HC Deb 08 June 1981 vol 6 cc29-62

'In section 77 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980(a) At the beginning of subsection (3) there shall be inserted the worth "Subject to subsection (3A) below,"; (b) after subsection (3) there shall be inserted— (3A) Subsection (3) above shall not apply to colleges of education in existence on 1st January 1981".'.—[Mr. Harry Ewing.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.1 pm

Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We turn from one group of Government workers who are disgruntled—the civil servants—to another group of State employees who are equally disgruntled—the academic and non-academic staff at some, if not all, the colleges of education in Scotland.

I refer particularly to the colleges of education that are now under threat of closure—Callendar Park college of education in Falkirk in my constituency and Hamilton college of education in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). We add to those the Catholic training college at Craiglockhart, which is under threat of being merged with Notre Dame. I understand that the negotiations have not gone nearly as well as the Minister would have expected.

The new clause gives us the opportunity to debate the matter on the Floor of the House for the first time during the whole controversy. One morning at about 7 o'clock, because of an arrangement through the usual channels, we were able to obtain five brief minutes on the subject on the Floor of the House, but the only time that the threat to those three colleges of education has been debated has been at the request of the Opposition in the Scottish Grand Committee. On that day the Government Members in that Committee, including the Secretary of State and the Minister responsible for education in Scotland, did not even have the courage to back up their threat to those colleges with their votes.

The record of the Scottish Grand Committee will show that 40 votes were recorded against the Government that day. Not one vote, not even that of the Minister responsible for education in Scotland, was recorded in favour of the Government's proposition.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

What was the motion?

Mr. Ewing

The motion was exactly the same as that on which the Minister and his right hon. Friend voted in 1977 when the colleges were under threat. At that time the Minister, who was then the Opposition spokesman, thought that the matter was highly important and that he should vote on the motion. The only difference between 1977 and 1981 is that the Minister has changed sides. He has gone back on everything that he said in 1977. He has twisted and turned, not only on the colleges of education, but on Hampden Park and everything else that happened when he was Opposition spokesman. It goes without saying that there is general agreement in Scotland that the word of the Minister is not to be trusted. We have found that to be true with regard to the colleges of education.

Earlier in the controversy about the colleges the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart) gave all sorts of promises to all sorts of people. I know that he will want to take this opportunity to record his vote in the Lobbies.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Renfrewshire, East)

I agree that I contributed to the debate, but to which promises is the hon. Gentleman referring?

Mr. Ewing

I understand that in meetings with various people connected with Hamilton college of education the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East made it clear that he opposed the Government's proposal to close that college. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head in disagreement. If he says that that is not true, I willingly withdraw the comment. We shall leave it to the record of the meetings between the staff of Hamilton college of education and the hon. Member to reveal the truth of the matter.

If the new clause were to be passed by the House it would prevent the Secretary of State—it would save him from himself in many ways—from closing or proposing to close Hamilton and Callendar Park colleges of education and merging Craiglockhart with Notre Dame. In other words, the new clause would preserve the status quo.

As I said earlier, the debate gives us the first opportunity to discuss this important issue on the Floor of the House. Again, there is a distinct difference between the situation in 1977, when the colleges were last under threat, and the present situation. There were at least two occasions in 1977 when we were able to debate the matter on the Floor of the House. There was at least another occasion over two days—not one day or 2½ hours—in the Scottish Grand Committee when hon. Members had a further opportunity to discuss the matter.

Therefore, I believe that the Government Whip, who is presently trying to inspire his Back Benchers to take part in the debate, had some responsibility for preventing the House from discussing the matter and for effectively making sure that the House of Commons, as distinct from the Scottish Grand Committee, was denied the opportunity to record its vote on whether it was in favour of the proposal to close those colleges of education.

It is the intention of the Opposition to force this matter to a vote. Scottish Conservative Members will not be able to hide behind the technicality behind which they have hidden since the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. Today they will have to vote either in favour of closing the colleges or of preventing the Secretary of State from closing them. The hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) is desperate to intervene, so I shall willingly give way.

Mr. Henderson

I hope that hon. Members will vote after having considered the issues carefully. The hon. Member will note that at the moment there are more hon. Members on Conservative Benches than on Opposition Benches.

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

There is better quality on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Ewing

One hon. Member on the Opposition Benches is equal to seven hon. Members on the Government Benches any day of the week. Numbers are not relevant. It is the quality that matters, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) said.

Let me give the background to our opposing the Secretary of State's closure of the two colleges. The record of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) is disgraceful. In 1977, when similar proposals were made, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend stomped Scotland, attending rally after rally. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) in the Chamber. He, too, played his shabby part. I remember him pleading the case for preserving Christian education to protect Craiglockhart college, and he received a standing ovation. I thought his attitude odd at the time, and it has now been overtaken by events forced on him by his right hon. Friend. They made promises to the academic and non-academic staff and students at the colleges that a Conservative Government would not close them. [Interruption.]

Hon. Members on the Conservative Benches may find this funny, but the lecturers and academic staff do not. I tell the hon. Member for Fife, East in particular that the students and their parents, from whom he will be seeking support in the not-too-distant future, do not find it funny either. I should not be surprised if he became a victim of their lack of humour on the subject. I warn hon. Gentlemen that the matter is not to be taken lightly.

The Scottish Conservative Party went even further than the promises made by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. It enticed the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, to come to Scotland and make a party political broadcast. She was interviewed by a good friend of mine, George Birrell of the Daily Express. It is the only time that I remember him stepping aside, which he must now bitterly regret. She gave an unequivocal assurance that the colleges of education would not be closed.

The circumstances now are no different. The student intake figures are the same. Tory Members argued in 1977 that the figures were sufficient to maintain 10 colleges, but now they are saying that they are sufficient to maintain only seven.

Let me put on record my displeasure with the way in which some Scottish colleges of education have stood back from the present campaign, as distinct from the united and co-ordinated compaign in 1977. Their silence does them no credit. In many ways they have encouraged the Minister to believe that he is right. If they do not protest when the Minister comes for Callendar Park, Craiglockhart and Hamilton, when will they protest? He will undoubtedly come for Craigie and Dundee. It is the style of the Government to do things by degrees. Having started with three, they will go on to four and five. The colleges that have stood aside from the battle may live to regret their intransigence in the campaign over the past 18 months.

4.15 pm

I shall give constructive reasons why the colleges should not be closed. First, the Minister still has not produced costings. He has been challenged by the colleges and has been asked by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs and all the experts. Still, on 8 June 1981, we wait costings to show that, even according to the Government's monetarist policy, the closures will mean savings. The opposite is true. All costings so far produced show that the closures will cost money. The Minister has steadfastly refused to respond, because he knows the answer. The costings will kill stone dead his argument that the colleges are not viable.

Callendar Park, in my constituency, was the centre for developing the primary curriculum. An inspector's report a few months ago made it clear that, although in primary education the three Rs were being taught ably, a great need existed to develop the curriculum. The Minister has ignored his own inspector's report. It is doubtful whether a more irresponsible Minister has ever been in charge of Scottish education. The damage that he has done to all sectors of education is almost beyond repair. His ignoring the report causes additional serious concern. He does not appear to consider the development of the primary curriculum to be important.

In addition, Callendar Park is the only college in the Central region. It serves not only the region's needs but those of Fife, part of Strathclyde and part of Tayside. It has a number of students from Cumbernauld. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), who is unfortunately not in the Chamber, recently sent me a letter from constituents of his. They are parents of a student at the college, and they expressed concern about the Government's proposals to close it. Here we have an example of a young lady coming to the college from the Highlands. Because of the college's specialty in primary education, its remit goes way beyond the Central region, which is a further reason why it should be retained.

In the Scottish Grand Committee, I said that in 1970–71 children in the Central region attended what were described as twilight classes; some went to school from 9 am to 3 pm and others from 3 pm to 8 pm, because of the shortage of teachers. Having overcome the shortage, the Minister does not feel it necessary to ensure that we have an adequate reservoir of teachers on which to draw should we run into further difficulties. Callendar Park serves a great need, not only in the Central region, but in a host of other areas. The case for maintaining the college is unanswerable. I repeat that the Minister has an opportunity to conduct an experiment at Callendar Park, which is not available elsewhere.

As the Minister knows, when the decision was made in 1977 to retain all 10 colleges my right hon. Friend decided that the colleges should become diversified. In the diversification of Callendar Park a large section of the building is taken up with the Forth Valley health board's college of nursing and midwifery. There is absolutely no doubt that in the short time that the college has been at Callendar Park the students of nursing and midwifery have benefited greatly from the presence of an educational institution in the same building. There has also been some spin-off to the college of education from the presence of the college of nursing and midwifery.

That situation would have permitted an experiment in the value of introducing some formal education, some academic input, into the training of nurses and midwives. The two institutions having been linked, in three or four years we could have assessed the outcome of the experiment. To the Minister, however, that is not important. It is of no interest to the Government. Three or four years is too far ahead for them to think about. Indeed, three or four days is too far ahead for the Minister. Therefore, the Government will not bother with experiments at Callendar Park or anywhere else.

Throughout the debate Hamilton college of education has presented a vigorous case. I confess that I was somewhat concerned about the way in which the people at Hamilton originally seemed to want to go it alone, and I was glad that there was eventually much more co-operation among all the colleges under threat. To put it mildly, Hamilton college is an educationally deprived area. Any hon. Member who disputes that does not know much about the educational problems of Lanarkshire. Just as we had been able to solve the problems of the Central region, so we were beginning to get to grips with the teacher supply problem in Lanarkshire. At this very time, however, the Minister decides to close Hamilton college and to damage any further possibility of dealing with the enormous teacher supply problem in Lanarkshire. The Minister is aware of the magnitude of those problems, yet he still goes ahead, as though blindfolded, with his proposal to close Hamilton college.

