HC Deb 18 April 1980 vol 982 cc1700-33 12.56 pm
Dr. Keith Hatnpson (Ripon)

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the importance of the education and training system in meeting the needs of both industry and young people in today's changing technological circumstances, calls for early action on the recommendations of the Finniston Committee on the Education and Training of Engineers and for an urgent review of the current fragmented provision for the 15 to 18-years age group to bring greater coherence and effectiveness to the work of the schools, the further education system, the industrial training boards and the Manpower Services Commission. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the motion, although I am somewhat saddened by the poor attendance. That may be due in part to the problems of Fridays. The fact that the motion is the second on the Order Paper inevitably leads hon. Members to believe that its prospects of debate are fairly slight.

This is the first chance that the House has had to debate a report of the utmost importance that deserves priority attention by any Government. The other place has had the opportunity of about five hours' debate on the Finniston report. It is up to this place, which will make the key decisions, to express its views on the important discussion and recommendations set out in the report. The Departments concerned—they are both represented by Ministers today—have asked for submissions. The closing date for submissions was the end of last month, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science will be able to indicate the way in which his Department and the Department of Industry are progressing and the approach that they are adopting to the report.

I have had a number of contacts with those in industry and in the professions. Only a few weeks ago, I attended a major conference at which some most distinguished people discussed the report. There was a feeling that the mood had changed and that, after the initial enthusiasm for the report when it was published, there seemed to be some slippage. It is felt that Ministers and officials are no longer quite so enthused as initially they seemed to be about the report's main recommendations. It would be a tragedy if, yet again, we started to drift.

The Finniston report states that it is preaching an all too familiar message. There have been scores of reports, some going back over 100 years, highlighting the weakness of science and technology in our education system and the poor performance of British manufacturing in the use of its engineers. In the past few years we have heard repeated calls for action over the content of education and in the way that industry recruits and uses those with applied science and engineering qualifications. Only today the Financial Times in its lead editorial—this is an indication of the importance of the subject —states: Warnings about engineering recruitment difficulties come most frequently from companies in the high-technology industrial sectors. Nothing could be more important for the future of this country, and for improving its economic prospects—on which everything depends. Whether we wish to spend more on homes, hospitals, schools, roads or anything else, we cannot have one without the other. We cannot dip into an open-ended Treasury till and find the cash. Unless we first create the wealth, we shall not be able to do all the things that we wish to do to improve the quality of life for our citizens.

The manufacturing sector of industry is fundamental in that sense. Whatever its problems, it is responsible for generating 30 per cent. of the nation's wealth. Finniston highlights the old story that we have seen in recent years—a wretched performance by British industry. We cannot pinpoint any single weakness. There are a number of factors. One of the problems that we face day in and day out is industrial relations. It is a critical factor. There is also the problem of productivity. But after all, as the report says, the question of union practices, of production methods, efficiency and so on—all elements of productivity—are not to be viewed in isolation. Often they reflect the market appeal and the value of the goods being produced. That is at the essence of what is profitable for a company. If it has the products, even if it does not have as good a productivity record as industries in other countries, it can still sell. It has the mar- ket, and therefore it is a successful and profitable company.

Although output of the manufacturing sector rose in the decade between 1963 and 1973 by 43 per cent., our track record is poor in contrast to those of our major industrial rivals elsewhere in the world. In addition, we have a smaller rate of growth in our exports of manufacturing goods than that which other countries are experiencing. Above all, it comes back to that remark in the opening paragraph of the Financial Times leader, that the value of what we are producing is not only a matter of the output and scale. It is the value of what we are producing and the value of our exports which lie at the heart of the problem. In that sense, the record of British industry, in contrast to the French, the German, the Japanese and other major rivals, is one that causes great concern.

Yet a critical sector—the high technology area, which is one of our most successful areas—is complaining about the ability to recruit the right type and quality of engineers. They are not alone. In the editorial in the Financial Times there is this remark: Yesterday British Aerospace, in announcing a record order book … added its name to the list of successful companies concerned about the effects of engineering recruitment problems on its prospects for continuing expansion. There is a catalogue of complaints by industrialists—including those in our successful chemical industry—by individuals, companies and the CBI that this is an area that needs drastic action. One could argue that this is not a matter for the Government. There are those, especially on the Conservative side of the House, to whom market forces have become almost a matter of religious fervour. But the truth remains that that is the way that we have gone on so far. It may be right to say that the quality of engineers is not the only factor in terms of correcting British industrial problems and improving industry's prospects. Of course it is not. It may be equally correct to say that if engineers were so important, and if we needed more of them, they would be offered higher salaries and given better prospects and better recognition by industry. All that may well be true.

As the Financial Times indicates, it is not just only a matter of turning on the schools and blaming the education system, saying that the schools are not producing the right people with the right qualifications, or that the educational course content is wrong. Clearly, industry has obligations placed on it also. It does not clearly indicate its requirements to the educational world. As Finniston indicates, industry must take a share of the blame. It does not, as yet, accord the right prestige and the right career prospects to engineers. Some companies do not appear to know how best to use them. One of the weaknesses of the Finniston report is that it does not deal in any depth with the use that industry makes of engineers, at least not in comparison to the degree with which it examines the supply side—the educational input.

As we have drifted in the way that we have, and as the problem is a long-term one, the solutions that we adopt now will not have an effect for some considerable time. Bearing in mind that we have faced this problem over many years and generations, it would not be appropriate to say that we can leave it to the forces in the economy, or that we can continue with the same organisational structure and approach to the problem that we have adopted in the past. That very approach has contributed to the difficulties that we face. It is time for a change, and in that process of change the Government have a key responsibility.

I am dealing with a very broad motion. It is an attempt to deal with two sides of a common problem. We face a dual dilemma in this country. We are clearly in a revolutionary time, whatever label one puts on it—the second or third industrial revolution, the electronics revolution, the microprocessor era, or whatever. It is there, and there is no getting away from it. The microchip is with us and will stay with us, and we must live with the consequences.

The pace at which technology is changing and the sheer expansion of knowledge are themselves revolutionary. So fast is technology changing that often I believe that people do not take on board the full consequences. The impossible is becoming ever nearer and more capable of achievement. There was a time when schoolchildren dreamt of people going to the moon. That has become so commonplace that no one gives it a thought. In the course of a couple of decades we have seen a fundamental change in the capacity of technology in this country.

