HC Deb 26 November 1991 vol 199 cc799-883
Mr. Speaker

I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

4.42 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)

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

The Bill builds on one of the Government's greatest but least acknowledged successes—the explosion of opportunity that we have triggered in further and higher education. The Government are strongly committed to the principle that places in higher and further education should be available to all those who wish to take up the opportunities and are able to benefit from them. The proposals in the Bill underline that strong commitment by improving further the quality and quantity of Scottish further and higher education.

The Bill is also the latest of many examples of our determination to break down the barriers to opportunity which remain in our society. The Bill contains proposals to abolish the completely artificial binary line, which has outlived its usefulness. We are also determined to take away the misplaced distinction between a vocational and an academic education. We shall sweep away those outdated barriers to progress. I have no doubt that, as a result, the traditional Scottish dream of opportunity for all is closer than ever to fulfilment.

As we embark on the European single market in 1993, it is imperative that that dream of opportunity for all is made real. There is no doubt that our economic well-being will depend more than ever on a well-educated population enjoying the opportunity of access to education from which everyone can benefit. As our colleges and universities continue to broaden their horizons to Europe and beyond, Scotland and her people will benefit from those reforms. It is no longer a question of matching the best in Britain. Our universities and colleges must match the best in Europe and the world.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The Secretary of State speaks about a dream of opportunity for all and, of course, some aspects of the Bill will be broadly welcome, but how can he speak about genuine opportunity for all students when his Government are pursuing the student loans system, which is causing grievous hardship throughout Scottish academic institutions?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. The student loans system gives to the student the advantage of an extra source of funding on favourable terms. That enables him to have more resources at his disposal. Indeed, the resources available to students have increased in the past two years by about 25 per cent.—substantially more than the rate of inflation—as a result of the provision of student loans.

In seeking to match the best in Europe and the world, universities and colleges must maintain and, where necessary, improve standards. The further expansion of education to which we are giving the go-ahead will not lead to a dilution of quality and standards. Quite the reverse. The opportunities and flexibility that we are giving to universities and colleges should make standards improve still further.

Moreover, education enjoys an intrinsic value which goes far beyond the workplace and enables individuals better to fulfil their potential and make a worthwhile contribution as citizens. It is the ladder of opportunity to which everyone must have access, and I am determined that everyone will.

The Bill gives effect to the plans for the reorganisation of further and higher education contained in the White Papers "Access and Opportunity" and "Higher Education: A New Framework", which were published earlier this year. Those White Papers were widely acclaimed by all the institutions affected. They marked a watershed in Scottish education. The new flexibility and opportunities for development that they will give to our further and higher education institutions will be vital in enabling them to develop and progress to meet the needs of the 21st century.

It is significant that the proposals deal with both further and higher education. Too often, further education is dismissed as being of low status compared with higher education. We aim to change that by setting further education colleges free and establishing them as self-governing bodies. Never again will anyone see further education colleges as second rate.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

On what basis does the Secretary of State imply that further education colleges are currently classed as second rate? What evidence does he have that their administration by local authorities has been detrimental to the integration of education in Scotland? Is not there a danger that by taking FE colleges away from local authorities the link between schools and further education, which is an essential component of integrated education planning, will be broken?

Mr. Lang

I agree that it is important to maintain the link to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I am certain that we shall achieve that, but I am equally certain that by creating the councils that we have set up and developing the opportunity for further education colleges to be run by councils manned by, among others, local business men, we shall create a new momentum and a new relevance of further education colleges to the needs of the area and its employers.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

The point made by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) about integrated education is important. At present, further education colleges are part of an integrated system. When dealing with young pupils with special learning needs, colleges can work alongside social work departments and others, but when the colleges are let loose, that integrated approach will go. The focus of further education colleges could change markedly towards vocational training. Therefore, the needs of those with special learning difficulties could be devalued. The Secretary of State should address that point.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman has identified a point that is worth addressing. He is right to raise it. I am confident that the new arrangement whereby college councils run further education colleges will take into account the needs of pupils with learning difficulties. As a result the colleges will work closely with local authorities.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Lang

Yes, but then I must press on.

Dr. Hampson

I am sure that the relationship between local authorities and colleges has improved since the days when I lectured in Edinburgh. I remember when l came into the House hearing the same problem highlighted in the English system by the then Secretary of State, Shirley Williams. The fact that the schools and FE colleges were under the same local authority did not guarantee any close relationship. In a circular, she even required FE colleges to inform schools of their addresses, so bad was the relationship.

Mr. Lang

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who speaks from considerable personal experience.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Lang

No, not at this stage. I will give way to the hon. Lady shortly.

Part I of the Bill sets out a framework which will enable the further education colleges to work for the first time within a national overview of provision, within which broad strategies can be set, but which allows the maximum delegation to colleges to take quick decisions at local level better to meet the needs of their students and employers.

We aim to place further education colleges on as similar a footing as possible, setting a clear national framework for funding to replace the policies of 12 education authorities. That is not nationalisation, as critics have suggested; nor is it centralisation. It is a means to ensure that maximum devolution of responsibility within an overall coherent strategy—something which further education has hitherto lacked.

Clause 1 of the Bill gives the Secretary of State a new duty to secure that adequate and efficient provision of further education, which is defined in clause 6. That goes wider than vocational education—important though that is—and includes areas such as access courses to higher education, which open up opportunities for adults to return to education.

Further education colleges have already done much to support that type of course, through the innovative and successful Scottish wider access programme, which we instigated. We shall continue to attach priority to that.

Education authorities will retain a duty for community education. That is important, because concern has been expressed — much of it misconceived—about the future of adult education. Let there be no misunderstanding: we remain fully committed to education for adults. Our proposals aim to increase access and opportunity for school leavers and for adults.

I recognise that further education colleges are important providers of a wide range of courses for adults and that vocational courses and highers for adults are provided outside colleges. That diversity of provision has grown to meet the needs of local communities and it is desirable.

Clause 2 accordingly provides education authorities with the power to provide courses of further education, falling within the definition of clause 6. The Secretary of State will likewise have the power, under clause 4, to fund college boards of management in providing community education.

To safeguard the existing level of provision I have decided that the Secretary of State will fund further education colleges on the basis of the full range of programmes that they offer at present. Education authorities will be funded through the aggregate external finance settlement to provide further education outwith colleges, including community education. That approach is equitable and will allow planning to proceed in those areas, with certainty of funding. It will be for education authorities to decide in what circumstances to offer vocational education and highers. In funding the colleges for community education, the aim will be not to expand overall the current level of provision or to duplicate education authority provision.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

As the Secretary of State is talking about finance, can he explain why, since it is possible to identify colleges and to move those on, it is not possible to move on debt charges too? Does he not agree with at least one convener of education, who said that that is like taking away someone's house and asking them to pay the mortgage?

Mr. Lang

That is not a valid comparison. The debt charges are already totally absorbed and would be almost impossible to separate from other debt charges incurred by local authorities.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

May I inform the Secretary of State that debt charges for colleges of further education in Scotland are £86 million?

Mr. Lang

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Clause 8 and schedule 1 provide for the duties, powers, composition and proceedings of the boards of management. Underlying those provisions is the principle that it is important to bring into colleges people who are involved with local industry and local affairs. By harnessing their talents, we can ensure that colleges are well managed. I make no apology for the majority of the board being constituted of people with practical experience. The majority of students attend further education colleges because they wish to equip themselves better for employment. The best way to ensure that colleges meet those aspirations is for local employers to be involved.

The new board, with a maximum size of 16, will be smaller than the present college councils, which have a maximum size of 20. The reduced size reflects the governing bodies' new responsibilities. They will be decision-making bodies, akin to the board of management of a company. That is balanced by the need for a range of people with different experiences to be involved. People will not merely be drawn from industry and commerce. In making appointments, regard will be paid to the position of education authorities. There will continue to be areas in which collaboration between education authorities and colleages will be for the benefit of both.

In carrying out their duties under clause 8, the boards of management will have to have regard to the provision of other education in their area. They can do so only by having a dialogue with education authorities and others. That will be important throughout the range of provision, not merely in education for 16 to 18-year-olds. For example, it should be borne in mind that about 62 per cent. of non-advanced students in further education are over the age of 18.

Colleage councils have given people valuable experience in administering delegated functions in colleges. In reconstituting college councils in the transitional period prior to April 1993, I shall aim for a measure of continuity in membership to draw on that experience. It is, therefore, nonsense to suggest, as some have, that because the first appointments will be made by the Secretary of State, boards of management will not represent local interests. I can give an undertaking that they will represent local interests in the same way that college councils do.

Staff, both teaching and non-teaching, are the main asset of further education. On them depends the quality of education that the colleges provide. It is important that they should be in no doubt over their position and clause 11 provides for the automatic transfer of such staff. They will retain their existing pay and conditions of service, including superannuation rights, when they transfer. The negotiation of pay and conditions beyond 1 April 1993 will be a matter for boards of management, staff and their representatives to determine. The Government have no intention of interfering with that process; nor will I place any bar on a national framework being established, if that is the decision of those involved.

We aim to take steps between now and April 1993 to prepare staff for the colleges' new status. Newsletters will be produced keeping them informed of developments and training resources provided. I will also be looking to college boards of management to attach a higher and continuing priority to staff development generally. In addition, grants totalling £2.3 million will be made available to college councils in 1992–93 to enable them to prepare for their independence.

In Scotland we have a coherent vocational qualifications system. We aim to improve the status of those qualifications and the way in which they can be made more widely available. Interesting developments are taking place in areas such as the accreditation of prior learning, where knowledge of skills gained on the job can be given credit. That, together with open learning, can ensure that many more benefit from further education and open up new opportunities. Through our funding of the colleges we will aim to stimulate that flexibility.

Part II of the Bill gives effect to our proposed reforms of higher education set out in the White Paper "Higher Education: A New Framework". The Government are justly proud of what we have achieved in higher education in the past decade. Participation in higher education has soared. Numbers in full-time higher education in Scotland have increased by 40 per cent. and are now at record levels. Moreover, that success will continue in the future. We expect those numbers to increase by a further 60 per cent. by the end of the century. In addition, we expect that the participation rate of young Scots entering full-time higher education next year, 1992–93, will exceed 30 per cent. as compared to only 17 per cent. when we came to power. That means that we shall be close to meeting the target which the White Paper envisaged Great Britain achieving by the end of the century. In Scotland, we now expect that the participation rate will reach 46 per cent. by the year 2000. I suggest that that is an outstanding track record and it is one which I am determined to build on.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Can the Secretary of State say more about the future of Robert Gordon's institute of technology in Aberdeen? Is he aware that the mishandling of the matter by him and his Ministers caused a great deal of concern about its future among academics at the institution? Since the idea was floated during the Kincardine and Deeside by-election that RGIT would meet the criteria for changing into a university, and as nothing in the Bill defines how that will work out, can the Secretary of State give an absolute guarantee that RGIT will get the status that it so obviously deserves?

Mr. Lang

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that guarantee yet, because we have only just put the criteria out for consultation. I do not anticipate that the consultation process, which will be completed shortly, will lead to much amendment of the criteria, certainly not to any extent that might debar Robert Gordon's institute of technology from qualifying. On the basis of the criteria as published, I am confident that it will qualify. Far from there having been any mishandling, my hon. Friend the Minister of State visited the institute recently and received warm approval for the way in which the Government have proceeded.

Mr. Hughes

There is no point in putting a subject out for consultation when the Minister absolutely refuses to see a deputation of Members of Parliament from the north-east of Scotland and bodies with a locus in education. What sort of consultation is that?

Mr. Lang

That was before we published the criteria. There was not much point in seeing a delegation for consultations on the criteria before they were published. They have now been published and they are subject to consultation. They should enable us to reach a decision on target, before the end of this year.

Mr. Hughes


Mrs. Margaret Ewing


Mr. Lang

I give way, yet again, to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the Secretary of State. Now that he has qualified the reply from the Minister of State, who said that there was no purpose in such a meeting, will he agree to meet the deputation as requested?

Mr. Lang

If the deputation thinks it appropriate to reapply, now that the consultation criteria have been published, its application will be considered in the usual way and an appropriate reply will be made. My hon. Friend met RGIT within the past few weeks. I am not sure what further there is for the institute to come and see him about.

Before turning to the detail of the provisions in part II, I should like to make some general points about the principles on which the policies are based. First, we have an important example of the Government's pursuit of devolved decision making and responsibility within the. overall framework of the Union. The maintenance of that wider link is vital, particularly for the universities. The Committee of Scottish University Principals made that point forcefully to me at a meeting on 21 October. Any arrangements that inhibit the free interchange of staff, students and ideas between United Kingdom universities would, over time, have a significantly debilitating effect on our system of higher education and would be particularly damaging in Scotland. The Government recognise those concerns, which is why our policies are set firmly in the United Kingdom context.

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

Clause 31(3) deals with the appointment of members to the funding council, which will be from 12 to 15 members strong. In the context of the reference to persons who appear … to have experience of … or … in … the provision of higher education", will importance he given to research as well as the administration of higher education? Surely the Secretary of State appreciates that research is a most important element in higher education.

Mr. Lang

Yes, that is certainly an important point which will be borne in mind. Our purpose will be to approach this on a broad base. The hon. Gentleman's concern will be well covered.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Lang

I must press on, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Douglas

Before dealing with the general issues and following the point made by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), can the Secretary of State tell us whether the provision in schedule 6 that he will appoint the first chief executive to the funding council is on all fours with devolution? Will he desist from that appointment until he has other personnel in place? An important ingredient of the old University Grants Committee and the funding council was that they stood as a buffer between politicians and universities. How will that be preserved in the present context?

Mr. Lang

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern over the appointment of the chief executive. It is an extremely important appointment. The precedents are that the chairman and chief executive are appointed early. That is necessary to enable the organisation to get under way. I have already had discussions with the university principals about these matters. I am well aware of their views and have assured them that I will approach the matter carefully and cautiously. I recognise the supreme importance of high quality and a broad range of qualifications in all the appointments that we make to the council.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that we do not intend to use the snobbism of the word "university" to destroy colleges of excellence, such as Robert Gordon's, merely to enable them to enlarge an empire that is unsustainable and is not educational, as the new department of Edinburgh university announced today seems to do, when the university cannot even support the existing faculties?

Mr. Lang

My hon. and learned Friend makes a valid and important point. I hope that those institutions that have achieved excellence in their present form will not, on achieving university status, abandon the basis of their excellence. Nor do I envisage that they, in large measure, will do so.

The second general point is that there is absolutely no need for any lack of confidence in our abilities either to provide or to administer higher education in Scotland. We have justified pride in our distinctive traditions. One city, Aberdeen, had as many universities as the whole of England and Wales for a period of 250 years. In more recent times, the focused and distinctive missions that our central institutions and colleges of education have developed have been an important component of the Scottish pattern of higher education provision—a pattern which has succeeded in sustaining our high and rapidly increasing rates of participation.

Clauses 31 to 37 establish the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and set out its composition and main functions. In general, these clauses mirror the equivalent provisions in the Education Reform Act 1988 for the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On clause 33, is the assessment committee to work in tandem with the English structure or is it to operate as a single council? What is the Secretary of State's reply to those vice-chancellors and principals who have said that if we are to have clause 33 there should be a national joint committee in certain areas, such as medicine, computing and engineering?

Mr. Lang

I would expect the Scottish council to keep in close touch with its counterparts south of the border. That is intrinsic in our approach to higher education. The councils may decide to form some joint committee and it would not be right for me to rule that in or out now. It is important that we can establish a coherent and self-contained council with the capacity to fund higher education in Scotland. In doing so, we should not lose sight of the vital cross-border links, so important to the continuing health and expansion of higher education.

I am pleased to announce to the House that Professor Jack Shaw has agreed to become the chairman and first member of the council. The appointment will commence on 1 April next year and run initially for three years. Naturally, it is subject to the necessary legislative authority. I am grateful to Professor Shaw for his thorough and timely response to my request to examine the criteria to be employed when institutions contemplate a merger. The Universities Funding Council's Scottish committee report on merger criteria was published yesterday and provides a well-researched and careful review. I know that higher education institutions have been keen to see the report and I am confident that it will become the standard reference for those with an interest.

I should make it clear, as does the report, that the initiative on collaboration lies with the institutions and that we generally favour a bottom-up approach to these matters. However, there may be circumstances where either a funding council or the Secretary of State needs to intervene and, again, the report recognises that.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Everyone will wish Professor Shaw well. Can the Secretary of State say a little about the basis of the appointment, in terms of the expectation of time? Obviously, Professor Shaw is a busy and successful man, particularly in the banking world. I am not clear on what basis the appointment has been made.

Mr. Lang

The appointment has been made on the basis that Professor Shaw feels able to devote the necessary time to the job. Given his present experience as chairman of the Scottish committee of the UFC, I think that he is an admirable appointee.

We are working to a challenging timetable. The council must be fully operational from 1 April 1993. It is important that the other members should be in place as soon as possible. Accordingly, the key appointment of chief executive will be advertised shortly. I hope to announce the appointments of the other members early in the new year.

Clause 33 deals with the important matter—

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Lang

I am reliably informed that I have already given way 14 times. I had better get on.

Clause 33 deals with the important matter of quality assessment. Quality is a central element of our policy and we are determined that the great expansion of access to higher education that is now under way should continue to be achieved with no threat to standards. Whether one is concerned, like Robbins, with the pool of untapped talent, or like Amis, with the pool of tapped un-talent, is immaterial. The Government are determined that this time more shall not mean less, and we believe that this Bill, building on the experience of the last quarter of a century, gives us the mechanisms we need to secure that end.

The council will set up its own quality assessment unit to monitor and report on the quality of the education provided in our institutions. The unit will be staffed by the transfer of experienced personnel from Her Majesty's inspectorate and from the institutions. It will also draw on the resources of the funding council for England and Wales to fill out its expertise and to ensure parity of standards across the United Kingdom. Pilot assesments of quality in key areas will be under way in the new year. In addition, clause 33 requires the council to establish a quality assessment committee with a majority of academic members to advise on quality isues.

Higher education in Scotland is now more efficient and effective than it has ever been. The increased levels of publicly funded higher education tuition fees have, as intended, provided a strong incentive to institutions to expand efficiently. Also, the greater autonomy that we have granted to the management of our higher education colleges has resulted in greater responsiveness to the needs of students and employers.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will be charged with developing fair and objective methodologies for distributing resources to all the Scottish higher education institutions.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

Clause 37 gives power to the council to determine the disposal of land. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, regarding the potential opting out of Foresterhill hospital, that there is a dispute over the ownership of the land on which that hospital sits, the title of which belongs to the university of Aberdeen. May we have an assurance that under no circumstances would the council require the university to dispose of the land to any opted-out trust at below market value?

Mr. Lang

The ownership of the land would not appear to be relevant to the Bill. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern with an important local issue, but that is not necessarily affected by this debate.

The commitment we gave in our White Paper last May was to provide an appropriate level of resources to enable further efficient expansion to take place. I am happy to repeat that commitment today.

Accordingly, I can announce to the House that I have decided to increase recurrent funding for the grant-aided colleges by 12 per cent. in 1992–93. I have also increased my programme for capital funding of the colleges by over 20 per cent. Those are substantial increases, well above the projected level of inflation. They are evidence of the Government's continued commitment to higher education, and will allow the buoyant growth in student numbers to continue and to be accommodated.

Clause 36 sets out the powers of the Secretary of State to make conditions on grants to the council. There have been some suggestions that the wording of the clause represents a sinister and unprecedented assault on academic freedom. I find it difficult to understand how such a view could have arisen.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Lang

I must try to make this the last time in my speech that I give way.

Mr. Dewar

Do I take grant-aided colleges to be the central institutions?

Mr. Lang


The clause specifically prevents the Secretary of State from attaching conditions that relate to individual institutions, just as the Education Reform Act 1988 does. The revised wording in the clause is necessary to put it beyond doubt that the Secretary of State actually can specify objectives to be met before grant can be paid by the council. That was the result intended in the debates on the 1988 Act. It was also a fundamental aspect of the funding system set out for the UFC by Lord Croham in his review of the UGC.

Clauses 39 to 41 deal with the government and organisation of the current central institutions and colleges of education. As stated in paragraph 93 of the White Paper, the Privy Council will become responsible for the government of all the institutions that will be funded by the new council. Although we shall wish to review the present arrangements in the colleges of education before effecting the transfer, we do not envisage that much change to present organisation or management structures will be required, but transfer of responsibility for these matters to the Privy Council properly reflects the desire to place all higher education institutions in a similar autonomous relationship with the Government.

Before the Privy Council begins that process, though, it is right that we should make a number of changes to relax the present restrictions on the composition of the grant-aided colleges' governing body. Accordingly, I shall shortly make an order to remove the requirement for student and staff representatives on the governing body, and in the case of central institutions to remove the requirement for local authority experience. Those changes will give the governing bodies valuable flexibility in adapting to the demands which their increased autonomy will place on them.

Clause 42 contains the important provision allowing the holder of my office to specify higher education institutions as competent to award degrees. I issued a consultation paper on that question, setting out the proposed criteria to which I would have regard in reaching judgments on whether degree-awarding powers should he conferred on particular institutions. We have asked for comments by 2 December and I hope to announce my intentions shortly thereafter. In reaching any decisions, I shall have particular regard to the advice of the Council for National Academic Awards that all five of the Scottish technological central institutions merited both taught-course and research degree-awarding powers.

Clause 43 allows institutions to include the word "university" in their title, with the consent of the Privy Council. The White Paper said that the Government had decided that polytechnics, as a mark of their academic maturity and success, would be permitted to adopt the university title if they wished. The consultation paper that I issued also covered the criteria to which we propose to recommend that the Privy Council should have regard in considering whether other institutions should be permitted to use the title. Again, I hope to announce our conclusions in the light of consultations next month.

I should note now, however, that it is disappointing that some have interpreted the extension of the use of the university title as a signal that our polytechnics and colleges might abandon their distinctive vocational missions and overturn their organisational structures, the point to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) referred. Those are successful and valuable institutions in their own right. They have proved their worth. There is no need for them to give up the very basis of their success to achieve the recognition they deserve. It would be extremely foolish of them not to continue to play to their undoubted strengths.

Dr. Hampson

I am interested in the question of titles. I should declare my interest as a consultant to the Association of University Teachers, and the point is of special interest to that body. The clause in the equivalent English measure, clause 73 (3), has an absolute provision that there should he no confusion of names—that where there is an existing university, that point must he considered—but I do not see in the Scottish Bill any such safeguards in terms of avoiding names that are already in being. Why are such safeguards missing from the Scottish measure?

Mr. Lang

I cannot give my hon. Friend a textual comparison word for word as between the Scottish and English measures, but I assure him that it is our objective—it must be the objective of any body applying for university status—to use a name that would not lead to confusion or misunderstanding. I am sure that my hon. Friend's point will be borne in mind, and it may be further debated in Committee.

The Bill is a landmark in Scottish education. It gives a long-overdue prominence to further education and releases further education colleges from the strictures of local authority control. They will then be free to maximise their potential to increase participation in tertiary education, to improve standards and to widen access.

The Bill is of tremendous significance to Scottish higher education. It has been warmly welcomed throughout the higher education world in Scotland. It gives new momentum to a further expansion of higher education, while maintaining and building on the outstanding reputation for high standards which our universities presently enjoy.