The people of Hamilton were indeed supported by some Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East says that he did not really give the kind of support that I ascribe to him. I therefore correct any wrong impression that I may have given. Nevertheless, prominent Conservatives in the area gave Hamilton college every encouragement to and support in seeking to persuade the Secretary of State not to go ahead with the closure. They lived with the problem. They were not sitting in some abstract position not knowing what was going on. They knew what would be the consequences of the proposed closure. The Minister should come to terms with the fact that Lanarkshire is a special area and should have been dealt with in a vastly different way from that which he has adopted.

A factor common to both colleges is in-service training. I understand that the Minister has now given some commitment to Hamilton and Callendar Park that in-service training will remain at both colleges. That is an improvement on his original position, when he issued his infamous written answer at 5 o'clock in the evening on 6 August last year. There were then to be no jobs for staff at either of the two colleges and redundancies were to be 100 per cent. I understand that the Minister has now moved on from that—he will have the opportunity to confirm or deny this—and that there is now some guarantee that at least 75 per cent. of the staff will be offered jobs at other colleges, such as Moray House, Jordonhill and possibly one or two others.

The Minister shakes his head, but that is the impression that I have been given by the authorities at both colleges. If that impression is wrong, I hope that he will take this opportunity to ensure that they do not proceed any further in their present negotiations with the Scottish Office in that mistaken belief. If no guarantee of employment has been given to any percentage of the staff, it might be safer if he put that on the record, because my impression that there is some guarantee that at least 75 per cent. of the staff will be offered alternative positions in other colleges is shared by those who govern the colleges. I hope that the Minister will clear that up as it is very important since the college authorities have been talked into having discussions with his officials on the basis of arrangements of that kind.

There are two further points. The first is the accommodation problem at both receiving colleges. I understand that Callendar Park is to be transferred to Moray House, which simply does not have the accommodation to take either the staff or the students. I therefore envisage—again, the Minister will have the opportunity to confirm or deny this—that if the closure proposals are bulldozed through the House Callendar Park will become an annexe of Moray House. If that is so, I should be grateful if the Minister would put that, too, on the record. According to the room availability survey made in 1978, which has not been updated, Moray House simply cannot accommodate Callendar Park. I suspect that the position at Jordanhill is the same and that Hamilton college will therefore merely become an annexe of Jordanhill.

At the end of the day, therefore, even if the Minister's silly proposals are bulldozed through, it seems that all that will be saved in the process will be the tea and buns for the two boards of governors at Hamilton and Callendar Park. They will no longer be required, as the colleges will come under the jurisdiction of the governors of Jordanhill and Moray House. The House is entitled to ask whether all the aggro, all the upset and all the disturbance has been merely to save about 10 cups of tea and morning rolls for the governors when they attend a board meeting, as no payment of fees is involved in their appointments. Is that what all this aggro is about? Certainly that appears to be where the Minister is now leading the House. Again, he will have the opportunity to make the up-to-date position clear to the House.

I do not speak for the people at Craiglockhart, but I am sure that they feel that they have been deceived in the way in which they have been persuaded to enter into negotiations with Notre Dame on proposals to merge the two colleges. Again, it is worth noting that the proposals would merely mean that Craiglockhart and Notre Dame would be controlled by one board of governors rather than two.

There is therefore no alternative but to conclude, after nearly two years of aggro and in-fighting and the real confrontation between the students of Hamilton and the Minister at Radio Clyde, when letters of denial flew backwards and forwards between the students and the Minister, who seemed to have treated the students rather frivolously on that occassion, that all that aggro was merely to save three sets of governors. That is all that this amounts to.

I freely admit that Conservative Members are sometimes reasonable, and this is as good a day as any to be reasonable. Conservative Members ask whether it is worth the trouble to save three quangos, because possibly that is the virility symbol that the Secretary of State at present displays before us.

4.30 pm

The Catholic teacher training presence in the East of Scotland is an important presence, as the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Pentlands was at pains to point out to the whole country in 1977. He was not shy at that time. However, during the present crisis I have not heard him say a word about the threat to that presence. Not a whisper has crossed his lips.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has changed his mind or whether some blinding conversion has happened since he entered the portals of Dover House. I do not know whether he is fired by the ambition that is speculated on weekly in the Sunday Post and Sunday Mail that promotion is in the offing, but not a word has crossed his lips about the importance of Catholic teacher training in the East of Scotland.

Yet the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North, is about to deal the fatal blow that gave his hon. Friend such concern in 1977. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he were to join us in the Lobby we would protect him against the wrath of the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who I understand takes the strongest possible exception to a Conservative Member joining a Labour Member on anything—

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Except pairing.

Mr. Ewing

Except pairing, as my hon. Friend mentions. If rumour is true, the Solicitor-General for Scotland has reacted harshly to the fact that some Conservative Members supported my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on his Abolition of Warrant Sales (Scotland) Bill. I can give the hon. Member for Pentlands the absolute assurance that we would protect him from the wrath of the Solicitor-General for Scotland. We would even table an early-day motion stating what a fine chap the hon. Gentleman was if he were to join us in the Lobby tonight.

The new clause gives the House a last opportunity to consider this matter. I suspect that the next time we debate the colleges of education will be when the Secretary of State and his junior Ministers lay the orders that seek to close those colleges. I give the Government advance notice that those orders will also be fought vigorously. We shall not give up this fight easily. Today's debate gives us one more opportunity to persuade the Under-Secretary of State that he has got it wrong. The hon. Gentleman got it right in 1977. We see no good reason why he should change his mind in 1981. In particular, we do not regard his being a Minister as a good reason for changing his mind.

I am sure that my hon. Friends would not seek to intervene in the debate if I had an assurance from the hon. Gentleman right now that he would accept the new clause. I am prepared to give way to him so that he can accept it. If he did so, I would use all my persuasive powers to urge my hon. Friends not to intervene. That would be difficult, but I would try to prevent them from intervening. However, as usual, my invitation to the Minister has fallen on deaf ears.

We intend to push the new clause to a vote. I know that my hon. Friends will join me in the Lobby. They will knock me over in the rush to get in, because they realise the importance of the colleges of education. However, Conservative Members do not seem to regard the colleges of education as that important. I invite them seriously to consider this matter. Now is the time for rebellion. The election is drawing near. I invite them to join us in the Lobby and to give the new clause a Second Reading.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I am somewhat surprised that I have been called immediately after my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing), in view of some of the statements that were made by Conservative Back Benchers both in the Scottish Grand Committee and at outside meetings that I attended.

I hope that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart) will speak about Hamilton college of education. Along with the hon. Gentleman, I attended meetings of the staff and the committees of Hamilton college of education. I may have been left with the wrong impression, but I felt that what the hon. Gentleman said at those meetings and in his speech in the Scottish Grand Committee meant that he was as opposed as I and my hon. Friends are to the Secretary of State's proposals.

I shall also be surprised if the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) does not speak. He is the only Conservative Back Bencher who has spoken in favour of the Secretary of State's proposals. The hon. Gentleman is probably the only person in Scotland who has said anything in favour of them. I hope that he will not duck his responsibility on this occasion. But perhaps he has changed his mind. It may be that at long last he appreciates that what we have said all along is right. Perhaps he will join us in the Lobby tonight.

We can now speak in terms of closing the colleges of education rather than about the threat to close them. By their actions, Ministers have shown hypocrisy in their views. Perhaps more than most hon. Members, I had a clearer view of the way in which they acted when my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) put forward similar proposals in 1977. I was then chairman of the association of lecturers of the colleges of education. I led the campaign—I hope reasonably successfully—to persuade my right hon. Friend that his proposals were wrong. On every occasion I was joined vigorously by Conservative Members. They spoke against those proposals in the Scottish Grand Committee, and they tabled resolutions at the Conservative Party's Scottish conference.

I do not like admitting it publicly, but I organised and attended a fringe meeting at that conference to put the case in favour of the colleges of education. I chaired a meeting that was attended by the Minister, the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor). At least two other Conservative Members who are now Ministers were also present. They fully supported the campaign against the proposal to close the colleges of education at that time.

As I said in my speech in the Scottish Grand Committee, on one occasion the Secretary of State for Scotland stood in a picket line outside New St. Andrew's House and supported the college lecturers who were campaigning against my right hon. Friend's proposals. The Secretary of State felt so strongly about this issue that he took to the streets. That is not unusual for Labour Members. We like to make our protests public; we like to demonstrate. That is the way in which we make our views known. But that is an unusual step for Conservative Members to take. Yet in 1977 the present Secretary of State felt so strongly about the proposals that he joined us on a picket line to make his protest.

Perhaps I am being a little unkind. Perhaps the Secretary of State felt strongly about the closure of Craigie college, in his constituency, and did not feel so strongly about the other colleges involved. We noted that when the time came for him to make his own proposals he did not suggest that the college in his constituency should close—which my right hon. Friend suggested would be one way forward. Instead, the right hon. Gentleman left that off the list, but added Hamilton. I may return to that issue later.

Minister after Minister of the present Government who were at that time Front Bench spokesmen led a campaign against the closure of any colleges of education. Now they have turned on their heads, and without any changes in the circumstances they are now putting forward these proposals. The Minister may laugh, but as yet he has not produced one argument that is different from that which was put forward in 1977.

Mr. Foulkes

He has produced even less.

Mr. Maxton

As my hon. Friend says, the Minister has produced less, and that is so.

