HC Deb 22 June 1982 vol 26 cc140-1
3. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is satisfied with current provision for training technicians for bio-engineering and other advanced subjects.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William Shelton)

My right hon. Friend attaches great importance to the education and training of technicians and is satisfied that current arrangements are adequate to ensure proper provision.

Mr. Miller

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is not a universal opinion that there is an adequate supply of technicians for some of the so-called sunrise industries? Will he give particular attention to the desirability of some communication with the University Grants Committee so that in future grant is related to the training needs of these technicians, especially in view of the cuts in the technical departments of universities such as Aston, which were once colleges of advanced technology?

Mr. Shelton

Mr. Teacher—I apologise, Mr. Speaker. This is the second time that I have said that. I shall pay attention and not do it again.

I understand the concern of my hon. Friend. I said that the education and training are sufficient and that the problem is not in the provision of sufficient training places, because there are enough of them, but in getting sufficient applicants to be educated and trained as technicians. I refer my hon. Friend to the Royal Society's report on "Biotechnology and Education" in 1981, which stated that there was little cause for concern about the availability of places, but considerable cause for concern about getting enough good applicants.

Mr. Carter-Jones

If the Minister accepts the value of bio-engineering, why does he support cuts in the training of bioengineers? Is he aware that rehabilitation for the elderly and disabled is very important, yet he has cut back such training at Aston, Salford and Bradford?

Mr. Shelton

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman also considers the position in polytechnics, which also undertake such training. I repeat that there is no shortage of training and education places, but we want more good applicants to apply to be educated and trained.

Mr. Whitehead

Why are people being trained as bio-engineering technicians when such technician posts are being frozen or phased out in universities that are acknowledged to be at the forefront of research in this sphere? What incentive is there for them when the Government's policy is to phase out the posts to which they might aspire?

Mr. Shelton

There is competition from industry, which is also looking for technicians to train. That is why insufficient people are coming forward to fill the available places in the colleges and universities.