The Bill provides an opportunity for all. It is another huge step on the way to grasping the glittering prize of higher education for all who are fit and willing to benefit from it. Under our administration, higher education has become a growth industry. With the Bill, the Government have met the university challenge. I commend it to the House.

5.19 pm
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I was interested to hear the Secretary of State speak of glittering prizes. I thought that he spoke with a slight air of whimsical nostalgia and I fear that few such prizes await him in the months that lie ahead.

I welcome the Government's decision to implement one of the most important recommendations of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council report. It has taken them a long time but they have ultimately arrived. They have accepted that on the funding and planning machinery for Scottish universities, as on so many other issues recently, Labour has got it right. To be fair, it is not Labour but STEAC which has got it right. I wish to pay tribute to Donald McCallum and his colleagues for their sterling work in 1985–86 on the STEAC report. It would be unfair to accuse the Government of a U-turn on the matter. Rather, there has been a long, confused period of indecision and even now there is much doubt on exactly what is intended in the university sector. I shall return to that theme later in my speech.

The House will remember that in July 1986 the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), announced bravely a postponed decision on the proposal for an over-arching body responsible for Scottish higher education. He said that the Government were postponing it until such time as they could form a clear view. I did not know whether we had reached that point, but having heard the Secretary of State, I now know that we have not, because he said very little about how the system would operate or about his objectives.

I welcome the fact that over the past three or four years there has been a shift in opinion on a Scottish funding body. In March 1986, Lord Croham, who was then heading a committee reporting on university finance, took evidence in Scotland. He found that two out of the eight universities were in favour of the STEAC recommendation at that time, while the remainder were against it. There is now unanimity. I am sorry that the representative of the Association of University Teachers, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson), who has read the Bill so carefully, is no longer with us. The AUT in Scotland had grave reservations about the matter but now, as I know from many discussions and a meeting that we had as recently as yesterday, it is now strongly in favour of it. Even the Government have at last caught up. There are good reasons for that change of heart.

The Labour party believes that higher education should be developed as a whole and planned as an entity. One criterion is the national interest and the drive to ensure that the best possible opportunities exist for youngsters leaving school. The Government have a duty to provide a wider choice in higher education and it is in the national interest to have a skilled and educated work force in place. The best way to do so is to have a funding and planning body, as I understand that the Bill intends, and to recognise and build on the distinctive tradition and contribution of Scottish universities over the years.

I assure the Secretary of State that the Labour party welcomes his decision to try to remove the binary line. It is right to bridge the divide between universities and other institutions of higher education. It has been a barrier to progress and, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), it can be based on prejudice and nothing else. However, such a divide has great and potent power. Those of us who have been lobbied powerfully and persuasively by some of the central institutions interested in university status are left in no doubt about the importance of that prize. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is important that, in making such an adjustment, we abolish the binary divide and do not merely move it and create another artificial division in the world of higher education with a fault line running at a different point across the range.

The problem is to combine excellence with increased access. The two are not incompatible and high standards must be maintained. There is still a gap between the number of people entering higher education in Scotland compared to most of our European competitors. We tend to say that we do well compared with the English, although that comparison is now beginning to blur. We still have an advantage and I am grateful for it, but on the international league table the position is less satisfactory. We still have a massive job to do in Scotland in encouraging students and potential students from areas where economic disadvantage is still a crippling inhibition to academic ambitions. We also have a problem of encouraging women. Although massive strides have been taken, and women are performing much better in the academic world, especially in the later years of school and at university, only 44 per cent. of university students are women and there is clearly some way to go on that issue.

Therefore, we must aim to build both access and high standards and to build on the honourable tradition of our universities. When I was thinking about that—it was perhaps a little whimsical—I remembered when I was a student at Glasgow university and was asked to review a copy of the then new publication by George Davie, the "Democratic Intellect", which looks in great detail at universities in Scotland in the 19th century. I dug out that review out of curiosity. Looking back over a Glasgow university magazine of January 1962 was quite an experience. It said: On the weekend of 10th–11 th February, Donald Dewar's band of merry men take the high-road once more for Aberoyle, where they are running a weekend school at the Covenanters' Inn.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

Will my hon. Friend let me know which team he supports?

Mr. Dewar

Memories, memories.

The review went on: The speaker is Richard Marsh, MP, the subjects … 'The Common Market', and the overall cost (which includes transport, dinner dance, accommodation and all meals) two guineas. I had forgotten that there was a day when the more elegant parts of the Labour movement counted in guineas.

In that review I was arguing that the breadth and range in Scottish education should be retained. I may have taken the rather romantic view of the glories of the MA (Ord), but I still hold to that general thesis. The Scottish system should not be a poor copycat of the system which exists south of the border or any other part of the world, and the traditional strengths should not be eroded.

I hope that my speech will spark off a useful exchange with the Minister of State when he replies to the debate. The Bill contains an outline of a system which, with regard to universities, has much to be said for it. The question remains of how and whether it will work. There was remarkably little detail on that in the Secretary of State's speech. Expansion clearly has resource implications and the bills must be paid. We are to have Napier college and Glasgow college of technology, and I understand that the Robert Gordon institute of technology and Paisley college are anxiously awaiting the starting signal.

I enjoyed the Minister of State's little foray into the north. Embarrassingly, it happened to coincide with the by-election at Kincardine and Deeside. It is a little like the story of the dog that did not bark—a meeting between the Minister of State and the Tory candidate which did not take place. Full of wide-eyed innocence, the Minister of State told a meeting at the Robert Gordon institute of technology that he could not think how anyone could imagine that the criteria for university status would not be met by that college. As we all know, there were good reasons for fears. The Labour party welcomes the fact that, from the Secretary of State's speech, it seems that both the Robert Gordon institute of technology and Paisley college are now on the list. I hope that if they come through they will make a worthwhile and distinguished contribution to Scottish universities.

Will the Minister of State turn his mind to a few simple and basic questions? They may be pedestrian questions, but I do not know the answers to them and, although I have earnestly inquired from people in the university world at a variety of levels, they do not seem to be clear about the answers either. How will the Scottish higher education funding council deliver? The binary divide cannot be abolished simply by diktat. One has only to look at Universities Funding Council expenditure to see the gap which existed between the funding of universities and the polytechnics and central institutions. The new universities—potentially four in Scotland and perhaps more to come—will expect to rise to the standards of their peer group. They will expect to level up, not to drive university standards down. That raises fundamental problems and basic questions. This is no more than an enabling Bill and tells us little. I do not want the Minister of State to give a deadpan defence of a system that has been set up by Ministers who, as yet, have no idea how it will work. I hope that we shall be given a precise description.

I certainly intend to move the motion to pass the Bill to a Special Standing Committee. It would be a uniquely useful opportunity. As far as I know, that procedure has not been used on a Scottish Bill since it has been in existence. I know that many people—whether from within the Association of University Teachers, principals, vice-chancellors or officials at some of the colleges and universities—who would like to use the Select Committee procedure grafted on to the normal Standing Committee to probe and establish exactly how the system will work. I do not say that in a partisan spirit, but I cannot think of a more suitable Bill for that procedure. I hope that between now and the Division the Secretary of State will think about that and the credit that would befall him were he to give way on that point and persuade his colleagues not to resist the motion.

There are eight universities in Scotland at present. There are more university places than could be expected on any population ratio. We have enjoyed a higher percentage of the Universities Funding Council—and, before that, the University Grants Committee—budget than our population share. If the Government were to follow the unpleasant moderate habit of threatening a reduction to per capita allocation, it would amount to the loss of an entire university. How are we to build in protection against that possibility? How are we to allow increased access and continue to grant places to students from outside Scotland? Some 20 per cent. of students following degree courses are not domiciled in Scotland. I consider that to be a strength, not a weakness, provided there are places for Scottish students who want to take them. At present, we export 4,500 students to English universities.

All those advantages raise practical questions that must be answered soon. The Bill merely states: As far as the funding of the higher educational institutions themselves is concerned, the total in Scotland would not vary materially because of the provisions of this Bill. I understand that, but it begs an enormous number of questions. We are creating a totally new system arid we must know how it is to be defined. Will the Minister state how the budget of the new funding council will be calculated? I am not asking for a figure as that would be unreasonable, and I would not expect him to be able to give one, but it is important that he should give some of the methodology. Am I right in assuming that the total amount will come partially from the former UFC expenditure on Scottish institutions and the remainder from Scottish Office expenditure on central institutions? Can the Secretary of State confirm that? Will there be an increase in the total Scottish Office budget to take account of the new higher education responsibilities in funding? Will the procedure be that, on that basis, an annual total will emerge from the bargaining within the Scottish Office and then be handed over for distribution to the new funding council?

I hope that I am right in saying—I have certainly been advised that this is so— that in general terms a Scottish university spends about two thirds of its UFC money on teaching, and one third on research. Some of my hon. Friends know a great deal about the subject, and I know that the research funding is formidably important. In 1989–90, the UFC distributed to universities in the United Kingdom £860 million in research support. That sum is vastly greater than the comparable figure for research councils, which contributed only about £260 million. May I assume that the research councils will continue to operate on the United Kingdom basis?

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend cannot make that assumption.

Mr. Dewar

My hon. Friend says that I cannot make that assumption. Perhaps the Minister of State can arbitrate on that.

More importantly, will the equivalent of the present enormous amount of UFC research money be included in the new funding council's budget and will the council be responsible for its distribution? Will the UFC's successor, the funding council in England, have any jurisdiction in Scotland? If that research funding were excluded, it would seem that the new Scottish council would be involved financially only in teaching costs. That would represent an artificial and damaging separation of research and teaching which would weaken the system. I have outlined at some length a number of fundamental issues and I genuinely expect the Minister to try to answer them.

I am puzzled that there is no definition or reference in the Bill to a planning function for the new council. What influence will it have over policy? It may contain an inherent power, but it is important for the Minister to say more about that. Enormously important decisions will have to be taken about the new universities, such as how they are to be integrated, how funds are to be distributed, and how we are to respond to the Howie report, which will presumably lead to major changes in higher school education within the next two or three months.

The new council has a remit to plan higher education as a whole, but will it be able to make the changes that it considers necessary? Let us suppose that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has reservations about the distribution system, which is based on the assumption that the cash follows the student. Would it be able to vary that and introduce a new system of bidding for cash among Scottish universities? Could it alter the selectivity system for the distribution of research funds—assuming that the UFC research element will be included in the new funding council's budget?

There is keen interest in a university for the highlands, which would almost certainly have to be built in existing colleges and may have to evolve over several years. The Labour party has expressed sympathy with the idea, and would like to see action. However, we must ensure that it is a carefully worked-out scheme. Would it fall within the remit of the new funding organisation?

Another important point which the Minister may have anticipated involves the importance of the relationship between higher education and Government, and brings me conveniently—if that is the right word—to clause 48. The language of that clause is stark and direct, and appears on the face of it to give the Secretary of State unlimited and unbridled power to dictate. It is important that the Secretary of State should say a little about its significance.

There is no equivalent to the English clause 77(2), which relates specifically to financial considerations. Some people have tried to take comfort from the fact that such an omission provides a negative safeguard for Scottish higher education, but I remain sceptical. I am surprised that the Secretary of State did not address that problem, which has been raised with me by almost everyone with whom I have discussed the Bill. I should have thought that he would want to take action to allay the genuine fears about what the Scottish Office is doing.

The Secretary of State must accept, although he may not like it, that old wounds and memories of the 1988 argument in England still remain. It was then thought by those who were threatened that an open assault was being launched on academic freedom, and the Government were forced to retreat. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but time and again it has been put to me and to my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) that the present proposal would take us back to the 1988 argument in a way that would be disastrous for confidence and for the relationship between central Government and higher education.

Dr. Godman

I am worried about the measure. If a funding council decided, on principle, to disregard such a directive, presumably the Secretary of State could dismiss its officers.

Mr. Dewar

The position is clear. If a direction is given, there is a legal duty on the funding council to accept that direction. Obviously, I would expect a funding council to work within the framework of the law—

Dr. Godman

Or resign.

Mr. Dewar

Or resign, if it did not wish to be involved in what it saw as a fundamental mistake. But if that measure is on the statute book, it is obviously something that we have a duty to investigate.

No doubt I shall be told by the Secretary of State that that is a routine provision, a fallback power of last resort. He may argue that he is merely paying an unnecessary price for previous convictions and that the fears are groundless, but I am not convinced. Perhaps the Minister should read the leader in The Guardian last week, which held that ministers have inserted a clause into the latest Higher Education Bill which would so extend their right to intervene that academic freedom would effectively be finished.". That is probably an overstatement, but the very fact that such a view can be expressed from that area makes it imperative that the Secretary of State should deal with that point.

I welcome—it would be churlish not to—what the Secretary of State said about funding for central institutions. That is helpful and long overdue, particularly on the capital budget. I have not had time to digest or examine the details of his speech, but it is unfortunate that central institution boards should now lose the staff and student places in particular. It is an odd proposal, particularly as schedule I contains a particular obligation for the boards of further education colleges to have elected representatives from the staff and students. If that is right for further education colleges, I am not clear why the Secretary of State should suddenly have announced that there will be no protected right for staff and student representation on the board of central institutions.

That will be taken as a gloomy opening chapter to the new system introduced by this legislation. My instinct is that it is wrong, it will be resented and it will sour the atmosphere. I should be interested to hear from colleagues on the Committee what kind of detailed explanations the Secretary of State gives at a later stage.

Now I come briefly, briskly but importantly to the other section of the Bill—the objectionable and misconceived proposals for further education. They were always predictable and they are certainly mean-spirited. We know that some time ago the Government decided to remove responsibility for funding further education from local authorities and now they are coming back to complete what I regard as a fairly brutal piece of surgery.

There is no justification for the proposals. They are incompatible with the spirit of what the Secretary of State is trying to do elsewhere in the Bill. He is trying to implement the STEAC over-arching concept. he is trying to accept that we have an integrated higher education sector, that there is an emphasis on planning and close co-operation with our schools. There can be no argument but that that is the way forward. If the objective is joint action, if there is to be co-operation, I genuinely do not see why we suddenly need to fragment into individual units the further education sector in the way that is proposed. Each one has been floated off in a way for which no real argument was advanced.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

I agree with the thrust of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Is not the Secretary of State trying to take control of education away from local authorities so that he and his Ministers can implement policies for which they have no support and for which they cannot be called to account?

Mr. Dewar

The sad conclusion is that at the heart of the matter is Ministers' dislike and suspicion of local democracy and what local authorities stand for.

I cannot expect the Minister of State to give a great deal of detail, but when he replies I hope that he will deal in passing with, for example, this week's press reports that there is a possibility of non-elected quangos, non-elected boards, taking over the entire responsibility of education authorities. It would take only a sentence for the Minister of State to kill off that latest crazy proposal emerging from the dark recesses of the Scottish Conservative party and it is extremely important that he does so. In fact, I should be prepared to give way to the Secretary of State if he would rise to say that, whatever may be on the agenda, that is not.

Well, there we are. I am not entirely surprised, but I give the Secretary of State fair warning that such a proposal, such centralisation, with the power in the hands of the appointed body and the Secretary of State, will be resented by people of every political persuasion in Scotland and many who do not consider themselves to be involved in politics at all. If that is the way in which the Tory party seeks to climb back from the abyss, the Secretary of State's logic is perverse.

I finish by asking one or two questions about further education. Why is no buffer authority being proposed in Scotland for further education? Why is there no further education funding council as there is in England? I have no objection to commercial and industrial involvement in the colleges. The world of industry and business has an interest in day release courses, higher national certificates and training places. They have much to contribute. But the Bill cannot be described as an exercise in devolution, certainly with regard to further education colleges. Although there will be independent boards dominated by local business interests, there will he a concentration and centralisation of power in the hands of the Scottish Office, and that is unmistakable.

The Minister of State must say something about the position of local authorities. We were told originally that they would have a discretionary power to provide further education facilities, but only for social and recreational services; it was limited. I notice that the Department of Education and Science south of the border says that local authorities can, at their discretion, supply any and all kinds of further education. Will that be the case in Scotland, or is it limited in the way we understood originally? Local authorities will still have a duty to supply what is described as further education other than that defined in the Bill. I am genuinely not clear what that means. Perhaps the Minister of State will define it by example—I think that that is the easiest way.

It is not devolution—I stress this—as the Minister of State seemed to be claiming on Radio Scotland's "Good Morning Scotland" programme this morning, or so I am told: it is centralisation. The Secretary of State will hold the purse strings. He can create new colleges and merge or close existing ones. Under clause 4, it is the Secretary of State who meets the bills. That must be a cause for concern. In constant terms, expenditure on colleges of further education has increased from 1979–80 to 1989–90 from £179 million to £244 million. We must maintain some momentum if additional access and the bridging into higher education in a more formal sense is to be real. For the Secretary of State simply to say that he will fund on the basis of a full range of courses offered begs every question and gives no detail.

In addition, there is the question of the make-up of the boards of those colleges. I have already referred to the domination of industrial and commercial interests. If I read schedule 1 aright, once the board's have been set up initially they will be self-appointing and self-generating. I am not encouraged to say that in that sense they will, to quote the Secretary of State, be akin to the board of a company. I know that the Secretary of State will think that it is special pleading for old friends and old connections, but it is clear from schedule 1 that, when considering appointments, there is a duty to consider people who have an interest in the work of a college, having regard to the interests of the education authority. But if one looks at the arithmetic more closely, that may be as few as two places. There is no guarantee that anyone from the education authority needs to be appointed at all.

Whatever one might think about education authorities and their record, the need for close co-operation between the further education colleges and the schools system is something about which there can be no argument at all. To remove any sort of right to representation in the way schedule 1 presently does is surely not a positive advertisement for co-operation which is supposed to be the basis of the new system.

The proposals for further education in the Bill are petty, unsettling and counter-productive and we shall vote against them tonight. There is about the whole concept a startling lack of any mission statement—any definition of the spirit in which the new Scottish funding councils or further education colleges are to approach their tasks. There is the outline of a structure in the council for universities, but no indication of what that council must do or any mention of a planning role.

Even the Bill's definition of higher education is strangely limited. Clause 32 makes it clear only that the test is reaching a higher standard than necessary for the Scottish certificate of education or the general certificate of education. That does not seem a satisfactory way of approaching the task, and certainly undervalues the enormous challenges to be met in our universities, central institutions, and higher education generally. The vision required is far greater than that shown by the Government or by the Secretary of State and his Ministers.

The problems at a practical level are there for all to see. I mention as an example the crisis over university pay and conditions. Last year, lecturers received an increase of 6.4 per cent. when the employers themselves accepted that 16 per cent. would be more realistic. Short-term contracts, blocked promotion prospects and collapsing morale are massive and real difficulties in our universities.

Reference has already been made—and there will be many more such references—to the problems facing students. They include the erosion of grants over the years and the specious loans scheme, which the Minister inadequately defended a few moments ago.

The university title must not be an empty honour or a doubtful opportunity to compete with established rivals for inadequate funding. That will be the danger and threat under the present Government if the Treasury has its way. The basis of the system can be strengthened by reform, but it must not be eroded—as could happen if there is insufficient commitment, and if more is not heard about the Government's willingness to fund the system and to provide the resources that it needs.

The vision must be there and the resources committed if the potential is to be realised. There is undoubtedly a need for a new approach and a change of direction that the present discredited Administration cannot deliver. The Bill provides such an opportunity, but I suspect that it will be left to be exploited by the next Government of another party.

5.51 pm
Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

It is not uncommon for me to find myself batting first wicket down to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), but his performance today was peculiarly passive. He was scratching around to find any reason to vote against the Bill. I warmly welcome it—as do universities, polytechnics, centrally funded colleges, and the principals and staff of colleges of technology and of further education. About the only people against the Bill are Opposition Members.

The amendment in the names of Labour Members is the wettest that I have ever seen. I imagine that the hon. Members responsible had to wear wellington boots when they drafted it. It is the very least that they could table in order to vote against the Bill.

The Liberal Democrats' amendment is even less authoritative. They apparently found it more difficult still to find a reason for opposing the Bill. If they are so keen on all forms of assembly and devolution, one wonders why they are not prepared to allow power to be devolved to college councils. It is a very disappointing start to a Second Reading debate to find an Opposition who are so mealy-mouthed, and who look for difficulties where none exists.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce


Sir Hector Monro

No, the hon. Gentleman has already intervened about four times. He can make his own speech later—there will be plenty of time.

People say that nostalgia is not what it used to be, but I cannot help but recollect when, as Minister responsible for education, I introduced the raising of the school leaving age to 16 and had to find teachers, and roofs to put over the heads of primary and secondary school pupils. One can easily see how far education has advanced over the years. It has been transformed, and is today a very different world from that of 20 or 30 years ago.

Scotland has a long tradition of academic excellence, and it is right to build reforms on those foundations. The Bill is important not only for what it directly says about education but about the administration and structure of university and further education in the future. It sets the tone for many years ahead.

A great deal of detail will have to be considered in Committee.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

Will the hon. Gentleman be serving on the Committee?

Sir Hector Monro

I will, and I am looking forward to it. I do not know why some right hon. and hon. Members object to working on the Committee stage of a Bill. I think that it is the most interesting part of our parliamentary work.

The Committee will be able to consider points that have been made by the Scottish Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.

Mr. Dewar

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has a good Committee record, and always takes a close interest.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

He has to do so.

Mr. Dewar

The Minister suggests that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has no choice, but I give him due credit.

The hon. Gentleman may recall that I suggested that a Special Standing Committee should sit for three sessions on a Select Committee basis before the Standing Committee got down to work. Does he agree that would be both welcomed by the educational world in Scotland and a good investment for parliamentary procedures?

Sir Hector Monro

It was interesting that the hon. Gentleman made that point, because I was a member of the Select Committee on Procedure when it examined in detail the advantages or otherwise of having a Special Standing Committee. As one who was so involved in the Scottish Standing Committee, I was somewhat reluctant to adopt that proposal, because one likes to deal with such matters oneself. Given that the Bill is the principal legislation for Scotland this Session, it seems right to get Scottish Back Benchers involved right from the start.

I do not mean to be dogmatic, but the hon. Member for Garscadden must remember that we have not tried such a procedure before. Standing Orders allow for such a Special Standing Committee, but I have yet to be convinced that it would be better than the conventional Standing Committee procedure. I do not hold hard and fast to that view, but the hon. Gentleman asked for my opinion.

The Standing Committee will also be able to consider representations from those representing the mentally handicapped, the question of university status, and the application—which will be considered at the appropriate moment by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—by the Dundee institute of technology.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on his earlier comment that few people find difficulty with the Bill? Some right hon. and hon. Members, and perhaps even the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) himself, have received the views of the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped, whose brief makes this crucial point: Sir Roy Griffiths identified the multiplicity of agencies and the lack of proper co-ordination as one of the key failures in community care policy. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that heavyweight opinion?

Sir Hector Monro

I mentioned the mentally handicapped because I read that very brief this morning. That is an important Committee point, but perhaps not one to be debated in detail now. Tonight we are dealing with the broad brush of the Second Reading of the Bill, to which I give a general welcome.

