HC Deb 19 July 1978 vol 954 cc528-30
18. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received on the setting up of a tertiary education council; and whether he will institute an inquiry into post-school education, in view of the interests in this possibility shown by the Department of Education and Science.

Mr. Millan

There has been a very encouraging response to the consultative paper that I issued earlier this year. The proposal to establish a council has been generally welcomed, and I hope to make an announcement shortly about its terms of reference. The comments that I have received have not persuaded me of the need for a separate inquiry into post-school education.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that this statement will be made before the House rises for the recess, especially in view of the fact that many weeks ago he gave an assurance, in a parliamentary answer, that a statement would be made shortly?

Mr. Millan

We are getting many requests today. I suppose it depends on when the recess comes. What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that I hope to make an announcement about this matter very shortly.

Mr. Buchan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that will be much welcomed by the Scottish council of the Labour Party, which has been pressing for such a council for some time and, indeed, for an inquiry into tertiary education? In considering the appointment of members to the council, will he ensure that those members are there in their own right and not as delegates representing sectional interests? I believe that that has been one of the problems of the General Teaching Council. Finally, will he also include the question of the relationships of the various sectors of tertiary education and the possibility of cross-transference of students?

Mr. Millan

My hon. Friend's latter point is the kind of problems which the council, when established, could well consider. I shall certainly take account of what he said in the earlier part of his supplementary question. I want anyone appointed to the council to take a very wide view of its work and not simply to represent one interest.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Has the Minister considered the effect of devolution on this inquiry? Might it not prove to be just a waste of time?

Mr. Millan

The hon. Member is remarkably ignorant, even for him. This inquiry arises out of devolution. We want to have a council that will embrace post-school education—which will be under the Assembly—and the university sector The inquiry is specifically designed to deal with the situation when the Assembly is established.