves, without any warning, in a college that is about to be closed, and therefore in danger of losing their jobs. Some of them feel bitterly about this and wish that they had never taken the better job, because had they not done so they would now be working in a college with an assured future.
I ask the Minister to come clean about whether the Scottish Education Department is prepared formally to approve a scale of contributions and compensation arrangements for teachers and lecturers in Scotland. As I understand it, from the unions involved, although there are regulations for the English situation, parallel arrangements for the Scottish colleges have not been approved by the Scottish Education Department. I think that that is deplorable. It is another chapter in the deplorable way in which the Minister and the Government have handled this situation.
1020 A consultative document has been produced which everyone thinks is wholly inadequate in both its financial and educational aspects, and now the Government produce this bombshell to the profession, without any regulations which have been approved by the Department and upon which people can rely. The Minister must not be surprised that one of the saddest things about the whole business is that a considerable number of skilled professional people are extremely worried, and more worried than they need be, because they cannot even look at a piece of paper and say, "If the worst happens, these are the superannuation arrangements which the Government are prepared to approve". I hope that the Minister will give us a clear answer on that.
I should like the Minister to tell us what the precise conditions will be for those who are put out of work. Who will decide in each case how an individual teacher or lecturer is affected? Will that be decided by a panel, by a committee, or by the college itself? Who will decide which of the lecturers will be affected? Will it be only those in a college that is closed, or will it be "last in—first out" throughout the system? Has a lecturer who has a long record and a fine career in teaching any right to be given any consideration for continuing that career? Or will it just be pure accident that he happens to be working at one of the colleges that the Minister is to close and he has to go while others continue at work elsewhere? I find that question asked on several occasions. I have met many of those affected in this way.
Then there is the question of the amalgamation of colleges. We can visualise what will happen in the wholly deplorable event of a college being closed, but when a college is amalgamated who will decide which lecturer will have to go on superannuation? Will it be the college, or one of the colleges? Will it be a committee of both colleges, or will the decision be made by the Minister, by the Scottish Education Department, or by a committee involving the unions? Nobody knows. I have asked this question of almost everybody to whom I have spoken, including union representatives, of whom we have seen quite a lot 1021 during the last few weeks, and no one knows the answers to those questions. It is a bad way of treating one's employees to put them in this situation, and I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up as many of these matters as possible.
I now come to the question of the superannuation proper. Are lecturers and teachers in colleges of education who are at or near retiring age to have the normal superannuation provisions applied to them, without any alternative at all? I ask that because there may be some who will lose a small but vital part of their careers. Some are within a year or two of retiring and it is unlikely that they will get other employment, yet they still do not know whether they will get terms to take them to their retirement or whether they must try to eke out their resources until the usual retiring age.
This debate is yet another regrettable chapter in the decisions about reducing the teacher training system in Scotland. We know that the numbers have to be reduced and that the Government have run out of money to finance many other things that we should like to see the colleges go into. [Interruption.] I am not sure what the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) wants to contribute to the debate, but I would humbly point out that there is an established method of doing so.
This is the third or fourth stage of the arrangements which any well-organised Government would have laid down before hand but in which this Government have been found wanting, which are unknown to all those affected and about which, to judge from what he has already said, the Minister is determined to avoid answering questions. That is a bad way to treat people.
Members of Parliament try to fight for their constituents as well as they can, but if they are well treated they will be reasonable. We have never sought to insist that the colleges of education should continue to produce exactly the same numbers of teachers. We have been prepared to be reasonable, but the Government have given us little chance. I am sorry that the Minister should have taken that line I hope that, this evening, he will explain as much as he can about the superannuation arrangements.
§ Mr. McElhone
For reasons that I have explained to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), the Scottish Office is in no way responsible for the restrictions on this debate.
§ Mr. McElhone
We have gone a lot further than we might have done in encouraging this debate, in that I have had discussions behind the Chair with the hon. Member for Cathcart, when I explained the reasons for the restrictions on the debate. They are in no way the responsibility of the Scottish Office.
§ Mr. Younger
I am always prepared to accept the good will of the Minister, for whom we all have a great affection, but one cannot extend good will beyond a certain point.
I come back to where I started. Mr. Speaker in his wisdom has accepted this subject for debate as titled. Therefore, I believe that I am entirely justified in asking for answers about superannuation. My constituents are waiting for them and will be very angry if they do not get them.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)
The reason that we have made passing reference to the document "Teacher training from 1977 onwards" is not just that the teachers affected are unhappy about it but that it has incensed every teacher and member of staff of a college of education in Scotland. That is the purpose of this continuing debate.
Teachers and college staff are not just angry with the contents of the document, although that is bad enough. The anger stems from what the document fails to state—from the educational, financial and human considerations so blatantly ignored by the document and by the Ministers who presented it to Parliament and to Scotland. It is a document about numbers, not a document about people.
§ Mr. Fletcher
As the hon. Lady says, the Government cannot even count. That seems to be the consensus about the figures, whether one is talking about intake or about superannuation.
1023 Paragraph 46 of the document statesacademic staff in colleges should be reduced broadly in proportion to the reduction in student numbers. … Natural wastage will not produce anything like this order of reduction; and redundancies will clearly be necessary.It is necessary to point out to the Minister that at times of very high unemployment it is not just the unemployed who are concerned. People in employment become increasingly worried about their job prospects and their job security. When a figure of about 400 redundancies is mentioned for 1978–79 in the consultative document, the anxiety of every teacher and every member of teacher training college staff in Scotland is understandably aroused about superannuation and their job prospects.