The Bill places great emphasis on higher and vocational training and of welding the two closer than they are at present. In recent years, great emphasis has rightly been placed on training, and its financing has been taken over to a large extent in Scotland by local enterprise companies, Scotvec, for which I have a high regard, and other organisations. It is disappointing that Opposition Members and local authorities should be so ready to criticise the provision of training places in Scotland. Things are going too well. It will, of course, take a little time for Scottish Enterprise to get over its teething troubles, but it is coping with the misunderstandings, and it has the finance. I am sure that there will be many fewer hiccups next year.

I welcomed my right hon. Friend's announcement of a substantial increase in funding: that will provide a springboard for the new board of management. A few months ago, it was said that the Dumfries and Galloway regional training unit would close next year, without the detailed consultation with the local enterprise company that I considered essential—as, I am sure, did my right hon. Friend. Now, however, it seems that places will be available, and that the opportunities will be there.

In a very good speech last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) pointed out that more and better training is now available than ever before. I give the Government full credit for providing all these opportunities for boys and girls in Scotland. The Bill, however, is about freedom—the freedom for college councils, which will become boards of management, to determine their own destiny within financial guidelines. It is crucially important for them to become independent.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

Has the hon. Gentleman read the letter sent by the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics to the Secretary of State, or the letter sent by the Scottish vice-principals? Both letters warn that the expanded powers conferred on the Secretary of State by clause 36 could be used to threaten academic freedom. Those points were made with some force. Will the hon. Gentleman make representations to his right hon. Friend?

Sir Hector Monro

It is always possible to misread legislation. Why should we always look on the black side? Why not see the positive, constructive way forward? If the boards of management behave responsibly, there should be no conflict between them and the Department. Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman seems to be looking for difficulties that do not exist.

In my view, the college councils have already proved successful—and a credit to the Government, who introduced the system not so long ago. I am told that they can now reach a decision at a single meeting: they no longer have to go back to the education committee, or to secure approval for the minutes by a full council. I do not criticise the local authorities, which have done a fine job in establishing colleges of technology. They have built them up from scratch and provided the necessary staff and facilities, and thousands of students have gained qualifications and excellent jobs as a result. I merely want us to make what already exists even better.

It is understandable that local authorities are reluctant to lose control of the colleges that they have built up. In Committee, however, we should consider the link between further education and the education authority—the liaison, or co-ordination, or whatever hon. Members want to call it. There must be a follow-through between secondary school courses and the new college management structure. As long as good will is maintained, I do not think that that will be difficult to achieve. I do not think that we need a formal, statutory link between the education authority and the board of management.

My constituency contains two excellent institutions, which rightly wish to maintain their distinctive characteristics. Dumfries and Galloway college of technology offers a wide choice of courses, and Barony agricultural college is in the forefront of Scottish agricultural education: it is involved in fish farming, deer farming and many other enterprises. I have talked to those colleges, and both are pleased with the Bill. Their college councils are working well, and the colleges are happy for them to be converted into boards of management at the appropriate time. They should be able to continue their excellent work; a college is only as good as its staff, as others have pointed out.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) mentioned finance—perhaps the main issue for the education authorities. The authorities have invested millions of pounds in colleges, and feel that they are due some compensation. What about the loan charges? I heard my right hon. Friend's reply, and no doubt the point will be discussed in detail in Committee. I feel, however, that my hon. Friend the Minister of State should emphasise the Bill's provision for up-front financial support for the establishment of the system up to April 1983. That is when the college councils and, subsequently, the boards of management take over from the education authorities, and the new system of payment of salaries and costs will be introduced. A good deal of computer work will be needed, as the two systems will run in parallel for a while. I know that my right hon. Friend has allowed a certain sum, but all local authorities will want to know whether that is enough.

I am very pleased about the introduction of funding councils for the universities. I trust that my right hon. Friend will leaven their membership—which will, of course, be heavily biased towards academic considerations—with some commercial and industrial representatives, who would, I think, bring useful experience to bear.

We are on the right road. Staff are important, but students are equally important. More and more people are attending universities and colleges in Scotland, and it is clear from the statistics that they are receiving the courses they want. That increase in numbers belies the claim that the loan system deters students; I think that it has done the opposite. When the new administration takes over the colleges in 1993. I take it that all student loans will come from the Scottish Office rather than a proportion coming from local authority bursaries and other means of local authority funding.

The Bill holds out great hope for the future. I am confident that it will lead to an even higher quality of education in Scotland. I wish it well.

6.9 pm

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) will forgive me if I do not comment on what he said. As I may not chair the First Scottish Standing Committee, since I am participating in the Second Reading debate on the Bill, I shall be unable to listen to his often distinctive and independent views on a particular matter and what should be done about it. I hope that the independence of mind that he often demonstrates in Committee will be demonstrated again tonight. I hope that he will vote for the Special Standing Committee procedure that is to be recommended to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar).

The aim of the Bill is supposed to be to improve participation in and the quality of higher and further education in Scotland. That sounds good and it is to be welcomed. However, it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that it is an attempt to blame all our education and economic ills on defective education and training instead of on too little investment and too little Government support for industry and the infrastructure. Nevertheless, I welcome worthy developments, whatever the motive. The weakness of the Bill is that it is all about mechanism and nomenclature instead of about planning and resources.

I hope that the Minister of State, who is engaged in a conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), will not say when he winds up the debate that we are asking for money to be thrown at the problem. In education, it is a case either of providing more resources or of accepting that if numbers go up the quality will go down.

There comes a point at which institutions, if they had any fat to burn off, have long since done so. Cumbernauld college in my constituency is an example. Its information technology equipment, bought with a special grant from the education authority, is dated and coming to the end of its working life. There is no way that the college will be able to replace it from revenue.

The restriction on local government expenditure in general and on education in particular has produced institutions so lean that their ribs show. No amount of changing who they are responsible to, or who sits on their governing bodies, will enable them to provide for more students, more flexibility and a higher quality of tuition. For that we need more resources. Nothing in the Bill suggests that there is any intention to provide them.

That basic weakness apart, the Bill has some strange features. Apparently, there are to be concurrent powers, though not concurrent duties, given to the Scottish Office and the education authorities. That would appear to be an effort to allow education authorities to provide for their local populations as they see fit. But is it? If they decide to spend on adult education, for example, will they find themselves council charge capped for putting up their charges to fund discretionary services? When the Minister of State has finished talking to my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, who apparently has crossed the Floor, perhaps he will——

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

He is just trying out the seat over there.

Mr. Hogg

I think he looks very distinguished. It is only a matter of weeks until he will be sitting there.

The provision of full-time courses is an important criterion for the eligibility of institutions to call themselves universities. That is strange, as the Government's stated policy is to provide education more flexibly, to meet the needs and convenience of students. The mode of learning has nothing to do with the intellectual level of study, which should surely be the criterion. We need an explanation. Do the Government believe that part-time study is rather second rate, despite the very good examples of such provision by Birkbeck college and the Open university? I notice that the Minister shakes his head. I hope that he will deal with that point.

Another fixation seems to be size. If an institution wants to call itself a university, it will, according to the consultative document, have to have a minimum of 3,000 full-time students and 4,000 full-time equivalents. That would rule out institutions such as the Dundee institute of technology which can meet all requirements regarding the level and quality of the learning opportunities that it provides. If my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) participates in the debate, I am sure that he will have something to say about that. Clearly, the Secretary of State is no believer in "small is beautiful", although "small is beautiful" might prove to be a campaign slogan for the Tory party in Scotland.

The Bill reveals a dogmatic dislike and distrust of local government. That theme runs through every single measure to which the Minister of State turns his hand. There is no evidence that further education is being provided badly by Scottish local government—still less that direct operation by the Scottish Office could provide it any better. On the contrary, to remove further education from local government will make it pretty well impossible to plan comprehensive area services for 16 to 19-year-olds—or, for that matter, for adults—to make the most effective use of education premises for the wide variety of communal needs that they should serve, to provide effectively for allied functions, such as careers advice, and to integrate the various services which together are needed to enrich community and personal development. Such integration has been an encouraging trend in recent years, in terms of both effect and economy.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The hon. Gentleman is always fair when we debate these matters. If he believes that this further education measure is motivated by prejudice against local government, why does he think that the Association of Principals of Further Education Colleges welcomed the Bill's provisions, as well as the individual colleges? Could it be that they believe that they will be able to do their jobs more effectively?

Mr. Hogg

A brief is being handed to me to answer that question, but I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not attempt to read it. The close print defeats my national health service spectacles. What teachers in the various institutions are saying to us is a matter of judgment and experience. That may be the view of the principals, but we shall have to wait and see what is said. 1 stand by the point that I made.

If, in the face of all this, the importance of giving colleges more managerial freedom is argued, I can only say that such an argument reveals a startling lack of a sense of proportion. Greater managerial freedom could easily be obtained by measures similar to local management of schools, without all the disadvantages of removing the institutions from local government.

The desire to punish local authorities—I know not what else it can be—is evident, too, in the strange provision that if a college sells an asset after April 1993, the Government will get the proceeds but the local authority will still have to pay any debt charges outstanding on the asset.

The clearest give-away is the representation of education authorities on governing bodies. Unlike business interests, and even the staff and students of institutions, there is no specific provision for the representation of education authorities, yet they are the only elected bodies that can represent local communities. The various business people who will populate the governing bodies, however worthy, will be unaccountable and will become self-perpetuating. Where is the democratic principle in that?

If, however, local government representatives get on governing bodies, it is specified that they must not become chairmen. In other words, they will not just be second-class citizens but pariahs, rather in the way that those in custody in our prisons and those who populate another place are not allowed to vote—but not for the same good reasons.

I know that the Minister of State is obsessed with manpower. It therefore struck me as odd that only 30 additional civil servants will be appointed as a consequence of the Bill. I am not a betting man, but I wager that if the Scottish Office intends to deal effectively with almost 50 institutions and thousands of students it will need more than that or it will be skimping the job. The transfer of further education to the Scottish Office is an act not of logic but of spite.

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

My hon. Friend said that 30 civil servants are not enough for the job. Is he aware that that is almost as many people as attended the Young Conservatives national conference for Scotland at the weekend?

Mr. Hogg

Most of them were clearly in need of further education. Perhaps the Bill will be helpful after all.

I am convinced that more civil servants will be required. The Minister is kidding us if he thinks that he can pass a Bill of this magnitude with provision for only 30 additional civil servants.

The Bill asks institutions to "have regard" for special circumstances and special needs. It is interesting to note that language teaching for people whose family tongue is not English is specifically included under further education in the English Bill but seems to be specifically excluded in this Bill. When the Minister of State has had a chance—

Mr. Foulkes

To wake up.

Mr. Hogg

—to consider the matter without allowing himself to be amused by the interruptions of my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and everywhere else, perhaps he will say why it is overlooked in this Bill when it is specifically included in the English Bill. I am not referring to Gaelic speakers.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Why not?

Mr. Hogg

Few people speak Gaelic as a first language.

Mrs. Ewing


Mr. Hogg

Their number has been diminishing over the years. People have come in from Commonwealth countries, so this important point must be addressed.

Particularly disturbing is the threat to academic freedom and freedom of speech in the all-embracing clause 36, which gives the Secretary of State power to make grants subject to such terms and conditions as he may define. No doubt the Minister will say that restricting what is taught, and how, is not his intention, but intent is no part of the law. The words appear in the Bill, and this year we have had two examples of the intervention of the Department of Education and Science, not the Scottish Office, in the subject matter and literature used for learning—once on a trades union studies course and once in respect of English language teaching.

The truth is that the Bill is another piece of ill-considered legislation, advanced more for decoration, and one more hit at local government, than for any good that it is likely to do for access to education and training. All this is coming from a Government who profess to want to return services to the people. We know that that is a centralist joke.

If the Bill has a permanent place in history, other than for the chaos that it will cause, it will be for enabling central institutions to become universities. That may have cosmetic advantages, but it typifies the weakness of the Bill and its lost opportunities. It may change the name, but the game seems to remain the same.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I call Mr. Bill Walker.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have just called the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). I do not question your right to choose hon. Members in whatever order you think appropriate, but the hon. Gentleman was not present for the opening speeches. Is it in order for hon. Members who wish to speak to be called before hon. Members who have been waiting, or is that privilege reserved only for the Scottish Tory rump?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I well understand the resentment that the hon. Gentleman is expressing, but the Chair must take many factors into account. Who is called to speak is a matter for the absolute discretion of the occupant of the Chair.

6.26 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Before that intervention, I was about to offer you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Chamber my apologies and regrets for being detained upstairs in Committee Room 10 studying the Bill to replace the community charge. I mistakenly thought that Opposition Members favoured that. I was involved in the Scottish part of the Bill until I came downstairs. I believe that the House will understand. Labour and Conservative Members from Scotland, who staff the Committees well, generally do most of the work.

Mr. Foulkes

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. As one of the few Tory Back Benchers from Scotland, he faces the great difficulty of having to man Committees and attend the Chamber at the same time. But would not his job be easier if his right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) would attend the Chamber from time to time and carry out the responsibilities for which he was elected and is still being paid to do?

Mr. Walker

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not expect me to respond to that intervention. It has little to do with the Bill. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should be careful. Labour Members from Scotland frequently consider Bills which mainly affect English areas of influence and spheres of operation. Often, they are unable to attend the Chamber because they are diligently carrying out their duties in Committee.

I welcome the Bill before us now because it provides for further education colleges to be run by local boards of management. That is real devolution—not the stuff that we get dressed up by Opposition Members. It enables local people to make decisions about their local colleges. That is very important.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that further education colleges are responsible to local authorities which are democratically elected by the people of their communities? How can he argue that the proposed change would be more democratic? It would be much less democratic.

Mr. Walker

I have no difficulty in arguing with that point. If the hon. Lady were to turn to her colleague's constituency of Angus, East, for example, she would find that the people in Arbroath—as in Forfar—fondly believe that they are better equipped than the people in Dundee to make decisions about their colleges. The people of Oban certainly believe that they are better equipped to make the decisions than the people in Glasgow. That is real devolution. It is sad, but whatever the merits have been in the past, one of the great advantages of making progress is that if one can allow local people to make decisions about what is happening in their community, they will happily accept. As I said, that is real devolution.

Mr. Worthington

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Oban and the importance of local people deciding. Can he tell us which further education college serves Oban? Which is the nearest one?

Mr. Walker

I cannot give an answer, but I can certainly give the answer for Arbroath and for Tayside. Perhaps the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie), who has just made an appearance, will help me out. She has been serving on the same Committee, so that is an example of how hard she and I have been working on behalf of Scottish interests. I am pleased that she has also escaped from the Committee to come to the Chamber. She will understand the interest when I say that the people of Oban are better equipped to make decisions about their area than the people from Glasgow. I do not pretend to be an expert on every further education college in Scotland. That would be nonsense because I am not.

We hear much about funding and finance which is quite proper because one cannot run institutions without adequate funding. It is interesting that the 46 further education colleges in Scotland have budgets of £200 million and that they train 200,000 people each year. The Scottish education funding council to be set up under the Bill will fund universities and higher education in Scotland. Again, that involves the control of finance and the awarding of powers to various institutions which is real devolution. What we mean by devolution is giving people in Scotland power over matters that they can influence directly. We are not playing the game of shadow politics.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Most of us who refer to devolution or to home rule usually include a democratic element. Where is the democracy in the Bill's proposals?

Mr. Walker

The interesting thing about democracy is that it is a very fragile creature. Unless one participates in democracy, there is a risk of it withering away. One of the problems at local government level in Scotland is the derisory turnout at the polls. However, in Arbroath there was a high turnout at the last regional election to depose the incumbent councillor. The councillor who won—I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree as the winner was a member of his party—did so on the basis that the people in Tayside based in Dundee did not understand, were not au fait with, and had no empathy with the problems of Arbroath. The hon. Gentleman is making my argument for me and I thank him. If one considers the low turnouts at local council elections, the argument about local accountability and democracy wears very thin.

I return to the points that I was making about real devolution. The eight universities in Scotland receive £300 million a year of taxpayers' funds and the 18 grant-aided colleges receive £175 million of taxpayers' funds. Both sectors receive £20 million for capital works. That means that the Government, on behalf of the public or the taxpayer, have invested more than £700 million of taxpayers' funds in further and higher education in Scotland.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

The hon. Gentleman has a lot to say about devolution but is not there also a devolution of debt? How does he justify the fact that in the further education sector all the loan charges on debts incurred up to April 1991 will be borne by the local authorities but if the assets are sold after April 1993, the Government will derive the benefit although local authorities still have to pay the debt? At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman and I differ because I do not believe that the local authorities or the Government have any money. They have taxpayers' funds, and I am choosing my words carefully. I believe that taxpayers' funds are merely lent to the bodies involved—whether to the Government or to local authorities—to spend with wisdom. At the end of the day, it does not matter where one apportions the funds because the money belongs to the Government. Debts are merely taxpayers' funds left for a longer period to be paid. They are deferred payments.

Mr. McMaster

In the circumstances that I have described, would not the poll tax payer at present have to pick up those debts?

Mr. Walker

That is not the case. The taxpayers and community charge payers will always pick up the tab of any central or local government expenditure. Eighty nine per cent. of local authority expenditure will in future come from a combination of central taxation and business taxation, and 11 per cent. will come from the community charge payers. At the end of the day, the payments are made by the same people.

Since 1979 Scotland has had a substantial investment of taxpayers' funds. That has led to 61 per cent. of Scottish l6-year-olds staying on at school. That point was made by my hon.Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) who was the Minister responsible for seeing through the House the Bill that made that possible. Sixty one per cent. stay on at school, which compares favourably with the 35 per cent. of 16-year-olds who stay on at school in England. We can be proud of that fact.

Today we can see the benefits of that enlightened investment. Scotland has a well educated and well trained work force. That has been an important factor in attracting foreign investment to Scotland and has contributed massively to Scotland's success in changing from the old smoke-stack labour-intensive industries to today's modern high-tech service economy.

Today there are more than 90,000 full-time and almost 50,000 part-time students in higher education in Scotland. Indeed, in 1979–80, 16–8 per cent. of school leavers in Scotland entered higher education. In 1988–89, 24.5 per cent. of school leavers did so, which makes nonsense of what we hear from the Opposition. To listen to them, one would think that we were not dealing with success, but we are. The Government have set a target of 30 per cent. by the year 2000. That all shows clearly who cares most about what we do for the youngsters who go to schools and colleges, and for the adults who wish to participate in further education.

I go further. Few reasonable people can doubt that the Bill, which represents real devolution, will encourage greater participation in further and higher education, and in training in Scotland. It will also set up a coherent system of vocational qualifications, which is important because individuals being trained or educated must have qualifications that will assist them in the real world in which they will participate when they finish their education.

There will be an increase in grants to the Scottish universities. In 1991–92, for example, there will be an increase of almost 11.5 per cent. over the previous year. That demonstrates clearly that the Government are putting the taxpayers' funding where it matters.

I declare an interest. In recent times, all my daughters have attended Scottish institutions of higher education, and my youngest is currently attending one. I will not say where she is because she would not want me to draw attention to that.[Interruption.] Opposition Members obviously do not care so deeply and passionately about their children as I do about mine. I am not interested in political gimmicks for children. The extra funding in the grants to Scottish universities—to Aberdeen, for example, 13.1 per cent., to Dundee, close to my heart, 16.2 per cent., to St. Andrew's, another fine institution, 15.3 per cent., and to Stirling, 16.2 per cent., all of which are not far from Tayside, North—will make hon. Members realise that we have a parochial view of what happens at those institutions and that we are delighted by the increases.

In Committee, we shall be given the opportunity to study the details. Today, I will put down a few markers. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will acknowledge that the success of the devolving of powers to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will call for a clear demonstration that Scotland will have a proper share of the transfer of assets from the Universities Funding Council so that there is no possibility of any adverse effect on institutional funding as a result of start-up costs.

The chairman and the chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will require to be individuals of substance who are capable of negotiating at United Kingdom level. They must not be civil service placemen who are seen at United Kingdom level as second division material. If that happens, Scotland will be in danger of losing out just as Scotland is in danger of losing out under Labour's second division assembly plans. We must be seen to be putting forward first division people within our plans. Scotland's universities must not lose out in areas such as research grant allocations where competition for funds will require tough negotiating at United Kingdom level.

The Association of University Teachers (Scotland) has written to me making a number of claims. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister is listening. It claims that the wording of the Bill is potentially misleading in failing to distinguish clearly between the terms 'designated institution' and 'university', and in the correspondingly loose definition of the term 'higher education sector'. Clarification of definition would be greatly appreciated. The association advocates definition along the lines of section 61(5) of the Further and Higher Education (England and Wales) Bill".

Dr. Hampson

Having spent many hours on the Education Reform Bill, which more or less contains the words used in the Further and Higher Education Bill, I can say that the Scottish draft is infinitely better.

Mr. Walker

That is the kind of reply that I hoped to get from the Front Bench. I am not giving my views:, I am merely reading out——

Mr. Robert Hughes

Read out what it says there.

Mr. Walker

The Association of University Teachers (Scotland) has every right to have its view recorded. That does not mean that one agrees with every dot and comma. As I have always done to any body that troubled to contact me and to inform me of its concerns, I assured the association that on Second Reading and in Committee I would ensure that the views were listened to. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said, what we do in Committee is what makes our job so interesting. We can make people listen and hear, and we get replies that make sense. Opposition Members do not always listen in Committee because they have pre-set positions. They never put forward views that can be seen as sensible or logical.

The Association of University Teachers (Scotland) goes on to say: There is a long-held concept in the higher education sector that a funding body should be an expert intermediary, advising government about how its policies can best be translated effectively into institutional activity. The wording of the Bill in 31(3)(a) allows the Secretary of State to appoint a small minority of retired academics to the Council, an undesirable departure from the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988. We would suggest that the majority of members should be persons who 'have experience of (and) have shown capacity in the provision of higher education". I should have thought that people who had just retired would have that capacity. I have always believed that it was nonsense to suggest that someone who has reached the age of 60 on Tuesday has to retire on Wednesday. Such a person has experience and knowledge. My hon. Friend the Minister will know that I have often argued that point on matters affecting aviation decisions, when the same charges were made against retired people—it was said that they did not have the experience, although they might have been in charge of the whole operation the day before.

The Association of University Teachers (Scotland) supports the establishment—my hon. Friend will be pleased at this— of a Scottish Quality Assessment Committee, because of the responsibility of such a committee to advise the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, and the distinctive nature of the Scottish higher education system. The association says: we strongly oppose section 36(2)(a) which gives power to the Secretary of State to impose requirements of any nature to be complied with by the institutions concerned". To me, that seems an odd comment as I have always believed that if taxpayers' funds are to be used, we must ensure that the referee—the Secretary of State—is clearly determined that they are used in the way that was intended when the funds were first voted for. However, it is necessary to put the association's views on the record.