That leads me to my next point on this issue. Few of us have had the opportunity to discuss matters with the Minister and to find out what his arguments are. At least on the last occasion in 1977 they were put forward very clearly as proposals for discussion and consultation. But not so this time. They were put forward after clear promises from the Minister that consultation would take place. They were put forward as decisions upon which the only consultation would be on how it should be done and not on whether it should be done.

In 1977 my right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton and his advisers repeatedly met those of us who were suggesting that their proposals were wrong. We put the argument to him and to them, and he put the arguments to us. A compromise was reached that was acceptable to the Government and to the lecturers and staff of the colleges. It was done because we were able to argue the case and to put it forward when we had a Minister and a Secretary of State who were prepared to listen to arguments and, when the Secretary of State felt that the arguments were sufficiently strong, to accept them.

That has not been the case this time. It has been extremely difficult for anyone to get meetings with the Minister about this matter. It has been very difficult to get anyone, even ministerial advisers, to talk about the decision—not about how it should be done—and to hear what the arguments are. That shows the complete lack of faith on the Government's part, because they said that there would be consultation. It also shows that they are treating people in Scotland with contempt, because they are not prepared to listen to arguments against their case.

What are the issues? My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth has put them very clearly for Calendar Park, which one would expect, because it is in his constituency. Any of us who knew the arguments last time will know what a tremendous fight he put up within the Government for Calendar Park and the other colleges then. It is all right for Conservative Members to suggest that he did not put up that fight, but I know that he did so and that it was his efforts that played a large part in ensuring that the college was not closed on that occasion.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Is the hon. Gentleman confirming that the Labour Party, either in Government or in Opposition, rejects the doctrine of collective responsibility?

4.45 pm
Mr. Maxton

I was not suggesting in any way that my hon. Friend acted outwith collective responsibility. He acted rightly within the Scottish Office, arguing the case within the ministerial team to get his point of view across, and he succeeded in doing so. I was grateful to him at the time. I think that he did a tremendous job in doing that.

Although I had the broader experience in terms of the lecturers' association, my own experince was in Hamilton college of education. In 1977 there was no threat to that college. No one was suggesting that Hamilton college should close. I worked in Hamilton college of education. Some of my ex-colleagues, when I meet them now, say "I wish that you had not won last time because if you had not won then and Craigie had closed we would not now be in this position". But that is not the point. The point is that none of the colleges should be closed.

Hamilton college of education was placed in Lanarkshire for the specific purpose of solving education problems in an area of multiple deprivation. It had the highest pupil-teacher ratio in the country. It had a greater shortage of teachers than anywhere else in Scotland. It was placed there for the specific purpose of trying to solve those problems. To a large extent it has solved many of the problems. There is not the same shortage of teachers as there was when the college was established. It moved into the training of secondary teachers as well. If my memory serves me rightly, that was in 1973–74. It did a very good job in ensuring that in the teacher shortage subjects, such as mathematics, physics and the other science subjects, there was a better supply—although still not an adequate supply— of teachers in Lanarkshire schools.

When the immediate teacher shortage problem was solved, Hamilton college of education began to move towards a greater provision on in-service training in the Lanarkshire area, something that few would argue was unnecessary. Some of the backwoodsmen, teachers from Oban and such places, might argue that in-service training is a frill and is unnecessary, and that it is something that has been introduced to try to solve the problem with colleges of education. Far from it. Once we have solved the immediate problem of teacher shortage, the next necessary job is to ensure that in a world that is changing rapidly, in which the knowledge, skills and methods of teachers need to be kept up to date, we move into more in-service training.

Hamilton college, among all the colleges of education in Scotland, moved further into in-service training than any of the colleges of education in Scotland. At present about 25 out of the lecturing staff of about 60 are involved in in-service training. That is a higher proportion than anywhere else.

Yet the Minister is proposing that the work on in-service training and in providing secondary teachers and primary teachers that will still be required in Lanarkshire should be cut off. Perhaps I should apologise, because that is being a little too severe on the Minister. What he is suggesting is that the in-service element may be maintained, and that the course, which was totally different from any other course in Scotland, at Hamilton college of education, should be maintained.

As my hon. Friend has said, slowly the Minister has moved towards a situation in which it appears that everything that Hamilton college is doing now will be maintained, but instead of its being done from Hamilton college of education, it will be done from Jordanhill college of education. It may be that Hamilton college of education will become an outpost of Jordanhill college. If that is so, what will be the savings and where will they come from? I do not think that even the Minister is arguing for the closure of these colleges on educational grounds. About the only ground that he has left is that of cost.

The Minister may have shaken his head when my hon. Friend suggested that 75 per cent. or more of the staff would be saved, but lecturers in Hamilton college think that about 45 of the present staff will be retained on the staff at Jordanhill college when the transfer is made. That is the figure that the Minister's advisers are suggesting when they consider the merging of the two colleges at a later date—over 75 per cent. of the lecturing staff of Hamilton college of further education.

If the Government intend to retain that number of staff and to maintain a base or headquarters in Hamilton, the staff will require more than a couple of rooms in which to have a cup of tea to carry out in-service work for the Hamilton and Lanarkshire schools. The lecturers will require almost all the paraphernalia of a college to do their work. They will need back-up staff—secretarial and technical staff to run off materials and produce documents. They will require a library from which to obtain books.

In other words, there will have to be a college. That college must be maintained to do the job that it is doing at present and which, as the Minister says, has to be done. All these services must be maintained, because if they are not the costs will be greater. Twenty-five or 30 lecturers doing in-service work in Lanarkshire will require staff every time they want something run off or need a book. They will have to go from Lanarkshire to Jordanhill to pick up a book and take it to the school. Some of the schools are 30 to 40 miles south of Hamilton college of education. They are not in the immediate area of Hamilton, as the Minister appears to think.

Hamilton college of education covers the whole of Lanarkshire. Anyone who drives down the M74 or the A74 will realise that it goes well past Abington. Lecturers will have to do that sort of travelling, and that will involve extra cost. Either the educational development in Lanarkshire will be seriously eroded by the closure of Hamilton college of education, or, if it is not to be eroded and the present in-service and pre-service training in Lanarkshire and the provision of teachers are to be maintained, its closure will not save money, but will cost the Government money.

If there is an argument for cutting back on pre-service training in education, there is no argument for closing post-school educational establishments. Numbers in the age range 16 to 19 years are still increasing, and will continue do so over the next few years. We are coming into the bulge. There is a need for skilled staff and the maintenance of buildings and equipment to ensure that those youngsters, and not just those who wish to become teachers, receive adequate education and that more people receive a better education after they leave school.

If the Minister cannot see his way to maintaining the colleges entirely for teacher training, there is a case for using them for other purposes. When the teacher training needs return, the flexibility will be there to use those buildings again for that purpose. What is required is imagination and flexibility. Unfortunately, the Minister has neither.

Mr. Foulkes

You have called me to speak, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because no Conservative Member dares to rise. The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) dare not rise to defend his Minister. He has defended him on some occasions. Perhaps he is disappointed because he has received no favours as a result. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart) has just returned to the Chamber. He was not here in time to rise to protect the interests of his constituents who, if we did not have this Government, would normally go to Hamilton college of education. He is prepared to scurry around in private meetings muttering his general support, saying how sorry he is that the Government are having to do this to try to get inflation under control. Let us see how inflation comes under control with the pound the way that it is.

It is all right for the Renfrewshire, East crawler—I was going to say "ripper" but "crawler" is a more appropriate aphorism—privately to mutter his support and to show all those bleeding hearts to his constituents—

Mr. Norman Hogg (Dunbartonshire, East)

And on Radio Clyde.

Mr. Foulkes

My hon. Friend is correct. However, when it comes down to it, not only is the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East not prepared to vote against the Government and to put his mouth here where his mouth is outside, but he will not express any sort of criticism. Perhaps I am wrong, and he will rise at some later witching hour to tell us his real inner feelings.

That was just an introduction. I am sorry that the debate is taking place. I do not think that we should be meeting in Westminster to discuss the closing of these colleges. That is no disrespect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the area you represent, but if we were now meeting in Edinburgh—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman reaches his second introduction, will he return to discussing the new clause?

Mr. Foulkes

I thought that I was there.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)

The hon. Gentleman does not know where he is. I wish that he were in Edinburgh.

Mr. Foulkes

The Minister says that he wishes that I were in Edinburgh. So do I. If we had a Labour-controlled Assembly—as we should have had—we should not be discussing the new clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) spoke about the change of view of Ministers, particularly of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), who was vociferous in his opposition to the closure of colleges throughout the country. I was on a platform with him. Cardinal Gordon Gray was there, as were thousands of protestors about the closure of Craiglockhart. The hon. Member made the most passionate case that I have heard for retaining Craiglockhart. I freely confess my inability then to express the case as well as did the hon. Member for Pentlands. He made an excellent argument.

It has been known for hon. Members to change their minds in the House. It has been known for hon. Members in Opposition to say one thing and in Government to have to accept the responsibilities of office. We would almost understand that if the process now taking place were the same as it was then. It could be said that it was just the result of the pressure of office.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) is paying close attention to the debate. He will perhaps remind the House that at the time that the hon. Member for Pentlands was stomping the country and attacking the Labour Government's proposals, they had been set out in a consultation document as basis for consultation. Even then the hon. Gentleman was able to be very vitriolic towards my right hon. Friend. He poured scorn on him for daring to consult on the proposals, even daring to suggest that the previous Government might have considered rationalising the pre-training.

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Mr. Maxton

Not only were present Ministers then attacking the proposal, but they were attacking my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) for failing to give a long enough period of consultation.

Mr. Foulkes

That makes the point even more strongly.

