HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc197-9
6. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has any plans to meet the University Grants Committee.

15. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has any plans to meet the University Grants Committee.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I have no immediate plans to meet the committee.

Mr. Rooker

When my right hon. Friend next meets the committee will she ask it to press on the authorities of Birmingham University the need to honour the national holiday agreement, arrived at in 1974 after an arbitration agreement, and so end what has become the longest dispute in this country, lasting more than six months?

Mrs. Williams

I understand that what is in dispute is the interpretation of the agreement and not the matter of pay policy. I do not think that it would be right for me to take either side.

Mr. Hoyle

Has not the union concerned, ASTMS, put forward two proposals which, with reasonable management, could meet with some response? One proposal is that the union should accept the holiday agreement given to it by Warwick and, secondly, that meetings should be held under the chairmanship of an independent person experienced in labour relations. Do not both proposals appear to be reasonable?

Mrs. Williams

I understand that it has been suggested by the union that ACAS should be brought in. I very much hope that the two sides will re-examine the matter.

Mr. Beith

Does the fact that the right hon. Lady has no immediate plans to meet the UGC mean that she regards that body as a very satisfactory way of organising university finance, avoiding any direct involvement by Government Departments? Does it not provide a better model for the financing of polytechnics than her own continued enthusiasm for the binary system?

Mrs. Williams

The reason I replied as I did was that I met representatives of the UGC as recently as last November, and I have met its chairman on several occasions since that time. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman should not draw misleading conclusions.

Mr. Grylls

Has the right hon. Lady discussed with the UGC the subject of Shoreditch College, in my constituency, and the possibility of that college crossing the binary line and joining with the universities?

Mrs. Williams

No, Sir; it would not be appropriate for me to do so because Shoreditch College is the responsibility of ILEA. It is for that authority to put forward proposals relating to Shoreditch College before any other step can be taken or considered. We are still awaiting their proposals.