HC Deb 05 February 1992 vol 203 cc319-46

'The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council shall pay particular regard in its funding and in its assessment of the quality of education provided by relevant institutions to the need to ensure that appropriate funds and attention are devoted to the study of the history, languages and culture of Scotland.'.—[Mrs. Ewing].

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take new clause 2—Fundamental research'The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council shall pay particular regard in its funding and in its assessment of the quality of education provided by relevant institutions to the need to ensure that appropriate funds and attention are devoted to fundamental research.'.

Mrs. Ewing

The new clause stands in the name of my hon. Friends and myself, and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I say at the outset that it is unusual for the hon. Member for Linlithgow and the Scottish National party to be in full agreement, but in this case we are, and I welcome his support.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I cannot resist intervening to ask whether the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Linlithgow at least agree on their opposition to devolution.

Mrs. Ewing

The Minister will have to ask the hon. Member for Linlithgow what his view is on his official party policy. I certainly endorse my party's policy of independence, but that may be a debate for another occasion. I look forward to discussing it in the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh in the near future.

Through new clause 1, we say that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which the SNP has fully endorsed on Second Reading and in Committee, should, in its funding and in its assessment of the quality of education, have regard to the distinctive history, languages and culture of Scotland. That seems an important aspect of the responsibilities of such a council, given the importance attached to those matters by all of us in Scotland.

I hope that I can count on the support of Conservative Members for the importance that we in Scotland attach to those traditions.

On Second Reading and throughout the Committee stage, there was general agreement that giving Scotland the facility to examine the funding and assessment of its higher education system was in itself a step forward and, in tabling the new clause, my hon. Friends and I hoped to build on that philosophy.

On Second Reading and in Committe, however, we were not aware of the current crisis surrounding the chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh university. The Government's funding policy will create a further crisis, and we wish to avoid that.

5.30 pm

Over the past few weeks, all hon. Members will have received correspondence both from the student action committee and from various people in Scotland who are deeply concerned about the future of the chair of Scottish history. I have read with great care the documentation that has been sent to me. I noted from a letter published by the principal of Edinburgh university, Sir David Smith, that only some £30,000 was needed to keep the chair going. In the context of Government spending, that is not even peanuts; it is half a peanut. I hope that the Minister will say that the Government are prepared to commit themselves to making available as little as £30,000 so that we can retain that important chair in our capital city.

There has been much outrage in Scotland about the possible loss of the chair. The letters that we have received suggest that it is all a matter of balancing commitment to income, but, in my view, there is an obligation on all the higher education institutions in Scotland to have particular regard to the roots from which they have grown. Surely a nation which has a history as proud and distinct as Scotland's should not be deprived of that facility in its capital city.

It is time to look beyond the balancing of the books. We should state clearly in the Bill that we will recognise our traditions in Scotland—our history, our various languages and our culture.

The Sir William Fraser chair is highly regarded throughout Scotland and the international community. It is interesting to note that, last Wednesday, in a packed meeting, the faculty of art unanimously passed a motion recommending that the chair of Scottish history should not be frozen but should be filled immediately. I understand that the dean informed the meeting that the existing endowment for the period is about £14,957—rather more than a third of the total, including other costs, needed to fund the chair. At the same meeting, Professor Dickinson, who holds the Sir Richard Lodge chair of British history, stated that there was undoubtedly a clear demand for Scottish history courses from abroad as well as from within Great Britain. He also emphasised the increasing demand for the teaching of Scottish history in schools.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Like all Opposition Members, I strongly support the hon. Lady's objective, and I accept that the fundamental problem is Government underfunding, of Edinburgh university in particular. But because of the importance of the chair to Scotland's wider cultural interests, would it not be appropriate for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make informal representations to Edinburgh university—notwithstanding the fact that direct responsibility for such matters lies with the Secretary of State for Education and Science?

Mrs. Ewing

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will not allow the matter to be brushed aside to the Department of Education and Science—particularly against the background of a Bill dealing with the future of higher education in Scotland. Scottish Ministers have a responsibility to make their voices heard, along with those of academics and individuals throughout Scotland and elsewhere in the world who have commented on the question.

As one who taught history, among other subjects, in the school system in Scotland, and as a graduate of history from both Glasgow and Strathclyde universities, I have found it extremely difficult to establish many sources of information on aspects of Scottish history tied in with the curriculum. One of the specialties that I taught in O-grade history was the post-Napoleonic era. We looked at social and economic change in Britain during that period, which was a time of great upheaval. Every child could find a textbook that referred specifically to the 1819 Peterloo massacre, and everyone understood what happened there, but, when it came to the 1820 martyrs who were executed in the constituency of the Minister responsible for education in Scotland, it was extremely difficult to find material with which to teach the children.