On this occasion there was no period for consultation. The decision was presented to the colleges as a fait accompli, a matter on which there was no opportunity for discussion. That is why the procedure is having to be changed. That is why the Minister is now having to say "It is a bit too quick to close in the coming academic session. We shall have to make hotchpotch arrangements to try to keep things going for another 12 months." That is exactly what he is doing, thus making matters even worse for the period in question, because he had not thought the matter out properly.

There is great potential for the colleges to improve the quality of education. The Minister wrote letters to me, came to meetings and attacked me, when I was chairman of the Lothian region education committee, because he said that in some of our schools the quality of education was not of the standard that he desired. We could improve the quality of education and provide more specialist and visiting teachers and much more support for the existing teachers, by using the colleges sensibly.

We also now hear trotted out by the hon. Gentleman the suggestion that because pupil numbers are reducing at a certain rate teacher numbers should reduce at a similar rate. That is manifest nonsense, particularly in secondary education. It is not possible to reduce the number of teachers in a straight line proportional to the reduction in the number of pupils. When secondary schools take groups of pupils into particular subjects it does not matter whether there are 8, 10, 25 or 30 in the class. They still need the same number of teachers to teach them if the schools are to provide those subjects.

Is the Minister saying that our schools should reduce the range of subects and the quality of education, that they should say "There are no longer three languages available. Only two are available. The specialist subjects are not available any more, because we do not have the teachers."? I can tell the hon. Gentleman two subjects for which he does not have the teachers—mathematics and physics. What is he doing about the training of mathematics and physics teachers? What is he doing to encourage them?

This is a financial exercise, pure and simple. The Secretary of Slate has been instructed to try to find some money by closing down institutions, abolishing quangos and doing what he can in every corner of the Department and the service. The Scottish Education Department and others in the Scottish Office have been asked to come up with a rationalisation, by finding an educational justification. It is a rationalisation, because there is no educational justification. There is no justification for the vandalism upon which the Minister and the Government are engaged.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, the Government lack imagination. The colleges make imaginative proposals for diversification. We should think of the colleges, not as monotechnics for the pre-service training of teachers, but as polytechnics for the provision of education over a whole range of opportunities for young people, particularly those in the 16 to 19 age range.

The colleges are valuable education resources. Instead of their being used in the way that I suggest, the Manpower Services Commission and some ad hoc authorities are cobbling together courses in huts, allegedly to educate and train some of our young people, when we have those huge, valuable, prestigious, well-equipped educational resources, which, with a bit of imagination, could be used instead.

We shall need our young people. If the Government believe what they say, if they believe that there will be an upturn in the economy, that the recession is bottoming out, whatever that may mean, we shall need trained young people, trained in every skill, to be in the forefront, in the vanguard, of the improvement of our economy.

Where shall we provide the training? Will it be done in the huts that the MSC provides? Should we not be using the resources in the colleges as corporate, polytechnical educational resources, and still provide teacher training in them as well, because that kind of resource is complementary?

I know that the Minister finds it a great burden to deal with his responsibility for education. I know that he loves flitting around the factories and flying off to the United States and Japan or wherever, pretending to encourage investment in Scotland. But the education of our children is the most important matter. It is his most important responsibility, and he is neglecting it.

I have spoken to people from all the education unions and from pressure groups. They say that they find the hon. Gentleman to be a Minister who not only does not understand about education, but does not care about it. That is a great contrast with the position before the general election. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will soon prove me correct by his words.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Will the Minister make a statement about the talks that have been taking place on the future of Craiglockhart college? He has answered questions on the matter, and he should be aware of the deep concern in Edinburgh and the East of Scotland about the Government's attitude to the college's future.

I strongly believe that there is a need and a case for a continued Catholic teacher training college in the East of Scotland. We believe that the Government's approach is profoundly mistaken. I should like to think that even at this late stage the Minister will reconsider his position, particularly in the light of the talks.

I understand that the Government have had in mind two possible options: an arrangement with Moray House whereby Craiglockhart would perhaps move into Moray House—we are not certain what the Government have in mind—and a merger with Notre Dame. The talks have been going on for a long time. I guess that the Government are abandoning the idea of an accommodation with Moray House and that the future, as they see it, lies in the talks with Notre Dame. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give some information about the talks and tell us the Government's objective.

I hope also that the hon. Gentleman will allay the concern that he and his Department have been bringing pressure on the colleges to reach an early and perhaps unsatisfactory arrangement. Our view is that no practical arrangement can be evolved that would contribute to the saving of costs or the improvement of educational standards.

I ask the Minister for a categoric assurance that he envisages that the college will continue to operate from its present grounds at Craiglockhart. That is very important.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I should like to make one or two points about the closing of the Hamilton college of education.

Hamilton is situated in the county of Lanark. I am one of the Lanarkshire Members who represent an area that has sent a substantial number of young students to be trained as teachers at the college. It took many years of enterprise, initiative and effort to interest Governments in the possibility of a college within the county of Lanark. A magnificant building was, however, constructed with both teaching and residential accommodation that contributed towards an atmosphere for the successful training of teachers. It would be a retrograde step if the college were now to close. The simple truth is that it may be needed again. The college staff have proved that, apart from its existing use, additional services could be provided.

I have heard the Minister argue that only 12 miles separate Hamilton from the Jordanhill college of education and that that would not be a long distance to travel. The hon. Gentleman underestimates the position. I hope that he will note that many of the students attending the Hamilton college of education come from areas well outside Lanarkshire. Some come from South Scotland. They come from South Lanarkshire and South Ayrshire. Another 25 miles will be added to their journey if they have to travel to Jordanhill. It is an imposition on young people to require them to spend many hours travelling in order to be trained as teachers, especially when a magnificient modern college is already available in one of the most delightful parts of the county of Lanark. The Minister should take that factor into account and reconsider the decision.

I do not know whether the Minister is aware that the birth rate is rising again. In a few years' time many more children will be attending school. We shall need more teachers, including many of the teachers now being lost through redundancy or early retirement. We shall be back to the old system of knocking on doors to try to persuade teachers to return to teach for part of the day.

A serious unemployment problem exists in Lanarkshire. In my constituency unemployment amounts to over 20 per cent. of the working population. Young people are therefore staying on at school. They are taking additional courses leading to teaching certification. These factors of a rising birth rate and young people staying on at school should be taken into account.

I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically at the points that have been made. I expect him to reconsider his whole attitude. If there is any doubt in his mind, his decision must be that the college should continue to exist.

Such a college in Lanarkshire, with its many urban communities, is an asset. It is prestigious. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his attitude towards the closure.

5.15 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I am very much in favour of the new clause. It would prohibit the Secretary of State for Scotland using regulations to close colleges of education. The hon. Gentleman has plans to close down Callendar Park and Hamilton colleges of education and to try to bring Craiglockhart college of education into a merger or—perhaps a better word—sub-merger. All these decisions are deplorable. Even worse, the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State, who is present on the Front Bench, and indeed all Ministers, have failed to give any justification for the proposals. The decisions are not only deplorable, but completely unjustifiable.

The Secretary of State's logic and the logic of his Minister with responsibility for education, if there is any logic in his head, seems to be that what they claim to be a drop in the school population and falling school roles should automatically mean a fall in the number of teachers. This should therefore mean fewer students entering colleges and fewer lecturers in the colleges so that eventually certain courses at the colleges become non-viable or even the college itself becomes non-viable through the direct intervention of the Minister in placing quotas, which are far too low, on the student intake.

The Under-Secretary of State's logic appears unimaginative, to say the least. He is on record as saying that Scottish local authorities employ 6,500 teachers too many. If he is encouraging local authorities to sack or push into early retirement 6,500 teachers and to restrict further the number of students entering colleges of education, that suggests to me that the job is too much for him. The hon. Gentleman has not a clue about what is going on in Scottish education. He should get around the constituencies in Scotland and speak to the teachers, the parents and even the children themselves—those who really know about education and who are grossly dissatisfied with the Minister's record. The hon. Gentleman has been the most disastrous Minister in charge of education at the Scottish Office—and we have had some beauties in the past when the Tory Party has been in office.

I started teaching at the age of 19, in the days before the General Teaching Council. At that time students attending colleges and universities could get temporary teaching posts during the long summer vacation. I was grateful to the Fife education authority, and later to the Lothian—the old Edinburgh corporation—authority, for giving me a temporary job during university holidays. At that time teacher unemployment in Scotland was virtually unheard of.

If people had mentioned teacher unemployment, or the threat of teacher unemployment in Scotland, they would have been laughed out of court. That situation continued until I entered this place in 1974. There was still a shortage of teachers. Some of the parents of my pupils regretted my coming here because the pupils lost their teacher. Nevertheless, they still voted for me.

A completely different picture now emerges. We have been informed about the Secretary of State's alleged surplus of teachers. I maintain that this so-called surplus of teachers is not a surplus at all. We should be looking at ways and means of using those extra teachers, whether or not they are already qualified or are training to become teachers in colleges of education. We should also be looking at areas of need in our schools. In plenty of areas extra teachers could be used. For example, the size of classes could be reduced, which in turn would improve the educational opportunities open to children.

The Minister said that there was virtually no evidence to show that a reduction in class size would mean an improvement in educational opportunity. I checked up on that. It is about time that he started to do his homework instead of reading out Civil Service briefs from people at St Andrew's House who have never in their lives stood in front of a class. It does not take much educational research to find out that if the numbers in a class are reduced, discipline becomes easier to enforce. In addition, communication between teacher and pupil, and vice versa, becomes easier. That means an improvement in a child's educational opportunity. An experienced teacher knows that detailed educational research is not needed to prove that.