In the 1950s, the first commercial computers would have filled the space of the Chamber, with a special climate and sophisticated refrigeration systems, and would have cost more than £1 million. That same computer capacity today is portable and probably costs about £2,000. That process is still continuing. We are also into the era of robotics. There is also biotechnology—the process that is not likely to stop.

That has fundamental consequences in two senses. First, if we are to keep abreast of these developments, and if, as a nation, we wish to make use of them successfully to compete with our rivals in industrial nations throughout the world, we must have the means of drawing on the talent in this country. We must ensure that it is capable of developing these new technologies so that we stay in the advance of knowledge. The search for talent is what Finniston is all about.

Secondly, there is the other side of the equation affecting all those who are not the high fliers on the boundaries of new knowledge. There are the ordinary people —the young men and women who are leaving our schools. What are their prospects? Are we ensuring that they have the opportunities to earn a successful livelihood and to have a good life in the new era of advanced technology over the next two decades? Will they be able to cope? What are the schools, the education service and the various agencies that exist doing to help them, and are they doing it in the right way?

It is important not merely for the individual. In the previous debate the viability of the rural community was discussed. Here, we are dealing with the viability of towns. A town requires a continuing supply of high calibre work-people with various skills. Even though we are experiencing much unemployment, many industries in many parts of the country are short of people with certain skills. The system is not supplying people with the right attitudes and qualifications.

Youth unemployment is another pressing urban problem. Many of the unskilled jobs, for example, in the secretarial service area, which are mopping up young people as they leave school and which keep unemployment levels within bounds, will disappear. I am optimistic about the microprocessor revolution, but whatever new jobs it creates will demand new skills and different attributes. That is the other side of the coin—the dual dilemma that we face.

In 1977, I initiated an Opposition working party which produced a report remarkably similar to Finniston, particularly in one important and symbolic sense. The Finniston report is headed "Engineering: our future". The Conservative working party, which was a most distinguished body of people, consisting of several presidents of engineering institutions, industrialists and distinguished academics, produced a report entitled "The engineering profession: a national investment". That illustrates that we all believe that engineering is a vital element in any attempt to improve our industrial prospects.

Both reports analyse the problems in much the same way. There is the problem of the ethos in schools and society at large that it is not conductive to our ablest young people entering manufacturing industry. It is a chicken and egg situation. It is argued that the onus lies on industry. It must offer better prospects, more pay and enhanced prestige to engineers, which will have a trigger effect on schools. Young people will then see engineering as a desirable occupation. However, I believe that the root of the problem is that the schools have been unable, and in many instances unwilling, to create a climate that draws young people into industry. That situation has been changing, in certain schools markedly, in recent years.

In many countries, particularly Germany and France, but also Holland, the Benelux countries and Japan, there is the culture of "technik"—the notion that applied knowledge is a worthwhile pursuit and of the utmost prestige. Long part of our cultural tradition is the feeling that a cultivated young person should study the arts and that science should be a pure subject for those of academic bent. Over generations the school system was oriented towards Latin, the arts or to pure science, and not to practical work. Engineering and technology have taken second place.

Only one university, I think, awards a bachelor of engineering degree. The others offer a bachelor of science degree. The main funding body for engineering research is the Science Research Council and not the science and engineering research council. Those facts may be trivial, but are symbolic of the deeper problem—our attitude to technology. In other countries, as a result of different cultural traditions, young people are more directly geared towards industry and courses, particularly in engineering, that benefit manufacturing.

Two days ago, the problem was raised in an article by my wife, Sue Cameron, in the Financial Times. She was reporting on complaints made by ICI, one of Britain's most successful companies, about the extraordinary statistics for recruits to teacher training institutions. Next year, of 8,627 candidates to train as teachers and obtain a bachelor of education degree, only 22 are opting to teach physics and 20 chemistry. An unbelievable 1,740 want to teach gym. At the postgraduate level, of 12,050, only 229 want to teach physics and 435 chemistry. These are those degree candidates whom we most need. These are the honours graduates who will teach advanced courses and attract the most successful students.

It is difficult to know how accurate the figures are, but ICI estimates that there is a national shortage of 2,000 physical science teachers and 4,000 mathematicians. If that is so, the position has steadily worsened over the past few years. About five years ago, the Government estimated that there was a shortage of about 2,000 mathematics teachers. In Opposition, we urged Mrs. Shirley Williams and her predecessor to take action to cope with that problem. The Government dithered, and 18 months passed before a full programme for retraining people in specialist areas was instituted through the Manpower Services Commission. The Government also eventually set up an inquiry into the teaching of mathematics, after much urging.

Even when a problem is recognised, it takes too long for action to result. The lead time in the education system is very long. It is 10 to 15 years before the effect of any changes is felt. The Government announce that they seek to improve mathematics teaching, but we still face the same problems. We must increase the numbers and improve the quality of those educated in physics, chemistry and, above all, mathematics, who enter teacher training, so that once back in the schools they can generate enthusiasm for those subjects. It is a long-term process, and the whole cycle needs to gain momentum.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

My hon. Friend has touched on an important point which Ministers have felt keenly about in their nine or 10 months in office. He has rightly pinpointed the difficulty over lead times. That is why my colleague, Baroness Young, and I sought consultations with local education authorities, the teacher associations and the CBI to see whether there was any chance of attracting back into the teaching profession those with a science or maths degree who faced early retirement in their late forties or fifties after perhaps 25 or 30 years in industry. They could be urgently retrained, with a view to carrying on work until the age of 65. That is one proposal with which we are proceeding urgently.

Dr. Hampson

All credit to my hon. Friend and his colleagues, because this is a matter of great urgency. Far too many people teaching maths are not only not mathematicians but propably were not keen on the subject in school or during their training. That fact communicates itself to the young people they are teaching, and it is not surprising that the latter in turn are not enthusiastic. The whole trend has been downwards, and it will be a major problem to turn it around. We shall have to take even more urgent action than my hon. Friend has described.

There is some irony in the fact that the gentleman from ICI mentioned in the report I referred to is a former chemistry teacher, but he is no longer working in the school system. He left to go into industry. How does one attract such people back to schools? Some schools no longer offer the range of courses, or have the numbers going into chemistry or physics or even maths. These are very serious problems.