I taught in Stirling and it seemed to me ludicrous that it should be so hard for teachers to find any such information. Fortunately, the situation has changed slightly, partly as a result of the research undertaken at Edinburgh and at other universities with chairs in Scottish history. We must encourage such research, given the growing demand for the teaching of Scottish history in schools.

I am not adopting a narrow attitude. Every French child grows up with a knowledge of French history, every Spanish child with a knowledge of Spanish history, and every American child with a knowledge of American history. There are still far too many Scottish youngsters without any real knowledge or understanding of their own history, cultural identity or linguistic traditions. The Scottish Office has a responsibility to argue the case clearly with the authorities at Edinburgh university and also to accept the new clause, which places a clear responsibility on the Higher Education Funding Council to take due cognisance of those matters.

One of the great poems of Hugh MacDiarmid—the centenary of whose birth we are celebrating—contains a wonderful phrase: The present's theirs, the past and future ours". There is a new renaissance in Scotland—a new interest in the past, which helps people to understand their present circumstances and make decisions about their future. In discussing the new clause, we should be recognising the validity of the words of Hugh MacDiarmid and thus showing our respect to a man who, through his life and work, has brought so much to the Scottish community.

There is also, from Edinburgh university, the wonderful towering poem of Hamish Henderson of the school of Scottish studies: But there's mair nor' a rauch win' blowin', Through the Great Glen o' the world the day. If there is a new wind sweeping through the glens of the world, we have a responsibility to recognise our past and give it the respect to which it is entitled.

In Committee, we debated in full what all of us regarded as the responsibility of our universities for research. Thus, new clause 2 would include in the Bill a matter on which there was consensus in Committee and provide that research should be given full academic freedom and recognised as an important aspect of university life. I hope that the Minister will respond to our pleas.

Mr. Robert Hughes

There can be no doubt that, on the fact of it, new clause 1 is worth supporting. I, too, want to give my full support to the chair of Scottish history at the University of Edinburgh. The reasons that have been advanced for the suspension of that post do not really stand up and this sorry episode should not have happened simply for the sake of the paltry sum of a few thousand pounds in bookkeeping terms.

However, before we support the new clause, we need some assurance from its mover, the parliamentary leader of the Scottish National party, the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). I entirely agree that history is important. People should be aware and proud of their history and culture. However, history is not simply a matter of recalling a catalogue of dates about when certain things happened. It is about looking at events and interpreting them. It is about looking at causes as well as effects. I stress that that must be carried out objectively.

We must leave academics to carry out their research into history and to produce their learned treaties and papers. When teaching history to their students, they should make it clear that there can often be more than one interpretation of what happened at any particular time. Historians at the time of an event will have a different interpretation of it from those who will come in the future.

The whole idea of university education is not to put a narrow philosophy into people's minds, which they can then regurgitate when they sit their exams and produce what they have been taught on paper. That is contrary to the whole idea of education at every level—whether at primary and secondary school or university and further education—apart, that is, from the sciences, which involve specific matters on which there can be little or no interpretation. In teaching people their history and culture, we should be trying to give them an open mind so that they can look at what is happening and make their own judgment.

Therefore, if we insist that there should be proper provision in universities for the teaching of Scottish history and culture, I hope that there will be no bullying or pressure put on academics to accept as orthodox that which the Scottish National party happens to believe is Scottish history on any one day. That would be extremely dangerous. Indeed, I believe that the SNP is following a dangerous course. Either wittingly or unwittingly—and I am sorry to say that I believe that it is doing so wittingly —the SNP is stirring up anti-English feeling in Scotland. That is highly dangerous, and its members should put a stop to it as soon as possible.

It is no use continually blaming the English for all Scotland's problems and ills. The slogan "They've got ours" sounds very nice, but it clearly implies that all our problems are caused by the English. We are told that the union of the crowns and of the Parliaments has brought to Scotland nothing but poverty, misery, unemployment, bad housing and, indeed, every evil that we all reject. Not so very long ago the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) used to tell us that the evils that afflict our society in Scotland were inflicted on us by Scottish capitalists.

There is no evidence to suggest that Scottish landowners, shipowners, pitowners and industrialists behaved any less harshly to their workers than their English or Welsh counterparts. I still believe strongly that the ills that the people of Scotland suffered were caused by those who ran the capitalist society. The Union is neither here nor there in that argument. I do not pretend to be a great historian, but I do not know of any strong parallel in England for the highland clearances, although there may be some analogies—

Mr. Wilson

I agree strongly with what my hon. Friend is saying, but apart from the history of the tyranny of Scotland's indigenous capitalism, does my hon. Friend agree that many other parts of the world have good reason to take a historical view of the Scots as imperialists and industrialists? One does not need to go any further than the areas of Britain that were owned by the Bute family —a very Scottish industrial family—to realise that one would not get many votes for the humanity or superior intelligence of the Scots in the areas where that family held sway.