If the Minister wants detailed educational research and statistics he should consult some of the research institutes in Scotland and look at some of the stuff that has been dug out by the colleges of education, whose very existence is being threatened. Many of the Opposition's points cannot be adequately answered. Therefore, when the Minister replies to the debate—if he bothers to—he will find that he has no answer to many of them. I suspect that he will sit on his seat and not even try to reply. We have heard all the rubbish about pupil-teacher ratios in primary and secondary schools being the best that they have ever been. That may be true—the Minister still seems to claim that—but it is nonsense for him complacently to say that the pupil-teacher ratio is therefore perfect. There is plenty of room for improvement.

Indeed, the pupil-teacher ratio is not always the best measure of a supply or shortage of teachers. Even at school level the pupil-teacher ratio is too much of a global statistic. If the number of pupils in a school is divided by the number of teachers in the school, the answer will not suggest anything about possible subject shortages. There is a shortage of teachers in my subject, mathematics. There is also a shortage of qualified teachers of physics and technical education. It is time that the Minister shook himself out of his complacency and faced his ministerial responsibilities. He should deal with those shortages by encouraging more young people to consider teaching as a career.

Many young people—even those who are seeking mathematics or physics qualifications—cannot see any point in going in for teaching, because the Minister has undermined the profession's morale so much that they no longer see teaching as a career that will allow them to use their talents in later life. It is not good enough for the Minister to sit back complacently. He has ministerial responsibility. By not facing that responsibility he is undermining the faith of young people in the Scottish educational system. Young people in their right senses would like to consider teaching as a career that leads to stable prospects, just as young people did 10 or 15 years ago.

In addition to improving areas of subject shortage, a lot could be done to improve the supply of teachers in certain areas. Special circumstances surround, for example, Callendar Park college. My constituency comes within its catchment area. The existence of that college is threatened by the Government's proposals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) pointed out, the lull in the birth rate may be temporary. Up-to-date statistics show that the birth rate is beginning to increase again and that it is increasing faster in some areas than in others. In the Callendar Park area the growth in the number of residents is due not only to the birth rate, but to the incoming population. Therefore, it does not make sense to close a college that could make a useful contribution to better education for many of the children moving into the area and for many of those who are born to families already resident there.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) mentioned the special circumstances surrounding Craiglockhart college of education. It is absolute hypocrisy for the Minister and his Front Bench colleagues to act in this way. Indeed, Craiglockhart college lies in the constituency of the Minister, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). Both he and the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)—who is not in the Chamber—went to rallies in Edinburgh about four years ago, when Craiglockhart college was threatened. They both made pulpit-type sermons about a Government who attacked Christian education. The Tories claimed that they were sticking up for great Christian principles. Now the hypocrites are going to close the place down. They have not publicly justified that decision.

It seems that the talks on a merger with Notre Dame college in the West of Scotland have broken down. If they have not, it is incumbent on the Minister to tell us that they are still going on. If the talks have broken down, he should tell us why. This issue should no longer be concealed behind a veil of secrecy. Far too much secrecy surrounds the decisions, proposals and consultations that the Government are supposed to be holding with others. It is about time that the Government, and in particular the Minister, came clean and told the House what was going on in the talks that are supposed to be taking place with both Craiglockhart's and Notre Dame's boards of governors.

Many students and former students of Craiglockhart college are proud to be associated with it. It may be smaller than average, but educational efficiency should never be judged simply by size. Many students would find it difficult to travel to the West of Scotland from some parts of the East of Scotland to attend Notre Dame instead of Craiglockhart. I hope that the Minister will reply to that point.

5.30 pm

Additional teachers would also be required if we took imaginative steps to extend the age range of pupils who are at present in full-time education. It may be arguable whether we should extend the statutory school leaving age from 16, although it is now some 10 years since it was raised to 16. There may be debate on both sides of the House about whether we should force children to stay on at school beyond the age of 16, but there should be no doubt on either side of the House that we ought to be encouraging young people to stay on at school beyond the statutory school leaving age especially in these days of high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. If we had more imaginative courses for many of the 16 to l8-year-olds, I am sure that many of them would stay on at school voluntarily. Of course, this would have to be combined with adequate maintenance allowances, but we shall come to that debate later in the evening.

The Minister shows a distinct lack of imagination in tolerating a situation in which literally thousands of young people roam the streets and hang around street corners instead of having the opportunity of full-time education and training. A more adequate supply of teachers is extremely relevant to the provision of that additional educational opportunity, of course.

Just as I advocate more youngsters staying on at school beyond the statutory school-leaving age, so I advocate giving the under-fives the opportunity of pre-school education. Many parents in my constituency would agree with me about that.

I notice that the Solicitor-General for Scotland is looking at my shoes. I do not know why, but I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite used to putting his foot in it, and I am sure that he would like to put his foot against the rear ends of some of his Back Benchers simply because they support some of my reasonable amendments. The hon. and learned Gentleman has very little experience of the main stream of Scottish education, but I hope that he will listen to what I say, because he is a great stickler for law and order. Even in the interests of law and order, we should encourage more young people to go into full-time education and training rather than hang around and form themselves into gangs, where temptation may be put in their way. We all know that the devil finds work for idle hands.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland might find work prosecuting some of those young people, but I put it to him seriously that one of the reasons for the present rate of juvenile delinquency may be the intolerable level of youth unemployment. If we gave more young people opportunity and encouragement, through reasonable courses of full-time education, that would be all to the good, not just of the young people themselves, but of society in general.

Before the Solicitor-General for Scotland came into the Chamber I referred to pre-school education. I can vouch for the fact that many mothers and fathers in my constituency would welcome the opportunity of pre-school education for their children. Again, it is not simply a way of allowing mothers to go out to work. There is a great deal of evidence that educational deprivation can begin at an early age, even before a child goes to school. If we allowed many of these children, especially in areas of multiple deprivation, to go to pre-school education, either full-time or part-time, more teachers would be required, which in turn would mean more opportunities at the colleges of education for the training of teachers.

Another area that I have marked down is that of special education. Later on today we shall be considering a part of the Bill that deals with the Warnock report and the children and young people with special educational needs. Some of these young people were branded by Parliament as ineducable until as recently as 1974, when a private Member's Bill appeared, initially sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and then taken up by one of the more enlightened Tory Members, the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray), who is now Minister of State, Department of Energy. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty is not in the Department of Education in Scotland, because he would make a better job of it than the Minister who is doing the job at the moment.

The Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty removed the terrible tag that was hung around the necks of these children for generations—that they were ineducable. Yet by removing that stigma, the Bill did not of itself improve the educational opportunities for these children. To this day many of the educational establishments—they are now called schools rather than occupational centres, as they used to be called—for profoundly mentally handicapped children do not have enough qualified teachers.

If the colleges of education were given more encouragement to devise suitable courses for these specialist teachers, and if young people with the proper aptitudes were given more encouragement to take that kind of course at a college of education, we could improve the educational lot of many of these children, who have been neglected in the past. The Minister is being completely unimaginative in talking about this alleged surplus of teachers.

I deal next with the in-service training of teachers. Colleges of education are not just places for training students to become good teachers. They are places for training existing qualified teachers to become better teachers. By closing down Callendar Park and Hamilton colleges of education the Minister will probably reduce the facilities for in-service training in those areas.

It is no use saying that people can go to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee or Aberdeen. Many teachers have family responsibilities. They might be very keen to do in-service training, and they might have the time to do it in Callendar Park if that is their nearest college but, due to their family responsibilities, they would find it virtually impossible to trek to Glasgow or Edinburgh after a hard day's work at school and then come back to look after their families at home.

It is most unfair of the Minister to expect teachers to do that, and I know that many primary teachers in the Central region and in parts of Strathclyde and Lothian speak highly of the contribution that Callendar Park college of education has made to in-service training in that area.

The Minister has never replied satisfactorily to the argument about the need to diversify the role of the college of education. I spent one year a Moray House college of education, having done a degree course at Edinburgh university. In all honesty, I did not find that year at Moray House a particularly illuminating experience.

Part of the problem was that I had come from a university where I had mixed with people who were doing different courses. I had the opportunity to socialise, converse and play sports with people who were training to be engineers, doctors, veterinary surgeons, dentists and lawyers. Suddenly I was thrown into what at that time was a fairly large institution that concentrated almost entirely on the production of teachers. Even at that time, I thought that that was far too narrow a role for any institution of higher education.

I should like all colleges of education to be given the opportunity to diversify. Future teachers should be given the opportunity during their years of study to mix with people studying different disciplines, so that when they eventually graduate they are not simply victims of the syndrome of going through school, going straight to colleges of education—particularly in the case of primary teachers—where they rub shoulders only with other future teachers, and then returning to school to teach.

That is a narrow educational experience. The Secretary of State should have a radical look at the role of all Scottish colleges of education, with a view to removing those restrictions. He should encourage the colleges to expand, diversify and initiate new courses, not just for the training of teachers, but for people going into the professions and into non-professional careers.

The last Government listened a little to my views, because they introduced the nurse training course at Callendar Park college of education. That was a small example of Callendar Park's diversification at that time, although I should have liked it to go further than having nurse training as an almost separate unit within the college. There is no reason why, eventually the same college could not cater for a diversity of courses for training nurses, teachers, technicians, engineers and business managers.

The Secretary of State and his minion on the Front Bench, the Under-Secretary, do not seem to have a clue about the real needs of Scottish education. Sadly, the Under-Secretary is also responsible for Scottish industry. He should know about the needs of Scottish industry and society, and the need to train people in science and technology. Yet he appears adamant about the proposals to cut down Scottish higher and further education, instead of considering whether a restructuring would meet present-day needs.