Paragraph 48 of the document says:staff made redundant will be eligible to apply for compensation under the Crombie code '.My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) pointed out the deficiencies in information available to the unions and to everyone concerned with the recommendations in this document and about the prospects for those who may be made redundant.
The trouble with the consultative document is that it makes recommendations which appear to have been plucked out of the air, for they do not seem to be based on anything like a factual assessment of the costs of redundancy, of superannuation and of so-called mergers. Time and again requests for information on staff costs have been directed to the Secretary of State and to the Minister but they have been rejected. How long does the Minister think he can go on ignoring Parliament and the feelings which are running high in Scotland because of the incompetence of his Department and his reluctance or inability to answer straightforward questions addressed to him by hon. Members? There are no costings of compensation, of superannuation, or of the effect of redundancies on superannuation funds. There is no similar costing information about mergers.
In times of high unemployment and high inflation people worry themselves sick about the adequacy of their pension arrangements. It would be a very stupid person indeed who did not relate his pension prospects to the large number 1024 of redundancies which are being projected in the consultative document. These people must naturally be concerned about the Government's ability and willingness to honour the superannuation arrangements to which people continuing in employment look forward.
When teachers and others read newspaper reports of Government proposals to withdraw retrospectively gratuity arrangements which form part of a contract between the Armed Services and officers on short service commission they rapidly lose faith in the contents of the consultative document and in the good will of Ministers on education or on any other matter, and it makes them very anxious about the integrity of any consultations that Ministers may have and any promises or commitments that may be entered into about their superannuation arrangements.
I am sure that those many hon. Members who have had dealings with representatives of the teaching profession in Scotland will agree that they have never seen people with such a convincing case behaving more responsibly than the staffs of the teacher training colleges in Scotland. 'That is in sharp contrast to the attitude of the Secretary of State. Only last week, I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that he could visit all four colleges affected in one day. He does not choose to do so. Such a visit would be greatly appreciated by all the staff, who wish to discuss with him superannuation, redundancies and a great many other matters, and who would obviously give the right hon. Gentleman a courteous reception and listen to what he had to say, if, indeed, he himself has any faith in the proposals which he has put before the House. In my view, the staff have shown that they are extremely flexible in the proposals which they have made for the future, and it is a great pity that the Secretary of State and the Minister are utterly inflexible in their attitude.
Above all, teachers would like to see, in response to the many questions which have been put to the Secretary of State and the Minister, a new consultative document setting out realistic proposals properly costed in relation to the whole exercise and the various choices available to the Government, including, in particular, the cost of the proposals for the superannuation funds themselves. 1025 Such a new document, of course, should be laid before Parliament well before any final decisions are reached in this matter.
It has been pointed out already that the Under-Secretary of State, in the half-hour Adjournment debate last week initiated by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), refused to reply to important questions. In so doing, he reduced to tatters his reputation as a considerate Minister. He must know better than most the pressures and concerns among many people in all walks of life in Scotland—the Catholic Church as well as the teaching unions and people not necessarily employed in any aspect of education. Parents, for example, are deeply worried about the whole future of education in Scotland.
Tonight, at no little inconvenience, the House is providing another opportunity for the Minister to speak out in response to the feelings of Scottish people on this issue, to speak out for Scottish education and to answer his critics. If he cannot, he should resign.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)
I thought it unfortunate that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) gave an indication in his closing remarks that the people of Scotland had not been interested in education affairs prior to the present situation. That was rather unjust, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish to withdraw that remark later.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
I was not aware that I had made any such suggestion. If anything which the hon. Lady thought I said amounted to any such suggestion, of course I withdraw it.
§ Mrs. Bain
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. In normal circumstances, on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, Class XVII Vote 4 would probably pass unnoticed by most hon. Members, and it is therefore important that we bear in mind throughout this debate on the superannuation scheme the current background in Scottish education circles. The present circumstances are abnormal and unacceptable. Never has morale been so low in education in Scotland.
Members of Parliament who have visited, as I have, various colleges in 1026 Scotland in the past year or so have found that morale was slipping long before this document came before us. It has now slipped to an all-time low. Indeed, in some colleges it has reached a point at which lecturers believe that it is not worth their while preparing courses for next year. I regard this as very worrying.
The whole question of superannuation is related to the question of the number of teachers available and how much will be needed in the future for superannuation purposes. In these circumstances, we must again return to the question of staffing standards in Scottish schools and colleges.
The Under-Secretary of State always makes great play of the fact that we no longer have part-time education in Scotland and we have improved standards. It is true that, statistically, there is no longer part-time education and we have improved standards, but those of us who understand what is happening in our schools know that that is not the whole case. In my constituency, the so-called improvement in standards meant that many teachers were sacked and we had reductions in staffing standards. I find it unacceptable that a Labour Government should aim for the lowest common denominator in terms of education.
Only last week, in reply to me, the Under-Secretary of State indicated that he was not prepared to enter negotiations with teacher's unions about staffing standards. The unions find that as unacceptable as do hon. Members. Minimum standards are being adopted as maximum standards, and as far as we can see that situation will continue under this Government. But I do not hold out any great hope for change should there be a Conservative Government after the Conservative Party's proposals for expenditure cuts.