Whatever the teaching unions say, we shall have to build in special incentives, because this problem cannot be left to linger. There is a major case for merit awards for maths teachers of high ability who have gone through the system. in- cluding the universities, and done well. They should have these awards in addition to their normal salaries, so that the profession is made as attractive to them as the jobs which many of them are taking in industry.

It is also valuable to consider how to attract young people from the pool, restricted though it is, of those taking science in the sixth forms into teacher training courses, following the example of the national industrial scholarships. This is a different area, I know, but in the first year, those scholarships were attached to a certain number of elite special four-year engineering courses. That is a valuable model for what could be done in other areas, particularly maths.

We should discover where the best departments are for teaching maths teachers and should attach to those colleges or polytechnics special bursaries to attract clever maths pupils. By entering those courses they will receive more than the normal grant. This is not the usual idea about giving more grants to people studying technology and maths: it is more sophisticated. We shall have to consider such ideas, even though, traditionally, they have been opposed by many in the teaching profession.

In all this, we need a sense of urgency. The vital thing now is that the responsible Departments should get moving on the Finniston report. The danger is that the matter will drift and that by the time decisions are taken and the lead time works through, valuable time will have been lost. I hope that we shall not be bogged down in a detailed debate about the peripheral and marginal issues involved in the Finniston report, thus losing sight of Finniston's central thrust. Many interest groups are involved, and they will all argue about some part or another. Let us keep our attention focused on the central questions of Finniston.

Above all, the report's value is as a catalyst, as something which impresses greater urgency on Whitehall than any other report in this area. It should be equivalent to the Robbins report, which, whatever one says about it in retrospect, had tremendous political sex appeal. It got people moving in the 1960s and created a new climate. That is what I hope Finniston will achieve.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Michael Marshall)

I apologise for missing my hon. Friend's opening remarks. Having responsibility for the Department of Industry's response to Finniston, I can assure my hon. Friend that this part of the consultation is proceeding with great speed and that no fewer than 390 written representations have been received by the deadline that we set of the end of March. Obviously, among the bodies consulted are many which have to consult their constituents —such as the Engineering Employers Federation, the CBI and so on. However, we recognise the case for urgency, and we are working closely with the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, who will speak on the wider scene from his Department's standpoint. We hope that something will come through before the summer, because we recognise the point that my hon. Friend is making.

Dr. Hampson

That is very heartening. I shall have something to say about the way in which Finniston can be implemented, but I first want to make a few comments about some of the proposals in the report. I shall do so particularly in connection with the report that I was instrumental in producing for the then Opposition.

We came to the same conclusions as Finniston on the area that I have just discussed—the climate in schools and the ethos of engineering. We suggested the idea of a society for engineering education which would keep a continuing watch on the problem and try to improve the climate and to enhance the esteem of the profession in any number of different ways.

We also saw another problem. There is a long cultural hang-up in British education about what constitutes an educated man. Without pressing the argument to absurd lengths and saying that everybody should be educated in industry, the balance needs changing. We need more vocational studies in schools and a change in the balance of teaching in higher education.

We argued, as I believe does Finniston, that there must be some means of monitoring what is happening at various stages of the education process. We must have something to act from the top as a cata- lyst for action at lower level to relate the educational world more closely to the world of industry.

We said, very much as Finniston did, that engineering degree courses were far too theoretical in orientation and that they needed to be more directly related to the problems facing industry. We felt that students needed to break out from the confines of the course and into the world of industry.

Therefore, we recommended the establishment of an engineering training council with responsibility for accrediting courses and ensuring that courses were balanced and contained the right industrial and practical ingredients. We had in mind a three-year university or polytechnic-based element and, following the completion of the degree course, a two-year integrated course which would take place in industry. Those two years would be a supervised part of the process and since we were thinking in terms of fully qualified engineers, we thought that there should be a further two years of supervised professional practice.

The first five years of the course would form an integrated academic and industrial unit—a continuous process in which industry and the university departments would work together. After that, students would spend two years demonstrating that they could do the job before they qualified as chartered engineers. The engineering training council would be responsible for course accreditation and linkage and would also accredit companies taking part in the course.

If those two notions of our committee are merged we end up with what Finniston called the engineering authority. In other words, the working parties—both highly distinguished in their composition —came up with the same analysis and very much the same kind of approach. We diverged slightly in that we wished to develop the use of the existing apparatus rather than set up a new one. There to a certain extent, comes the crunch as to whether Finniston will be accepted in its main recommendations.

I believe that some kind of accrediting authority should be established to maintain an overview of what is happening in education and industry and ensure that new developments are taken up so that a momentum is maintained. I believe that it is fundamental to the whole diagnosis of our problems. Whatever plan is produced by the Government, I believe that those factors should be incorporated.

The Finniston proposals diverge slightly from ours in dealing with courses. I can see how these things happen. Our committee too, spent a great deal of time debating labels and whether there should be two or three tiers in the profession. We sympathise greatly with the minority report in Finniston, since we felt that the establishment of three tiers would break entirely with tradition and would produce a profession that was too fragmented. We thought that the educational world might not cope if courses were matched directly to a three-tier system and we, therefore, confined our considerations to courses for chartered engineers and technician engineers. In a sense, Finniston may be right. The nation probably does require three tiers.

There is no doubt that to get the talent into manufacturing industry that will effect improvements in product design and production management and improve the capacity of British industry to keep abreast of modern developments and be able to sell the results, we need high fliers. We need to attract the most able people.

Once those high fliers are in the system we must devise courses which are sufficiently rigorous and tough to draw out their full potential and turn them into people for whom companies will design and develop career structures which will allow these young professionals to rise to the top.

But there are people who acquire engineering degrees who are not high fliers. Some of them will not go into engineering and some of them will not even go into industry. They do not require the same time, the same courses and the same qualifications as the high fliers. There is also that group of people who comprise the support staff. Their role is critical. I often wonder whether we need more engineers or whether we need fewer engineers of higher quality. However, we certainly need many more technician engineers to support the qualified professional engineers.

I regret that Finniston dropped the name "technician". I do not hold much of a brief for the new labels in Finniston; that there should be registered diplomate engineers, registered engineers and registered associated engineers, the latter being the technicians. Instead of conveying the impression that the technician category is a profession of some worth and status in its own right, we appear to be labelling it as if it were a second-rate category made up of also-rans who had not quite made it into the engineering ranks.