Callendar Park recently decided, at long last, to have discussions with the Minister about its future role. I emphasise that the people there have not yet accepted the inevitability of the college's complete closure as an education institution. Many of them agree totally with what I have been saying. Recently they produced a useful document that outlined the college's possible future role. It suggested that the college should not be confined to training teachers, but that it should have a wider role in education in the Central region and beyond.

The document was sent to the Under-Secretary of State, and I hope that he will comment helpfully on it. Has he read the document yet, or has he simply given it to some of his philistine advisers to throw in the waste-paper basket at New St. Andrew's House? If he has not read the document, why not? If he has read it, what does he think about it? What will he do about it? Will he simply watch while Callendar Park is destroyed, or will he at least listen to those who know more than he does about the college and wish to expand its role?

I do not believe that the Minister has ever visited the college—certainly he has not done so as a Minister. The way that he is seeking to bulldoze through his proposed closures is deplorable. There is no educational justification for them. The justification appears to be on financial grounds. Yet even on financial grounds the Minister has failed so far to produce any definite figures about the savings.

5.45 pm

We all understand that the Scottish Education Department, like virtually every other Government Department, is under extreme pressure from the monetarists in the Treasury and from the Prime Minister's office to try to cut its public expenditure programmes. Yet even the monetarists in the Treasury—like the Opposition—are entitled to a straight answer to the straight question: exactly how much money will be saved as a result of these proposals? The evidence produced by some of the colleges shows that not one penny would be saved, at least in the early years, and that more public expenditure would be needed, not less.

I have a well-produced document from Callendar Park college. Presumably, the Minister has seen it. We know that he does not have time to read everthing that lands on his desk, but surely this document is worthy of comment. It contains the written evidence that was presented to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs earlier this year. It gives various tables of statistics about the estimated savings and additional expenditure, including the loss of employment or redundancy costs, the additional costs of in-service training, the additional pay service costs, loss of income through closure, and the structural and other costs of merger and closure distributed over three years.

The document concludes by saying: The Government proposals for the closure of Callendar Park College of Education will therefore result in additional Government expenditure of £597,000 in the first year of closure. In subsequent years the additional cost will be £159,000 as shown by the above table."— that is, table 4 on page 9. If the Scottish Education Department has an answer to that table and disputes the figures produced by Callendar Park college of education, surely the Minister should tell us what his figures are. So far, he has refused to give any financial justification.

Finally, just as there is no educational or financial justification, so there can be no moral justification for the Government's behaviour. It is one of the worst examples of industrial relations that I have seen in my life. That is why I believe that the new clause, which prohibits the Secretary of State from using the regulations in the 1980 Act to go ahead with the closures now, is essential.

I am not allowed to call the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), a dishonourable Member in this House, although I would call him that outside. Here, I must call him a hon. Member. About 18 months ago we had a meeting at Callendar Park college, with my hon. Friends the Members for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) and Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill), when a consultative document was promised before any firm decisions on closures or mergers were taken. That was followed in writing by a letter from the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North. Yet, despite that, he has gone back on his word.

The Minister is determined to go ahead with closures without adequate consultation. Not only was no consultation document produced, but there was no adequate consultation with the people most involved—the academic staff, the important and essential ancillary staff and the students—although I assume that the Secretary of State wants to transfer the students to other colleges.

The other Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Pentlands, and the Scottish Government Whip, spoke out against the closures four years ago. The Minister responsible for education and the Secretary of State himself were also in favour of the 10-college system. I cannot remember what stance the Minister responsible for health in Scotland took, but we do not hear much from him anyway. Certainly, three Scottish Office Ministers spoke out then in strong terms for the retention of the 10-college system for colleges of education in Scotland.

They were backed not only by Opposition Back Benchers, but by the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister, who went on record in a television broadcast as being in favour of retaining the 10-college system. Since then they have gone back on their words. They have done a complete volte face. They have acted in a cowardly manner. Instead of coming to the House with statements, facing us and answering our questions, they have used the old trick of hiding behind written parliamentary questions planted by the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) or some other helpful stooge. We have been denied the opportunity to put more awkward or hostile questions to the Minister to challenge his decisions and to make him more accountable to Parliament.

The whole sorry saga is one of broken promises. It is a story of deceit, of people hiding from the truth, the facts and the evidence. Not one iota of justification has been given for the closures. The decision reflects badly on the Government's credibility, if they have any credibility left.

I am glad to see the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) in the Chamber. I nearly called him my hon. Friend. He always listens with respect to what I have to say, whether or not he agrees with me. People speak about the hon. Gentleman in glowing terms all over Scotland because of his courageous stance against the Government's proposal to put up petrol prices, his courageous stance in backing my Private Member's Bill to abolish warrant sales and his courageous stance in favour of the good people of Gibraltar.

I hope that other Government Back Benchers will follow the hon. Gentleman's courageous example. I am sure that his constituents now hold him in a higher regard than ever. Now is the time for people, whatever their party allegiance, to stand up against the Government and their ludicrous, unjustifiable proposal, because it is one of the worst acts of vandalism in the history of Scottish education.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I have no hesitation in responding to the appeal of the hon Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) to stand up against the Government on this occasion. However, at the risk of alienating hon. Members on both sides of the House, I must say that it is a characteristic of the adversarial nature of politics that on the Government Front Bench is the mirror image of the party which, when in Government, took a not dissimilar line.

Governments of both political persuasions have been confronted by a sharp decline in school rolls and substantially increased unit costs of education. An increasing proportion of expenditure relates to the building costs of under-used establishments. Both Labour and Conservative Governments have had to face that.

Mr. Norman Hogg

I take exception to the hon. Member's description of the Government as the mirror image of the Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman was a member of that Government. Why did he not make such points when he was a Minister? Why is he making them only now?

Mr. Maclennan

I was wrong to give way to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg). If he had waited he would have realised that I was attacking not the Labour Government, but the attitude of Ministers who——

Mr. Norman Hogg

Suffer from obscurantism.

Mr. Maclennan

If the hon. Gentleman was not so silly and partisan he might benefit from some education.

Bitterness has occurred because those who now have responsibility for education in Scotland, when in Opposition took wholly irresponsible attitudes designed to whip up popular opinion against the proposals to which they are now committed. That is their problem. They have failed to convince those affected that the proposals are merited in terms of cost or educational necessity.

One is entitled to ask the Minister whether he really believes that fluctuations in school rolls should be accompanied by fluctuations in educational establishments that mirror the alterations in the rolls. If that is his view, I dissent from it. I believe that education must enjoy a greater stability. Facilities must be available when they are needed.

Mr. Canavan

Is the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) expressing the official policy of the Social Democratic Party? Shirley Williams, when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science, closed more colleges of education than any other Secretary of State in history.

Mr. Maclennan

Like the hon. Member for Stirlingshire, West (Mr. Canavan) I speak for myself. That is the person for whom one normally speaks in the House. It is difficult to detect any coherence or consistency in any of the Opposition speeches today. I do not blame the hon. Member if he does not always reflect the policy of the party to which he belongs. He certainly never did when his party was in Government and when Mrs. Shirley Williams was a distinguished Minister.

The Minister must go further in explaining the philosophy that underlies the Government's decision. It is plain that the decision on Callendar Park and Hamilton colleges of education is widely resented and believed to be unjustified. There is a question about the future of Craiglockhart, because of the silence over the discussions about its possible relationship with Notre Dame. The Minister displays some of the insolence of office in his approach to the issue. He shows an unwillingness to expose the thinking that led to the Government's decision.

6 pm

The need for stability in education is of great importance. Unless the Minister can bring forward further and better arguments, we must reach the conclusion that the considerations that dictated the decision have little to do with education and are essentially considerations that have been forced upon the Government by their financial and economic imperatives, which flow from their incompetence in managing the economy.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

The timing of the debate will be of interest, not only to the House, but to the lecturers and others in Scotland who have campaigned against the closure of colleges. It is fully 10 months since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his decision known to the House. During most of that time the Opposition have told the press, and let it be known generally, that they would lead a strong campaign in the House and institute debates on the issue. Yet now, on Report, is the first occasion that they have taken the trouble to institute a debate on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Is the Minister aware that Thursday after Thursday the Opposition, having given up their time in the Scottish Grand Committee, have asked the Leader of the House for Government time to debate the issue? They are disgraceful Government proposals, but the Government have not volunteered any time to justify them. It demeans the Minister to make such a suggestion in his opening remarks.

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman should look at press reports of the leaks that he and his colleages made. They contained suggestions that the Opposition would use a Supply day to raise the matter on the Floor of the House. My point is that they never did that.

It is interesting to note that the new clause has been presented on Report—10 months after my right hon. Friend made his decision—and when Opposition Members know that plans for the closure of two colleges and the merger of another two are well under way and proceeding satisfactorily. Not even in Committee, some months ago, did the Opposition seek to raise the point that they have now raised. That can only be because they realise that there is no possibility of a reversal of Government policy. They have left it too late—presumably deliberately—to achieve any such reversal. They are happy to trumpet on the Floor of the House without caring a hoot whether it will have any impact or influence, not only on Government policy, but on the procedures being adopted to bring about the closure of two colleges and the merger of another two.

Mr. Maclennan

The Minister said that the plans for the closure of two colleges and the merger of another two were proceeding satisfactorily. Who, other than the Government, regard the matter as satisfactory?

Mr. Fletcher

I shall come in a moment to the question of individual colleges and the arrangements being made.

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) went through the well-worn points about college closures. He presented his arguments on the constituency point of the closure of Callendar Park. I make no complaints about that. Because of the time that has elapsed, it is a pity that he did not introduce any new arguments or facts into the debate. The points that he and his hon. Friends raised have been answered by the Government and myself time and again at every opportunity—mainly by written answers, because there have been few oral questions about the matter during the past 10 months. I tried to answer the points raised, not least the financial points, when I appeared before the Select Committee and gave it a full account of the savings that would accrue to public expenditure as a result of the closure of two colleges and the merging of another two.