The association also says that it believes that the advice provided by the Council to the Secretary of State under section 37(1) should be published. In connection with the duty of the Council to keep eligible activity under review (section 37(2)), we suggest that the Council be specifically empowered in this section to commission and carry out such research as it may think appropriate, and be involved in the collection, monitoring and publication of statistical information related to Scottish higher education." The association goes on—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The association will be interested to know that Opposition Members do not want its views to be recorded. It continues: a notable omission in section 37 regarding the functions of the Council is the absence of any role for the Council in deliberations concerning the setting of student targets for the profession at United Kingdom level, such as takes place in connection with Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry. We believe it is of prime importance that the interests of Scottish higher education institutions which have long been major providers of education for these professions should be appropriately represented. Before concluding my comment on the correspondence that I have received from the university teachers, I must advise the House that they believe that, in respect of clause 41 (1), the Secretary of State should be required to seek the advice of the Council and the institutions before he proceeds to close any institution. The association also states: In connection with the Council arranging for the promotion or carrying out of efficiency studies (section 45(1)) the Council should be required to consult the institutions before such arrangement. We would also wish that the Bill restrict the class of persons who may be chosen to carry out such studies to be appropriately qualified. I assured the Association of University Teachers (Scotland) that I would raise those concerns on Second Reading and further address them in Committee. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, I am sure that I shall serve on the Standing Committee.

Those who work in our universities and colleges of further and higher education must be able to believe that our supposed changes are sensible, that they have been argued and debated logically and that the Government have clearly spelt out the reasons for their proposals. Only in that way will it be possible to encourage the participation—the real devolution—that is proposed in the Bill. In my meetings with university principals and with others who work in further and higher education, I have been encouraged by the way in which they have welcomed so many of the Bill's provisions. Although there will no doubt be some concern, in Dundee, for example, I believe that close examination of higher education institutions seeking university status will be required. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) will put the case for Dundee if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

When talking to the principals of St. Andrew's, Dundee and Stirling, I have been most encouraged by the way in which those three universities have been working together to ensure that their work within their own geographic area is complementary and that they are not causing one another problems. Such give and take will be essential if we are to see the benefit of the proposed changes. Such an attitude will also be required from the various colleges which, irrespective of whether they eventually become universities, must be embraced as part of the system.

I shall look carefully at the proposals from the colleges in Dundee which have a genuine case to put. It will be interesting to see how they can integrate their work and dovetail it into that of the three universities which are already working so well together in the central Perth area. That is an example that others should try to emulate. I hope that such co-operation will be the result of this important Bill.

6.52 pm
Mr. Nicol Stephen (Kincardine and Deeside)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my first speech in the Chamber. As you can imagine, it is a great honour for me to address the House and to stand here on behalf of the electors of Kincardine and Deeside. It is also a tremendous responsibility, because I am only the second Member of Parliament to represent the Kincardine and Deeside constituency and I follow one of the most able, most conscientious and most respected Members of Parliament that the House has known. I have a copy of my predecessor's maiden speech with me. It was made on 1 March 1965—over 26 years ago—but the memory of his presence in the Chamber will still be fresh in the minds of many hon. Members.

Alick Buchanan-Smith is sadly missed. He was an outstanding parliamentarian, a caring Member of Parliament with deeply held personal convictions and a man of principle and integrity. Many tributes have been paid to Alick by thousands of people—from the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Opposition parties and from many others—but the most appropriate one for me to read to the House came from someone in Kincorth, a council housing estate in the Aberdeen city part of the constituency. That was never a Tory heartland, but this is what was thought of Alick there: Everybody knew Alick. Nothing was too much for him—it did not matter if you were Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat or Tory. He always took an interest and he always helped out. He stood up for his people; he stood up for his principles; he stood up for his constituency; and he stood up for Scotland, even when that brought him into conflict with his own party. Indeed, it was over the issue of home rule and his commitment to a Scottish Assembly that he resigned as shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in 1976. It therefore seems appropriate that the Kincardine and Deeside by-election has led to a fresh and increasingly urgent debate on the future government of Scotland.

We are now at a watershed in Scottish politics. As with any watershed, it is difficult for everyone to agree to which side the flow of history may run. Conservative Members may even hope that the future can be frozen where we stand at present. They say that they can see no demand for a Scottish Parliament, but it is clearly now time for change. All Opposition Members can sense the movement—it is real; it is tangible. We do not know its exact course although many of us may predict it—but we do know that the flow will gather strength and pace, ending in an unstoppable tide that will bring home rule to Scotland.

Hon. Members and even honourable newspapers such as The Sunday Times and even the Evening Standard would do well to remember that talk of the Scots as "subsidy junkies" with a begging bowl and a "gie us mair" mentality does little to enhance the Union north of the border. The tone is strident, snide and superior. It is said that the meek shall inherit the earth and, although I am sure that even the Conservative party has not yet set its sights so high, I can assure Conservative Members that the Meek approach would certainly transform their prospects in Scotland.

I hope that gives a reasonably non-controversial and, if not that, at least a clear view of my first impressions of this House's attitude to Scotland. As a newcomer, I wonder if I might sketch in some of my other early impressions. It was a privilege to sit in the Chamber during last week's debate on Europe. For the most part, it showed the House at its best. I must admit that I smiled when I heard the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) refer to "elective dictatorship" and her plea that we must cling on to national sovereignty. I wonder which Lobby she would have walked through if she had been a Scots Member of Parliament in 1707, voting on the Bill of Union. I suspect that we all know the answer.

The greatest shock for me as a new Member is the poor quality of facilities to allow a Member of Parliament to get on with his or her job. The history and the splendour of this place are certainly breathtaking and the bars and the restaurants are abundant, but surely it is not beyond the wit of a modern democracy to realise that 650 Members require 650 offices, 650 desks and 650 telephones. I am still between offices and partly between desks. If any hon. Member is prepared to swap my pink ribbon on which I can hang my sword for an efficient working office, he or she should let me know. I will even throw in my personalised cloakroom hook for good measure.

I turn now to my constituency. It is a great honour to represent the people of Kincardine and Deeside in Parliament. It is a constituency of contrasts. It is a huge rural seat, but most people live in or close to Aberdeen city. It is an area with a strong economy but pockets of homelessness and real poverty. It is a place where the traditional industries of fishing and farming are found alongside the modern international energy industry.

During the by-election the character of the area shone through with one further contrast. Despite the tense and important political battle, the candidates from all the political parties got on well. The campaign was a fair one. It was well fought. That is typical of the north-east of Scotland. However, during the campaign all parts of the constituency were bound thoroughly together by issues that affected them equally. They included strong regional issues such as the demand for east-coast rail electrification from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, the campaign to save the Gordon Highlanders and the urgent need for a decommissioning scheme for the fishing industry.

Then there were major national issues such as the rising tide of crime and the need for more police. Crime in Grampian has increased by more than 50 per cent. since 1979. Other issues included the plight of the elderly and their need for a better deal, especially during the winter months—Braemar in the highlands of Kincardine and Deeside is Britain's coldest village.

Clearly, education was also one of the most important issues in the campaign, but before I discuss education in more detail, I must mention the key issue that worried local people most. It was mentioned on doorstep after doorstep. The opt-out scheme for Foresterhill hospital was opposed by all five candidates in the by-election. The Conservative candidate said that he judged and rejected the application by following two tests: first, improvement in patient care and, secondly, community support. He rightly said that the Foresterhill application passed neither test. There is a huge opposition to the opt-out. There is no community support. Local nurses, doctors and consultants all fear the consequences of the proposal for patient care. The Secretary of State should reject the opt-out without further delay.

I am pleased that the important issue of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Bill is the subject of my first speech in the Chamber. I am a member of a regional education authority. My parents are both teachers. I benefited—I believe—from Scottish higher education. Therefore, I am pleased that there are some positive aspects to the Bill.

The higher education sections in part II of the Bill are to be welcomed, although they are overdue. The Government could have acted six years ago when the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council recommended a new funding and planning council. That was turned down by the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) on the ground that it would start on the slippery slope to devolution. As an aside, may I compliment the Secretary of State on how easily the word "devolution" slipped from his lips earlier in the debate.

Therefore, we have had another six years of lack of planning across Scottish higher education. The eight Scottish universities have also had to suffer the Universities Funding Council which set in train complex planning exercises, demanding a great deal of work by the universities, and then paid little or no attention to them.

Part I of the Bill on further education causes much greater concern. The idea of the self-governing FE college was born out of not educational rationale but the desire of the Secretary of State for the Environment to cut local authority spending and resolve his party's poll tax problems. The changes are being made for alien, non-educational reasons. They are yet another assault on local government, yet another attempt by the Government to centralise power.

If FE colleges leave local authority control, how can vocational education be planned in conjunction with local authority schools? What provision is to be made for the disabled and handicapped? How can a fully integrated system be provided? The timing of the change is also bad. The local enterprise companies—I am a member of one—are still finding their training feet. The Howie committee report on highers and vocational qualifications at school level is still awaited. So the cart is being placed very much before the horse. That point is emphasised by the fact that the Scottish Office knew nothing of the changes in advance of the poll tax crisis and has had to invent educational reasons for them.

Lastly, I should like to mention the position of the Robert Gordon's institute of technology. A major part of its campus falls within the Kincardine and Deeside constituency. It has a proud tradition, an international reputation for academic excellence and strong links with local industry. Yet the Government seem at best to have forgotten about it. During the by-election the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) gave one of the firmest nudges and biggest winks of the campaign when he said that RGIT was very likely—he may even have said extremely likely—to receive university status. I welcome his statement. The hon. Member for Stirling is a member of the Government and I urge the Government to end the uncertainty right now. They have done that for Glasgow and Napier. Give RGIT a clear, cast-iron guarantee. End the doubts about its future and give it the university status which it so richly merits.

For all the reasons that I have given, the Liberal Democrats cannot support the Second Reading of the Bill and have tabled a reasoned amendment.

7.5 pm

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

It is a great credit to the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) that he is here today and made the speech that he did. I have something in common with him, although he probably does not realise it. We both fought safe Conservative seats in a by-election. The difference is that he won and I lost. I lost to a Liberal. However, I hope that he will not take it amiss if I point out that the Liberal did not last long and within a matter of six months the Conservatives regained the seat. For the time that the hon. Gentleman is with us, however, we genuinely look forward to his speeches. He spoke today eloquently from experience and, as we all did, I took to heart the kind words that he said about his predecessor, who was deeply respected here and highly regarded and liked. On the night of the by-election the hon. Gentleman made another warm and effective tribute to his predecessor, which we all appreciated. That evening, as the Conservative candidate said, one saw that it had been a fair campaign. The hon. Gentleman deserves his success. He won well, he is here, and we look forward to the speeches that he will make in his time here. I know that he will represent his constituents of all parties as well as he is able.

I feel something of an interloper in the debate, but I hope that the House will not feel that I am too much so. I lectured for seven years at the university of Edinburgh.[Interruption.] It is difficult to come into a Scottish debate. They are not so genteel as English debates. The years that I spent at Edinburgh university are among those to which I look back the most. They were fine years. I am also a parliamentary consultant to the Association of University Teachers and I should like to make some remarks about the Bill in the context of its views and my experience in Edinburgh. I have been involved in higher education for many years across the United Kingdom. I also took part for many hours in proceedings on the Education Reform Bill.

The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside referred to the Robert Gordon's institute of technology. In the mid-1970s, when I was Opposition spokesman on higher education, I had the great pleasure of visiting that institute. I was impressed with what it was doing. It took a series of initiatives in North sea studies and oil-related courses which were ahead of what Aberdeen university was engaged in. The institute may not have the full range of courses that other universities have, but that is not relevant in the type of system for which I have campaigned for many years. We should have a plural system of institutions which all have the generic name "university", but which have different niches, with different experience and expertise to offer.

I join the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside in the hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will settle the status of Robert Gordon's institute of technology. When it comes to a decision about resolving the names of the polytechnics that are about to become universities, my right hon. and hon. Friends in the English Department of Education and Science should regard RGIT and Napier college as examples. I have never understood why polytechnics are scampering for a geographical location in their title. I should have thought that the Scots example was a fine one. We owe debts to many famous people in the history of both our countries. Why do not institutions name themselves after a person and link the name to their town if they like? Directors of polytechnics and the Department of Education and Science should look to the good examples in Scotland.

Mr. Foulkes

As the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, no Opposition Members objected to his participation in the debate—quite the reverse. I recall his time at Edinburgh university, where he taught with great distinction, but will he answer a simple question? I am becoming sick to the teeth of hearing about the west Lothian question. Only nine hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will favour the Bill, yet at 10 o'clock Members of Parliament representing English constituencies will vote it down. Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that it causes a great deal of resentment and anger in Scotland that such a thing could take place? That is equally important, if not more important, than the bloody west Lothian question.

Dr. Hampson

The hon. Member who represents west Lothian might have something to say about that. I am not the right Member of Parliament to answer the hon. Gentleman's question, for one good reason. I do not know whether he remembers it. I remain one of the unreformed devolutionists in the Conservative party. 1 experienced two intriguing and valuable years, in 1968 and 1969, as joint secretary of Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Scottish constitutional committee, when such matters were considered. I was of the view then that at least some form of devolution was necessary and I am still of that view, although we may differ as to the extent. When we considered the higher education system in Scotland as part of the committee's work, there was no question but that all the universities, their vice-chancellors and staff, and the AUT were against devolution to a separate Scottish system.

Mr. McFall

To follow on from my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), knowing the hon. Gentleman's interest in devolution and Opposition Members' frustration because of lack of scrutiny, does the hon. Gentleman agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) that the Bill should be sent to a Special Standing Committee where it should be given further scrutiny?

Dr. Hampson

If I am frank, I must say that it is a waste of time for the bulk of Members of Parliament to vote on the Bill tonight when they do not participate in the debate. Scottish Members of Parliament have to be here. They are taking time which some hon. Members representing the regions might like to use to discuss the problems of the north of England, for example. I would be delighted if Scottish business were being debated in an assembly in Edinburgh.

Mr. Dewar

May I reinforce the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall)? The hon. Gentleman takes a serious interest in the workings of this place and in the scrutiny of legislation. There has not been a special procedure committee with the three-day Select Committee format to scrutinise any Scottish legislation since that procedure was introduced. The AUT would probably agree that there could be much useful probing of the Bill. Would the hon. Gentleman join me in trying to persuade the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)—the lonely sentinel on the Government Front Bench—that the Government should consider that constructively?

Dr. Hampson

Judging by my experience of education Committees, the answer is probably no. The last time I was on such a Committee, scrutiny took far too long. The procedure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) mentions is viable and I would like it to be used. I supported it when the House Committees decided that that was something that we should try. Other things proposed by Edward Short at that time have not been implemented either, but that is the way of life here.

Several Hon. Members


Dr. Hampson

I am obviously popular in Scottish debates, and I should love to answer everyone, but if hon. Members will allow me I shall return to the attitude of Scottish universities and of academics in Scotland. I still have connections in Edinburgh and know that their view has changed. However, we should not be cavalier. They had sound reasons for not wanting to be separated. They saw themselves as part of one community of learning with a transfer of ideas and people. I might not have been a university lecturer in Edinburgh if the system had been entirely Scottish-run.

At the time people were concerned that the system could become parochial, that it would favour the appointment of Scots to Scottish universities and a higher proportion of Scottish students in Scottish universities. Although in some universities, such as Glasgow, students were overwhelmingly Scottish, at others they certainly were not.

Scottish academics thought that it would be unhealthy for Scottish higher education to become so parochial. They wanted to stay in the mainstream of the world of education in the United Kingdom and to maintain the movement of scientific ideas and links to the computer board south of the border. They have changed their minds, but I suspect that they may come to regret it.

The reason why some of them changed their minds is that they got fed up with the operations of the Department of Education and Science and the Treasury. They think that they have been badly done by financially and will get a better deal from a Scottish committee. I must warn them that there is no certainty in that. In my experience, the smaller the body, the more restricted its funds. Scottish universities might find that there are different priorities and that they are regarded as having received a higher proportion of resources than other parts of the system. Scottish universities have done extremely well and have taken a higher proportion of students than the rest of the United Kingdom system, and all credit to them. However, it is possible that a devolved system in Scotland might decide that they had had a nice time and might not increase resources but trim them hack and use them in other areas.

I am not against the proposal, but people in the Scottish university system should not be too cavalier about how the situation might evolve.

Mr. Dalyell

If the English part of the system finds itself in tightened financial circumstances, would it not be only human to think that they would cut back their expenditure over the border?

Dr. Hampson

The hon. Gentleman's remarks are worth considering. On a broader scale, I have always argued that the university world has been put under enormous pressure because of the extent to which numbers have risen. The scale of the expansion has caused many difficulties. Surely all hon. Members have supported that general direction—there has never been such expansion, such a widening of opportunities for young people, either south or north of the border. The scale of opportunities presented to young people in Scotland is greater than that south of the border. The proportion of people in that age group has risen to a greater extent north of the border. In the past decade in the south it has increased from 13 per cent. to 17 per cent., but north of the border it has increased from 16 per cent. to 24.5 per cent. A disproportionate proportion of resources have been put into the Scottish higher education system, compared with the amount that people in my university of Leeds, or in the universities of York or Bradford, would feel that they warranted.

People forget that whatever the pressures on institutions, and whatever financial difficulties they face, we are spending a significantly higher proportion of our gross domestic product on higher education than any of our major rivals, apart from the United States. The figures are staggering. The latest figures that I could find were for 1986–87, when we were spending 1.1 per cent. of GDP on higher education, the Germans were spending 0–6 per cent. and the Japanese were spending 0–4 per cent. Obviously, the GDP is much greater, so more money is going into the system, but that is because in the 1960s and mid-1970s in particular—decades not under a Conservative Government—we had such economic problems that our GDP was hardly growing. By Japanese standards, therefore, we have a long inheritance of a small GDP. In terms of proportion, which is usually the statistical base used by Labour Members, we are spending more than our rivals. Indeed, it would be hard to increase the figure dramatically.

Following my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker)—[HoN. MEMBERS: " Where is he?"] I shall follow what he said about the Association of University Teachers. Central to the university world is the destruction of academic freedom, as it is put in the brief and as it was debated in the other place on the Education (Schools) Bill.

As I said when I intervened, I spent many hours on the Education Reform Bill. We debated the same issue then. It is undoubtedly the case that the words hardened in the 1988 Bill from anything that we had experienced in legislation previously. In this and the English Bill, the words have been tightened further. On balance, although I started with the view during that debate that the legislation should be heavily modified, amended or, indeed, scrapped, I concluded that the Government had a case. There is such a thing as financial accountability. These are large sums. It is a requirement of the Treasury and of the law that the Government must be able to put conditions on the money to avoid its abuse.

Equally, the powers can lead to positive results. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) talked about part-time education. That is one of the great success records of the past few years. Part-time provision has grown more markedly than full-time provision. My point is that it is only because the Government can place terms on the grant aid to the council that growth in part-time education can be directed, if that is desired. The Government give instructions to the council that it will get £X million, but only provided that it is spent on the provision and expansion of part-time education.

Although I understand the anxieties of the academic world that some Governments and Ministers might try to interfere with courses and the operation of the university, we were given a guarantee, certainly in 1988, that that was not the intent. I hope that we shall have similar guarantees. Although the powers look stark and horrendous, they are necessary to direct and use the money effectively.

A further tightening over the 1988 Bill is in the case of bankruptcy of an institution. Some universities have got themselves into a terrible financial mess. It would be wrong for a Secretary of State to have no power to intervene either to stop the expenditure or to direct it towards saving the institution from the dire financial consequences of mismanagement.

That is how I read those powers. Nevertheless, I join hon. Members on both sides in asking my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to reassure the House that this measure is not about interfering with course development or specifically directing money to or between institutions, but that it is primarily to give the institutions overall financial accountability and, if need be, to direct the council's activities when it funds institutions into areas of priority which the Government have determined.

It is worth mentioning that those of us who for years have campaigned to abolish the binary divide now have a Government who have grasped that nettle. Ministers in the Scottish Office and the Department of Education and Science deserve great credit for that. The pressures against it, largely in the university world, have been tremendous and have worked against all Governments.

I advocated the abolition of the binary divide long before it appeared in a Labour party manifesto or proposal. At the time I was shadowing Gerry Fowler, who was having to defend it. The Labour Government went through the same problems. The universities did not think that the institutions were equivalent. They did not want the dilution of the concept of a university. That could be heard all over again the other night from Lord Beloff and many others in the House of Lords. That concern remains.

I have always felt that the fact that these institutions were not universities left them at a great disadvantage in our culture in terms of winning overseas contracts and convincing parents, pupils and teachers that the education would be as good and the opportunities as fine—indeed, sometimes more exciting at polytechnics—as universities. It was an uneven playing field, to use that ghastly term. The change of name at least gives those institutions better opportunities to attract talent and develop as they want to.

One important caveat applies as much to this as to the English debate. There is no logic, I hope, in saying that in changing the name to university, these institutions must change their direction and what they have been doing. Unfortunately, we have a history of precisely that happening. At times we have created new institutions which have modelled themselves on the old, more elite institutions, particularly Oxbridge. The universities of Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Nottingham, as well as Armstong college, Newcastle, were all community colleges funded and set up by local business interests to be different. It was not long—indeed, only until between the wars—before they were not taking a majority of local students and they were dropping part-time courses. After the war, the external degree courses were dropped at London univerisity. Those colleges aimed to be, and became, more and more like Oxbridge. We set up the colleges of advanced technology because of that, but to some extent they, too, aped the university world, although not all of them have done so. Obviously, Brunel remains distinct. Then we set up the polytechnics.

In creating a single university system, it is essential to retain diversity. Above all, these institutions must set their sights on particular goals. They are particularly good in certain directions and they must carry on in them. I hope that the funding mechanism will encourage them so to do.

Finally—[HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have taken many interventions. I come finally to the focus of opposition from both main Opposition parties—further education. They have, rightly, welcomed the higher education provisions in the Bill. Many fears about the further education provisions are spurious. I can see the perfectly proper educational argument that there must be relationships between the school system and the next stage. It is also perfectly right that FE colleges must be responsive to the training and educational requirements of their community. No one can deny that.

Local education authorities and local councils do not educate anybody. Local councillors are not teachers. They sit on committees. They may have an interest and they may take an active role, but not necessarily. Councillors have been put on various bodies simply because places have to be filled and not because of a commitment. The idea that a college must be democratically accountable is farcical. What is needed is a college that delivers what parents, pupils, students and trainees want. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] It is not done by having councillors. People at the education face and those in the training world know. They have connections with the college and its staff and with the people in the community. Often it is councillors and the council apparatus that get in the way of that process. I have known many instances when FE colleges would and could have responded to local requirements. For example, when factories have gone bust, they were prepared to set up courses to meet the community's retraining needs. They have to go through a great bureaucratic process to get the council's approval, the funding and the rest. There is no need for that.

An LEA or a council does not need a role for an institution, its staff and principal to be responsive locally. There is no logical connection. An independent, free-standing institution can be highly responsive locally, and examples of that—above all, the polytechnics—are clear to see. Equally, the universities are now seen in that light. They were more locally oriented after the war, and in the last decade or so they have again become more responsive to their local communities, regardless of any relationship with their city or town councils.

I do not for a moment accept the argument that there must be retention in a so-called integrated system. What we are now doing—we have done it with the polytechnics and we are now doing it with the FE colleges—is giving the principals and staff of those institutions more scope to deliver what they are good at, which is high quality courses tailored to the requirements of their communities. We should remember that if they do not do that, there will be a backlash against them. In part, the funding system will require them to play their proper role. If they cannot attract students to their courses, they will not have the scale of funds to expand and develop as they wish. So they will have to make themselves attractive. Some are already doing that successfully, some less successfully.