These matters of labels are on the periphery of the problem. As they are not central, we would be wrong to get involved in endless arguments on them and miss the central point. That point is that those who go on to universities must be in courses in which the academic and industrial practice is integrated. That is crucial, whether at the end of the day one calls these people chartered engineers or diplomate engineers. One must also recognise that there will be those who do not wish to go on to the highest levels of qualification, but will still take engineering degrees.

I doubt whether one need go as far as Finniston and suggest that 25 per cent. of the intake—the high fliers—would need a four-year course and that the rest would need three and a half years. That is problematical. The present four-year specialist courses have proved successful. They should stay, and perhaps one or two others could come into the system. But we certainly do not need an immediate upheaval of the system. In any case, we could not afford the move to four-year engineering courses for 25 per cent. of the intake. Nor do I see much point in extending the lengths of academic side of the general engineering degree. It is of fundamental importance that in the general course itself, or in the sandwich work or afterwards, there should be an integrated programme with direct practice or involvement in a company. Possibly one could evolve the notion of a teaching company. It is much more on the research level, but the principle is still the same.

The other difference between Finniston and the committee on which I was involved was the way in which we used the professional institutions. This aspect needs to be more closely examined. One should not just write off the institutions. We should involve them much more closely in the process of accreditation. I believe that that, in turn, would mean that the engineering authority would be less unwieldy. If it were smaller, it would have less need for a large support staff and the sort of costs which are are rather daunting in the Finniston report. As a small body, it would use the professional institutions which, again by statute, could be required to monitor—as most of them do at present, but it is rather patchy—the courses in the various universities and colleges to ensure that they met the prescribed standard set down by the new engineering authority. In my view it would not be right for any new authority to be of such a size that it had a huge staff at the centre, and a regional organisation with tentacles everywhere, checking, cross-checking and monitoring throughout all the institutions and courses involved.

Finniston is misleading about one important aspect. There is fear that the whole thing, as set out, would be too prescriptive. The critical element must be flexibility. With the world of technology changing at the present pace, we do not want a system the ingredients of which are laid down so precisely that the people going through the course cannot adapt and cope with the rapid change which will face them when they leave the course. We do not want courses or proposals for old skills. We want a system that will allow such diversity and flexibility that it will constantly change and keep abreast with demand.

We should have four-year courses, less specialised courses, indeed a whole range of different types of approach, such as the universities themselves wish to establish, in conjunction with industry. We must fund them accordingly. Those which prove successful should be rewarded. There should be some mechanism within the UGC system, or whatever system is used to finance the polytechnics, which actually earmarked funds to those sort of objectives and rewarded the successful, rather than the reverse, which is so often the case with present UGC funding. I do not believe that there is any infringement of principle of the UGC's traditional role because, after all, funds were earmarked specifically to launch Imperial College as one of the great centres of excellence in this country. It is done in the medical area, in dentistry and in veterinary science. Why not in engineering? To a certain extent, the principle has already been breached in engineering. Money was earmarked specifically for the specialised four-year engineering courses.

The Finniston report is very much an act of faith. The impact and the psychology are what matters. We must not become distracted by small side issues and the "argy-bargy" of the professional bodies. The central issue is how to maintain momentum. The need is to ensure that there are the numbers and the quality of engineers, that proper use is made of engineers and that there is the ability of industry to find gaps in new markets and the design of products to fill those gaps.

There has been drift. The system of government has positively worsened that drift or has been instrumental in it. Too many matters fall between too many Departments. The Department of Education and Science, the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment are all becoming involved. I fear that, whichever is the sponsoring Department, liaison bodies and co-ordinating committees are set up which tend to fudge action. There are pressure groups behind each Department.

Our committee wanted somebody with overall power which could pull things together, knock heads together and keep the momentum going. Our model was a Minister in the then Cabinet with special responsibilities, in addition to his Cabinet duties, for small businesses. We argued that this was needed in engineering, even if it did not continue ad infinitum. There should be someone of senior rank to co-ordinate matters and get them moving. While welcoming the appointment of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science at the science end of matters, one can only be sorrowful that he has become so diversified into youth activities and now into the arts. This shows what has been the problem time and time again. There has not been co-ordination and drive focused on technology, how education can be geared to it and how it relates to industrial needs.

The notion of a specialised Minister should be considered again. If that is not done, something like the engineering authority is needed. Important to its success would be the person chosen as its executive director.

A proposal for a new quango should not frighten my hon. Friends. A new quango, the urban development corporation, has been set up in the docklands and Liverpool because of dereliction and a scale of problems with which no single authority can deal. The local authority has failed to cope with the problem. We need a body that can provide more drive and can put a new thrust into dealing with problems in a co-ordinated manner.

I believe that the engineering authority possesses the same worth as the UDCs as one of the few new quangos that this Government could and should create. Much would depend on the membership. One would need a person such as Nigel Broackes as its executive arm. That would be fundamental to the whole process. One cannot continue with the laissez-faire approach of the past. One has only to look at Japan—to many people the epitome of a modern market economy. What has helped to trigger off the phenomenal growth in Japan over the last two decades has been the concentration on technical and technological education, the innovations springing from that education, and the research and development effort that has occurred.

In the 1950s, after the interim period of Allied occupation, the Japanese set up a new education system geared at a much more vocational level. In the late 1960s, they began to gear all levels of education increasingly to technology to develop the sort of people whom industry will require. About 30 per cent. of Japanese pupils go into higher education, and one-quarter of those go into engineering, which is overwhelmingly the most popular subject in Japanese higher education. Japan limits the goals pursued by its education system. Of course, that causes great problems and is in some ways anathema to our traditions, but the goals are pursued with great determination, and probably no nation is more numerate than the Japanese.

Their system is in stark contrast to ours. The popularity of technical subjects in schools is one of the key features of Japanese education. A much higher status is accorded to engineers in society and in companies. Far more company directors have engineering training, and many people in the Japanese Government and Civil Service have technological qualifications. We can see in Japan the reverse of the situation that we have been complaining about for years, and it is not, I believe, a coincidence that Japan has been successful and our performance has been wretched.

The Japanese Government have played a central part in the gearing of the education system and the key body in policy making is the Council for Science and Technology. This is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes among its members the Ministers of Finance, Education, Economic Planning and Science. That is a measure of the weight that the Japanese government system attaches to these problems.