Reference has been made to the closure of Hamilton college. The governors were reluctant to accept my right hon. Friend's decision, as were the governors of Callendar Park, but the governors of both colleges are holding discussions with Jordanhill college in the case of Hamilton and with Moray House in the case of Callendar Park. The detailed considerations are proceeding satisfactorily. I say that from my knowledge of the discussions and because of the minutes of meetings and other papers that I have read, all of which confirm—although I do not deny reluctantly—that the college governors have accepted the need for them to act, in the best interests not only of the staff of Hamilton and Callendar Park colleges, but of the students. During the period of uncertainty when the governors were considering my right hon. Friend's decision, the students were disturbed about their future training and about their careers as lecturers. Those points are being considered in great detail.

The fact that my right hon. Friend was able to announce a short time ago that those colleges would remain in being, albeit as part of Jordanhill and Moray House, for a further year has helped the discussions that have taken place and the plans for the future. Obviously, there will be no new intake at either Callendar Park or Hamilton during that time, but it gives a longer time for the adjustment to take place. Hamilton and Callendar Park colleges will close at the end of the 1981–82 college session, as has been announced by my right hon. Friend. The position of Craiglockhart and Notre Dame was raised by a number of hon. Members——

Mr. Harry Ewing

The Minister has not yet answered the important question about guarantees for the staff at the colleges. What guarantees have been given about the percentage of staff who will be given jobs at Jordanhill and Moray House?

Mr. Fletcher

There is no guarantee about jobs. It is a matter of working out the staff requirements at Jordanhill and Moray House during the transfer of students at the end of the 1981–82 session. I made some estimates in Committee about the probable effect of the closures on staff, and I projected the numbers that would accrue to Jordanhill and Moray House when Hamilton and Callendar Park were closed. The hon. Gentleman is incorrect in talking of specific guarantees about how many jobs will be available. A figure of guidance was estimated in Committee, but no firm guarantees could be given until we knew the number of students with whom we were dealing.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and others referred to Notre Dame and Craiglockhart. I hope that an announcement on the talks will be made this week. I shall try to bring it forward if I can. The talks are reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Any suggestion from any source that that is not so is false.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that when the statement is made it will be an oral statement in the House so that hon. Members may ask questions and the Minister will be obliged to answer them? I trust that it will not be one of the hidden statements behind which, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) has said, the Minister has hidden in the past.

Mr. Fletcher

I refute the suggestion that I have been hiding behind anything on this or any other matter. I am rather too big to hide easily behind anything. The Bill's Third Reading will be debated tomorrow and I shall do my best to ensure that either my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland or I include in our speeches a reference to the conclusion of the talks between Notre Dame and Craiglockhart.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

How was the announcement of closures made?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman knows how the announcement was made. It was made by a written answer following a misunderstanding, to put it mildly—[Interruption.] If the House wishes me to be frank, it was not a misunderstanding on the part of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), but a display of huffiness.

One of the fascinating aspects of the debate is that the Opposition have constantly drawn a comparison between the campaign of 1977, which the then Conservative Opposition waged, and the campaign of last year and this year, in which the present Opposition have played a small part. The only relevant comparison is that we won in 1977 and we shall win on this occasion. In 1977 the Labour Government were obliged to withdraw their proposals on college closures. We have not been obliged to withdraw. On both occasions we did our homework properly. We marshalled the facts properly and presented them properly to the country and the House. It is all very well for Labour Members to bemoan the two campaigns and to feel cheated. The cry of "foul" is heard in any game when someone constantly falls on his face. The Opposition have not been fouled, but they have fallen on their faces on two occasions.

Mr. Maxton

The Minister can claim that he is winning only because the previous Labour Government would listen and this Government will not.

Mr. Fletcher

I shall let the hon. Gentleman have his little point. However, he cannot deny the facts that I have put before the House.

Mr. Maxton

What facts?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman told us at some length that he enjoyed a privileged position in 1970 and was able to witness the success of the Conservative campaign. During 1980 and 1981 the hon. Gentleman has enjoyed a privileged position as an hon. Member and he has been able to witness again the success of the Conservative campaign and the way in which we have dealt with these issues.

6.15 pm

I am indebted to the hon. Members for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) and Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennen) for reminding the House of the number of training colleges that were closed when the previous Labour Government were in office, not by the Scottish Office, but by Mrs. Shirley Williams when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. She closed quite a few and was seemingly content with having done so. Several of the colleges that she closed were very large. So much for the record of the previous Government, and so much also for the friends that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland now finds so comforting and satisfying.

The hon. Members for West Stirlingshire and for Caithness and Sutherland asked me to express some logic in the argument and suggested that the Government's case was lacking in logic. I have been asked to describe the purpose of the colleges. Clearly, their purpose is to train teachers in numbers that are appropriate to the demand for teachers. Labour Members suggest that their purpose is to provide employment within the colleges. That is the substance of their argument. It seems that they are concerned about providing employment in colleges, and they make no reference to the demand for teachers. They cannot have failed to notice reports in the Scottish press during the past few days that graduates are leaving the teacher training colleges and finding that local authorities are unable to employ them because the demand for teachers has lessened considerably.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Fletcher

Not one local authority in Scotland has come to my door or to the door of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to demand more money to enable it to employ more teachers. Teachers are faced with the prospect of the dole. Not even the Lothian region has come to my right hon. Friend or myself to say "If we had more money, we would employ more teachers". Indeed, it is dismissing teachers.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Fletcher

That is because, unfortunately, too many teachers are currently in employment and too many graduates are leaving the training colleges. That is why the logic of the argument that I have presented is correct.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Maxton


Mr. Fletcher

I give way to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton).

Mr. Maxton

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at long last. He has made the same mistake throughout. He refers not to colleges of education, but to teacher training colleges. He says that their purpose is solely to train teachers. He is mistaken. Their purpose is to educate teachers, and that includes teachers who are receiving in-service training.

Mr. Fletcher

I am not sure that an opinion poll of teachers in Scotland would reflect the hon. Gentleman's views. However, I leave him in his own happy little world. The principal function of a teacher training college is to train teachers, and when the demand for teachers collapses—it is no exaggeration to say that over the past few years the demand for teachers in Scotland has collapsed—it is irresponsible to continue to train people for a profession that is unable to employ them. The Government are taking a responsible attitude.

I have referred on several occasions to the figures that prove the extent to which the demand for teachers has collapsed in Scotland. They are well rehearsed. In the early 1970s the colleges of education provided pre-service training for about 12,700 student teachers each year. There are now 4,892 students being trained. By 1983–84 the number is expected to fall to about 4,500. How can anyone with any logic, any sense of the facts and with any mathematical knowledge argue that we should continue with 10 colleges with a capacity of nearly 13,000 students when we require only 4,500 students? As I have argued before, it is not a matter of public expenditure, but a matter of good sense in the interests of students for teacher training.

Mr. Maxton

Will the Minister explain the difference between the figures that he has just given and those that he said were wrong in 1977? His projections are the same as those put forward by my right hon. Friend in 1977, which the hon. Gentleman attacked so vigorously. What is so different now?

Mr. Fletcher

That question is surprising. I have already told the hon. Member the difference between the campaign in 1977 and that in 1981. We led both campaigns and won them. We marshalled our facts and presented them properly and correctly to the people.

The question of pupil-teacher ratios was raised by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire. He said that they were not perfect, with which I entirely agree. However, they are the best ever and that is some achievement. Despite the attacks on the Government's public expenditure policy by Opposition Members, pupil-teacher ratios are still improving. The allowance in the rate support grant will allow the improvement to continue over the next few years. [Interruption.]

The right hon. Member for Craigton is muttering, as he often does during these debates. He will know that it is only a marginal improvement in the RSG, but it is still significant and important at this time.

With regard to the shortage of mathematics and physics teachers, I can tell the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire and others who are interested in the matter that there is no restriction on the intake of our teacher training colleges. Although we say that the intake in total must be at a certain level, the exception is that in any collegethat can attract more students to study shortage subjects the intake is under no limit.

Mr. Canavan

It is over the quota.

Mr. Fletcher

We are delighted to accept as many students as we can find until we can catch up on the present shortages in mathematics and physics.

Opposition Members might consider the following problems. Recently I saw some information at the Department that more Scottish secondary school teachers graduated in mathematics, having taken it as a degree subject, than in any other subject. However, not all of them are teaching mathematics. If we were allowed to provide an incentive that recognised shortage subjects and to pay a premium for teachers to retain or switch subjects to mathematics of physics, that would be a big step forward in overcoming the problems.

However, as I have said to teachers' unions and to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, everyone is hemmed in by the practice that, regardless of subject, all teachers are paid the same. I do not wish to see differentials by subject, but if teachers, local authorities and the Government are concerned about shortages in those critical subjects for the future—because nothing is more important for employment prospects in Scotland—sufficient numbers of people should be trained in mathematics, physics and such technical subjects. If the will is there among local authorities and teachers, a move might have to be made in the direction that I suggest so that we make sure that current shortage subjects are no longer such in Scottish schools.

No new arguments or facts have been presented by the Opposition, because they have nothing new to say on the subject. I stongly recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the new clause.

Mr. Harry Ewing

With the permission of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

The Minister's reply is probably one of the most insulting that has ever been given to the House of Commons. It is an insult to the House of Commons, to Callendar Park college of education, to students, parents, teachers and everyone concerned, to Hamilton college of education and Craiglockhart college of education. The Minister is a disgrace to his office. He should be ashamed that he has the temerity to come to the House ill-prepared and to insult it in the way that he has done. His capacity for twisting the truth is almost unbelievable. He is devious to the nth degree and deserves the condemnation of all who have heard his disgraceful speech.

