HC Deb 17 July 1986 vol 101 cc1187-97 4.17 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement following consultations on the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council's report on a future strategy for higher education in Scotland, which was published on 9 December 1985.

First, I wish to thank the council for its work. Its report has stimulated wide debate, and there has been particular interest in its proposals with regard to the number of colleges of education in Scotland and future arrangements for the planning and funding of higher education. In these two important areas my conclusions are as follows.

The council endorses the vocational character of the colleges of education and recommends that teacher training should continue to be provided in specialist institutions. I accept that recommendation in principle, while not ruling out entirely the possibility of some other arrangement if circumstances appeared to warrant it. I agree also with the council that there is a very real problem of over-capacity in the colleges, which militates against the best use of the available resources and which must be reduced. The present accommodation will substantially exceed expected demand even in the 1990s, when student numbers are expected to increase to some extent. I consider, however, that there would be merit in seeking to retain, if practicable, a fairly wide geographical spread of provision. I have accordingly decided against closure of any college of education and I intend to seek to achieve the necessary capacity reductions in other ways.

I have reached the following decisions. First, the training of physical education teachers, both men and women, will be centralised on the site of the present Dunfermline college of physical education, and accordingly the training of men PE teachers at Jordanhill college of education will cease. Dunfermline college will itself be merged with Moray House college of education under a single governing body.

Secondly, Aberdeen and Dundee colleges of education will be merged on their existing sites under a single governing body.

Thirdly, the detailed arrangements for bringing these organisational changes into effect will be a matter for discussion between my Department and the governing bodies concerned.

Fourthly, I shall expect all colleges of education, whether or not directly affected by the organisational changes, to take early and strenuous measures to dispose of surplus accommodation on any of their sites, whether for educational or for other use. This will require the cooperation of the colleges themselves, the local authorities and other interests.

Fifthly, my Department will undertake a further programme of course rationalisation designed to make the best possible use of manpower and facilities throughout the college of education sector as a whole, including those colleges— Craigie and St. Andrew's — which are not otherwise directly affected by the organisational changes. I shall review the position again next year in the light of progress made. I must make it clear that, if over-capacity remains a real problem, site closures will then become inevitable.

I believe that it would be appropriate also, as the council recommended, to review the continuation of teacher training at the University of Stirling. I shall be discussing the most suitable form of this review with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, involving the University Grants Committee as appropriate.

As for the planning and funding of higher education in Scotland, I accept the council's view that there is scope for improvement in the existing arrangements for the planning and co-ordination of provision across the university and non-university sectors. I agree that there is a gap in the planning process which could better be bridged.

I accept the council's rejection of a planning body for the public sector of higher education only, the bulk of which in Scotland is directly funded by central Government. The situation is different from that obtaining in England and Wales and a planning body for the public sector alone is not required in Scotland. I agree also that the Northern Ireland model would not be appropriate.

Nevertheless, it does not seem sensible to proceed immediately to the establishment of an overarching planning body in Scotland with responsibility for the planning and co-ordination of provision across both the university and the public sectors. Like the council, I regard it as important that planning mechanisms should be backed by appropriate systems for the delivery of results. I have therefore decided to defer a decision on the establishment of such a body until the Government can form a clear view of the future funding arrangements for the Scottish universities. This will require advice, which has already been sought, from the committee chaired by Lord Croham, which is reviewing the UGC, and also from the Advisory Board for the Research Councils. I am in touch with my right hon. Friend and he will be seeking I he ABRC's views shortly. The Government will consider the advisory council's recommendations in respect of planning and funding arrangements for Scottish higher education in the light of the further advice received. I have today given the Government's response to the advisory council's many other detailed recommendations in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Corrie).

Finally, to allow time for decisions to be taken on planning and funding arrangements, I am asking the Members of the advisory council to serve for one further year until July 1987. This will also enable the council to complete its review of the Scottish Business School, which the chairman now expects will not be possible until late this year. I shall make a further statement to the House when decisions on the matters outstanding are reached.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Any welcome that I give the statement is largely based on what it does not contain. It is tentative and seems confused. The theme is, "I accept this and that, while not entirely ruling out the other." We welcome the fact that no college closures are being announced today and that the Government have accepted, even if half-heartedly, the arguments about the value of the present structure, which is spread geographically throughout Scotland.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me what is meant by the sentence about site closures becoming inevitable if over-capacity remains a real problem? How will that be handled? It is still a threat hanging over every college in Scotland. It cannot be a matter of student numbers, because we know what student numbers will be in a year's time. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give every college a target, or will he leave it to boards of governors to cut as they think fit and make an arbitrary judgment at the end? Will a benchmark be set? Is it a matter of cost savings or of building closures? That is a key part of the statement and the right hon. and learned Gentleman must tell us a little more about how it will be judged when the time comes in one short year.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there will be widespread regret at the decision to close the Scottish school of physical education at Jordanhill? It has an honourable place in Scottish education, high standards and an excellent record. Opposition Members recognise the need to integrate the teaching of physical education for men and women—I am not quarrelling with that—but there will be widespread disappointment at the loss of a site with the closure of physical education at Jordanhill.