There is the question of enforced early retirement of many lecturers in our colleges. Many of them to whom I have spoken have indicated their concern that the Government have not yet said what they mean by "redeployment". It seems to many of them that there is no possibility of alternative employment for them in education. Given that qualified school teachers cannot find employment, lecturers cannot see themselves being transferred readily to the schools sector.
1027 These people are also interested to know which section of the Crombie Report will apply to them. When the Crombie Report was first introduced for local government officers, it was of a very high standard, but that standard was was reduced when the Department of Education and Science wished to apply it to England and Wales. Lecturers are wondering whether in Scotland it will be reduced yet again. These are aspects that the lecturers must know. We in the Scottish National Party oppose any redundancies whatever, but people at least have the right to know how their superannuation will be affected and what kind of redundancy period will be available to them.
The Scottish National Party cannot accept that there is need even to be discussing this question, because we shall not accept public expenditure cut-backs in Scottish education. On Saturday, at our National Council—one of the main bodies of the SNP—we passed by acclamation a resolution condemning the Secretary of State's action in the consultative document and pledged ourselves to fight the Government's policy because we believe that no Scottish Parliament would wish to treat education in Scotland as this Parliament has treated it.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirling-shire)
I shall be brief, because I realise the constraints upon us as far as relevance is concerned, in that this is the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which is essentially a public expenditure document. I think, however, that it is most appropriate for us to be discussing some aspects of the proposed closure of colleges of education in Scotland, and I am glad that Mr. Speaker has given his approval for at least a limited discussion, because basically the Bill is a financial document, and part of the Secretary of State's case, or pseudo-case, is supposedly based on certain aspects of financial expenditure, or saving in that expenditure.
My right hon. Friend told the Scottish Grand Committee on 15th February:The other criticism being made is that I have not given any precise financial figures of the savings that will occur. Given that the total cost of the college system is more than £20 million a year significant savings will be 1028 made which must eventually run into millions of pounds a year. The exact savings depend on certain factors which cannot be quantified at present. These include, for example, the particular college closures, the number of lecturers who are made redundant and the particular payments to be made to them, which will depend on age, length of service, and the rest."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 15th February 1977; c. 9.]Clearly, there is a tie-up there between possible financial saving and the superannuation proposals in the Consolidated Fund Bill.
Many of us on both sides of the House have tried, by tabling Questions, to get more background financial information about the Scottish Education Department proposals out of Ministers. Unfortunately that has not been forthcoming. Little wonder that among Back Benchers, and the whole Scottish educational community, there is a feeling that this particular proposal has not been adequately worked out in financial terms.
The Secretary of State has said that we do not want to produce teachers for unemployment. That is fair enough. Nor do we, who criticise the document, want to produce teachers merely to go on the dole queue. But it is surely a nonsense to imagine that we can solve the problem of teacher unemployment, or potential teacher unemployment, by simply closing down certain colleges and merging others and thereby creating lecturer unemployment.
In the initial stages at least, that does not necessarily mean savings in public expenditure, because there will be redundancy payments and possibly superannuation payments under the Consolidated Fund Bill that we are discussing. All of these payments will have to be met. It is doubtful whether in the early stages there will be any net saving at all in public expenditure. It will simply be a transfer of public expenditure from one Government Department to another.
It is doubtful whether many of those well-qualified lecturers will be able to find employment elsewhere. Where else in education will they find employment? It may be easier south of the border where college administration is very much connected with other sectors of educational administration through the local authorities. But it is different in Scotland. The colleges are almost unique in the way in which they are administered
1029 through boards of governors with, of course, the Secretary of State breathing down their necks.
This makes transition from one sector of education to another all the more difficult. Will they be able to find jobs in industry with the way in which industry is going just now, mainly due to lack of vacancies caused by lack of investment? Although a minority of teachers involved may be qualified to take jobs in industry at roughly the same level as they are in education, nevertheless, because of the lack of vacancies at present, it will be very difficult indeed kw them to find employment. The recent EIS survey of college graduates showed how difficult it is to make the transition from education into industry, in the present economic climate. As well as a lack of educational thinking in the SED document, there is also the economic stupidity of redundancies which will inevitably happen and which will cause senseless public expenditure under the terms of the Consolidated Fund Bill and other measures.
I must make a passing reference to the sheer hypocrisy of some hon. Members opposite who shed crocodile tears about the poor lecturers and teachers who will possibly be thrown on the dole with little in the way of alternative employment prospects but possibly something in the way of superannuation benefits and redundancy payments. The proposals that are coming from the Shadow Treasury spokesman are such that the public expenditure cuts that we are having to suffer just now would be almost minimal compared with the savage public expenditure cuts that we would have to suffer if the Leader of the Opposition were now in power.
I also think it is sheer hypocrisy for the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), to be shedding crocodile tears over the plight of unemployed workers such as teachers and lecturers when he himself is involved with the company which owns the "Globtik Venus", which has exploited underpaid seamen and resorted to actual piracy and threatened violence and which brings British shipping into disrepute. I wonder just how much the hon. Gentleman is paid to be a lackey of this particularly disreputable company?