We are undertaking the present reorganisation not because there is any perception of failure in the system on the part of the central institutions, the polytechnics or the FE colleges. This is a genuine attempt to allow them to develop further on the successes that they have demonstrated they can achieve. The teaching staff have abilities and all concerned have specialities. We are now giving them freedom to develop those.

I have a caveat to enter, and that concerns sixth forms. I have always believed that the Conservative party was proud of the sixth form tradition and wanted to maintain viable and strong sixth forms. If further education colleges go into the business, as it were, of advertising their wares—attracting post 16-year-old students into their premises because they offer a more mature atmosphere, a bigger range of courses and so on—that could have the magnet effect of damaging sixth forms, particularly those that are viable only at the margins. We must seriously consider what that relationship is to be.

Overall, what we are doing today, and generally what we propose in the English Bill, marks a great advance for the institutions, for the students in them and, in this measure, for the people of Scotland.

7.32 pm
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

I join the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) in congratulating the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) on his maiden speech. I also welcome him to the Opposition Benches. I hope that he will be with us after the next general election, and if the people of his constituency take note of what he said in this debate, there is more than a fair chance of that happening, though if the Conservatives can find someone of the calibre of the former right hon. Gentleman who represented that constituency, there might be a different story to tell. Mr. Buchanan-Smith had our genuine respect and we were sad to lose him. Having said that, I welcome the new hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside and congratulate him on his speech. He may have the good fortune to become a member of the Standing Committee which considers the Bill.

It is ironic that the Government had to rely on the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West to speak following the maiden speech of the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps that reflects the apathy among Government Back Benchers. It is regrettable that the Government have been unable to encourage a decent turnout of their Back Benchers on an issue as important as this. I think I see the Minister shaking his head in dissent. I do not want to refer by name to Conservative Members who are not in their places and who are attending to other important business. I can think of at least one in the Conservative Scottish group who could have been here to speak following the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside.

The occasions are rare when my hon. Friends and I have cause to welcome any part, however insubstantial, of Conservative legislation on Scotland, but I, too, take pleasure in welcoming certain aspects of the White Paper on higher and further education. We are, of course, aware of the rather suspect reasons behind these moves, but it is a pleasing irony that sees a Conservative Government, all too evidently without a mandate to rule in Scotland, introducing policies to place the control of higher education institutions in the hands of a Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. That, after all, has been a long-term aim of the Labour party.

As my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) have made clear—in the debate today and in that on 4 November—there are in the Bill plenty of matters of real concern to us that must be addressed by the Secretary of State. Of those, the abolition of the binary divide and the associated creation of new divisions in terms of status, funding and future development are of particular concern to me and my hon. Friends and to all involved in higher education in Scotland.

I shall concentrate on the institution in Dundee that is affected most directly by the Bill. The Secretary of State pointed out at the end of October that Dundee institute of technology would be among those to gain full degree-awarding powers in its own right. However, unlike Napier, Robert Gordon's, Paisley college and Glasgow polytechnic, Dundee—alone of the five technological institutions—was denied the right to back up degree awards with the title of university. That is remarkable, not only because of the lack of equity but because of a total absence of foresight by the Government.

The Dundee institute of technology was designated in 1901 as one of four colleges at that time loosely termed "industrial universities". Its aim then, as now, was the creation of a steady stream of graduates prepared for the world of work and industry, ready to earn a living and to play a valuable part in the national economy.

Like all the Scottish institutes of technology, the courses are of high quality in diverse areas such as biotechnology, human resource management, mechatronics, nursing and software engineering. Further, the institute provides industry and other external organisations with extensive research and consultancy services. In the last financial year, that resulted in a gross income of over £1 million. I need not remind the Secretary of State that Dundee institute of technology was among the first to be accredited by the Council for National Academic Awards and to be given delegated authority to confer degrees.

In short, there can be no doubt about the quality and breadth of courses offered by Dundee institute of technology and of its ability to participate effectively in assisting industry and commerce, answering their requirements and even providing direction towards a more effective partnership between education and industry. Nowhere was that better reflected than in a statement in The Dundee Courier and Advertiser on 18 November by Dr. James G. Adamson, vice-president of NCR. Having worked closely with the Dundee institute of technology for the last 11 years, Dr. Adamson is reported as warning: not to give university status to the institute would be `disadvantageous to the Dundee and Tayside economic community and to employers in Taysid. He went on: We are concerned that DIT may not be titled a university, as we believe that this would put the college at a serious disadvantage in relation to its competitors, and this would be to the detriment of customers such as ourselves. NCR is one of the few American companies which, from the start, has placed great emphasis on research and development in Scotland. It knows the worth of the guidance that has come from the Dundee institute of technology.

Yet the ability of that institute to maintain its position and develop its research capacity—not forgetting the most important factor, the ability to attract students and funding—will now certainly be under threat. After all, the Dundee institute of technology will be the only degree-awarding institution in Scotland without university status. Nor should we forget that most, if not all, of the 33 polytechnics in England will be given university status. That will all combine to create a squeezing effect, the logical consequence of which will be the relegation of the Dundee institute of technology to second division status.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said, Labour wants to ensure that the binary divide will genuinely be dispensed with and that further divides are not introduced".—[Official Report, 4 November 1991; Vol. 198, c. 280.] Those were not the words of the Secretary of State but that is exactly what would happen.

A letter from one of my constituents, Mr. George B. Fyfe, shows the concern of those who have gone through the Dundee institute of technology. Mr. Fyfe gained a degree in electronic engineering at the institute and says: I will be placed at a serious disadvantage when applying for future job opportunities as potential employers will view my degree as being of lower standing as those from an Institution which will be of 'University' status … To create a situation in which DIT will be the only degree awarding Institution in the United Kingdom not having 'University' in its title is to me completely contrary to the aim put forward in the White Paper, of eliminating the binarised higher education system. Mr. Fyfe is one of the success stories of the Dundee institute.

I understand that the Secretary of State based his decision on size, but his size-based conditions have more relevance to England than to Scotland. It is an interesting attitude for the Government to adopt. Those factors bear little significance to Scotland, but they are not the only irrational determinants. Until recently, four of the existing eight Scottish universities were too small to satisfy the Secretary of State's conditions. Furthermore, Dundee institute of technology is expanding its operations and mergers are already under way with other colleges in the area.

I am sure that the Secretary of State has received a paper from the institute. I draw his attention to page 3 of that paper, in which the institute sets out proposals that are now under discussion. The Scottish Office is aware that it is proposed that two colleges of nursing and midwifery, with which the institute has long-standing and mutually beneficial links, should merge with the institute. The merger has been approved in principle by the health boards concerned. That would increase the institute's equivalent full-time student population by about 900, and the institute expects to increase its full-time enrolment to 3,250 in the next three years.

There will be major disadvantages because of minor details of numbers which, in a short time, may no longer be relevant. Should we allow a needlessly unfair situation to come about? Surely we should look at quality rather than quantity. We have already witnessed the Government's assaults on Scottish Army regiments in the pursuit of "quality rather than quantity". Are we to presume that the tables will be turned on educational matters, which are as important—if not more important—to the nation? Does the quality of education offered by the Dundee institute of technology amount to nothing? Is size really the most important factor?

Do not the people of Dundee, and the employers there and from as far afield as Perthshire, Fyfe and North Tayside, deserve equal provision to that of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, all of which have increased access to university status, degree-awarding institutions with all their associated advantages? If that position is allowed to prevail, the divisions will become concrete. The gap between the Dundee institute of technology and other institutions will widen and combine with other valid Labour party concerns on funding, provision of materials and research contracts, to work against the institute in its determination to gain university status and continue to provide the calibre of graduates mentioned by Dr. Adamson.

I look forward to the Committee stage of the Bill when we shall be able to explore the other aspects of the measure with which I disagree. I thought that it was important tonight to express the concerns of the Dundee institute of technology, which are shared by many others, including academics in Dundee. I hope that the Minister will have regard to those concerns and give a fuller and more favourable reply when he winds up the debate.

7.45 pm
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

I add my congratulations and those of my hon. Friends to the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen), who made a caring and thoughtful maiden speech. He and I will certainly not disagree on many issues, but we may, in later months, dispute the points of emphasis. I wish him well in his work as the new hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside. As a fellow Grampian MP, I know that he has large shoes to fill. His predecessor, Alick Buchanan-Smith, was highly regarded by all hon. Members, particularly by those of us who represent Grampian seats. If ever trans-party boundaries could be crossed in terms of seeking improvements for our constituents, Alick Buchanan-Smith was one of the most generous hon. Members whom I have ever come across. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will follow in that tradition.

I welcome the fact that the Bill is specifically for Scotland. It stands in stark contrast to what happened to school education, because only one clause of the Education (Schools) Bill applies to Scottish schools. In my many years in this House and in politics, this is the first time that I have seen such a vital part of Scottish education shoehorned into a United Kingdom Bill. That is widely regarded by the Scottish National party and people involved in education as a major insult to their interests and traditions and the care which they register for our education system.

I hope that the Government will agree that the Bill should be referred to a Special Standing Committee, because it is a real opportunity for Scottish Members and organisations to sit down together and review what is happening in further and higher education to ensure that the needs of that sector are addressed.

Before the House votes on the Opposition's motion to refer the Bill to a Special Standing Committee, I hope that the Minister will say which Back-Bench Members he plans to have on the Standing Committee, because the Conservative Benches are obviously lacking in Members. Indeed, the Minister is the only member of the Government present—[HoN. MEMBERS : "There is one hiding in the corner."] I apologise to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell), but he appeared to be hiding behind the Clerk's Table.

I hope that there will not be a repetition of what happened on the Bill on self-governing schools, when the Minister packed the Committee Room with six of his cronies to legislate against the democratic wishes of the Scottish people and the elected representatives in this House. It is important that he should say who will man the Conservative Benches in Committee, because that is vital to everyone involved in further and higher education in Scotland.

I should be much happier if I felt that the Bill was driven by a genuine concern for Scottish post-school education. Yet again, we are being dragged along with the philosophy of what is happening south of the border. Because an English Bill is dealing with further and higher education, Scotland must have one too. The philosophy that underpins the Bill is alien to the traditions that we know and respect in education in Scotland.

At best, the Minister of State was slightly mischievous when he set draftsmen the task of drawing up the Bill. He has put together aspects of the changes which the vast majority of hon. Members and their colleagues in further and higher education would welcome, but he has also introduced into the legislation aspects that none of us would welcome. I said that he was mischievous; others have expressed it more strongly.

The president of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association, Mr. Kenneth Johnson, addressing a meeting in Scotland at the weekend, described the Minister with responsibility for Scottish education as "ridiculous and fanatical"—something that one would not expect the Minister to regard as complimentary. However, knowing the Minister's attitude, I think that he might well regard it as such. Mr. Johnson said that he did not normally feel himself politically motivated but Government meddling in education had forced him to rethink. The problem with the Conservative Party in Scotland is that it has either too few MPs or nine too many. That problem could well be resolved at the next general election.

Aspects of the Bill to be welcomed include the removal of the binary divide, which I have always seen as false, and the establishment of a funding council. However, I even have reservations about those features. I am not convinced that the structure that is being set up under the proposal will provide the necessary foundation for a strategic post-school education system.

Scotland is a small nation with a population of just over 5 million. I have always thought that a simple way to progress would be to ensure that we have an overall view of what we expect to attain in post-school education. I do not know that the removal of the binary divide as presently defined in the Bill will achieve the strategic overall view that is so necessary.

In the 1970s, when the Scottish constitutional issue raised its head yet again and 11 members of the Scottish National party dominated many of the debates in the House, the university principals were very much against the idea of including the universities within the educational responsibility of a devolved Assembly in Scotland. I never understood that attitude, and in the years since then the principals have come to realise that to have their own funding council would offer them a better opportunity to protect themselves from the ravages of Governments who have cut educational funding, and allow them to reach out into the wider world, particularly as we look towards the European dimension and all that will happen as a result of closer political and monetary union with our European counterparts. I am pleased that the principals and vice-chancellors of our universities are now welcoming that facility, but I believe that we must consider carefully how the funding will be allocated to the council.

Scotland trains more than twice its per capita requirements of doctors. Many students who come to Scottish universities to train in medicine and veterinary medicine are from other parts of the United Kingdom. They train in Scotland because it is well recognised as having expertise in those subjects. If the funding council is to consider solely the population basis in Scotland, it will neglect a service that we gladly offer to the other nations of the United Kingdom. We do not expect those students to stay in Scotland; we realise that they may return to England, Wales and Northern Ireland to build up the health service in those communities. That vital issue must be addressed by the funding council if we are to ensure that universities not only expand but maintain the best traditions and services offered in the past.

Clause 31 gives the Secretary of State a free hand when appointing members to the funding council. The Scottish National party believes that the council should include an elected element. We could debate how that could best be achieved, and I shall make various suggestions in Committee. University principals and college heads should, acting as a group, have the right to elect someone to be their representative within the funding council.

I also believe that student organisations such as the National Union of Students and the students' representative councils should be allowed a student voice on the council. We must look at how appointments are made. I do not believe in patronage or that a system should be writ large on the face of the Bill whereby the Secretary of State can, on a whim, appoint people without taking account of academic needs and aspirations, and the wishes of the population as a whole.

I have knowledge of further education issues, as I worked in further education, albeit briefly, at two important institutions—Clydebank college, which serves Oban and Tiree to the west, and Langside college in Glasgow. We provided a service for people employed in social work who wished to take exams to attain professional qualifications. That was an important aspect of the work of the further education colleges.

Can the Minister reassure me that the links between community education and adult education, which are clearly defined at present through the funding link, will continue if the Bill is not amended? If the funding link is broken, the services provided by community and adult education will deteriorate. If we are to crush the notion that education starts at the age of five and normally finishes at the age of 16, we must fight extremely hard to ensure that community and adult education are recognised for the worthwhile services that they provide in the education system.

Conservative Members talk about the devolution of education, and their idea of devolution. Why do they believe that the repositories of wisdom in further education are solely the local business communities? Local authorities are democratically elected; councillors, like hon. Members, have to put themselves up for election every so often to answer for their actions. If the public decide to re-elect them, they do so on the basis of their manifestos.

Local authorities have had a responsible attitude towards further and higher education. I think particularly of the Grampian region, which I know best because it is my local authority. The work it does is much to its credit. It provides courses and recognises local needs, but it also realises that education is not just about obtaining a job. Education also encompasses what we in Scotland refer to as the democratic intellect. Education should be welcomed as a pursuit in itself, not downgraded as though it were solely for the purpose of achieving a job.

Access to education is a key issue. White Papers and speeches in the House have contained many fine comments about widening and ensuring access to education. I suspect that there is not a single hon. Member who, during the past few years, has not experienced at first hand the difficulties of individual constituents seeking bursaries or grants in order to pursue educational goals. It seems that those people often fall between two stools—local authority bursary systems and the grant system—or perhaps they do not qualify for a grant due to lack of the relevant residential qualifications.

I know of a young man who is trying to pursue a career at Napier college. He and his parents returned to Scotland from South Africa two and a half years before his course started. At the end of October 1991, he was informed by the Scottish Office Education Department that he would not receive a grant because he did not satisfy the three-year residency requirement. He decided that, with parental support, he would start the course, assuming that once he had achieved the three-year residential qualification he would then be eligible for a grant for the rest of his course. However, he has been told that he must take a year out of his course and support himself if he is ever to have any opportunity of being offered an SED grant.

Therefore, one place on that course has been lost this year and the man has had a valuable year of his academic and professional life lopped off. The SED should have had the discretion to ensure that the young man could obtain a grant for such a popular course. It is the central authority's inflexible application of the regulations which makes it so difficult for us to explain to our constituents what is happening to them.

I am also concerned about access for and the support given to women who return to further education looking for new job opportunities, perhaps when their families have grown or as heads of single-parent families. I am often asked by women in my constituency how they are expected to manage. If they are given a small grant, they lose other benefits such as housing or child care benefit, which makes it impossible for many of them to take up the opportunities for retraining in the local colleges. There should be a special attitude towards women who wish to return to training, particularly later in life when they have raised their children.

It will come as no surprise to the Minister to hear that I have read the Bill carefully to see what provision it makes for youngsters with special needs coming into training and education. I have long had links with the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped, for whose work and research I have the greatest respect. It too has read the Bill with great care, and it is deeply concerned that there appears to be a lack of specific provision for the mentally handicapped entering our further education colleges.

The society has pointed out that previously there existed a clear system of integrated local authority commitment to such people. If further education colleges are to become separate institutions, they will not be part of that integrated framework. They will only have a duty to have regard to people with special needs, whereas previously they had a duty to take account of such people. The Minister must tell us tonight exactly how he sees that working out for the benefit of people with special needs in our communities.

Mr. Douglas

My hon. Friend will know that I have a particular concern in that area. Does she agree that direct local authority involvement is of the utmost importance in that area, so taking those colleges out of local authority control is particularly damaging?

Mrs. Ewing

I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend. I think that all hon. Members appreciate his particular interest in the matter. He has clearly spelt out his own attitude, with which I agree.

The removal of colleges from local authorities will be damaging. If, at the end of the day, the further education colleges are meant under the new councils to specialise in vocational education, will they provide non-vocational courses in subjects such as life skills, or will that be left to local authorities which might not have the necessary funding?

If the local authority is to be responsible, where will it find the resources to provide such services? We will end up with a dangerous situation, in which special needs education receives only a token appreciation from the colleges, providing low quality and poorly resourced courses. If ever there was a need for us to consider our educational priorities, it is to ensure that such people are given properly resourced and high quality courses.

In considering further and higher education, it is important to remember those who deliver the service on our behalf—the hard-working members of staff who give of their time working long hours at night preparing courses, who have had to absorb changes in administration and courses with little recognition. During the past few months, we have seen the problems that our further education lecturers have experienced in trying to achieve a sensible pay settlement in recognition of their work.

Like other hon. Members, I have been inundated with letters from those who teach in my local college in Elgin. One such letter says: Over the last 5–6 years FE in Scotland has a record to be proud of, especially with the innovations to this sector introduced by the HMI and the SED through Scotvec, all this with very little if any extra funding. Another letter says: For the second time this college term I find myself having to take industrial action as a Further Education lecturer in Grampian Region, in spite of the fact that my own Region has already publicly acknowledged the justness of our claim and stated their willingness to settle. If we are talking about devolution, if a local authority is prepared to recognise the worth of its members in further education colleges, why have the Government dragged their feet for such a long time, instead of giving our further education lecturers the recognition which they so clearly deserve? Other hon. Members have referred to the university teachers, on whose behalf we have lobbied over several years to ensure recognition for them as well.

The morale of staff in further and higher education institutions has been seriously undermined and the Government must take account of that. That is one reason why the Bill should be referred to a Special Standing Committee. That would enable those organisations to talk to us and to make their representations to us in detail, instead of over hurried cups of tea in the Strangers' Tea Room downstairs.

The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) spoke eloquently about the situation affecting Dundee institute of technology. My party heartily endorses the points that he made. It is ludicrous that only one out of five colleges should not achieve university status. I wish Dundee well in its campaign which I shall certainly support.

It is tragic that the possibility of establishing a highlands and islands university should be omitted from the Bill. For more than 25 years, we in the Scottish National party have argued that a highlands and islands university based on the collegiate system would be a major factor in the regeneration of the area's economy, ensuring the retention of our young people and offering facilities to people elsewhere in Scotland and from all over the world.

Our expertise in areas such as agriculture and forestry would be of great benefit to people in the third world in particular. That would be a major contribution to resolving some of the problems that face us. The Minister should have considered that possibility. In Scotland we should have a collegiate system——

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Ewing

The hon. Gentleman has only just come in.

Mr. Ewing

I have listened to all the hon. Lady's speech.

The hon. Lady is wrong to say that the Scottish National party has campaigned for a highlands and islands university for the past 25 years. The president of the SNP, Dr. Maclntyre, was the president of the committee which campaigned against the university going to Inverness, and successfully brought it to Stirling instead.

Mrs. Ewing

It was a mistake to give way to the hon.Gentleman, because obviously he does not understand Scottish National party policy. The SNP has for 25 years had as its policy a university of the highlands and islands, but that option was not being considered when Stirling university was established. Provost Robert Maclntyre, a former respected member of the House, campaigned extremely hard, and won that university for his town. No one supports the concept of a highlands and islands university more strongly than Provost Dr. MacIntyre.

There are many major omissions from the Bill, which could have addressed many of the problems confronting Scottish education. We welcome some aspects of the Bill, and we will deal with others in Committee. I conclude by asking whether the Secretary of State and his Ministers will again have their cronies among English Conservative Members imposing upon the Scottish people legislation that they do not endorse. If that happens, it will make a mockery of democracy.

8.10 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

It would be remiss of me not to welcome the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) and not to pay tribute to his predecessor, the late Alick Buchanan-Smith. Alick had a rare quality in this House, in the respect that he had for a confidence. If one wanted to discuss a problem with him, one could guarantee that one would not read the content of the conversation in the newspapers the next day, with Alick claiming the origins of everything discussed. That quality is one that many right hon. and hon. Members would do well to respect. I am sure that the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside will follow in that tradition.

Scottish Office Ministers never fail to amaze me. Their illogicality is their only consistent part of their behaviour. The Secretary of State paid tribute to Scottish further education colleges, saying that they were an excellent group of institutions, yet made no case for taking control of them away from local government. Those colleges achieved excellence because of the work of dedicated councillors who, over the years, had the vision of taking education beyond the narrow confines of the so-called academic system and Oxbridge tradition.

That sort of vision led to the development of new institutions. There must be someone who sits in the sunks of St. Andrew's house and thinks up wizard ideas, on the basis that it does not matter whether they have been thought through, but, "It's a good idea—let's try it out." Such a notion apparently gets turned into a Bill without any logical argument for change being made.

One cannot cast aside as being of no account generations of thinking in local government, or that which is still to come. Local councillors are much derided by Conservative Members, but they would do well to remember the contribution that locally elected representatives have made in the past, and can make in future in respect of the education system.

What is the future of Robert Gordon's institute of technology? Everyone acknowledges its excellent record as a first-class educational establishment that is unrivalled not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the world. We must put to rest the lingering suspicion that part of the Government's concept of developing higher education in the city of Aberdeen is a merger between the university and RGIT. I thought at one time that there might be some merit in that development, but the concept could never be independently examined because the university's former principal, Professor McNichol, sprung it on the educational world without even informing the institute's principal that he had such a development in mind.

A merger could proceed only if a commission undertakes a lengthy and well-thought-out investigation into the merits of each institution, to identify where they complement one another and dovetail, and to ensure that there would be no overlap or waste of resources. Having said that, I believe that there is much to be said for the independence of both institutions being maintained. They complement one another, and in a sense spur one another on to achieve higher standards—and I hope that they will continue to do so.