Do the Government intend that all academic staff should transfer, or will there be job losses? Equally important, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give any indication of what will happen to other staff who will be involved because of the closure? I understand that there are about 300 students at Dunfermline and about 180 in the physical education department at Jordanhill. What will be the expected student numbers in the combined college when it is established?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman publish in full the factors and considerations, and a summary of the advice that he received, on which the decision was taken so that the many people who regret what has happened can examine the possibilities of continuing to operate physical education units on both sites? We would have liked to receive such information. We do not know why it was ruled out. The Secretary of State should make that clear.

What about the decision to merge the management of the colleges at Dundee and Aberdeen, while retaining the two sites? The Secretary of State obviously knows that the two sites are more than 60 miles apart. It seems an odd decision. What savings does he expect which could not have been achieved by separate and independent organisations with their own boards of governors?

To avoid doubt such as lingers in many people's minds, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman rule out the suggestion that the announcement is a preliminary to closing one of the colleges by the back door? What changes in student numbers at the two colleges does he expect during the next year or two?

Will the Secretary of State note that we would have welcomed the decision in principle to set up an overarching body to plan and shape higher education in Scotland? I am aware that Lord Croham's committee is still sitting, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that Lord Croham and his colleagues have had it drawn to their attention that there is the STEAC recommendation and a substantial body of opinion in Scotland which believes that higher education in Scotland must be seen as a unit so that student numbers and curriculums are planned in an integrated and sensible way?

The Secretary of State said something rather tentatively about one or two important and controversial parts of STEAC. Will he note that I am disappointed that he has not responded to the strong case made by the committee for linking educational opportunity with the level of student grants? He has not apparently learnt from its approach to student numbers to the end of the century, which contrasts sharply with the miserable and inadequate approach which is shown in the Government's Green Paper on higher education.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman said that he welcomed the Government's statement that there would be no closures of colleges of education and that he would like clarification of what is meant by my statement that if overcapacity remains a real problem site closures will become inevitable. What I mean is quite simple. Nobody disputes the fact that there is substantial over-capacity in the college of education system. In all the forecasts about likely student numbers in the foreseeable future, it is clear that substantial over-capacity will remain. There are two ways in which it can be dealt with. The first is to close colleges, and the second is to get rid of surplus accommodation, which is to be found in pretty well all colleges of education.

For the reasons that I have given, I believe that it is preferable to try to retain teacher training at each of the existing sites. That is why I have not announced any college closures, despite that being STEAC's recommendation. It is preferable to retain teacher training on each site, but that will be a responsible use of resources only if it is possible for colleges to dispose of the surplus accommodation which they do not need now and which they will not need in future.

If we have the co-operation of colleges, local authorities and others with an interest in these matters, there is a reasonable prospect of that end being achieved. If it is achieved, there need be no closure now or in the future on any of the sites. 'If it is not achieved, however, I must be frank with the House and say that college closures will become unavoidable.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the decision about physical education at Jordanhill. I echo his observations about the fine contribution to physical education that that department has made. My announcement does not reflect in any way on the quality of the work done there. As the hon. Gentleman said, there is agreement that it is necessary to integrate male and female students on a single site.

Dunfermline college is purpose-built for physical education. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the educational arguments which were put to me, and which I have accepted, pointed overwhelmingly to Dunfermline being the site for physical education. By concentrating all physical education students on that site, it is possible substantially to reduce the present under-use of capacity at Dunfermline. As to the implications for the staff at Jordanhill college, we will be discussing this with governors to ensure that there is the minimum disruption in regard to its prospects.