1030 I return to the subject. We do not train teachers merely to contribute to or collect superannuation as provided in the Consolidated Fund Bill. We train teachers to teach, and there is no educational justification at all for saying that there are not jobs for the teachers. The jobs are there. There are thousands of jobs which newly qualified teachers can be doing and, as such, there is a valuable continuing role for the colleges and for the lecturers in the colleges.
There is no excuse, whether it be financial or educational, for any college closure or merger, and the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary must take into account the sheer weight of parliamentary opinion and public opinion about the proposals in this document, especially the proposed closure of Craigie and Callendar Park and the proposed mergers of Dunfermline and Craiglockhart with other colleges. There is no educational justification for them, and the economic justification appears to be non-existent. All that they would do is throw more well-qualified people on to the dole queue, leading to a national wastage, which would be a national scandal.
I have already asked the Under-Secretary and his boss to take back this document and think again. I plead with them to come up with more constructive proposals to save the colleges of education, first. because of their vital educational contribution and, secondly, because any financial saving would be negligible, if indeed there were any at all.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
As Mr. Speaker rightly said, this is a very restricted debate. The subject which has been chosen for discussion is the increase in the payment of superannuation to teachers made redundant before normal retiring age in teacher training colleges in Scotland.
The Under-Secretary has reminded us twice of this fact by making leaping interventions and explaining that certain vital issues, which unfortunately he was unable to answer, could not be answered in this debate. I simply make the point that he had two unique opportunities to give all the information about every aspect of this deplorable consultative document. He had the opportunity of the two-day debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. He 1031 had the opportunity of an Adjournment debate when he had 28 minutes in which to talk. In one case he avoided giving any information by making what appeared to be almost a filibustering speech. Once again he is taking the opportunity to avoid giving any information, this time by exploiting the rule book.
However, even within the restricted nature of the debate, there are several questions which need to be answered, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with them on this occasion. My hon. Friends and I have raised the subject because we want some information.
The Minister must accept that this is a consultative document which has been handed out so that people may consider it and its implications. Therefore, we need to have information about the arguments behind the document and the alternatives which might be proposed. The Minister has failed singularly to outline any of the arguments both on earlier occasions and tonight.
The second reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) has taken the unusual step of coming here to speak in this debate when he has a very high temperature and is suffering severely from 'flu is to emphasise how we all regard the Government's proposals as utterly unacceptable. The Government's proposals have been rejected by everyone. Therefore, we feel that once again we should make it clear that the proposals are utterly unacceptable.
This is a restricted subject, but we want to know the cost implications for superannuation in the proposals outlined in the Government's document. The Minister said that the Government would save a lot of money with their proposals on teacher training. We have been trying to find how precisely money was to be saved. As far as we can see from the figures available, it will not be saved on the mergers and transfers.
The Minister will have received from Dunfermline College a letter stating that that college has made careful estimates of what the so-called savings will be. Dunfermline College was opened only in 1966 at a cost of £1.3 million. The college estimates that to transfer to Dundee College, as has been suggested, would cost 1032 in excess of £1 million and involve three years' work, so there is no saving there. The proposals for Craiglockhart have also been looked at carefully to see where money would be saved in the appalling proposal for the merging and virtual destruction of this college. Here again we cannot see any saving.
Turning to Craigie College my hon. Friend has eloquently put forward arguments against its closure. It is the only college in the South-West of Scotland, and the cost of closing it and having the students move elsewhere will mean extra cost, not less. When we look at Callendar Park, here again we cannot see where the savings are. That is why we have been probing the cost to see whether there are any savings in any area at all.
It could well be that there are savings because the Government have said that about 76 per cent. of the costs involved in running the colleges are teachers' salaries and related costs, which no doubt includes superannuation. I hope that the Government will give the facts on what would be the effect on superannuation costs if their proposals were implemented. We are entitled to know, and the teachers are entitled to have some indication of what will be the effect on their income and their future income if these proposals go ahead.
The Government are well aware that promises made by Governments are unfortunately not looked on with a great deal of confidence, particularly after the disgraceful action of the Ministry of Defence, where pledges to those who took commissions were broken. On the question of teachers who are to be made redundant, the only indication that we have had from the Government was that the Crombie Code regulations would apply. That issue was raised in Committee by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). He said:I understand that ACCES, the teachers' union, was given a commitment that the Crombie Code regulations would be laid before the House in December of last year. We now have the consultative document which suggests 400 redundancies among teachers, yet we do not have the Crombie Code either negotiated in agreement with the union or in the form of a draft statutory instrument before the House. That is a very unsatisfactory situation."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee,15th February 1977; c. 21.]1033 That was one request made in Committee asking the Minister what was the position on superannuation and other benefits for those who would be made redundant under the proposals. Unfortunately, although the Minister made a long speech, he said nothing about that at all.
In a public service, particularly in the teaching profession, superannuation is not just an operational extra that one receives when one retires. It is very much a part of the pay and conditions of service in such professions. It is very important today to know what will be the effect of these proposals on superannuation.