In RGIT's change to university status, I hope that the access that it and the university currently offer to mature students will not be lost or be subject to interference. Perhaps my earlier exchange with the Secretary of State will have led him to conclude that he was a little precipitate in refusing to meet a deputation from the north-east of Scotland. There was in his speech the hint of a change of mind or of an opening of new avenues.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I am always happy to see the hon. Gentleman about any constituency matter, privately or otherwise. Our difficulty was that we were about to publish the criteria, and if we had agreed to meet particular institutions prior to publishing the criteria on which we would consult, many others would have wanted to do the same. If the hon. Gentleman wants to see me now that we are consulting, I should be happy to meet him, to learn his views. When I spoke to RGIT, I gained the impression that it was fairly confident of its ability to meet the criteria. There is no suggestion that we will want to change the criteria in any way that would exclude any institution. That should help to allay the hon. Gentleman's fears.

Mr. Hughes

I will of course consult those people who sought a deputation with the Minister. However, in case the hon. Gentleman is under any illusion, if he re-reads my letter carefully, he will find that I asked if he would meet a deputation comprising Members of Parliament from north-east Scotland, and members of Grampian regional council, Aberdeen city district council, Aberdeen chamber of commerce, and Aberdeen trades council. I omitted any representative from RGIT because I anticipated his objection. The institute anyway has its own access to consultation. Nevertheless, I will consult those other bodies to establish whether they still want to meet the Minister. If so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome them.

One of the great things about the development of further education colleges is that no local authority that I know of has ever sought to impose its political bias on them. It would be hard to exert political influence on those studying for engineering degrees, although that has been done in some parts of the world. However, when it comes to courses that deal with the broader aspects of society and the environment, I know of no education authority that has attempted to impose political control.

I hope that the Secretary of State does not have it in mind to impose Government political control over Scottish universities. Of course there must be accountability, examinations of efficiency, and monitoring—to ensure that courses are of a high standard. That is reasonable, but if a certain faculty upsets the political sensibilities of someone at the Scottish Office, that should not provide a reason for compelling it to change its teaching. University academics can sometimes be prickly and produce reports that are not to the liking of us all. However, that is precisely what they ought to be doing, in keeping an open mind and taking an invigorating look at the problems facing society.

Once we have a separate Scottish funding system and separate control or supervision of Scottish universities, what will happen to the interrelationship between students in Scotland who seek a university education and their English counterparts? Will Scottish students still have the same access to English universities, and vice versa? Will the UCCA system apply across the board? Surely it is the interchange of students from different backgrounds that makes university education something to be treasured.

I never enjoyed the benefits of a university education, but my children have done so. They have benefited from meeting people from many different cultures and walks of life. It would be a tragedy if Scottish universities became small, parochial institutions, concerned only with what took place within their precincts and "twa mile roon".

Even at this late stage, I ask the Secretary of State to consider sending the Bill to a Special Standing Committee. I have sheaves of briefing here: I have heard from spokesmen for nearly every aspect of university life. All my correspondents have made detailed, pertinent points about the working of the legislation. We are charting the future of further and higher education in Scotland: we must think not of the next six months or even the next six years, but well beyond the year 2000. We cannot afford to get it wrong; we cannot afford to let the party-political axes that we have to grind interfere with our aims.

I respect the Minister of State as a combative party politician. That is nothing to be ashamed of. None the less, I hope that he, like me, will take off his party-political hat and accept that we must not endanger our cherished education system. Please let us have the Special Standing Committee; please let us get it right.

8.22 pm
Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)

Although, sensibly enough, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) has gone to find something to eat, let me begin by congratulating him on his maiden speech. I made my maiden speech—also on education—more than four years ago, but I know that it is a nerve-racking experience. The hon. Gentleman spoke with great sincerity and eloquence.

I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on introducing such a timely and welcome Bill. Its aim is to raise educational standards in Scotland and to make the provision of Scottish education more locally based, while increasing local responsibility and accountability. I regularly commend the Government on the raising of educational standards in England and Wales; today's deb.' te provides me with an ideal opportunity to explain why the Government can rightly be proud of their achievements in Scotland.

Scotland, of course, has a proud educational tradition. It also boasts what is arguably one of the most impressive and envied education systems in the world. It is a long-standing tradition there for the laird's son to sit down in the classroom with the farmer's son, and I pay tribute to those who brought about that tradition.

One of the Bill's main provisions transfers the general duty to provide the services of further education colleges from local authorities to boards of management, under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The 46 further education colleges in Scotland provide education and training for 200,000 people every year; this year, local authorities will spend some £200 million on those colleges. From 1993 onwards, however, the funds will be deducted from the revenue support grant and transferred to the Scottish Office to help the colleges to become more responsive to the needs of students and employers.

I consider that transfer a logical next step. New college councils have already been established; at least half the members are employers. Local enterprise companies are being encouraged to play a greater role in the activities of further education colleges in their areas. The requirement that the new management boards should include a given number of people with experience of industrial, commercial, professional or other types of employment is long overdue. It is also appropriate for one of those people to be nominated by the local enterprise company involved.

From 1993 onwards, the further education colleges will become independent, corporate bodies. They will have freedom to expand and to respond swiftly to local training needs. They will, however, continue to receive fee income from training credits, and any other income from services such as consultancies. The new funding arrangements will reward effective and efficient colleges, thereby encouraging others to do better.

I welcome the provision in clause 11 to allow existing staff to transfer automatically from employment with the education authorities to employment with the new boards of management, with the same pay and conditions. None the less, the Government are right to ensure that local authorities do not try to be obstructive during the transition period. That has happened in other instances. To cover the transitional arrangement, the Secretary of State's consent will be required for contracts worth more than £50,000; quite rightly, his consent will also be needed for the disposal of land. We must ensure that the possible reluctance of some local authorities to pass on information to the new boards is properly dealt with. The provision in clause 9 for the Secretary of State to terminate the management of a college by the local authority is another sensible safeguard.

The Bill confers on the Secretary of State a duty to secure adequate and efficient provision of further education in Scotland, including both formal courses such as those leading to higher education—Scottish Examination Board qualifications—and less formal courses, providing basic skills and fulfilling special needs. That is a duty, not an option. No longer will parents he confronted with large bureaucratic dinosaurs; they will be dealing with local boards of management which will understand local needs and local problems, and which will thus be much better placed to respond swiftly to such needs.

Any system that takes account of both the community and the children whom it educates is truly to be welcomed. It ill behoves Opposition Members to nitpick and complain about such a logical and desirable development. The Opposition cannot have it both ways; they cannot call for greater integration of education into the community—and there has been a groundswell of opinion in that direction for many years among teachers in Scotland—and, at the same time, oppose the Bill, and the provision of greater accountability and integration for which they themselves have called. Who better to be responsible for the direction of the funding and management of the colleges than the local community, which will be most directly affected by what and who comes out of those colleges?

I warmly welcome the principle of rewarding effective and efficient colleges. I am all in favour of competition and rewards for achievement; I consider that one of the quickest and best ways in which to raise standards. This is a sensible and logical move, which contrasts starkly with the sole response of the Labour party: as always, that response is to promise to undo all our good work, and to throw more money at local authorities without regard to how it is spent. Knowing the excesses and abuses of Labour authorities, I am always heartened when powers and responsibilities are wrested from their iron grip, and given instead to parents and the local community.

The other main part of the Bill deals with higher education. The Government have sensibly recognised the distinctive nature of the Scottish education system, and taken it into account in the funding allocations to the institutions included in this part of the Bill, as well as those dealt with in the first part. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) mentioned access to Scottish universities for English students and vice versa; that, of course, will remain. It is the Government's policy to widen such access, and to introduce competition and movement.

I welcome the Opposition's general support for this measure. However, I was amazed and alarmed to read in their document "A New Approach: Scottish Education in the 1990s" that increasing the total resources of higher education … will be the test of any future policy proposals. Surely quality and relevance have something to do with a first-class education system. I note that the Labour party has made no promise to spend more money on Scottish higher education. However, the Government are spending £500 million a year on Scottish higher education.

The Bill sets up a separate funding council for the eight Scottish universities and the 17 grant-maintained colleges. By establishing the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, resources will be transferred to the Scottish Office, away from the Department of Education and Science, and will take full account of both the higher participation rates in Scotland and of its four-year degree courses. That is another example of transferring decision making to local level and of the allocation of funds being determined by the people who are most closely involved. I do not see how anybody can oppose that.

Higher education and further education both play a vital part in Scotland's economic regeneration. As a result of the Government's policies, Scotland has a well-trained and educated work force. That has undoubtedly been an important factor in attracting so much foreign investment in recent years, with more than 90,000 students in full-time higher education, plus 50,000 part-time students.

Let us look at the Government's success. In 1988–89 one quarter of all Scottish school leavers entered higher education, compared with only 17 per cent. in the United Kingdom as a whole. That is a 50 per cent. increase since the final year of the last Labour Government. The Government are well on the way to meeting their target of one third of school leavers going into higher education by the year 2000. In addition, Scotland has a larger percentage of 16-year-olds staying on at school—61 per cent., compared with 35 per cent. in England. Since we came to office the number of mature students has risen by a staggering 64 per cent. There is a lot of good news. We must make that clear. Opposition criticism—that we are running down education and that we are not interested in it—is overturned by those facts.

The establishment of a separate Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will entrench Scotland's unique position. The allocation of funds will be administered by the funding council, within a framework laid down by the Government, thereby preserving the autonomy of the institutions concerned. It is entirely right that funding decisions will henceforth be influenced by quality considerations. The funding council will be empowered to establish quality assurance arrangements and to make provision for efficiency studies in the institutions.

Clause 33 will require the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to establish a quality assessment committee to advise the council on the quality of education provided in the institutions that it funds. That is both sensible and logical. It will afford the funding council the ability to assess how well or otherwise the money is being spent. For too long responsibility and accountability over Scottish education spending has been hidden behind a bureaucratic wall of, at best, indifference. I am delighted that the funding council will be able to cut through the red tape and keep a close watch on the quality, which is the real key—not just money—to a successful education system. The unit within the funding council to assess quality will therefore be playing a most important role.

Scottish higher education will be able to compete with the wider United Kingdom market to attract students. The allocation of resources will take full account of the number of non-Scottish students attending Scottish universities. Under clause 36, although the Secretary of State can dictate terms and conditions of grants to the funding council, he cannot impose conditions that relate to financial support for activities carried out by particular institutions. There is a limit, therefore, to the financial powers of the Secretary of State, should he choose to use them. The Bill strikes a nice balance between the relative powers of the funding council and the Secretary of State. That is right when the Government are providing the money. It is only right that they should have some control over how it is spent. That is a perfectly reasonable and accepted principle.

Another important feature of the Bill is that the Secretary of State will be given the power to grant to higher education institutions degree-awarding status and that certain colleges and polytechnics under the control of the Secretary of State will be able to become universities. Quite rightly, however, the Government have issued a consultation paper regarding the specific criteria that will be applied when assessing applications for this very important change of status.

It is also proposed that the extension of degree-awarding powers should be based on the criteria used by the Council for National Academic Awards. Very sensibly, any application will be judged on the number of students involved and the breadth and depth of teaching and research in the institutions. Is it not remarkable that the freeing of polytechnics and colleges has been so successful in the United Kingdom that they will soon be able to call themselves universities? But is it not even more remarkable in its inconsistency that while the Opposition support this move they oppose the very similar move to free further education colleges from local control and allow them, too, greater freedom to flourish and expand in exactly the same way?

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

What does the hon. Gentleman know about it?

Mr. Amos

Does the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) want to contribute to the debate? If so, I shall happily give way to him.

Mr. Haynes

Who wrote the hon. Gentleman's speech for him? Did it come from Conservative central office? It certainly did not come from him.

Mr. Amos

I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman is listening to my speech. I can assure him that I spent both this morning and this afternoon writing this speech. I have an interest in education.

Mr. Haynes


Mr. Amos

In Scotland, in England, and in the whole of the United Kingdom. I am sure that Madam Deputy Speaker will confirm that it is my right and duty to speak on any matters affecting this Parliament.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) has been speaking for 15 minutes, using a speech that I do not care whether he or somebody else wrote. However, four hon. Members on this side of the House have a keen interest and involvement in Scottish education. They hope to serve on the Committee that considers the Bill. I ask you to bear that in mind and to ask the hon. Gentleman to draw his remarks to a close.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) who has the Floor is very well aware that other Members wish to speak, but he has a perfect right to speak in a debate that concerns the entire Parliament.

Mr. Amos

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall soon draw my remarks to a close. However, may I point out to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) that for three and a half hours I have listened very carefully to the debate, that it is only right that I should make my own points as a Member of the party in government, and that I should respond to comments made by Opposition Members. I do not see how I can be out of order. It was wrong of the hon. Gentleman to seek to challenge the Chair on that point.

In the interests of raising standards we must ensure that no institution will be allowed to use the word "university" in its title unless the quality, range and depth of its teaching and research deserve that title. Our aim must be to ensure fair competition between institutions on an equal basis and to attract students and research funds—not to level down in any way. The criteria must be of the strictest kind to retain the confidence of employers, taxpayers, teachers and students in the new institutions. We should not just be interested in the change of an institution's name.

The Bill will encourage greater participation in further and higher education and training and will strengthen the partnership between education and employers. The Government's commitment on funding has always been clear and generous. The grant to Scottish universities for 1991–92 was increased by a massive 11.5 per cent. over the previous year. For example, the grant and tuition fees increase was over 16 per cent. for Dundee and Stirling, over 15 per cent. for St. Andrews and in double figures for Aberdeen, Glasgow and Heriot-Watt. The funding for grant-aided colleges was increased by 14 per cent.

The success of Scottish higher education will be enhanced and its expansion aided by greater competition. The Bill will bring about greater efficiency and quality in both teaching and research; it will become more responsive. The beneficiaries of the Bill will be employers, local communities and their work force, more relevant and community-based skills and courses and the students themselves. It is a timely and necessary Bill which will raise the level of accountability and responsibility for the education of our children. It will enable them to have the best possible education.

The Bill will ensure that education standards in Scotland are raised higher and that Scottish students will continue to benefit from the sound policies of a Conservative Government.

8.39 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Alick Buchanan-Smith was my parliamentary colleague, political opponent in party and on other policy matters, and personal friend for more than a quarter of a century. I was touched when Louis Jebb, the obituary editor of The Independent, asked me to contribute Alick's obituary and I would not wish to add to what I wrote in that paper.

I shall address myself, first, to the Government Whip. Will he seek out the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House and quietly put to them the suggestion that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) that the Bill be considered by a special Committee? I travelled down on the same plane as the Leader of the House, who had been speaking at Gleneagles. He asked me about the Bill in detail and I believe that as a former Education Secretary he has a deep interest in the issues. He may therefore be easily persuaded to accede to the request that was made in good faith by my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden. There is much confusion about the Bill which we do not believe is our fault. It might be cleared up by the appearance of witnesses at the three sessions that we are allowed. I say to the Whip: please, take this seriously and at least ask the right hon. Members for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) and for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) about that.

Given the constraints time, I shall simply ask the Minister five questions. The first is about research. I am profoundly puzzled about the extraordinary omission of research from the Bill. I cannot find any attempt to address the problem of research and research funding. The Government must tell us, as soon as the Committee stage begins, whether henceforth selection for research is to be conducted on a national or a Scottish basis.

I am not asking these questions just to be difficult. Professor Dale and his colleagues have made me a member of the biological sciences advisory committee of Edinburgh university. Serious people—particularly those who have done well, such as the Edinburgh biologists and Des Smith and his colleagues in physics at Heriot-Watt—are profoundly concerned about the funding of research.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I tried to explain the position in a speech that I made in Edinburgh, at which the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milnegavie (Mr. Worthington) was present. It is as the hon. Gentleman would like it to be. Funds for the research councils will be distributed on a United Kingdom basis and Scottish institutions will be able to compete on equal terms. The money that is dispersed by the funding council will be transferred as an additional sum, initially to the Scottish Office and then subsequently to the Scottish funding council. I think that the hon. Gentleman is particularly concerned about the funding of the research councils, which will continue on a United Kingdom basis.

Mr. Dalyell

I thank the Minister for his courteous answer. I shall consider it in print—I am not being distrustful—as it is an important subject. I am glad that the issue of the research councils has been cleared up, but we must consider the selectivity of university research funding.

We must be given some reassurance on clause 33, which places the funding council under a duty to establish a quality assessment committee to advise it on the quality of education that is provided in funded institutions. My second question is whether the assessment committee is to work in tandem with the English structure or as a single council. I believe, as does the brief from the Scottish vice-chancellors—I asked Professor Forty about this by phone on Sunday—that there should be specific national joint committees for medicine, computing and engineering. I interrupted the Secretary of State, who replied "Of course they will keep in touch." I do not think that that is adequate because the issue is two-way traffice in staff between the Scottish universities and universities elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

My third question is on clause 31(4), which suggests that the Scottish funding council should be responsible for the Open university's activities in Scotland. We have all had a brief from the Open university and Professor Daniels, but is it sensible to split any part of the Open university? I understand that there would be considerable practical problems in so doing.

My fourth question is on the notion of a Scottish funding council, which I believe has far more to do with the perception of political advantage than the needs of universities, students, staff and researchers. I was not an admirer of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council. I must say bluntly—I can only speak for myself—that the Scottish funding council is misconceived and, in the medium and long-term, harmful to the best interests of the great Scottish universities.

Specifically, how long will it be before the English body, whose financial circumstances are tight—the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) had no answer to this—says, "Under the old system we were quite happy that the Scottish universities should have a net gain of 3,500 English students, and the finance that went with them. Now that we are separate, we shall educate all our English students in English universities, which will be of considerable financial advantage to our system"? It would be only human and understandable if it were to take such an attitude, to the huge disadvantage of Scottish universities, their fourth year, and the United Kingdom.

Many aspects of higher education are national. I fear that in the medium and long term the Bill will cause tension between the English funding council and the Scottish funding council, which will disadvantage students, staff and research. To pacify those who hold such doubts, the Secretary of State said, "It is set firmly in the United Kingdom". That is not true. All sorts of claims may be made for the Bill, but one cannot say that. It is not set firmly in the United Kingdom. Therein could lie many serious difficulties.

Mr. Forsyth

Did the hon. Gentleman mean quality assessment when he was talking about co-operation? I am not clear what he was saying.

Mr. Dalyell

Quality assessment was my second question. The fourth question was on the advantage to Scotland of 3,500 English students.which, incidentally, equals one of our universities. If the English funding council were to take the attitude that is only human for it to take, we should have to consider where the replacement for those students, and the funding that goes with them, would come from. Whatever happens, and whatever one's views, there will be considerable financial consequences. That cannot be gainsaid, but I will give way if the Minister wishes to comment.

Mr. Forsyth

On an earlier point, the hon. Gentleman asked about quality assessment. He asked how the different funding councils could ensure that they operated in a co-ordinated manner. There is no statutory requirement for them to form joint committees, but that would be the expectation. That issue could be pursued in Committee, and if the hon. Gentleman or some of his colleagues were selected to serve on the Committee, I should be happy to explore that.

Mr. Dalyell

For reasons of time, let us leave that to the Committee. My immediate reaction is that expectations given in good faith by Ministers on the Floor of the House —I do not doubt the Minister's good faith in this—are often very different from Acts of Parliament. In any case, let us examine that in Committee.

My final question concerns the two-way traffic that has been so beneficial—as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said—in terms of staff, researchers and students in the mainstream of the Scottish and English universities. We may have a fond expectation that that will continue, but once we have set up two different financial systems I wonder whether that beneficial traffic between the great universities—for example, that in Leeds and the Scottish universities—will continue. I refer to the university in the constituency of one of the Government Whips, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), because Leeds has a great university and I enjoy going there. However, one cannot take for granted that which we have taken for granted in the past.

Truth to tell, I am no friend of the Bill. I predict that the more we examine it in Committee, the more difficulties will creep out from under the various stones as they go on the anvil of parliamentary scrutiny. I therefore end with the hope that the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden is taken seriously. Bluntly, if I were a member of the Committee, one of the witnesses whom I should want to see first is a Scot who was brought up in Dunblane, who did his first degree at the university of Aberdeen and is now the vice-chancellor of London university. I refer to Professor Stewart Sutherland. His views might help us all in discovering the reality and exactly what we are up to. I predict that what we are up to will lead to no good for Scotland.

8.52 pm
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I am no friend of the Bill, which will set up tensions within the education systems. The Government's rhetoric is laudatory—they say that they are encouraging more young people to enter higher education—but if we consider the Government's record in this Parliament, it is clear that they have placed obstacles in the way of young people. The student grant system is not the least of those obstacles.

I have served on Committees debating Bills dealing with Scottish education since 1987. The first was the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988 and the second was the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Act 1989. Those Bills have not attained the objective desired by the Minister of State, because they were not in keeping with the Scottish system.

Let me deal first with the School Boards (Scotland) Act. During the recess, I visited every school in my constituency—there are about 50—where I listened to the teachers and to the head teachers, and I gained the impression that the Minister's proposals—whether for the five-to-14 programme, for the school board proposals, for the curriculum and assessment or for religious education—were those of a Minister who is once removed from the system, who feels that people should conform to his proposals but who does not know the reality of what is happening in certain schools. The two former education Bills characterise the approach of a Minister who is once removed, and this Bill is exactly the same.

We must realise that the Minister of State pushed the School Boards (Scotland) Act and the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Act because the Government wanted to attack local authorities. They sought to decouple local authorities from education.

On higher education, the Government want a self-arching role and strategic coherence, but they are atomising the process in further education. The Bill is a naked political assault on local authorities. We need look no further than the Scottish newspapers this week, in which the Tories—a minimalist political group in Scotland if ever there was one—are setting up a working party to consider the situation so that they can take education out of local authority control and put it under the control of boards.

On further education, the Bill is precipitate because the Government have set up a commission—the Howie commission—to consider the education needs of 16 to 18-year-olds. That commission may undertake a complete review of education provision in Scotland for 16 to 18-year-olds, but the Government are trying to force through a Bill that will change the further education system before receiving the Howie proposals. If there ever was a sensible requirement for not proceeding with the Bill, it is the fact that the Government have given their blessing to the Howie commission to report on 16 to 18-year-olds. It makes nonsense of everything that is now proposed if they go ahead without waiting for its recommendations.

As a result of the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Act, the Government established new college councils to run the education colleges. They are taking their powers from 1 January 1992, but that has not even been implemented and the Government are changing the system again. They are making the system more centralised, but I believe that the real purpose and focus of the Bill should be on the issue of coherence and fragmentation. The five questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow were about coherence in higher education. I shall consider coherence from the point of view of higher education and from that of further education.

In higher education, there are no doubt specific United Kingdom dimensions. The mechanisms are required in order to maintain the United Kingdom perspective and co-ordination in such matters. My hon. Friend mentioned clinical medicine, in which limits are put on the numbers of people training, as is the case in computing. What we need is not merely the Minister's acceptance that it would be sensible or desirable to consider national joint committees.

The funding will be put to three separate councils—for central institutions, for colleges of education and for universities. The funds have to be maintained, and higher education lecturers and vice-principals are apprehensive that the funds will not be maintained. In providing the funds for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, we need an assurance that the Scottish Office will allocate the funds for distribution and that they will be maintained.

We have had a number of submissions and briefing papers from different bodies. One was from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and I noted its wise and judicious comments. The society's concerns were about the availability of and support for research. That concern cannot be overstated. There is already concern in Scotland about the availability of and support for research in the humanities. The Scottish funding council and Professor Shaw must immediately give urgent attention to the issue of research. If we are to develop our education system and if we are to be of service to the young people of the next generation, we must have the best research institutions. Through the Bill, we risk devaluing research facilities.

I welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State of the abolition of the binary line between further and higher education. However, without a strategic overview of the system, that could come to little. With the proposed atomisation, we shall not get that strategic overview.

We have received comments from the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped about further education. Further education is currently a part of the integrated system of education for special needs, alongside schools and social work services. In my constituency, I have been working with a group of special needs pupils and their parents as part of that service. Under the present integrated system, it is hard enough to ensure the transition from school to further education for special needs students. However. it will be even harder under the fragmented system that the Minister is about to adopt.

At present, people can go, following assessment. to any of the services or to a combination of them. The proposed separate institutions of further education will not be part of the integrated system. The Bill says that institutions for further education should "have regard" to the needs of students with learning difficulties, but in the new set-up the further education institution will not be involved in the assessment of people's needs or in the planning of services.

The Minister should think of the comments of Sir Roy Griffiths when he examined the community care programme. He identified the multiplicity of agencies and the lack of co-ordination as two of the key failures in community care policy. Just as those failures inhibited community care, so they will inhibit education.

The Minister proposes to allow colleges of further education to set up their own mission statements, proposals and college development plans. However, they will not have to report them to a local authority or even to the Secretary of State. That is a grave omission.

There is fragmentation rather than coherence in the proposals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said, the need for a Special Standing Committee is urgent, not as a delaying tactic, but to ensure that we have examined every avenue in detail and that we are satisfied with what the Secretary of State proposes. The Minister would do his credibility no harm tonight by accepting that proposal, not on a party political basis, but as an exercise in intellectual investigation which would enable us to get the Bill right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden said that the university title which will be accorded to polytechnics must not be an empty honour. It will be without planning, integration, funding and, above all, the involvement of individuals who are affected by the change. Sadly, the Minister has not been directly involved in the changes to education that he has proposed since 1987. I should like the Minister to think again, so that he becomes involved and best serves the interests of the pupils, of the parents, of the students and of the staff of our universities and colleges in Scotland.

9.3 pm

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) on his maiden speech, especially as his is the most recent by-election victory in Scotland since my own. It is 50 weeks today since I made my maiden speech and I remember it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will remember his effective and intelligent maiden speech with pride.

I shall be brief, because I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak and, although I shall concentrate my remarks on further education, I should like to say something first about higher education, and especially about Paisley college. When the Minister of State replies, I should be grateful if he could confirm that Paisley college will have university status, because it well deserves it. It has an excellent record, not only of academic achievement, but in research and in its involvement in the local community and with the local authorities. That gives the lie to the premise in the Bill that colleges and business interests must work separately from those of local authorities and their elected councillors. In both Paisley and Reid Kerr colleges, we have experience of the local authorities working with the colleges on economic development matters. Professor Richard Shaw is the principal of Paisley college and leads an excellent team there. I hope that the Minister of State will bear what I have said in mind when he makes what I hope will be a formal announcement tonight.

There is nothing in the Bill to deal with some of the difficult problems facing Paisley college. The hardship fund, for example, always runs out before the end of the year and mature students therefore find it difficult to study. At the moment, some students at Paisley college are on rent strike because of the quality of the residential accommodation. There are outside toilets, but the college does not have the money to deal with that problem. Indeed, at the current level of investment, it will take decades to solve such problems and, although I hope that such problems can be dealt with, nothing in the Bill offers any hope of that.

Before being elected to the House I spent 10 years first as a lecturer and then as a senior lecturer at Langside college in Glasgow. During the decade 1980–90 that I worked in further education in Scotland, the Government's record seemed to be one of making change for change's sake. When I started teaching horticulture at Langside college, I taught the City and Guilds scheme—an old scheme—that was based on specific learning objectives because that was the fashion at that time. About a year later, we went on to a new scheme that was based on general learning objectives because that was the fashion then. That was followed by Scotec, which returned to the specific learning objectives of two years earlier, but eventually that was scrapped after another two years and replaced by Scotvec, which returned to general learning objectives, which have been amended ever since. As I still keep in touch with many of my former colleagues from further education, I can advise the Minister of State sincerely that further education needs a period of consolidation so that lecturers can have an opportunity to develop quality courses. We cannot continue to make change for change's sake.

There has also been a piecemeal development of the management structure in further education. There does not seem to be a long-term strategy to ensure that quality is paramount in the service. There have been constant changes during the past five years. I believe that there have been three or four changes in the management structure of my old college during that time.

I used to have a poster on the wall of my office at Langside college, reading: We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation. I am sure that when Petronius Arbiter wrote that in 200 BC, he did not know that it would become the Tory party's official policy on further education.

Further education in Scotland has been the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Government make changes; the changes do not work, so they make further changes —and so the cycle continues. I advise the Minister of State in all sincerity that he must await the publication of the Howie report on further education so that we can take a strategic overview and stop this policy of piecemeal development and constant change.

The structure proposed in the Bill will be fragmented. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will look after vocational education across 40-odd colleges. At the same time local authorities will retain responsibility for community education and leisure education. How will that black and white divide be made? There are many shades of grey. When I taught horticulture some people came to classes in the evening because their employers sent them or because they wanted to start a business. Others in the class came because they wanted to pursue a leisure interest. Would the Minister classify that as a leisure or a vocational course? Who should operate it—the college or the local authority?

I have a great deal more to say, but I am conscious that many hon. Members have sat here throughout the debate waiting to speak. I simply wish to recall one event that sums up the Government's attitude to further education. Shortly before I left the college, I recall filling in a form that emanated from a Government Department. I came across a section that asked me to fill in the number of revenue-earning units in the college. I did not know what it meant, so I asked my boss. It turned out that revenue-earning units were students. The Bill paves the way for more of that.

I remember campaigning under the slogan, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance". The Government have tried ignorance and it has not worked.

9.10 pm
Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

I shall be brief and address my remarks only to higher education because my two colleagues concentrated on further education, although I resent having to do so after sitting here for four and a half hours without having the opportunity to speak because of the self-indulgence of three other speakers who took almost half an hour each.

It would be improper of me not to commend the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) on his maiden speech. I made my own just two and a half years ago, so I know how nervous he must have been. It was a well prepared and well delivered speech and he certainly gave no impression of nervousness. I commend him for that.

I shall make one exception to what I said about speaking only on higher education. I welcome the establishment of funding councils for further and higher education throughout the United Kingdom. However, why should there be only one council for Scotland? England and Wales will each have separate funding councils for further and higher education, but in Scotland there is no provision for a further education funding council. The Secretary of State is apparently unwilling to trust his place men and place women—he wants to keep absolute control in his own hands. There can be no justification for that. I hope that that is one aspect of the Bill which will be amended in Committee.

Higher education will have its own funding council and I welcome that. It is a matter of some satisfaction that the Government have finally accepted the need to provide a separate funding body for Scottish universities. It is none the less a matter of some regret that they have not fully met the recommendation made in 1984 by the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council that the council should have a planning as well as a funding remit. I fail to see how those functions can be separated. Surely strategic aims should determine the priorities which direct funding. Without that remit, the funding council will be an entirely reactive body which depends on funding allocations to circumscribe its planning. Tying one hand behind its back will prevent it from adopting the proactive role which is crucial to the co-ordinated development of higher education in Scotland.

I welcome the provision to end the binary divide. But that divide will not simply disappear overnight when the Bill receives Royal Assent. The divide has surely been one of resources as much as anything else over the years. We require assurances from the Minister about what will result from ending it. There is a real danger that without adequate funding there will be a levelling downwards to the institutions which are now centrally funded. The emphasis must surely be on a levelling upwards of standards in both teaching and research.

Within the university sector, the need to maximise free income has already resulted in the squeezing of educational standards. There is no shortage of examples of overcrowding, especially in Scotland, resulting in increased pressure on students and staff with consequent detriment to standards. That trend must be reversed, but it can be done only through providing resources in proportion with increased student numbers.

I referred to research some moments ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, incredibly there is no mention of it in the 60 pages of the Bill. What is to happen to the share of research contracts which have come to Scottish universities in recent years? In the Scottish Grand Committee debate in June I asked the Minister for an assurance that Scotland's share of research funding would at least be maintained. I received no assurance then, so I repeat the question now. What guarantees are there that Scottish universities will not lose as a result of this legislation? If the expected number of former college institutions and polytechnics are granted university status, there will be around 80 of them. That is twice the present number, yet research funding is likely to remain static at best. There must be a danger that that will lead to a two-tier system among universities. Those already possessing a strong research base will be best placed to capitalise on it. As other hon. Members have warned, there will be an unofficial binary divide. If the Minister believes that that will not happen, I challenge him to explain how it might be avoided.

On the creation of a new wave of universities, like many other hon. Members, I fully support the claim of Dundee institute of technology to have the right to assume university status. There is little that I could usefully add to the eloquent and well-informed contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) about one of his local institutions. Dundee institute of technology is eminently qualified to compete in the marketplace which Scottish education has unfortunately become, provided that it has the opportunity to do so from a level playing field. It must not be denied that right.

Several other aspects of the Bill require clarification and amendment, not least the question of resources for the Open university in Scotland and adequate funding for adult and continuing education. Those and other issues will be vigorously pursued in Committee, when the Minister and his colleagues will be required to display a greater understanding of the real needs of post-school education in our country.

9.16 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

There seems to be a tradition that the hon. Member for Monklands, West should speak last in Scottish debates.

Mr. Dewar

A position of honour.

Mr. Clarke

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) confirms that that is a position of honour. It allows me to reflect on the debate. Although there were numerous excellent speeches —especially from Opposition Members—in complete candour I must say that we have witnessed an abuse of procedure this evening. Hon. Members who appeared after the opening speeches spoke for half an hour and then disappeared, have not reappeared—

Sir Hector Monro

They are in Committee.

Mr. Clarke

That is no reflection on the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) who spoke well and made a good contribution to the debate. However, this is no way to conduct Scottish business and to deal with matters as important as education in Scotland. Certainly it is no way to deal with further or higher education. The plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden for a Special Standing Committee to consider the Bill might be seen as compensation for the appalling way in which the debate on Second Reading has been conducted by Conservative Members.

I join my hon. Friends in congratulating the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) on a moving, fluent and sincere maiden speech. We all join him in the comments that he made about the late Alick Buchanan-Smith, a man of outstanding integrity and decency and a great parliamentarian who will be long remembered.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will not mind if, in the short time available to me, I attempt to emulate his style, albeit inadequately, by asking the Minister five questions. They are the questions that the Government have not yet answered and which are crucial to the debate—a debate which will continue long after the general election, which cannot be far away. Whatever decision we reach about the Bill, this will not be the last word on further and higher education in Scotland. That debate will continue because we are that type of people in Scotland.

I intervened in the Secretary of State's speech to ask a question, which I am glad the hon. Member for Dumfries repeated: why is the Secretary of State leaving education authorities with debt charges? As hours have gone by since that question was put, perhaps we may receive a more considered, measured reply. It is wrong that local authorities, having lost the assets of further education, should be asked to continue to pay those debt charges. It flies in the face of any decent approach to local government finance. It is unacceptable. Therefore, I am not surprised that, whereas the Secretary of State and some of his supporters claim that everybody agrees with the Bill, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in its paper states: The Convention takes the view that the timing of the Bill is wholly inappropriate. If the Government stick to their view on debt repayment, I certainly agree with COSLA.

My second question is: how will the Secretary of State ensure that bursaries will tie in with college development plans and courses? That is important. If the Government continue with their proposals, those responsible for the payment of bursaries will not also be responsible for deciding courses or strategy. Therefore, there will be an absence of coherence, which the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped has already criticised in its paper. There cannot be a more important aspect of the financing of students than that affecting students with special needs. I hope that the Minister will clarify the position when he replies.

My third question is: how will the Secretary of State ensure coherent and strategic planning, particularly in relation to post-16 activities in schools, adult education and special education? What my hon. Friends have already said about people with learning difficulties certainly applies. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) was eloquent on that point. Education should be for living. I do not support the view that Coatbridge college is there merely to supply whatever industry may exist. People used to erect notices outside their factories, saying "Hands Wanted"; not people, minds, personalities or individual contributions wanted. I fear that that is the real thrust of the Bill.

My fourth question is: will education authorities receive enough resources through the rate support grant for adult education? Again, that is a perfectly fair question. It is not enough for the Secretary of State to say, as he did, that these matters are already being dealt with. They are not identified or ring-fenced.

The body of people is not to be elected or accountable, but appointed by the Secretary of State in the same undemocratic way in which the Government have appointed their own people to the health boards and ignored the views of local people. In neither Lanarkshire nor Glasgow health authorities—I do not wish to reflect on those who give of their time—do we have people who would have been elected to either district or regional councils. If we are to have devolution as the Secretary of State said, how can we judge the quality of decision taking —nobody has made any attempt to pretend that this is real representation—when those appointed are put there presumably to carry out Government policy as it is seen by those temporarily in control at St. Andrew's house.

My fifth question is: will the Secretary of State agree that education authorities should be represented as of right on college councils at officer and member level? I say that without any feeling of apology or humility, having been in local government. Despite what is often said by Conservative Members, and reflected in their legislation, there are many excellent people in local government at elected and member level. Why they should be excluded from making an input into something as important as further and community education I do not understand and do not accept.

In our society today, when we have so many problems —about employment, the quality of life, the environment and with people feeling that there is an absence of hope and a lack of fulfillment—young people are worried about our approach to education in Scotland. The Government may use the guillotine, the whip and parliamentary procedure in the hope that issues such as that will go away. They will not. Education is fundamental to the realisation of true fulfilment. We will continue to pursue that point.

9.25 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

This has been an interesting debate. It has been dominated by the idea that we have special procedures which enable us to consider a measure such as this in detail. The Bill involves matters which really need the Select Committee rather than the Standing Committee procedure.

I am delighted to welcome to our proceedings the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen), who has the inestimable advantage of having entered through a by-election. It is easier for us to remember the name of his constituency, the hon. Gentleman having joined us recently. I pay tribute to Alick Buchanan-Smith. The new hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside has a hard act to follow. Others, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), paid tribute to Mr. Buchanan-Smith. I am sure that the new hon. Member for that constituency will have difficulty being as effective a Member of the Opposition as his predecessor.

The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside reminded us of the mess that has occurred over Robert Gordon's, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) told us about the Dundee institute of technology. We believe that the future of such institutions could have been dealt with more sympathetically.

My hon. Friends and I totally oppose the principle of taking further education out of the control of regional councils, and no educational case has been made out for such a move. The Bill is completely friendless on that issue. Virtually nobody in Scotland is willing to give house room to the further education parts of the Bill. It is another example of the Government taking the opportunity to centralise control and undermine local accountability.

What the Government propose is unworkable. In May, it was firmly proposed in the White Paper that local councils should have responsibility only for social and recreational provision. Within weeks, further education colleges, their councils and regional councils were told that they could provide all forms of further education. That showed that the Government had not thought the matter through.

The Government's proposal to separate further education and place it under the control of the Secretary of State is ham-fisted. It shows the right hon. Gentleman's total failure to understand what is happening in Scottish education. The regions have been successfully loosening the boundaries and getting the benefits of better links between secondary, further and community education. What matters is that students get the service, not which heading the service comes under. For example, I visited Aboyne in Grampian recently—not because of the by-election but out of diligence—and saw that the community school there works well, offering all forms of education on the same premises. Similarly, the adult education in schools in Strathclyde would previously have been classified as further education, but the adults now receive the education that they need in what is called a "secondary school".

The Government's attempt to divide vocational and non-vocational education is simply silly. Schools are vocational as well as academic, and further education colleges are vocational as well as non-vocational. Are languages vocational or non-vocational? They are both, depending on the use to which they are put. It is particularly absurd that the Bill should be introduced within weeks of the Howie committee reporting on the upper stages of secondary education, not just on the future of highers but on the relationship of highers with vocational education.

Let us look again at the contribution and development of Scotvec modules in schools. Something extraordinary has occurred. They are designed explicitly for vocational qualifications and for FE colleges and are being taken in vast numbers in schools. In 1989–90, 40 per cent. of the candidates for Scotvec modules were entered from schools. That was a 121 per cent. increase in a two-year period. There is every reason to think that the majority of candidates taking Scotvec module vocational education will soon be from schools, if that is not so already.

There is a considerable overlap in the most popular modules in FE education. They include computer studes, word processing and communication. It is illogical and absurd to divide education as the Government seek to do. How are we to distinguish between secondary and further education? It makes no sense to centralise control in Edinburgh at this stage. We are even to have the absurdity of cash changing hands between further, community and secondary education for the use of facilities. That is nonsense. Who will decide whether and how the regions will be reimbursed if they use their power to offer vocational education?

An English leaflet-there is no Scottish leaflet says: LEAs would have the power to fund further education of all kinds, from within the resources available to them, to complement that provided through the Councils". It is utter nonsense to have two authorities doing the same work. Have the Government even considered where the colleges are? The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who is not here now, said that the people of Oban would prefer to look after education in Oban, not realising that the closest FE college to Oban was Clydebank. I do not know whether the closest college to Tiree is Clydebank or Greenock, but it is not a matter of the people of Tiree looking after Tiree's concerns.

At the Bill's Committee stage the Labour party will move that there should be a further education funding council. It is essential that we put at the heart of the matter in Scotland people who know about further education. Why is there to be a further education funding council with regional committees for England and a further education funding council for Wales, but not one for Scotland?

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

There are enough Tories left to put on them.

Mr. Worthington

I do not know where the Minister of State will find the 450 extra Tory party members whom he needs to go on the college councils. As my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) said, he could not even find 35 young Tories to go to his conference, wherever it was.

The Government's attitude to the colleges' capital debts is an example of how they regard local government. That subject was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clark). It is a full illustration of how local government has been treated in the past 12 years. The Government are taking away the colleges but leaving the local authorities with a debt. As has been said, that is like repossessing people's houses but leaving them with the mortgage to pay.

The White Paper said that it will be complex and time consuming to identify and separate the charges related to college property. I travelled round the regions in the summer. At one region I asked whether it would be complex and time consuming to separate the debts. I was asked if I had a minute to spare. I talked to those in another region who said that they had already completed the process. All the local authorities have already done so.

I misled the House earlier when I said that the total debt outstanding was £86 million; it is not, it was £87,156,000 at March 31. The debt on Falkirk college is £1.9 million and that on Clackmannan is £388,000. If the reason for keeping the debts with the local authorities is because to do otherwise would be complicated and time consuming, we have solved the problem. Does the Minister agree that, debts as well as assets will be considered in Committee?

We support moving the control of higher education to Scotland and the end of the binary divide. In Committee we shall test out the Government's intentions all the way because we are convinced that the Bill's purpose is to level down, not level up. The chasm at the centre of the legislation is the Government's refusal to consider the issue of resources. As students come from less traditional backgrounds and follow less traditional routes, there is a powerful case for more, not fewer, resources.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, we shall also press the Government to spell out their attitude to research. The binary divide cannot be abolished by word—it needs action to do so. The Government are making two conflicting statements. They say, first, that they are abolishing the binary divide and, secondly, that they expect institutions to continue in the same way. The first statement involves dynamic change and the other involves stability—which are we to believe? When the Labour party proposed abolishing the binary divide during debates on the Education Reform Act 1988, it was in the expectation that there would be resource implications to cope with the levelling up required. However, in the Bill the Government anticipate that the financial effects of their proposals will be roughly neutral.

Formidable forces are concentrating research into fewer and fewer universities. Do the Government welcome that? Is it desirable? Will it continue? The Government say nothing. Apparently, there is to be more selectivity in the basic research budget distributed by the Universities Funding Council. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said, at present about a third of the income from the UFC is used for basic research. However, in the United Kingdom, instead of about 45 universities competing for the research budget, there will be 90. In Scotland, instead of eight universities, there will be 12 universities and 13 central institutions competing for the same research money. Meanwhile, the Government say nothing.

It is naive in the extreme to believe that polytechnics will simply continue their existing mission. Throughout the world, research is considered to be top of the heap. As an academic exercise, research is seen as a higher prestige activity than teaching. All institutions will seek to add to their research. It is inevitable that polytechnic staff will seek to increase the research component of their work.

The Government may say that some institutions will become teaching institutions, but such centres are not cheap. Good teaching universities elsewhere in the world achieve success by devoting large amounts of human and physical resources to research. Such universities exist in America, but there the percentage of undergraduate or postgraduate students at acknowledged research univer-sities is, in proportional terms, equal to the entire number of students here.

We are falling behind all the time on research. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology—these are not moderate words—said: We think that the 1991–92 science budget falls far short of what is required to provide the basis for the continuing development of the country's science base. There is no fat left in the system to absorb or disguise the present crisis. We are concerned about the extent to which there has already been a levelling down. But a central problem with the Bill is that there is no commitment by the Government to a planning function for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

I received a briefing from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, not a body with which I have had much contact. It said: The Funding Council should actively encourage rationalisation, elimination of unnecessary duplication, co-operation in teaching and research, in innovation. It should be dealing with issues such as the highlands and islands university. We believe that firm planning powers should be unambiguously added to the powers of the council and we shall be tabling the appropriate amendments to that effect in Committee.

We shall also be seeking to remove from the Government the unnecessary and suspicious interference powers which the Secretary of State is taking and on which the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), then Secretary of State for Education, backed down in 1988. For the sake of academic freedom, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council must be an effective buffer between politicians and the colleges. The Government do not need the powers and we shall seek to remove them.

It is rumoured that section 77(2) of the English legislation which refers to particular directional powers was omitted from the Scottish legislation in error. I hope that in the short time that the Minister has to reply he will assure us that in Committee he will not include that ominous power in the English legislation which gives the Secretary of State power to direct funds or give instructions to particular institutions. We set up a funding council because it is vital to a free society that we have free, strong, autonomous universities which can question and quarrel with received wisdom.

We cannot vote for the Bill on Second Reading. The part relating to further education is half-baked, ham-fisted and yet more centralising imperialism from the Secretary of State. It is hopelessly inadequate in its perception of further and adult education. The business community has no right to control further education, and it does not want to. It is an important beneficiary of further education and it must contribute, but it is not the customer, as the White Paper says. The customers are the students and their needs. No case has been made for this centralisation.

On higher education, it is right that controls should be switched to Scotland and that the binary divide should be abolished, but the Government are abolishing the binary divide in order to level down—there is not the necessary commitment to make the change work. We want much stronger planning powers for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and we deeply distrust the powers of interference that the Government are taking.

The Bill will be introduced by the Government, but it will be acted on by an incoming Labour Government, from which Scotland can take great comfort.

9.43 pm
The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) described my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as an imperialist. That is the kind of language that I thought had gone out of fashion in the Labour party.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Stephen) on his excellent maiden speech, so eloquently delivered. I thank him, I think on behalf of the whole House, for the tribute that he paid to Alick Buchanan-Smith. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will enjoy his time as a Member of Parliament and I look forward to his contributions to our debates.