On the question of the merger of Dundee and Aberdeen, I have said to the hon. Gentleman that there were educational reasons, to which STEAC referred, why the number at each of these colleges was approaching a level, or in some cases was at a level, where it was not possible to give the diversity of training and experience that was educationally preferable. For this reason primarily, it is thought desirable to merge the two colleges so that a rationalisation of courses can be attained.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was concerned that this could be closure by the back door. May I say what I said a few moments ago: if we can get rid of the unnecessary surplus accommodation in the colleges of education of Scotland, it will not be the Government's intention to cease teacher training at any of the present sites, and that includes Dundee and Aberdeen.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman expressed his view that the Opposition were in principle in favour of an overarching body responsible for the planning of higher education in Scotland. In the Government's view, it is unwise to come to a conclusion on this matter until we are able to come to a conclusion on the question of resources. The question whether responsibility for resources should lie with one Department or another is crucial to whether an overarching planning body would he advisory or executive —or, indeed, desirable at all. It therefore seems sensible to decide on these matters when the related questions can also be resolved.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I give my right hon. and learned Friend a very warm welcome for his statement. Everyone in south-west Scotland, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), and particularly the staff of Craigie college, will be delighted that the college is to remain open and that the close relationship in teaching practice will continue in southwest Scotland.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the amalgamation of PE teaching at Dunfermline will ensure an ideal centre of teaching excellence? May I expect that PE standards in Scotland, in both quality and facilities, will improve?

Mr. Rifkind

I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome to the proposals.

Craigie has been successful in finding alternative use for much of its surplus accommodation. There is still some surplus capacity, but much is utilised by Ayr technical college. As a consequence, Craigie now has the lowest unit costs of all the colleges in Scotland. One therefore very much hopes not only that Craigie will be able to dispose of any remaining surplus capacity, but that its achievements will be able to be emulated in this respect by other colleges with still greater amounts of surplus accommodation. I have to emphasise that there can be no guarantee for any individual college in Scotland if we are unable to get the overall reduction in surplus capacity that any Government, I believe, would conclude was necessary at present.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), we very much welcome the decision to keep open the existing colleges? Is he aware that the merging of the organising of the colleges seems in contradiction to the concept of specialist institutions, which he himself warmly commended? In this regard, can he explain the remarkable sentence: I accept that recommendation in principle, while not ruling out entirely the possibility of some other arrangement if circumstances appeared to warrant it."? That seems to lack the smack of fervour.

Mr. Rifkind

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for the Government's decision. I understand that his view is not necessarily shared by all his Liberal colleagues. I understand that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) indicated that he would wish to see the majority of the colleges retained, thereby implying that he wished to see others closed. I am not certain which view we should assume to be the official view of the Liberal party.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's other question, we have accepted the conclusion of STEAC. It seems sensible to retain a separate college of education structure, but this matter deserves continuous consideration. We know that elsewhere in the United Kingdom teacher training occasionally has been attached to other education establishments. There are arguments for and against, which STEAC considered. Therefore, my comment was to indicate that I did not wish to rule out the possibility that at some future date consideration might be given to that matter. However, there is at present no proposal to go in that direction.

Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

I accept the premise of the STEAC report that there needs to be rationalisation in teacher training, but is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be real regret in the west of Scotland at the closure of the Scottish school of physical education at Jordanhill college, which has a long and distinguished history? Can he confirm that he was obliged to make the decision to close the Scottish school of physical education because of the European directive that prohibited single sex physical education?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. The European directive indeed required this, although I am bound to say that the Government believe that there are also sound educational reasons why a development of this kind is highly desirable.

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on recognising the need to maintain a fairly wide geographical spread and to maintain Craigie college of education as a centre of higher education for south-west Scotland. This is the third successful campaign in which I have taken part with the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) to safeguard the future of Craigie college. In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), will he now give a guarantee that the decision on Craigie will not be reviewed next year, and that the decision announced today by the Government will be the final one on Craigie, so giving the right hon. Gentleman and myself a rest for the remainder of our parliamentary lives?

Mr. Rifkind

I freely acknowledge that, when the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend combine forces, that is a pretty formidable consideration that I have to bear in mind.

As to the hon. Gentleman's question, in all seriousness, I have to emphasise that I very much wish to retain teacher training at all the existing locations, including Craigie, but this will be possible only if it is shown in the next year that we can dispose of the surplus accommodation in the system. Everybody acknowledges that there is substantial surplus in the system. It has to be disposed of. I hope to be able to do that and avoid the closure of teacher training establishments in any location in Scotland, although I cannot guarantee that that will be possible. That depends not only on the action of the Government, but on the willing co-operation of local authorities, because in some cases change of use and planning permission may be necessary. It depends on the co-operation of the colleges themselves and on finding acceptable uses for the surplus accommodation in each of the localities.

Mrs. Anna McCurley (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the retention of all the colleges of education in Scotland. With the elephantine memory that I have of this issue, may I say that I remember that we have a much better record than others for keeping colleges open?

One thing that has always bothered me is the long-term planning of numbers in colleges of education. I am pretty sure that a more efficient system could be used.