That speech did not surprise me. Throughout the debate the Minister was not passed a single note from those who are here to serve him. I suspect that that is for one or two reasons. Either he has instructed his civil servants not to pass him notes, or they have decided not to pass him notes because they know that he cannot comprehend them.

The Minister said that no new arguments had been put forward. We are still waiting for answers to the arguments that we have been putting forward since 6 August 1980. If we were to argue the case until doomsday, it looks as if the Minister would still be prepared to come to the House and insult us with inadequate replies such as we have heard today.

The Minister sought to twist the truth, in his usual devious manner. He said that the Opposition had made no effort to raise the matter in the House. He accused us of not using one of our Supply days. For the record I intervened to tell him of some of the action chat the Opposition had taken in the House, because I do not regard the Minister as being so important that I should defend the Opposition against him—far from it. In years to come, people will read the debate. I intend to clear the good name of the Scottish Labour parliamentary group on the record.

Mr. John MacKay (Argyll)

What good name?

Mr. Ewing

The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) should return to the Liberal Party whence he came.

The Scottish parliamentary Labour group raised the matter in our time in the Scottish Grand Committee. That group forced a vote in the Committee. The Minister did not have the guts to vote for his own proposals. He has shown himself to be the weakling that he was when we had that debate. He wriggles, twists and turns at every opportunity to defend the somersault that he has made since 1977.

The Opposition sought to raise the matter on the Consolidated Fund debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and I had to go to the Government Chief Whip to seek to persuade him not to move the closure before the colleges of education debate was reached at 9 o'clock the following morning. The Minister knows well—he is not getting away with this—that he was trying to persuade the Government Chief Whip to move the closure before the debate on the colleges could be reached because, again, he did not have the guts to answer the questions that were being asked. We are still waiting for answers, and will wait for ever, because we are faced with a totally inadequate Minister.

It was the Opposition, in the person of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who persuaded the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs to consider the Government's attitude towards the colleges of education. It is now written knowledge that the Minister's response to that Committee was quite inadequate. What have the Government done? They have not taken a single step that can be written into the record to bring before the House of Commons so that they could defend their decision.

Thinking that my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) was out of earshot, the Minister mentioned the fiasco of 6 August last year, when a planted question was answered at 5.30 pm.

The Minister knows what happened. He distorted the truth in his statement from the Dispatch Box. He knows that a junior civil servant at the Scottish Office telephoned my right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton at 9 am and asked whether he knew that the Secretary of State could not answer a question out of sequence. The right hon. Gentleman could have answered the question had he wanted to.

The Minister's press secretary announced to the media that a written answer would be available at 3 pm, but it was not available until 5.30 pm. The Minister knew the deadline and wished to avoid the Scottish media so that the answer would not be examined. Time and again the Scottish Office has acted deviously. We have had to drag the Minister screaming to the Dispatch Box today to tell us his policy on the colleges.

6.30 pm

The Opposition are not prepared to accept the Minister's disgracefully low level of conduct as a standard to be aimed at in politics. The Minister sets the lowest possible standard. No one should aim to swim in the murky and muddy waters in which he has swum during the past 10 months. I advise those hon. Members on the Government Benches who joined the House at the last election, for goodness' sake, not to follow his example. They should aim higher. I have never seen the people of Scotland treated more disgracefully. It is little wonder that the Government did not give time to debate the matter. Although the Minister has been under constant examination this afternoon, he has failed to respond to the searching questions. I am sorry that the Secretary of State was not here to listen to the most irresponsible statement that has ever been made by a Scottish Minister, but I am glad that he is here now. I did not see him slip in.

Callendar Park and Hamilton believe that a certain percentage of staff are guaranteed positions under the reorganisation. However, the Minister today says that no guarantees have been given, so the negotiations are proceeding under a misunderstanding. My strong advice to Callendar Park and Hamilton is to break off the negotiations to force the Minister to justify what he said today.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman would like to see the negotiations broken off.

Mr. Ewing

I should not like to see the negotiations broken off, but it would be a welcome change to see the Minister honouring his word for once. The Secretary of State is giving the Minister advice, although it will not be good advice. If the negotiations are broken off it will not be because of my appeal, but because of the Minister's dishonesty and dishonest approach to the whole question of the colleges.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been allowed considerable latitude in his remarks, but he should withdraw his last remark.

Mr. Ewing

Although I should not say in the House that the Minister is dishonest, when the opportunity arises outside I shall say so. I withdraw my remark without qualification or reservation.

The Minister says that no regional education authority has knocked on his door to ask for more money to employ teachers, but if they do, will he give them any? I shall give way if he wishes to answer. That is yet one more example of his devious approach. He condemns the authorities for not asking for more money, but he will not say whether he would give it. It is a disgrace. Built into last year's rate support grant settlement at page 12 of the discussion paper is a provision to pay off 6,200 teachers.

This has been an interesting debate. Only hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have taken part. Not one Conservative Member has regarded the matter as of sufficient importance to his constituents, students, parents, to the issue of Catholic education and all the other aspects of the matter, to participate. Although the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who used to be a boxer, has given left and right hooks as a Government Whip to ensure that Government Back Benchers did not speak, it should not inhibit them from representing the interests of their constituents. I note that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) is anxious to rush to the Lobby to vote for the closures. If Conservative Members vote against the new clause without having participated in the debate, I hope that their constituents who read the debate will exercise their judgment when they have the opportunity.

If the Government go ahead with the closures, Callendar Park and Hamilton should invite the Minister personally to close the gates and put the finishing touches to one of the worst pieces of dirty work that the House has seen.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 111, Noes 154.

Division No. 208] [6.35 pm
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Faulds, Andrew
Beith, A. J. Flannery, Martin
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Foulkes, George
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Freud, Clement
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro) Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Haynes, Frank
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank
Campbell, Ian Howell, Rt Hon D.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Canavan, Dennis John, Brynmor
Carmichael, Neil Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Coleman, Donald Kerr, Russell
Cook, Robin F. Lambie, David
Cowans, Harry Leadbitter, Ted
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Leighton, Ronald
Craigen, J. M. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crowther, J. S. McCartney, Hugh
Cryer, Bob McElhone, Frank
Cunliffe, Lawrence McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dalyell, Tam McKelvey, William
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Deakins, Eric Maclennan, Robert
Dempsey, James McTaggart, Robert
Dewar, Donald Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Dobson, Frank Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Dormand, Jack Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Douglas, Dick Maxton, John
Dunn, James A. Maynard, Miss Joan
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Eadie, Alex Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Eastham, Ken Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
English, Michael Morton, George
Evans, John (Newton) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Ewing, Harry Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
O'Neill, Martin Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stott, Roger
Penhaligon, David Strang, Gavin
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Prescott, John Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Radice, Giles Wainwright, H. (Colne V)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Robertson, George Watkins, David
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Welsh, Michael
Rooker, J. W. White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Whitehead, Phillip
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Whitlock, William
Sandelson, Neville Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Silverman, Julius Winnick, David
Skinner, Dennis
Snape, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Soley, Clive Mr. James Hamilton and
Spearing, Nigel Mr. Joe Dean.
Steel, Rt Hon David
Alexander, Richard Henderson, Barry
Ancram, Michael Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hordern, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Biggs-Davison, John Jessel, Toby
Blackburn, John Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Kaberry, Sir Donald
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Kitson, Sir Timothy
Braine, Sir Bernard Knight, Mrs Jill
Brooke, Hon Peter Knox, David
Bruce-Gardyne, John Lang, Ian
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Lee, John
Budgen, Nick Le Merchant, Spencer
Bulmer, Esmond Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Butcher, John Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Loveridge, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lyell, Nicholas
Chapman, Sydney Macfarlane, Neil
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) MacKay, John (Argyll)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Cockeram, Eric Madel, David
Colvin, Michael Major, John
Cope, John Marlow, Tony
Cranborne, Viscount Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Dickens, Geoffrey Mates, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Mawby, Ray
Dover, Denshore Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Durant, Tony Mellor, David
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Fairgrieve, Russell Miscampbell, Norman
Faith, Mrs Sheila Moate, Roger
Fell, Anthony Monro, Hector
Fanner, Mrs Peggy Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Murphy, Christopher
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Needham, Richard
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Nelson, Anthony
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Normanton, Tom
Garel-Jones, Tristan Onslow, Cranley
Goodhart, Philip Osborn, John
Goodhew, Victor Page, John (Harrow, West)
Goodlad, Alastair Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Gow, Ian Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Greenway, Harry Percival, Sir Ian
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Grist, Ian Proctor, K. Harvey
Gummer, John Selwyn Raison, Timothy
Hamilton, Hon A. Rathbone, Tim
Hampson, Dr Keith Rees-Davies, W. R.
Hannam, John Rhodes James, Robert
Haselhurst, Alan Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hawksley, Warren Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Rifkind, Malcolm Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Rost, Peter Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Scott, Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Waddington, David
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Wakeham, John
Silvester, Fred Walker, B. (Perth)
Sims, Roger Wall, Patrick
Skeet, T. H. H. Waller, Gary
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Warren, Kenneth
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wells, Bowen
Sproat, Iain Wheeler, John
Squire, Robin Wickenden, Keith
Stanbrook, Ivor Wolfson, Mark
Stevens, Martin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Younger, Rt Hon George
Stradling Thomas, J.
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Tellers for the Noes:
Tebbit, Norman Mr. Donald Thompson and
Temple-Morris, Peter Mr. Tony Newton

Question accordingly negatived.

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