It would help if we had some indication of how many teachers will be compulsorily retired and how many will receive superannuation because they are retiring through normal wastage. The Government have said little on the subject. In the consultative document it was said that at present there were 1,417 teachers. That figure will have to be reduced for several reasons: if the college closures and mergers go ahead; if there are fewer students; if the Bachelor of Education course is to be abolished; and if the Government meant what they said about the overmanning of colleges. The Secretary of State stated in Committee:They will see that there is a considerable margin, and there are more lecturers in college at present than we can reasonably and adequately occupy."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 15th February 1977; c. 55.]If the Secretary of State means that there will obviously be a very substantial reduction.
I think that it was the Minister who estimated that if the 10-to-one student-teacher ratio were applied, the figure of 1,417 would come down to 875 in 1977–78 and again to 812 in 1980. There was reference in the consultative document which said that instead of that the figure might be 1,000 in 1978–79. Whichever way we look at that, it means a lot of redundancy. It could mean 200, 300 or 400 redundancies, but we do not know what the figure will be until the Government give us some indication.
It would help us in dealing with superannuation if the Government would say how many teachers they would expect to retire at the normal retirement age. 1034 What is the element of natural wastage, apart from those who are leaving the profession to go elsewhere, likely to be? If the Minister could give us that figure, which he cannot deny is directly relevant to what we are discussing tonight, we might get some indication of how many extra redundancies there might be.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
In view of the wish of the Leader of the Opposition to have even more public expenditure cuts, may we have a guarantee that the Conservative Party is totally opposed to any further cuts in education and to any further redundancies in Scotland? If his party were in power, would it be cutting the education colleges or would it be continuing them and expanding them?
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not want to get out of order, but I shall say in passing that the cuts that a Conservative Government would impose would be infinitely different from those imposed by this Government. I have given many examples of the kind of things we would cut. One of the most obvious is the nationalisation programme. I should like to cut the SNP as well. We have always made it clear—and we are honest, unlike the SNP—that we do not say that every college lecturer should be retained in post. We have made it clear that we believe that the number of students going into the colleges needs to be reduced. It would not have been such a big cut if the Minister had been sensible and had not reduced the numbers last year.
§ Mr. Taylor
If we had more information, we might be able to give an answer to that, but we do not have these facts. We believe that there is a case for additional teachers in areas of deprivation which have suffered from teacher shortages for a long time and which have seen a great deal of part-time education. This would make a difference to the figures. We are arguing as strongly as we can, however, that the closure of four colleges, or the closure of two and the merging of 1035 two, is not the right answer. We believe that the answer is to have scaling down elsewhere, if it is required. We believe that that is a preferable option, but before we decide, we want information about the costs involved, with the alternatives and the extra cost saving if we retain the 10 colleges and scale the system down to the major colleges. We should like information. This is a consultative document and the Government should therefore give us the absolute maximum of information.
§ Mr. Younger
Does my hon. Friend not agree also that if the present Government had not ruined the country with their wild spending spree over the last two years the money would be available for making the improvements that we all wish in education.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sure that the SNP would at least accept that when the Conservatives are in power we can create the economic growth which makes additional, well-directed public spending possible. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the enormous strides made in social and educational progress when the Conservative Party was in power. This was most obvious after the efforts by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, as education Minister in the Scottish Office, to make sure that the teachers would be available as soon as possible to eradicate part-time education.
I have a number of detailed questions to put. If a college lecturer were made redundant, what would be his position in terms of superannuation if he went into other public service? Say, for example, he is unable to get a job in teacher training, but manages to get a job in a school, in a social work department with a local authority, or perhaps in a List D school. Would he be able to continue making superannuation payments and be no worse off than if he had carried on as a teacher in training college?
This is the kind of question which we should be asking. The Minister must be aware of just how unhappy the staff in the colleges are about what is happening, about the plans and the lack of detail. I want to read from paragraph 14 of an excellent document which we have all received from Craiglockhart: 1036Members of staff are also uninformed about how the reduction of the total lecturing force by over 400 is to be carried through. There is no reason why the Secretary of State should not have stated explicitly that any staff reduction policy would be applied equally to all colleges, including those he proposes to merge or close—unless there was an intention in this way to exploit different interests among the staffs of the different colleges and paralyse union resistance. The omission of such an explicit statement, apart from its injustice to staff of this College, makes it very difficult for the Governors to assess the merits of the case for mergers.This is the nub of the arguments which my hon. Friends have put forward in three successive debates. The Government have a duty to justify their proposal. They have not done this on the basis of education or cost. We hope that the Government will try to put forward an argument, perhaps on the grounds of cost, to support their proposals and also to give us the information on which we can assess the various options.
This consultative document has caused a great deal of concern in Scotland. It has resulted in a savage drop in educational morale not just in the colleges but throughout the educational system. We all know that if its proposals were applied there would be an immense danger to education in Scotland and to our whole long-term ability to get an adequate supply of teachers when we require an increase in them.
The Minister is aware that this document has not one friend in Scotland in educational circles or elsewhere. I hope that tonight at least, as he has failed so miserably on the last two occasions, he will give us some of the answers to the questions on the restrictive area which we have been debating.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)
I shall begin by putting the record straight once again because there has been a scandalous allegation from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) that the Scottish Office was using this opportunity to dodge answering questions. Despite the discussions I have had with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), it is typical that he should say, despite the explanations he has received, that I was exploiting the rule book, or that the Scottish Office was. Hon. Members know very well—it is a disgraceful act on their 1037 part—that the Scottish Office had no part in restricting this debate. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) looked through the Estimates to try to find a vehicle on which to come before the House and initiate a debate. We pointed out on Friday to the appropriate authorities that under this Vote it was not possible. I could easily point out quite factually that under Class XVII, Vote 4, the Crombie Report cannot be discussed. It does not come under that class. Nevertheless, in the interests of the debate, I decided that we should attempt to make—
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not the hon. Member disputing the ruling of the Chair to allow this debate to go forward? Would it not be better if he replied to the debate rather than put himself in your position?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
I think that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Crombie Code is covered by Class XVII, Vote 4, which I understand is not the case.