5.45 pm
Mr. Hughes

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Although I do not want to trespass on the time of the House by going wider on that subject, I should point out that there is a great debate among historians about whether the true purpose of imperialism and colonialism was to spread Christianity and civilisation or to spread commerce. I have no doubt that it was for commerce. All the evidence suggests that the nationality of the colonialists was not important. Whether they were Scottish, English, German, French or Belgian made no difference—

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Or American.

Mr. Hughes

Yes, or American in more recent times. Nationality made no difference. Philosophy, not nationality, was what was important. That is why I believe that the SNP has made such a fundamental error, but it all depends on what the SNP says tomorrow, because it said different things yesterday and on the day before that. We are now told that there will be a great future for the Scottish working class if we jump into the same bed as the very people who inflicted those evils upon us in the past. We are now to cuddle up to the Scottish industrialists, financiers and house owners who will put everything right in the new millenium if the SNP gets its way—[Interruption.] The SNP must make up its mind. It is either the Scottish socialist republican party or the Scottish Poujadist party. It must be one or the other. The SNP cannot have it both ways, much as it tries to do so. The sooner that all this is exposed, the better. The SNP must be aware that its great danger is excessive zeal. I have forgotten the exact quotation from Senator Goldwater—

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

"Moderation in the pursuit"—

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) obviously remembers the exact quotation. We all know that excessive zeal is the cause of a great deal of unrest and unhappiness, and that it brings with it disasters untold.

In the developments in the Soviet Union, we are seeing the rise of the narrow nationalist fascism that we all thought had gone. I do not want to discuss the merits or otherwise of the Soviet Union, but whatever else one may think about it, I make no bones about saying that I wish that its education system had been able to eradicate antagonism among its people. What has happened in the Soviet Union shows, if nothing else, that attempts to drive concepts into people do not bring about a change of mind or heart, but simply suppress the original feelings.

That is why I believe that my argument for open discussion and debate and for a lack of pressure to be placed on academics in the area of Scottish history and culture is all the more important. The SNP must realise that blaming the English for all our ills is just one step away from blaming the Jews and the Pakistanis—[Interruption.] Yes, it is as close as that. If the SNP does not understand that, it understands nothing about the dangerous side of nationalism. That is why I am totally opposed to the SNP.

The great sadness of all this is that Scotland has a great history of internationalism. Yes, much of its history is of exploitation, but the Scottish working class has always had a great tradition of internationalism—of brotherhood, sisterhood and comradeship. But all that will be set aside if we take the narrow path of always blaming somebody else. I am referring to the hundreds of years of history against which the Labour party, the early trade unionists and the early socialists fought. We fought against such evils not because we were Scots but because we made common cause with the English and the Welsh working classes as we sought to avoid those evils. I can recall the days when we stood firm on that and stood together.

The SNP is now taking a despicable road and unless I can have an absolute assurance that it rejects all the fascist stuff that is now coming from it—and soon—I shall have some difficulty in supporting new clause 1.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I support new clause 1, tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and her hon. Friends, and everything that she has said.

The question about the chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh university is not a party political matter; it concerns us all. The university lecturers would not take it kindly if an imputation was made that they were teaching a particular philosophy and that they were not open minded and even handed in teaching their students. I know sufficient about the department to say that its staff are talented and open minded.

The new clause is particularly pertinent because of the announcement by the central management group of Edinburgh university not to replace the professor for up to two years. That is a worry. Could that mean two years, five years or even 10 years? We must take that into consideration. The proposal is so extraordinary and insensitive that it is difficult to believe even that it can be contemplated by Edinburgh university in Scotland's capital city, which has available all the research facilities of the Scottish Record Office and the national library of Scotland.

The Department has already been reduced to four members. The equivalent department at Glasgow university still has six members of staff and St. Andrew's university—the Minister's old university—has six members of staff. I believe that Aberdeen university has just established its first chair of Celtic.

Mr. Dalyell

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady because she is making a serious speech. Would she reconsider the use of the word "insensitive"? People at Edinburgh university to whom I have talked are hurt at being accused of being insensitive. They face desperate problems and they are not insensitive to this matter.

Mrs. Michie

Those people may be hurt, but we must make it clear that it is extraordinary that it should be the professorship of Scottish history that is for the chop or is to be put aside for two years. If they do not take that into consideration, they are being insensitive.