The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry is an active co-ordinating Department. It would be fine if we here could find the right department to co-ordinate all the work, but, as our traditions are different and empires are not easily broken up, there is a case for an engineering authority of weight and prestige to do some of that work for us.

The other side of the coin is how to handle young people aged between 15 and 19 who are leaving school. I am not asking for more money. There are large resources already available, but they are so fragmented and the responsibility for using them rests with so many departments and agencies that we are not getting value for money or giving the best deal to our young people.

The problem exists at a number of levels. The first stage is the whole ethos in our schools and the need to ensure that young people are more aware of industry. The HMI report on maths pointed out the need to ensure that the way that traditional subjects were taught related to the real world, rather than to only an academic environment. The report said: The teaching of mathematics is insufficiently related to the teaching of other subjects in the school and to the world outside. It recommended: better use of existing opportunities and accepting that mathematics teaching requires commonsense interpretation within the experience of pupils. It is difficult for any Government to deal with the way subjects are taught in schools. There is much good practice around, and we must find a way of spreading it further because at the moment there is such a patchwork quilt of opportunity.

There is a great deal we can do to draw on the private sector, with possibly small amounts of Government money being invested to act as a catalyst to change. I am sure that we could turn to the many private companies making training films of first-class quality which could be used in schools to get across to young people the concepts of cash flow and so on which are otherwise daunting. In these films, such concepts are pitched in a way that most young people can cope with. There is a case for having science and technology in a common core curriculum. Companies might second people to help.

There is also the problem of careers education. Finniston highlights what a hit-and-miss affair that has been. I have always thought it odd that, in the crash programme for retraining instituted by the previous Government, careers education was not considered. If we are serious about finding jobs for young people in an increasingly difficult job market, we must have more careers education. The jobs we find must match their aptitudes and qualifications. Young people must be made aware of the opportunities, and we must ensure that the schools are capable of leading them in the right direction because decisions are taken at the early age of 13, or, at the latest, 14.

It is not just a case of dishing out a piece of literature in the classroom. The most important factor is broadening the child's perception from that of his family or immediate peer group. This is a fundamental problem which needs to be grappled with in our future educational planning. We have to find more ways of linking the final year at school with the world of work.

Finniston mentions the SATROs, as did my committee. Many of the business men to whom I talked asked "What on earth are SATROs?" The Department of Industry put quite a lot of money into these organisations because they were floundering. They were an attractive notion, of which I am a great supporter, and are dying a death because of neglect and financial difficulty. They are too reliant on money from different sources and have not been financially stable. Some of them carry out their functions much better than others, but they are science and technology-based. We need a more broadly-based occupational front which finds placings for young people to experience different jobs.

There are many exciting schemes all over the country, and we can extend that good practice—again with the help of private companies. There is the INDEX scheme, which is about to be launched by Pilkington in the St. Helens area, and there is also the Coventry training workshop scheme. Work experience is growing in our education system, but we need to offer young people a sampling of different opportunities and job experience rather than have them in only one company for a few days. That is what some schemes are trying to do. They are trying to give young people of below average ability who would not obtain apprenticeships experience of various jobs.

The problem is immensely serious. I believe that the Manpower Services Commission has predicted that the number of unemployed school leavers will rise by 96 per cent. by 1982, as against a rise of 30 per cent. in the number of unemployed generally. What is happening is that apprenticeships are in decline. I do not know whether the figures are available—I have not been able to obtain precise figures—but I believe that over the past decade there has been a decline in the number of apprenticeships of more than 30 per cent. I asked a question the other day, but the figures were not available from the MSC. However, I understand that there has been a marked decline in the number of craft jobs available.

School-leaving rates are very low in areas such as the North-East, where basic industries are in decline. All in all, however, not enough young people are staying on at school Job and apprentice opportunities, and other chances outside school environment, are diminishing. There are the appalling statistics that in 1969, 645,000 people attended day release, whereas in 1975 only 524,000 did so. There is a dual problem of declining opportunities at the same time as young people need to be trained in new skills.

The various Departments—Industry, Employment and Education and Science —the Manpower Services Commission and important institutions such as the industrial training boards which are, after all, the cutting edge of the process need to be brought together in a more co-ordinated form than the one which we have seen so far.

The problem comes back to one of finance. We should consider the sort of money available. For example, through the DHSS, a young person who works less than 21 hours a week on courses is able to retain his supplementary benefit. Great obstacles are created by local DHSS officers, which very often means that young people are doing nothing very practical. Therefore, as we said in Opposition, there must be an urgent review of the sources of finance. As grant money is geared overwhelmingly to 18-year-olds, who traditionally go on to higher education and first degree courses, other things, such as part-time technician work, are starved of finance. We must reconsider our priorities in this area.

I believe that my hon. Friend's recent speech was misreported as stating that the Government were considering a reduction in the school leaving age. I know what he means. He argues, as I have, that the final year at school should be more flexible. I believe that for many young people of 15, schools have become an obstacle to learning through sheer frustration and boredom, and they do not believe that their studies are practical or relevant to their future job prospects. They should be doing something more constructive, such as attending further education colleges. That is all very well, but we must now find a way of keeping those young people if not in school then off the job market for about two years. As well as reducing the onus on the school, there is a need for some sort of integrated youth programme, which would last for about two years from the age of 15, to ensure that our young people are doing something constructive, be it in an apprenticeship scheme, one of the other schemes such as INDEX, or a further education course.

I believe that if the finance were rationalised, some money could be made available to those schemes. We keep upping the amount of money to the Manpower Services Commission in line with social security benefits, but the proportion of finance available through it to trainees is way out of line with other parts of the provision. If we were more realistic about the sums of money that were paid, there could be wider scope.

I have obviously gone on long enough. I am sorry that the debate has been thinly attended, but I know that some colleagues wish to intervene. I hope that I have not denied them that opportunity. What is needed is a desire to give all these things a try. Time and again, we have tended to concentrate on the problems and have got bogged down.

There has been considerable debate about certain parts of the Finniston report. Many of its suggestions are worth trying. I believe that the engineering authority is worth trying, just as we tried industrial scholarships which proved to be successful. It is even worth considering licensing for consultants, because, rather like doctors, engineers are important to society and should not simply be let loose to design merely because they hold an engineering degree. There are many aspects involved in this sort of motion. It is vitally important that the Government have the determination and the will to act. Over many years, in such areas as the 16 to 19-year-olds and how to educate people for industry, we have not acted; we have simply debated and discussed.