§ Mr. McElhone
I do not want the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) to make cheap political points when he knows that his party was in the wrong from the beginning. It is most unworthy of the hon. Member or for other hon. Members to take advantage or to try to insinuate that advantage is being taken of the Chair.
The Scottish Office in no way tried to restrict the debate, the basic answer to which I could give in about three sentences, in accordance with the Vote. We were not trying by any mechanism, constitutional or otherwise, to dodge any particular debate that might arise on the Vote.
§ Mr. Younger
If the Minister is sincere, as I am sure he is, it was unwise of him to leap to his feet at the first opportunity to try to prevent us from discussing these matters. Am I to understand that he knew on Friday that the debate could not be held and got in touch with somebody about that? Did he not have the courtesy to tell those hon. Members whose names were down to this subject? It would have been the most elementary courtesy to tell them, 1038 but none of us knew anything about this until tonight.
§ Mr. McElhone
I would not have raised the matter but for the credibility of the Scottish Office being impugned by hon. Members. I do not want to make this a debate on the reliability of the Public Bill Office. That would be most unfair to people who cannot answer back. But the hon. Member for Cathcart can make the hon. Gentleman aware of the circumstances. I think that it is sufficient to say that I am prepared to respond to the debate as far as I can.
There was no possibility that the Scottish Office could attempt to restrict the debate. I waited several minutes while the hon. Member for Dumfries waffled on in his predictable way, casting all sorts of slights on me and others. No reference had been made to the nature of the debate.
§ Mr. McElhone
In the end, the hon. Gentleman was following a course which was against Mr. Speaker's original ruling.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that we are not complaining about the Scottish Office and far less about our excellent Deputy Speaker, in whom we have full confidence? We are complaining about the Minister's attitude. If he were genuinely seeking to give information and help us, his interest would surely be to try to get the most out of the restricted debate. Instead, from the moment my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) started, the Minister was trying to restrict the debate and usurp the function of the Chair. We accept the problems of a restricted debate, but if the hon. Gentleman wanted to give information to the people of Scotland and teachers who may be made redundant, he should be trying to make the most of the restricted subject and not to restrict it further.
§ Mr. McElhone
I do not wish to make this a constitutional debate. I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for reminding the House that the debate centred on the question of Crombie and the laying of the order, and in no way can Crombie be debated under this Vote. 1039 Nevertheless, I am trying to be reasonable to the Opposition, who have been totally unreasonable ever since the debate started. The Conservative Opposition's tactics have been shameful. They have not tried to put forward an alternative strategy for compensation for redundancy. By referring to compensation and redundancy I am keeping within order. I should have to stray very far if I tried to match them. We still await from the Conservatives suggestions about compensation and superannuation and an alternative strategy to the document.
The hon. Member for Cathcart said that there would be no cuts in education under the Conservatives, that they would make the cuts in other forms of public expenditure. I should like to quote from their much-hallowed document. They get very annoyed when I keep quoting it back at them. On page 17 of "Education in Scotland: A Statement of Policy" we read:The Circular indicated the Government's view"—the Tory Government—that once these standards had been achieved "—that is, a pupil-teacher ratio of 25: 1 for primary schools, and we have 22.4:1—any additional resources should not be used to expand further the primary teaching force".The second point is that when a ratio of 15: 1 is reached in secondary schools in 1977–78 itmay involve placing some restriction on the number of graduates entering teacher training.In other words, the document envisaged unemployment among teachers and the curtailment of teacher training well in excess of anything which might be contemplated by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. McElhone
I shall not give way at this point. When I asked the hon. Gentleman to give way, in order to make an important point, he did not give way. Therefore, I hope that he will accept that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
1040 Never in my experience of politics has there been so much consultation as on the future of teacher training. We had a two-day debate on the subject. I have gone out of my way to see many Opposition Members either as a group or with delegations from various colleges for which I knew they would get a certain amount of publicity. With my right hon. Friend, I met several groups involved in this exercise. My right hon. Friend is meeting the principals of colleges of education today. I shall be seeing a number of bodies this week, including COSLA, the National Union of Students, teachers' unions' leaders and others. My hon. Friend will also be meeting the hierarchy over the question of Craiglockhart, and other matters.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
Will these consultations produce a completely new document which will be laid before Parliament?
§ Mr. McElhone
We must not split hairs. This is a consultative document. It is there for everyone to read. We have consulted well beyond any consultations carried out by any previous Government. This is a serious exercise. Both the Opposition and the Government start from the premise that there must be reductions.
§ Mr. McElhone
The Opposition cry for reductions, which involve redundancies and compensation. I am endeavouring to keep within order. It is inevitable, given the reduction in births, that there will be fewer pupils. In fact, there will be 100,000 fewer primary pupils between now and 1980–81. Therefore, it stands to reason that there must be constraints on the intake in teacher training.