I notice that in his statement my right hon. and learned Friend said that he wished to see the colleges revert to their vocational character. Will he consider Jordanhill college particularly, which has a poor level of morale at present and has rather lost its way as a college? Will he pay special attention to reintroducing that vocational character to Jordanhill?

Mr. Rifkind

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. STEAC emphasised that the vocational character of the college of education was an important characteristic that ought to be preserved. I am happy to endorse that.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall endeavour to call all those Members who wish to speak, but I remind the House that we have a heavy day in front of us, and I would be grateful for brief questions.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

How long will the council continue in existence? The proposal to merge Moray House and Dunfermline college will be greeted with deep dismay at the college in Cramond. Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that the fine work carried out by the college in education and training for the tourist industry will not be harmed in any way by such a merger?

Mr. Rifkind

The STEAC will continue for at least a year, as I said. I believe that my statement about the merger of Dunfermline and Moray House will be warmly welcomed because it involves a substantial additional responsibility for Dunfermline, as it is to become the sole centre for physical education training in Scotland. In addition, the proposed merger with Moray House will have important educational benefits. It is important that teacher trainees in physical education should have greater contact with other teacher trainees and be able to use the facilities of Moray House. That greater link between the two colleges will be to the benefit of trainees and staff at both colleges.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, North-East)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many people regard this as a wise and imaginative statement which has something of what might be called "Malcolm's Magic"? In particular, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it will be regarded as better educationally, financially and geographically than what was first proposed? Given the opportunities that my right hon. and learned Friend has provided for these colleges to use available resources to do wider and different things within those establishments, can he establish a conference of the colleges concerned and other educational bodies, which together can think of useful schemes to bring this about successfully?

Mr. Rifkind

I thank my hon. Friend for that welcome. I emphasise that it is important for the colleges to appreciate that the alternative accommodation which they are seeking to dispose of need not be used only for educational purposes. If there are alternative educational purposes, there is no objection to that. The important thing is to ensure the disposal of that surplus accommodation. Whether it is used for educational, residential or other purposes is a matter to which the colleges can give equal consideration. The important thing is to ensure that we have a healthy use of the available resources. It cannot be healthy for half empty buildings to continue being financed from available resources. That is not in the educational interest, or in that of colleges.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement that he has recognised the geographical principle that we need a spread of education teaching opportunities. Will he also recognise that the statement is a continuation of 10 years of uncertainty for the colleges and amounts to a stay of execution until after the next general election? In the context of the Dundee and Aberdeen colleges, will the Secretary of State say what rationalisation will take place, what further reductions in student numbers there will be on each site, and what effect that will have on staff? I register my disappointment and that of my party at the Secretary of State's failure to grasp the opportunity given by STEAC for an overarching body.

Mr. Rifkind

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman refers to my announcement as a stay of execution for Dundee. He appears to believe that it is impossible to dispose of surplus accommodation in Dundee. If that is possible, it is not a stay of execution, but a reprieve, because it means that teacher training will be able to continue on a permanent basis at Dundee.

The hon. Gentleman knows that Dundee college has about one fifth of the students that it needs to utilise its full capacity. The hon. Gentleman cannot be happy that Dundee college is about 80 per cent. unused. He knows the great difficulty that there has been in finding any alternative educational use for that building that would utilise the spare capacity. If the hon. Gentleman and others with an interest in this matter in Dundee, including the local authority and the college, got together and, in cooperation with the Scottish Office, ensured the disposal of the surplus accommodation, allowing teacher training to continue in Dundee with the accommodation that is really needed, teacher training would continue on a permanent basis.

Mr. John Corrie (Cunninghame, North)

I support what the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) said. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on the skilful way in which he has reached his decision. I thank him on behalf of the people of Ayrshire and the south-west of Scotland for keeping Craigie college going. Is it not frightfully important that students go from rural areas to a rural environment college and return to their areas so that there is good liaison between teachers and pupils?

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, that is a desirable objective, and I bore in mind the fact that in England and Wales there is substantial geographical diversity, which is easier in those two countries because there are relatively few separate colleges of further education and teacher training tends to he linked to other educational training establishments. We have separate colleges of education, which were built larger than is needed in modern circumstances. That is why we have the problem that we are now seeking to resolve.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

The Opposition were not surprised that the Secretary of State came to this conclusion, as it is the argument that we have been making since the debate on the Education (Scotland) Act 1981. More recently, in March of this year, my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) had an Adjournment debate on this subject. There is a need for a geographical spread of the colleges. There is a need to see what use can be made of spare capacity. For those reasons, we are not surprised that the Secretary of State has come to this conclusion.