2 pm

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Bolton, West)

I shall be brief, because I know that several hon. Members who have been present throughout the debate wish to contribute, and time is short.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) for having missed the first few minutes of his speech. I did not realise that he would be fortunate enough to find time for his debate in today's proceedings.

I listened with interest to what he said, as did all hon. Members who have been present. I was particularly interested in some of his comments about British management. The sort of criticisms that he made about British management—which are valid—are criticisms about which we do not hear often enough from Conservative Members. If his hon. Friends listen to his approach on these matters, it will be to everyone's advantage.

I also listened with interest to what the hon. Gentleman said about the Finniston report, and about the education and status of engineers. Perhaps I should declare an interest because I am married to an engineer, and, therefore, I hear frequently about the difficulties experienced by engineers in Britain, and particularly about their relatively low status here compared to their status in many other countries.

What the hon. Gentleman said was true. Very often we talk about what he describes as the education needed for a well-cultivated young man. The hon. Gentleman left out women completely. He said that the well-educated young man, even if he is an engineer or a scientist, has to have some arts education and some background of that sort before he is considered to be well-educated. In many of our universities, scientists and engineers often have to attend lectures or seminars which are normally considered to cover arts subjects, as part of their course. The reverse is rarely the case. It is rare that arts students or social science students are required to attend science or technology lectures. Universities such as Bradford —where I was required to attend lectures in technology; therefore I appreciate the arts graduates' point of view—which have adopted that sort of attitude, have given great benefits to their students. It would be of benefit to everyone if that sort of approach were widened and adopted by other universities and colleges.

The hon. Gentleman said that some of his remarks about the status of engineers were perhaps trivial and could be considered as not very important. However, he said that they had symbolic importance, and I think that he was right. In Britain we do not give sufficient status to engineers. That is the cause of many of the problems that Finniston recognises and many of the problems with which the hon. Gentleman dealt concerning the performance of British industry and other problems that exist in Britain today.

Finniston has produced some serious and important recommendations, which should be considered by the House. I presume that, after the Minister has completed his consideration of the responses to the report, time will be provided to enable the House to debate the recommendations fully in the light of representations to the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Industry over the next few weeks.

The Minister from the Department of Industry said that his Department was looking at this question as a matter of urgency, and that many representations had been made. I presume that the same applies to the Department of Education and Science, because the point made by the hon. Member for Ripon about the need for urgency is very important. Some of the factors that he raised need attention in the very near future. The report should not end up on the shelf, gathering dust, while the education system and the industrial situation in this country continue as they are.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman said that the training and education of engineers in this country was bad. I think that he was saying that many aspects of it were not well organised, or could be better organised, and that it was not given sufficient status.

One area that is never given sufficient status is that of the sandwich course. Very often the students who are doing sandwich courses in engineering are considered to be the second-rate students; it is felt that the first-rate students are those who do purely academic work. That is the misconception that leads to problems later on. The essentially practical nature of the sandwich course can often make people better engineers. It is wrong—I shall develop this point when I deal with the second part of the motion—to equate "academic" with the best on every occasion. The balance between practical and academic is part of the important area that has not been defined in the past in engineering.

The hon. Gentleman's motion is really two motions in one, and I congratulate him on his cleverness in getting two motions accepted. The part dealing with the Finniston committee and the engineers is really separate from that which deals with the education of the 15 to 18-years age group—I noticed that at times the hon. Gentleman referred to the 16 to 19-years age group. That identifies the point that it is difficult to narrow down the group of people about whom he is talking.

The hon. Gentleman is certain to say that in this area there is fragmented provision. There are many different types of provisions for those between 15 and 19 years of age, and this is one of the problems that those young people face at present.

It is important that in all the considerations of what should be happening in post-16 education, several factors should be considered. At the moment, many local authorities are re-considering their provision for the 16 to 19-years age group because of falling roles and the pressure on sixth form places. The traditional sixth form has sometimes been non-viable because of falling rolls, and it is good that local authorities should reconsider exactly what they want to provide for pupils above the age of 16. The problem that they are facing is to ensure not only that each child over the age of 16 gets a chance of post-16 education, either by day release or by straightforward academic work but that, whatever type of education is provided, it is valued equally.

One of the reasons why many people have dropped out of education completely after the age of 16 is that only academic work is considered to be proper education; anything else is considered second-rate and lower in status. It is not considered to be as good to do day release or to do night school classes, yet for many people that may be the only way of continuing their education, and it can be a very important way.

The kind of principle that we have to get established in regard to the post-16s is one of different but equal, because at the moment that kind of approach does not exist in may areas.

In view of the shortage of time, I shall refer to just one thing that the hon. Gentleman merely touched on—the funding of post-16 education—and I hope that the Minister will be able to comment on it.

Everyone recognises that at a time of expenditure cuts, many local authorities will give priority to the 5 to 16-yearolds and to the statutory provisions that already exist. In many areas, provisions for the post-16s are suffering. Provisions areb eing cut, or not expanded as they should be. The Minister will have to face up to those difficulties, not least when the committee reports.

Greater funding is inevitable if we are to encourage 16 to 19-year-olds to take advantage of the provisions that should be available. It will involve a greater variety of provision. If we wish to encourage the post-16s to stay in education, we should provide them with grants, such as the maintenance allowances provided by the previous Labour Government. t is hollow to continue discusing 16 to 19-year-olds without receiving any commitment from the Government that they are willing and able to provide resources that will give our young people a fair chance.

I hope that the Minister will deal with that point. All these proposals and suggestions will be meaningless if funds are unavailable. His Department has responsibility for providing the funds that can make a reality of the opportunity that everyone claims to favour.

2.9 pm

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

Time prevents me from answering and acknowledging all the points that have been raised. However, I welcome and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) on his cleverly worded motion. I am delighted that the House has had an opportunity—albeit somewhat sparsely—to enter this important arena in our educational system.