I cannot understand why the Conservative Opposition go on making every political point they can in the hope of getting some extra votes at the next General Election when they have consistently refused to put forward an alternative educational strategy. That is totally dishonest. I lay that charge at the door of the Conservative Opposition. There is no point in squealing consistently. The people of Scotland will reject mere indignation and this exercise in the hope of getting extra votes. I suggest that the Opposition's duty is to accept, as they do, that there 1041 will be cut-backs in teacher training and to put forward an alternative strategy.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Does the Minister accept that we have said that our preferred policy would be to retain the 10 colleges if that were justified by costing? We must have the Government's costing estimate and the effect in other terms of maintaining the 10 colleges, albeit on a reduced scale, and of having the six colleges.
In view of what the Minister has said about consultation, can he give us an assurance that if the Government, on looking at the matter again, find that their proposals are wrong, they might scrap them and put forward others that would not involve any closures? I do not ask the Minister to commit himself.
§ Mr. McElhone
Decisions are made by the Secretary of State, although there was a pitiful Early-Day Motion tabled by the Opposition calling for my resignation. I am involved at every stage in the consultation and the decision making, but the hon. Member should know, having been an Under-Secretary of State himself, that I do not make the decisions. I should have looked silly if I had put down an Early-Day Motion calling on the hon. Member for Cathcart to resign when his party was in Government when I knew that the responsibility lay with his right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State.
There is no point in hon. Members pressing us for consultations because the same hon. Members were involved in a Government who were ready to destroy Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and Rolls-Royce without any consultation. The Opposition have not got a good record for consultation, compensation or redundancies.
I am the first to recognise that we are involved in a difficult exercise. We accept that there must be reductions and we must therefore ask where we should make them—in a number of colleges or by doing as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart suggested and keeping all the colleges as they are. No options are closed in this exercise. [Interruption.] Hon. Members accuse me of not answering questions but they cannot have listened to the debate properly or read the report of the Adjournment debate recently because on that occasion I
1042 answered questions put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).
§ Mr. McElhone
I have already given way four times although hon. Members accuse me of not giving way. I hope that that challenge will not be repeated.
I return to the substance of the debate and I hope that I may stray into the question of Crombie, with the permission of the House. [Interruption.] When one has issued a consultative document and asked the colleges and many other bodies for information about how they see the future of the colleges in Scotland, it would be nonsense and arrogance to lay down conditions for the period of consultation. The Opposition have never had any experience of consultation. The lesson of the miners should have taught them that.
The colleges, the trade unions and the teaching profession recognise that the Government are bending over backwards to consult everybody who is involved in the exercise That has never been done before and it has been welcomed by all the groups to whom I have spoken.
For the record, Class XVII, Vote 4, is the vote that covers superannuation payments to members of the Scottish Teachers' Superannuation Scheme under the Teachers Superannuation (Scotland) Regulations 1969–76. There are lecturers in colleges of education in Scotland who are members of the scheme and who, under the regulations, are eligible for pension benefits on retirement on or after attaining the age of 60, which may be the "normal retiring age" mentioned in the subject for debate. There is, however, no provision under the for the payment of superannuation benefits before the age of 60, other than in cases of incapacity.
In referring to an increase—and that is what the debate has done—in payment for teachers made redundant before normal retiring age, hon. Members may have in mind the compensation which will be available to redundant college lecturers under the Crombie Code. No provision for such compensation has
1043 been made in the current financial year as the whole question of redundancies will have to be the subject of detailed consultations in the light of my right hon. Friend's decisions on the future size and shape of the teacher training system. In any case, compensation payments under the Crombie Code are certainly not a charge on Class XVII, Vote 4, and irrespective of at what age teachers might he redundant, there is no question of paying increased superannuation on that account. That is in statute. It is not something that I can change overnight.
The question of laying the code conditions in order that the lecturers who might be involved—I stress the word "might"—will understand that we are showing some good faith in this matter and that they will have some understanding as to the future has been alluded to often in the debate. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I may briefly refer to Crombie in order to clear the doubts and concern expressed by hon. Members, supposedly on behalf of lecturers and others involved in colleges of education that they have met in delegations to the House and in meetings that they have attended in Edinburgh and elsewhere.
Crombie terms are available on redundancy only where there is "statutory intervention" in employment. The Secretary of State's decision to make regulations under paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1976 to require governing bodies to comply with directions made by him about college intakes will set in train such statutory interventions.
In the Department's letter of 17th January enclosing the Secretary of State's consultative paper about the future of teacher training, interested bodies were consulted about the Secretary of State's intention to make such regulations. The body most affected by this proposal, the Joint Committee of Colleges of Education—incidentally, my right hon. Friend met that group in Edinburgh this afternoon—has already indicated its agreement to the making of the proposed regulations. I hope that that will satisfy hon. Members to some extent.
The regulations have already been drafted. I put this point particularly to the hon. Member for Ayr, who, I am 1044 sorry to say, got the information wrong. The regulations might be made in March or April after comments from other bodies have been received. There is another piece of particular information that was requested strongly by the hon. Member for Ayr.