It makes nonsense to have two colleges that are 64 miles apart sharing one governing body. Where will it meet? Will it he offshore, in Montrose, Johnshaven, or Stonehaven? It must lead to concern, and I am sure that if the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will make the same point. There must be pressure on these colleges of education. We do not regard them as sites. They are colleges with people — teachers, staff and students. There must be some concern about the statement and its effect on Aberdeen and Dundee.

Mr. Rifkind

I hope that there will continue to be teachers, pupils and staff in both cities for the foreseeable future. While the hon. Gentleman is correct to say that he and his hon. Friends have continually said that they are against college closures, they have not demonstrated their commitment to seeking the disposal of surplus accommodation. That is a crucial part of the strategy.

I emphasise that it is not sufficient simply to say that we must not close colleges. At the moment there are 5,000 teacher trainees in Scotland. It is expected that there will be a maximum of 7,500 in years to come. The college capacity is about 10,000. Unless we can bridge the gap between what is needed and what is not, it is inevitable that some colleges will close. We all wish to avoid that, and we can do so if we have maximum co-operation.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Secretary of State has been evasive about a number of key issues facing tertiary education in Scotland. Why did he take the political decision to smash the physical education facilities at Jordanhill, which must surely override some of the economic, social and geographical factors involved?

Mr. Rifkind

That is an extraordinary and absurd remark. Far from it being a political decision, I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are required by the European directive to eliminate single sex education in physical education. The numbers involved could not possibly justify having male and female students at both Jordanhill and Dunfermline, and in Dunfermline we have the only purpose-built college of physical education in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see the logic in that, nothing that I say will convince him.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

I welcome the tribute that the Secretary of State has paid to Jordanhill. Can he be a little more explanatory? When he speaks about the minimal disruption that he hopes will follow consultation—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Where is the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins)?"] My right hon. Friend is in hospital recovering from an operation. Has the Secretary of State any ideas on whether that minimal disruption following consultation with the governors will involve lay offs and transfers?

Mr. Rifkind

It would be wrong for me to speculate on that matter before we discuss it with the governors. Clearly the transfer of a significant number of students from Jordanhill to Dunfermline college will involve some opportunities for staff. However, the conclusion on that must await detailed discussions, and I do not want to give a misleading answer that might not be borne out by events.

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan)

Will the Secretary of State be more forthcoming about the inquiry that he hopes to institute in conjunction with the UGC about the education department at Stirling university, bearing in mind the need for a geographical spread of colleges and facilities in Scotland? Central region lost Callander Park after the college had done everything that the Secretary of State is now recommending to other colleges, namely, to rent out all available surplus accommodation within its campus. At the end of the day the college was still closed. Can the Secretary of State assure us, therefore, that there will be a full and fair review in conjunction with the UGC, unlike some of the reviews that have been carried out recently? Will he also make it clear that in the recent past other Ministers in his Department have closed colleges even though those colleges had done everything they could to rid the Scottish taxpayer of the burden of the cost of the surplus accommodation?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman will know that responsibility for universities lies not with me but with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council recommended a review of the position at Stirling university with regard to teacher training. In conjunction with my right hon. Friend, I have accepted that recommendation. We must await the outcome of that review.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the honour that you keep bestowing on me of giving me the last word on these occasions?

I hope that I am in order in adding my thanks to the Secretary of State for Scotland for accepting the powerful educational, geographical and economic argument that was put on behalf of Craigie college, not just by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) and by the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), but by all people in the south-west of Scotland. It is only marred a little by the year's review, which is perhaps piling up work for my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar).

Can the Secretary of State assure us, because worry arises from one or two things that he has repeated in his statement, that colleges like Craigie, which are getting rid of surplus accommodation or are making effective use of it, will not be penalised because big colleges like Moray House and Jordanhill do not over the next year get rid of surplus accommodation, as the Secretary of State recommends? Can he make it clear that he will put pressure on colleges that have surplus accommodation either to use it effectively or to dispose of it so that colleges that do as he asks will not suffer?

Mr. Rifkind

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to have the last word. I am overwhelmed by the combined congratulations of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) and the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). It is an experience with which I am not familiar and I suspect that it will not often be repeated.

I accept their requirement to put maximum pressure on all colleges of education that have surplus capacity. I have given no assurances to any college as to its long-term future if surplus capacity is not removed. If it is possible to speak on behalf of both sides of the House, it is highly desirable for all colleges, including the larger ones, to get rid of surplus accommodation. They will do a service not only to themselves but to the interests of teacher training in Scotland as a whole.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I may have the last word on the last question. I say to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) that if he cannot be first he might as well be last.

Mr. Foulkes

And the last shall be first.

Mr. Speaker

Even that.