My hon. Friend has rightly drawn attention to the importance of preparing young people for adult and working life. This must be a primary aim of our education and training system if our young people are to achieve fulfilment as individuals. It goes without saying that it is vital for the economic and industrial revival and future of our country. There are, I am sure, aspects of our education and training programme where change is required and where change has already begun. I shall refer in a moment to matters where change is afoot. I hope that, when I have spoken, my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon will agree that much work has already been put in hand during the past year or so by those who bear the responsibility for educating and training our young people. One must bear in mind the efforts by them and others to ensure that a system that has served us fairly well in the past continues to do so in the future.

My hon Friend referred to the provision made for 15-year-olds. He touched on a number of issues relating to the school curriculum. I acknowledge all his points. I should like to deal first with this area, because the period of compulsory schooling is the foundation for all our endeavours. There has, I acknowledge, been criticism that the curriculum has become overcrowded during the past 15 to 20 years, putting basic essentials at risk.

Perhaps our industrial competitors have concentrated to a greater extent on the basic essentials. The criticism has been made that variations in approach between different areas of the country are too great, and that the curriculum is not sufficiently matched to life in a modern industrial society. Not all of those criticisms are equally valid everywhere, of course. However, through Her Majesty's Inspectorate's recent national primary and secondary school surveys and my Department's report on the circular 14/77 review of local authority curricular arrangements, we now have for the first time a picture of the state of the school system—including both its weaknesses and its strengths.

That is why the Government announced last autumn that they intended to seek a national consensus on a desirable framework for the school curriculum. As a first step, at the beginning of this year we issued our proposals for such a framework. These are currently the subject of wide-ranging consultations within and beyond the education service, and we are seeking the views not only of our education partners but of both sides of industry, and many other interested bodies, too. After the consultations have been completed, we intend to issue guidance to the local authorities, schools and teachers.

I shall not discuss—much as I would like to—the curriculum framework proposals in detail today. They have already been aired in this House on a number of occasions by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. But I do want to emphasise one or two aspects which my hon. Friend raised in his excellent speech. First, they need to be viewed as a whole, not just as a number of isolated propositions about individual subjects in the curriculum. This is very important because, as the consultative paper makes clear, preparation for adult and working life is not achieved through a separate compartment in the school timetable. It should infuse the whole curriculum. Planning of provision for English, mathematics and science should take full account of this need. The paper that has been issued to local authorities states that English and mathematics should form a part of every pupil's course throughout the whole period of compulsory education, and science should begin for all pupils in the primary school and continue to the end of compulsory education.

Secondly, a crucial clement of the proposals is that authorities and schools should have a clear and known policy for the curriculum as a basis for the sensible deployment of the staffing, building, and other resources at their disposal. We believe that the development and articulation of policies and objectives in itself can play a valuable part in helping the content of school education to match more closely the needs of individual pupils and of society as a whole.

Thirdly, while the curriculum framework proposals are mainly concerned with the compulsory period of schooling, they need to be seen also in the context of developments in the structure of public examinations and in that of provision for 16 to 19-year-olds. I will turn to these aspects shortly.

My hon. Friend rightly referred to school-industry links. I hope that he will forgive me for not taking up too closely many of the points that he made. His speech is on the record and I hope that those interested outside the House will take due note of what he said. First, shall say something about a particular relevant part of the discussion paper, namely, that concerning the value of close links between schools and local industry and commerce. There has over the past few years been an increasing recognition that the more teachers and pupils can learn about the working world, and vice versa, the more likely it is that young people will be fitted to play an effective role in adult life. Proper careers education and adequate vocational guidance are vital and, where they can be arranged, periods of work experience can be of great benefit to pupils of all levels of ability.

However, it is our view—we have made this known to the local education authorities—that the creation of liaison arrangements with local industry and commerce that go more widely than this is a prime education responsibility. My Department is working in close co-operation with the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment. We all aim to encourage and foster such arrangements. Much no doubt needs to be done, but there is a wealth of evidence that in various ways, and at various levels, some extremely useful links are being forged which will lead to greater mutual understanding.

In my discussions with the CBI, I have been much encouraged to hear about its initiatives in this area. Its Introduction to Industry scheme enables teachers to be placed in firms for short three-week periods to enable them to gain first-hand experience. Similarly the CBI's Understanding British Industry project, which is operating in six regions in England, one in Scotland and another in Wales from September 1980, has placed the main emphasis on giving secondary teachers substantial experience of industry and commerce so that they may relate this to the teaching of individual subjects in the secondary school curriculum.

At present, four Birmingham teachers who spent a year in industry are now involved in running courses for other teachers with particular emphasis on curriculum change. A further nine teachers will be returning to schools in the North-West in September, having also completed a year in industry. At the national level, a number of other bodies are at work in this field. The Industrial Society is active in many ways—in primary schools as well as for older pupils—to spread knowledge and appreciation of industry's part in our national life. Another project—Understanding Industry—has been developed through the Finance for Industry organisation, which provides courses of lectures for senior pupils given by serving industrialists. Project Trident has done much to assist local education authorities to develop work experience for pupils. The network of science and technology regional organisations under the aegis of the Standing Conference on Schools' Science and Technology is being actively encouraged by both my Department and the Department of Industry.

The trouble over the past 15 to 20 years is that industry and commerce have not always considered with care their own communities. They have ignored what has gone on within the social style and life of those communities and within schools. I hope that there will now be closer links and liaison between the many organisations that now exist and between industrial and commercial organisations of all sizes. I am talking not only of multinationals or nationalised industries. I hope that all industrial and commercial organisations will take a closer interest in the schools in their communities.

I turn to the work that has been done by the Department of Industry and schools and industry links through the education unit of the Department of Industry. The initiatives and the close rapport between the two Departments are of great importance, and the unit is well known to many for its strong encouragement of good links between industry and education. They have given help, including pump-priming financial support, to a wide range of activities from national schemes to modest local initiatives. The involvement of the Department of Industry, in partnership with the Department of Education and Science, has been appreciated by many in education who are keen to get closer to industry.

I turn now to the schools, further education, and training agencies. The more general aspects of educational provision for 16 to 19-year-olds are of great importance. As my hon. Friend will recall, the present Government, very soon after they entered office, renewed the invitation extended by our predecessors for comments on the consultative documents that they had issued. We are now analysing the responses, and in a number of cases have taken matters further in discussions with the various interests concerned. At the same time we accepted the suggestion of the local authority associations that, because of the statutory responsibilities that we share, we should consider together matters that concern us both. A joint group, which I chair, is consequently looking specifically at the relationship between schools and further education, and between the education service and the training agencies. We hope to conclude our work before the end of the year.