When the Secretary of State has decided how many students should be admitted to colleges, and to which colleges, in the autumn of this year, directions will be prepared to put these decisions into effect. The boards of governors will, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, have to be consulted. This is another point that has been put strongly this evening and on other occasions. This consultation need not be prolonged since the views of the boards of governors will be given in response to the Secretary of State's paper of 17th January. The Secretary of State met that body in Edinburgh today, as I have already told the House.
Another set of regulations will have to be made to authorise the payment of the Crombie terms. Undertakings have been given that interested bodies will be consulted on these regulations. We cannot go much further than that. We have given the promise of delivering the Crombie Code to any college lecturers who might be made redundant in Scotland. We expect to circulate the draft of the regulations in April.
The ALCES—the college lecturers—will have an opportunity, before the regulations are drafted, to have consultations and that is all they are seeking. Of course, we shall be as reasonable as possible in meeting the requests that they make.
The view has been expressed to me—wrongly—that the Crombie regulations will apply only to redundant lecturers. But the provisions will apply generally to all those employed in the undertakings affected—that is, the colleges. That means that they will apply to the nonacademic staff—the technicians, the janitors, the cleaners, and so on.
The draft regulations and the compensation terms cannot be prepared until my right hon. Friend has actually taken a decision on the consultative document. At the end of the day it is extremely difficult in talking about compensation to decide a precise sum. It depends on the 1045 areas of service, the grade and the age of the particular person. One could have 200 or 300 permutations and come out with a different answer each time. Who knows which staff and how much service is involved? No final decision has yet been made on any particular college.
I will not drift hack into the Adjournment debate that we had last week, and the points that were put very strongly by the hon. Member for West Lothian. I answered fully the points he put both then and in the Scottish Grand Committee. The fact that he chose to take only two minutes and that I had to speak for 28 minutes was unfortunate, but that was his choice in conducting the debate. and I chose to respond in the proper way.
The hon. Member for Ayr asked what would happen to lecturers nearing retirement age. He asked whether they would get only superannuation benefits. Lecturers made redundant before the age of 65 are eligible for compensation under the Crombie Code. Many teachers choose to retire from 60 onwards.
I hope the hon. Member will accept that I am not here to encourage prolonged or acrimonious debates. I understand the uncertainty of the staffs who may be involved, but this is a genuine consultation process in which I hope an alternative strategy will be forthcoming from the Opposition. 'I he final decision will be made by my right hon. Friend only after he has carefully scrutinised the submissions which he has asked various colleges and other bodies to make to him.
§ Mr. Canavan
Will the Secretary of State also take into account the fact that the Government's proposals were defeated in the Scottish Grand Committee? Even discounting the English invasion towards the end of the sitting, the majority of Members representing Scottish constituencies voted against the document.
§ Mr. McElhone
I take my hon. Friend's point. That was a somewhat unfortunate, if not disgraceful, exercise, and perhaps those who engineered it are somewhat sorry that they carried it out.
§ Mr. McElhone
I leave that for the record. My hon. Friend, who has taken 1046 a great interest in the matter, can express views on the consultative document, but he does not have the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) who was a teacher before being elected to this House.
§ Mr. Monro
The hon. Gentleman keeps saying that he wants consultation, but the only reasonable basis upon which Members of the House can consult is if they know the economic facts. Will the Minister give the facts about closures and retentions? Only then can we make a positive contribution to the debate.
§ Mr. McElhone
I hope that I do not have to repeat what I have said on this issue. This is essentially not an economic argument but an educational one. Let us not go back on what we have agreed. We cannot continue training teachers for the unemployment register. That is agreed, and therefore there has to be some restriction on numbers.
It is true, of course, that costings come into the issue, but I have pointed out that we are going through a genuine process of consultation. The difficulty is that Conservative Members have never understood the process of consultation. They have never carried out much consultation with the trade unions, with local authorities or with staff bodies.
The hon. Member for Cathcart asked what would happen to the superannuation of a lecturer who became a teacher or a social worker. If he became a teacher he could remain in the teachers' superannuation scheme. If he became a local authority social worker he could transfer his benefit rights. Some people have expressed concern about what will happen, and that is the proper answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Cathcart. I assure the House that no final decisions will be made by my right hon. Friend before he has considered all the representations from colleges and other bodies—
§ Mr. McElhone
—and from Members of Parliament because, believe it or not, my right hon. Friend reads the speeches of right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Can the Minister give us an assurance—if he can he will make us very much happier at the end of this debate—that when he has had the consultations and worked out his sums he will present to the House the alternative costing of a scheme to keep open the 10 colleges and the ones in his consultative document, so that we can work out the sums? If he can give that assurance, we can leave this long debate feeling a great deal happier than we would other-wise do.
§ Mr. McElhone
I will certainly put that point of view to my right hon. Friend. I have bent over backwards to be fair tonight because of the genuine concern expressed here and outside. All 1048 points of view will be considered carefully by my right hon. Friend. The ultimate decision will be made in the best interests of education; that is, of the students who have left colleges and are still seeking employment—that is a distressing feature—of the students coming out of the colleges this session who hope to become teachers in Scotland and of the lecturers who have done a magnificent job in training our teachers. We are very concerned about their future.
At the end of the day, the decision will rest with my right hon. Friend, assisted by myself and his advisers. We hope that the House will accept that it will be taken in the best interests of Scottish education.