The hon. Gentleman made a couple of points on the Bill to which I wish to respond. He suggested that the changes have something to do with keeping down the level of the poll tax. Responsibility for the provision of further education will be removed from local government, which will not get the money either. The money will not go to local authorities, so the effect will be neutral. There will be no saving in terms of money raised or money spent.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to dispel the doubts surrounding Robert Gordon's institute of technology. As I said during the by-election campaign, when I happened to be visiting Aberdeen on ministerial business, to fulfil a long-standing engagement at RGIT, the only people who seem to be raising doubts are politicians in the north-east. Now that the criteria have been published, we have not, so far as I am aware, received any representations that they should be tougher—and as the hon. Gentleman knows, RGIT would comfortably meet them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) pointed out that this is a major devolutionary measure that involves a vast transfer of power to Scotland.

[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] My hon. Friend is in Committee. He pointed out that it will also give considerable power to further education colleges themselves.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) that the Opposition have been mealy-mouthed. We thought that they would welcome the Bill, which gives tremendous power to the Scottish Office and to the institutions concerned to fashion further and higher education in the interests of Scotland as a whole.

It was obvious from the debate that there would be some division. The Government introduced the Bill because my right hon. and hon. Friends believe in extending equality of opportunity, whereas Opposition Members do not.

Mr. McFall

That is ridiculous.

Mr. Forsyth

I was quoting the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who, speaking for himself, is on record as saying: We do not believe in equality of opportunity. We are the party of equality. He was right. Opposition Members believe in a levelling down, whereas we believe in competition and the opportunity to provide for equality of opportunity.

We heard a great deal from the hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Clydebank and Milngavie about the need for more resources before any improvements can be made to higher education. That could not be described as a surprising line. It is the line that Labour Members always take—it is their standard gambit.

We heard tonight echoes of previous debates. I refer to a statement made by the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) on 8 July 1981.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am sorry that Labour Members are embarrassed by their leader's words. He said: It is obvious that the opportunities for higher education are being stolen from thousands who have qualified for it, who have aspired to it and who, even today, in schools and colleges throughout the country, are working towards getting the places that the Government are taking away."—[Official Report, 8 July 1981; Vol. 8, c. 462.] Even more striking, on 17 March 1982, a certain Mr. Bruce Millan told the House: Whatever is happening, the one thing that we can be sure of is that central institutions, any more than the universities or colleges of education, will not be able to meet the demand for qualified young people leaving school who want to enter them. In particular, they will not be able to meet the demand from those young people who are denied university and college of education places because of the university and college cuts. There will be no solution to the Scottish problems through the central institutions".—[Official Report, 17 March 1982; Vol. 20, c. 363.] So said a former Labour Secretary of State.

The more perceptive right hon. and hon. Members will have noticed that those remarks were made at the beginning of a period that saw a 40 per cent. increase in higher education for students in Scotland. So much for the cuts and the piteous plight of young people denied their place in education that we were told about.

The Opposition were wrong then, just as they are wrong now. The Government's obvious success was based on a combination of increased funding and considerable efficiency gains.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Forsyth

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make progress. He asked a whole range of questions, and I will answer all of them.

The Government's policy will continue to deliver more places for students, generate efficiency gains, and enhance the quality and relevance of the higher education that is offered. The Bill is a part of reforms that are intended to ensure that students have choice, and are able to acquire the skills that are needed. It will also enable our institutions of learning to engage in partnerships with business and commerce.

I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) in the Chamber. I greatly admire his policies on education: we find ourselves agreeing on such matters as primary testing and publishing league tables. I wish that he would have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie, who says the opposite north of the border from what the hon. Member for Blackburn says south of the border.

Mr. Worthington

We want devolution.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman may say that, but he must still answer the West Lothian question that was asked by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The answer, of course, would prevent him from continuing to prop up a Labour Government with a majority north of the border.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Forsyth

No; I want to make my point about the Labour party in Scotland and the Labour party in England.

The Labour party in England has a clear policy on further education. The hon. Member for Blackburn seems embarrassed by mention of that, but the English Labour party supports the creation of corporate colleges. The only difference between its policy and ours is our wish to fund colleges on a national basis to avoid local anomalies. The hon. Gentleman was lucky not to be present for the debate; there has been speech after speech condemning the idea of corporate colleges, which apparently are good enough for England but quite inappropriate for Scotland.

I waited in vain to hear what Labour's policy for Scotland was. The truth is that there is no such policy. Labour has said that it will repeal part I of the Bill, but it is bereft of any alternative ideas. That will not do: it displays complete contempt for the further education colleges in Scotland that support our proposals to give them greater freedom. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) may be unaware of it, but the further education colleges in Scotland have welcomed our proposals.

I think that I know the reasons for the difference in policy between those north and south of the border, and for the policy vacuum. The Labour party's agenda in Scotland is dictated by the trade unions and Labour authorities, which fear our proposals because they would diminish their traditional fiefdoms.

Mr. Worthington

I assume that, when the Minister refers to the colleges, he means the college principals.

I wonder whether he has seen the article by the chairman of the Scottish branch of the Association of Principals of Further Education Colleges, Mr. Craig Brown, who said: Even before the printed version is freely available, the Bill is getting a worse press than Saddam Hussein. No one has a good word to say for it. I think the Bill was inevitable. The 1989 Act was such an awful piece of legislation that its successor was inevitable.

Mr. Forsyth

I do not recall a piece of legislation that I have taken through the House that has not had a worse press than Saddam Hussein north of the border. Why did the Opposition oppose the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988 in Committee? Why did they argue against school boards, and why did they change their minds? Was it a coincidence that they did so at the same time as the Educational Institute of Scotland and the unions? Labour does what the unions tell it to do. At least the hon. Member for Blackburn thinks about parents and students, which is why his agenda is closer to ours than that of the hon. Member for Garscadden.

Mr. Norman Hogg

The Minister says that Labour changed its mind about school boards. It is the Minister who changed his mind. He was the author of the ceiling powers that suddenly evaporated when the public made it clear that they would not wear it.

Mr. Forsyth

Strathclyde regional council, controlled by Labour, has brought in ceiling powers on a voluntary basis, and is delegating those powers to its school boards.

I pay tribute to the role played by local authorities in developing further education. Unfortunately, like over-protective nannies who want to smother their charges' development, they have drawn up a list of do's and dont's for further education colleges: "You must use local authority architects and lawyers; you must pay staff at nationally agreed rates, and not reward good perfor-mance; you must employ certain categories of staff, even if it means employing lecturers for routine administrative tasks." That is the dead end and dead hand of local authority bureaucracy. We seek to introduce flexibility, whereas the Opposition wish to ensure rigidity. For the Labour party, self-government is anathema, whether it is in local authority further education colleges, in self-governing schools, or in self-governing hospitals. The Opposition cannot stand the idea of people making their own decisions. Napier and Glasgow polytechnics, shortly to become universities, are an example of what happens when a local authority-run institution of further education breaks away and is allowed to take its own decisions. It can grow and prosper, to the point of becoming a university.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said that he was very concerned about academic freedom. So did the hon. Members for Garscadden and for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg). There is a notion that the conditions of grant amount to a new imposition, but there is nothing new about conditions being attached to grants and there is nothing new about powers of direction. The Government have always had powers of direction over the University Grants Committee. It is absurd of the Opposition to attack the Government in support of academic freedom when they complain at the same time that we are not giving a sufficiently strong planning role to the funding council.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that the Government must allow the institutions to get on with their business and must not interfere with their funding and then go on to say that the Government are not doing enough planning. According to the Opposition, we should hand over £600 million a year to the institutions and not even inquire what they do with the money—because that would amount to interfering with academic freedom—but we should set up a body that would interfere with the same institutions—close them, merge them, move them, redirect them. According to the Opposition, that is planning, not an attack on academic freedom.

The hon. Member for Garscadden asked me why the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council report is to be implemented now: was it not a little late in the day to do so? There is consensus throughout the higher education system that that is desirable. It would have been wrong to go ahead with it, as well as impracticable, while some universities opposed it. Furthermore, the college sector has gained in maturity. The hon. Member for Garscadden does not seem to be interested in the reply, but I must tell him that many colleges are now able to assume degree-awarding powers. The establishment of autonomous boards has led to stronger management. Changes to the funding system have led to greater efficiency and effectiveness.

The hon. Member for Garscadden also asked about Professor Shaw's terms of appointment. They are two days a week for an initial three-year term from April 1992. The hon. Gentleman then asked about funding: how the resources would be decided, how much, what the future level of resources would be and what research funding changes would be made. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out that we are increasing funding by 12 per cent. Resources will be transferred to the Scottish Office from the Department of Education and Science to take account of responsibility for the universities. In subsequent years resources will be a matter for the Secretary of State; they will be part of the block. Future levels of resources depend upon which Government are in power. If, as I expect, we are in power, our economy will create the wealth from which our universities and colleges will benefit.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth asked why the Bill does not include a duty that the Secretary of State should provide language courses for ethnic minorities. Clause 1 provides for that, in so far as it imposes that duty on the Secretary of State.

The Bill represents a major advance in the Government's continued assault on the barriers to opportunity that still exist in our society. We are developing a post-school system that will deliver high-quality education to all those with the ability, motivation and maturity to benefit from it. The life chance of further and higher education will be available to students, whatever their backgrounds or age. There is no place in Conservative Scotland for the outmoded and snobbish attitudes that give to the practical an inferior status to the theoretical. These attitudes are wrong in themselves. They also damage our country's ability to compete and win in international markets.

The Government's radical approach to education is already showing success. There are record numbers of students in higher and further education. We shall go further: we shall remove the restraints on institutions and give them the freedom to compete to provide the education that the nation needs and our students deserve.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided:Ayes 220, Noes 307.

Division No. 17] [10 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Flannery, Martin
Allen, Graham Flynn, Paul
Alton, David Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Anderson, Donald Foster, Derek
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Foulkes, George
Armstrong, Hilary Fraser, John
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Fyfe, Maria
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Galbraith, Sam
Ashton, Joe Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) George, Bruce
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Barron, Kevin Godman, Dr Norman A.
Battle, John Golding, Mrs Llin
Beckett, Margaret Gordon, Mildred
Bell, Stuart Gould, Bryan
Bellotti, David Graham, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Benton, Joseph Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bermingham, Gerald Grocott, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Hain, Peter
Blair, Tony Hardy, Peter
Blunkett, David Harman, Ms Harriet
Boateng, Paul Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boyes, Roland Haynes, Frank
Bradley, Keith Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Bray, Dr Jeremy Henderson, Doug
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hinchliffe, David
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Home Robertson, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hood, Jimmy
Caborn, Richard Howells, Geraint
Callaghan, Jim Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hoyle, Doug
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Canavan, Dennis lllsley, Eric
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Ingram, Adam
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Janner, Greville
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Johnston, Sir Russell
Clelland, David Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cohen, Harry Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kennedy, Charles
Corbett, Robin Kilfoyle, Peter
Cousins, Jim Kirkwood, Archy
Cox, Tom Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Crowther, Stan Lamond, James
Cryer, Bob Leadbitter, Ted
Cummings, John Leighton, Ron
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Dr John Lewis, Terry
Dalyell, Tam Litherland, Robert
Darling, Alistair Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Loyden, Eddie
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McAllion, John
Dewar, Donald McAvoy, Thomas
Dixon, Don McCartney, Ian
Dobson, Frank Macdonald, Calum A.
Doran, Frank McFall, John
Douglas, Dick McKelvey, William
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. McLeish, Henry
Dunnachie, Jimmy McMaster, Gordon
Eadie, Alexander McNamara, Kevin
Eastham, Ken McWilliam, John
Enright, Derek Madden, Max
Evans, John (St Helens N) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Marek, Dr John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fatchett, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Faulds, Andrew Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Fearn, Ronald Martlew, Eric
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Maxton, John
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Meacher, Michael
Fisher, Mark Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun Sedgemore, Brian
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Sheerman, Barry
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Sillars, Jim
Moonie, Dr Lewis Skinner, Dennis
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morley, Elliot Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Snape, Peter
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Soley, Clive
Mowlam, Marjorie Spearing, Nigel
Mullin, Chris Steinberg, Gerry
Murphy, Paul Stephen, Nicol
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Stott, Roger
O'Brien, William Strang, Gavin
O'Neill, Martin Straw, Jack
Patchett, Terry Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pendry, Tom Turner, Dennis
Pike, Peter L. Wallace, James
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Walley, Joan
Prescott, John Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Primarolo, Dawn Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Quin, Ms Joyce Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Radice, Giles Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Reid, Dr John Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Richardson, Jo Williams, Alan W. (Carm then)
Robertson, George Wilson, Brian
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Winnick, David
Rogers, Allan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rooker, Jeff Worthington, Tony
Rooney, Terence Wray, Jimmy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Rowlands, Ted Tellers for the Ayes:
Ruddock, Joan Mr. Robert N. Wareing and Mr. Allen McKay.
Salmond, Alex
Adley, Robert Buck, Sir Antony
Aitken, Jonathan Budgen, Nicholas
Alexander, Richard Burns, Simon
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Burt, Alistair
Allason, Rupert Butler, Chris
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Butterfiil, John
Amess, David Carrington, Matthew
Amos, Alan Cash, William
Arbuthnot, James Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Chapman, Sydney
Arnold, Sir Thomas Chope, Christopher
Ashby, David Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baldry, Tony Colvin, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Conway, Derek
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre P'rest)
Batiste, Spencer Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bellingham, Henry Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bendall, Vivian Cormack, Patrick
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Couchman, James
Benyon, W. Cran, James
Bevan, David Gilroy Currie, Mrs Edwina
Biffen, Rt Hon John Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Davis, David (Boothferry)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Day, Stephen
Body, Sir Richard Devlin, Tim
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dickens, Geoffrey
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dicks, Terry
Boswell, Tim Dorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dover, Den
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Durant, Sir Anthony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Emery, Sir Peter
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Brazier, Julian Evennett, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Browne, John (Winchester) Fallon, Michael
Farr, Sir John Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Favell, Tony Latham, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Ivan
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lee, John (Pendle)
Fishburn, John Dudley Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fookes, Dame Janet Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forth, Eric Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lord, Michael
Franks, Cecil Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Freeman, Roger MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Fry, Peter McLoughlin, Patrick
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gardiner, Sir George McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan Madel, David
Gill, Christopher Mans, Keith
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maples, John
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Marland, Paul
Goodlad, Alastair Marlow, Tony
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gorst, John Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Mates, Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maude, Hon Francis
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gregory, Conal Mills, lain
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Miscampbell, Norman
Ground, Patrick Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grylls, Michael Mitchell, Sir David
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Moate, Roger
Hague, William Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hampson, Dr Keith Moore, Rt Hon John
Hanley, Jeremy Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hannam, John Morrison, Sir Charles
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Moss, Malcolm
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Moynihan, Hon Colin
Harris, David Mudd, David
Haselhurst, Alan Neale, Sir Gerrard
Hawkins, Christopher Needham, Richard
Hayes, Jerry Nelson, Anthony
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Neubert, Sir Michael
Hayward, Robert Nicholls, Patrick
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Norris, Steve
Hill, James Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hind, Kenneth Oppenheim, Phillip
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Page, Richard
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Paice, James
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pawsey, James
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, Rt Hon David Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Powell, William (Corby)
Irvine, Michael Price, Sir David
Irving, Sir Charles Raffan, Keith
Jack, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Jackson, Robert Rathbone, Tim
Janman, Tim Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Sir Robert
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roe, Mrs Marion
Key, Robert Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kilfedder, James Rost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rowe, Andrew
Kirkhope, Timothy Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Knapman, Roger Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Sackville, Hon Tom
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knowles, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Knox, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Tracey, Richard
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Tredinnick, David
Shelton, Sir William Trotter, Neville
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shersby, Michael Viggers, Peter
Sims, Roger Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Skeet, Sir Trevor Walden, George
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Soames, Hon Nicholas Waller, Gary
Speller, Tony Walters, Sir Dennis
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Ward, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Squire, Robin Warren, Kenneth
Stanbrook, Ivor Watts, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wells, Bowen
Steen, Anthony Whitney, Ray
Stern, Michael Widdecombe, Ann
Stevens, Lewis Wiggin, Jerry
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Wilkinson, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wilshire, David
Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stokes, Sir John Winterton, Nicholas
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wolfson, Mark
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Sir Teddy Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Temple-Morris, Peter Yeo, Tim
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Young, Sir George (Acton,)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Younger, Rt Hon George
Thorne, Neil
Thornton, Malcolm Tellers for the Noes:
Thurnham, Peter Mr. David Lightbown and
Townsend, John (Bridlington) Mr. John M. Taylor.
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills), That the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr. Dewar.]

The House divided: Ayes, 222 Noes 303.

Division No. 18] [10.15 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Allen, Graham Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Alton, David Caborn, Richard
Anderson, Donald Callaghan, Jim
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Canavan, Dennis
Ashton, Joe Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Clelland, David
Barron, Kevin Cohen, Harry
Battle, John Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Beckett, Margaret Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Bell, Stuart Corbett, Robin
Bellotti, David Cousins, Jim
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cox, Tom
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Crowther, Stan
Benton, Joseph Cryer, Bob
Bermingham, Gerald Cummings, John
Bidwell, Sydney Cunliffe, Lawrence
Blair, Tony Cunningham, Dr John
Blunkett, David Dalyell, Tam
Boateng, Paul Darling, Alistair
Boyes, Roland Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bradley, Keith Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Dewar, Donald
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Dixon, Don
Dobson, Frank McLeish, Henry
Doran, Frank McMaster, Gordon
Douglas, Dick McNamara, Kevin
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. McWilliam, John
Dunnachie, Jimmy Madden, Max
Eadie, Alexander Mahon, Mrs Alice
Eastham, Ken Marek, Dr John
Enright, Derek Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Martlew, Eric
Fatchett, Derek Maxton, John
Faulds, Andrew Meacher, Michael
Fearn, Ronald Meale, Alan
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Michael, Alun
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fisher, Mark Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Flannery, Martin Mitchell, Austin (G'f Grimsby)
Flynn, Paul Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Foster, Derek Morgan, Rhodri
Foulkes, George Morley, Elliot
Fraser, John Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fyfe, Maria Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Galbraith, Sam Mowlam, Marjorie
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Mullin, Chris
George, Bruce Murphy, Paul
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Godman, Dr Norman A. O'Brien, William
Golding, Mrs Llin O'Neill, Martin
Gordon, Mildred Patchett, Terry
Gould, Bryan Pendry, Tom
Graham, Thomas Pike, Peter L.
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Prescott, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Primarolo, Dawn
Grocott, Bruce Quin, Ms Joyce
Hain, Peter Radice, Giles
Hardy, Peter Reid, Dr John
Harman, Ms Harriet Richardson, Jo
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Robertson, George
Haynes, Frank Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Rogers, Allan
Henderson, Doug Rooker, Jeff
Hinchliffe, David Rooney, Terence
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Home Robertson, John Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Hood, Jimmy Rowlands, Ted
Howells, Geraint Ruddock, Joan
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Salmond, Alex
Hoyle, Doug Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Illsley, Eric Sillars, Jim
Ingram, Adam Skinner, Dennis
Janner, Greville Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Johnston, Sir Russell Snape, Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Soley, Clive
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Spearing, Nigel
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Steinberg, Gerry
Kennedy, Charles Stephen, Nicol
Kilfoyle, Peter Stott, Roger
Kirkwood, Archy Strang, Gavin
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Straw, Jack
Lamond, James Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Leadbitter, Ted Turner, Dennis
Leighton, Ron Vaz, Keith
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Wallace, James
Lewis, Terry Walley, Joan
Litherland, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Loyden, Eddie Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
McAllion, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan
McAvoy, Thomas Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
McCartney, Ian Wilson, Brian
Macdonald, Calum A. Winnick, David
McFall, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
McKelvey, William Worthington, Tony
Wray, Jimmy Tellers for the Ayes:
Young, David (Bolton SE) Mr. Robert N. Wareing and Mr. Allen McKay.
Adley, Robert Dunn, Bob
Aitken, Jonathan Durant, Sir Anthony
Alexander, Richard Dykes, Hugh
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Eggar, Tim
Allason, Rupert Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Evennett, David
Amess, David Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Amos, Alan Fallon, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Farr, Sir John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Favell, Tony
Arnold, Sir Thomas Fenner, Dame Peggy
Ashby, David Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Aspinwall, Jack Fishburn, John Dudley
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Fookes, Dame Janet
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Baldry, Tony Forth, Eric
Banks, Rfbert (Harrogate) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Sir Marcus
Bellingham, Henry Franks, Cecil
Bendall, Vivian Freeman, Roger
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) French, Douglas
Benyon, W. Fry, Peter
Bevan, David Gilroy Gale, Roger
Bidwell, Sydney Gardiner, Sir George
Biffen, Rt Hon John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Blackburn, Dr John G. Gill, Christopher
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Body, Sir Richard Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Goodlad, Alastair
Boscawen, Hon Robert Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boswell, Tim Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bottomley, Peter Gorst, John
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bowis, John Gregory, Conal
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Ground, Patrick
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Grylls, Michael
Brazier, Julian Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hague, William
Browne, John (Winchester) Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Buck, Sir Antony Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Budgen, Nicholas Hampson, Dr Keith
Burns, Simon Hanley, Jeremy
Burt, Alistair Hannam, John
Butler, Chris Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Butterfill, John Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Cash, William Haselhurst, Alan
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hawkins, Christopher
Chapman, Sydney Hayes, Jerry
Chope, Christopher Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Hayward, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Colvin, Michael Hill, James
Conway, Derek Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davies, Q. (Stamfd & Spald'g) Hunt, Rt Hon David
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Day, Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Devlin, Tim Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Irvine, Michael
Dicks, Terry Irving, Sir Charles
Dorrell, Stephen Jack, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jackson, Robert
Dover, Den Janman, Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Sir Robert
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roe, Mrs Marion
Key, Robert Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kilfedder, James Rost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rowe, Andrew
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sackville, Hon Tom
Knowles, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knox, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, David (Dover)
Latham, Michael Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, Ivan Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lee, John (Pendle) Shelton, Sir William
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lightbown, David Shersby, Michael
Li 1 ley, Rt Hon Peter Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lord, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Speller, Tony
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Maclean, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McLoughlin, Patrick Squire, Robin
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Madel, David Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stern, Michael
Maples, John Stevens, Lewis
Marland, Paul Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mates, Michael Taylor, Sir Teddy
Maude, Hon Francis Temple-Morris, Peter
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mills, lain Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Miscampbell, Norman Thorne, Neil
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, Sir David Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moate, Roger Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Monro, Sir Hector Tracey, Richard
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tredinnick, David
Moore, Rt Hon John Trotter, Neville
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Morrison, Sir Charles Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Moss, Malcolm Viggers, Peter
Moynihan, Hon Colin Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Neale, Sir Gerrard Walden, George
Needham, Richard Walker, Bill (Tside North)
Nelson, Anthony Waller, Gary
Neubert, Sir Michael Walters, Sir Dennis
Nicholls, Patrick Ward, John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Warren, Kenneth
Norris, Steve Watts, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wells, Bowen
Oppenheim, Phillip Whitney, Ray
Page, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Paice, James Wiggin, Jerry
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Wilkinson, John
Patnick, Irvine Wilshire, David
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Pawsey, James Winterton, Nicholas
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wolfson, Mark
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wood, Timothy
Porter, David (Waveney) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Portillo, Michael Yeo, Tim
Powell, William (Corby) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Price, Sir David Younger, Rt Hon George
Raffan, Keith
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Tellers for the Noes:
Rathbone, Tim Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.
Redwood, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill accordingly committed to a Standing Committee.