I must make it clear that the Government do not believe that they should lay down a plan from the centre to be followed across the country. It is a particular strength of our education service that it can respond quickly and effectively to local circumstances. It would therefore be a mistake to suppose that a structure that has grown up over the years is necessarily out of tune with modern requirements. If the structure is complicated, it may reflect the diversity of the needs which it serves.

Further education benefits especially from the links that it has developed with local industry, both on an informal basis and through representation on the governing bodies of colleges. We should remember that since 1947 local education authorites in England and Wales have joined with representatives of industry and commerce in 10 regional advisory councils to co-ordinate development and planning across local authority boundaries. The councils have done a god deal of worthwhile work, and their efforts deserve greater recognition. A valuable function is also performed by the training and further education consultative group. This provides, at national level, a forum in which those concerned with training and education can discuss matters of common concern.

I might add that as a Government we have shown our confidence in the value of further education to industry and commerce by the provision that we have made for it in our expenditure plans. Whatever advances are made in the curriculum at school, in improving links between schools and industry, and in vocational guidance, many young people will continue to respond better to education in the more employment-oriented atmosphere that further education provides. Often the experience of employment itself makes them more receptive to the benefits that education can bring. Here, further education has certainly played its part, in a notable example of co-operation with the training services, in developing courses designed to give a fairer start in working life to young people who enter jobs where there are no opportunities for structured further education and training.

I am referring to the experimental programme of unified vocational preparation schemes, which began in 1976 and are partly financed by Government funds There is no doubt that these schemes, although at present on a limited scale, have been highly successful from the viewpoint of both employers and the young people themselves.

I have visited a number of the schemes, both in the North-West and in the Midlands, and have been much impressed with the level of commitment by the colleges and the employers in those areas. We have continued with the programme, which is due to end next summer.

Proposals for the wider extension of opportunities for vocational preparation on similar lines were contained in the consultative document "A Better Start in Working Life" which was issued last April.. We have continued with the consultations and are now considering possibilities for the future of vocational preparation. Further education has also played its part in helping the Manpower Services Commission to develop programmes for the young unemployed that are designed to enhance their prospects of gaining employment. These young people are of great concern to the Government, because unskilled jobs are likely to be the most affected by technological change.

I turn briefly to the remarks made by my hon. Friend on the Finniston report. He will have heard the remarks of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry in an intervention, when he referred to the commitment by the Government towards that report.

I am conscious of remarks in the press that the Government are allowing the dust to gather. Let me tell my hon. Friend that we think it important that we should give the report and the committee that produced it their full and correct names. It is called "Engineering our future". The inquiry into the engineering profession has received the full-hearted interest of the Department of Industry and the Department of Education and Science. I want to make the point, in answer to my hon. Friend who proposed the motion, that the report is not merely about the education and training of engineers. These are important themes, but they are set within a wider thesis about the importance of engineering to our national prosperity.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacFarlane

I respect the hon. Gentleman's position as Chairman of the Select Committee, but he has not been present throughout the debate.

The report has done great service in drawing attention to the need to strengthen the engineeering dimension in manufacturing industry. Education has a part to play in this, of course, but, as one of the contributors, a crucial responsibility, as Finniston rightly acknowledges, lies with industry itself.

The recommendations of the Finniston report are now the subject of a wider public debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has been consulting with the industrial interests and the professional institutions. My Department has consulted a large number of educational bodies. The evidence is still coming in, and we are pleased with that which we have received. It is apparent that, though there is a very wide welcome for the report's general message, there is no unanimity about certain of Finniston's prescriptions for change, which my hon. Friend will acknowledge. It is important that this debate should be continued until we see the emergence of a consensus. All the educational implications of the report will be considered at the national conference on engineeering education and training, to be organised by my Department in mid-October. The time scale for decisions on the detailed educational recommendations may therefore be longer than that for the Government's decision on other major recommendations of the report.

Here I must pay tribute to my Friend the hon. Member for Ripon, who rightly raised a number of important issues about the status of engineering and the engineer's position in our society, which we fully acknowledge. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) also made the point about the status and role of engineers. Over the past 15 or 20 years we have seen all too frequent evidence of the rise of the accountant, financier and lawyer to many senior positions in our administration.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

What is wrong with that?

Mr. Macfarlane

It is a question of balance. Iu many cases, it is to be deplored that the role of the engineer has been downgraded.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Macfarlane

I normally give way to the hon. Lady, but I have a number of points to which I have to reply.

I certainly cannot anticipate the outcome, but we have sympathy with the report's key objectives for what Finniston calls the "formation" of the professional engineer, and have been seeking in various ways to move in the direction Finniston would have us go. We want to see more people pursuing engineering studies with a view to careers in industry. As Finniston recognised, that objective requires that engineering careers in industry should be seen as attractive and, indeed, that the image should reflect the reality. But the report rightly indentifies educational factors that influence the supply of engineers and the quality of that supply—starting in the schools.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

When will we have a debate?

Mr. Macfarlane

That is not for me to say. That is for the Leader of the House. I am not privy to the Government's business programme.

The whole country will have the opportunity for a two-day debate in mid-October. The world of academia, engineering institutions and the Government will have an opportunity of a two-day debate later this year.

We recognise the need to make progress on the school curriculum, in the supply and training of teachers of science and mathematics and in careers education and guidance. We have developed enhanced engineering courses in seven universities and polytechnics, and are increasing the number of national engineering scholarships. The steady, if undramatic, improvement in admissions to engineering degree courses is continuing. We shall be considering, in the light of Finniston's recommendations, what further steps need to be taken to reinforce that trend. I am also aware of the previous reports over many years.

On the formation of the engineer at and beyond this stage of higher education, I should first like to correct any impression that Finniston amounts to an indictment of present engineering degree courses. On the contrary, the report pays tribute to the many strengths of the existing system. Its thesis is that, within the total package of engineering and training that qualifies an engineer for his professional role, the element of engineering practice—the application of engineering principles—needs to be considerably strengthened and systematised.

On the other hand, I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps there has not always been a shortage of first-degree engineers in this country. The level of training, skills and preparation of technicians is also of paramount importance. In my travels around the country, I have been depressed by the number of skilled jobs that are on offer, which, alas, have not been filled—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.