The new clause points out that the funding council must pay particular regard to ensuring that appropriate funds are devoted to the study of Scottish history. The hon. Lady told the House the sum required and the sum endowed by Sir William Fraser. If the chair is not filled, what will happen to the £15,000 endowment funds? Where will they go? Will they go into a central treasury box of the university?

The chair and department of Scottish history at Edinburgh university are prestigious. The department has seen a remarkable and most welcome growth in the number of students from home and abroad wishing to study Scottish history. I cannot express too strongly my dismay. Who are these people? They must be so out of touch—

Mr. Dalyell

They are not.

Mrs. Michie

They must he so out of touch and so distanced from what Scots consider important if they can contemplate such a move.

Mr. Dalyell

That is not fair.

Mrs. Michie

Hon. Members may say that that is not fair, but we must state that clearly in the House today.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

The hon. Lady has mentioned the university in my constituency. I would be much happier with what she was saying if she would recognise that a contributory factor to Edinburgh university's financial problem is the financial regime under which the Government are forcing it to operate. The university is in an invidious position. It is having to choose between all sorts of posts. I, too, want to see that chair reinstated and the post filled, but she must not allow the Government off the hook by blaming the university without accepting that the root cause of the problems at Edinburgh and all our universities is the Government's funding regime.

Mrs. Michie

I accept that the Government's policies have made it extremely difficult for higher education institutions and universities to operate in Scotland. Nevertheless, the decision is for the university authorities. For me and millions of Scots the priority is the Scottish history department.

The hon. Lady talked about Scottish history being taught in schools. Many of us, particularly my generation, still feel a deep regret that so little Scottish history was taught in schools in our time. Although that has improved a bit, it has not improved enough. I cannot forget and nor can many others the deliberate damage done historically to the Gaelic language when it was forbidden in schools and playgrounds. To this day thousands still cannot pursue their scholastic careers in their mother tongue. Do not let us repeat the same mistakes as before. If the decision is not reversed and the chair filled forthwith, the university will be diminished in the eyes of Scotland and the world.

Nobody should underestimate the feeling about this. We care about our culture, traditions and history, and we have hopes for the future. I welcome the support of the important faculty of arts. At a meeting on 29 January it gave its unanimous backing to filling the chair. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister will use their undoubted influence in this matter and will speak to the authorities at Edinburgh university, conveying the genuine concern felt in the House tonight.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

I support the new clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and other hon. Members. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in highlighting this issue as assiduously as he has done with many other issues on behalf of not just Edinburgh university but other universities.

This is a serious matter that goes beyond the chair of Scottish history. That chair is not the only one vacant at Edinburgh university. I am only sorry that some Johnnies-come-lately have jumped on the bandwagon to save the chair of Scottish history when last year, when the chair of Russian was frozen, we did not hear one peep from them.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Not true.

Mr. Griffiths

It is very much true.

I welcome the support for the chair of history from other parties, but I would welcome their support also for the other 30 chairs that are vacant out of the 100 or so established professorial chairs at Edinburgh university. I would welcome their support for the vacant chairs of astronomy, bacteriology, conservative dentistry, crop production, English literature, African literature, molecular parasitology, natural philosophy, oral surgery, orthopaedic surgery, Russian, Scottish history—the subject of the new clause—statistics, tropical animal health and a dozen or so other chairs.

We know who the real culprits are. We know who is responsible for those vacancies as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) has just made it clear. The Government have handicapped the university by crucifying university finances during the past 13 years. That drove Sir John Burnett, the chair of the university—an erstwhile Conservative supporter, I am sure—to make an outspoken attack on the Government's mishandling and mismanagement of Edinburgh university. That charge also applies to their treatment of other universities.

Principals, vice-chancellors and staff have been driven to distraction by the Government's philistine attitude towards higher education institutions in our country. The new clause offers us the opportunity to deplore the fact that the Government have forced Edinburgh university —I am sure that the same is true of the other universities for which my hon. Friends have spoken up so eloquently —to freeze appointments to posts. The chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh university is to remain vacant for two years, but some of us are sceptical about whether that post will be filled after that. Appointment to the chair of Russian studies has also been frozen for five years. However, appointment to the chairs of some of the other subjects I have listed have been frozen for five years already and, in some cases, longer. It appears that some people have opened their eyes to that reality only today.

6 pm

I hope that all the opposition parties will endorse the early-day motion that I have tabled today, which condemns the severe financial hardship that the Government have inflicted upon Edinburgh university and other universities. I do not believe that any action could be more damaging to the reputation of Edinburgh university than to put a freeze on appointing the chair of Scottish history. My hon. Friends and I hope to meet Sir David Smith, the principal, to discuss that decision as well as the problem of the other vacant chairs.

It is important that the Secretary of State should accept the invitation that I now extend to him to meet those hon. Members who represent Edinburgh and Lothian. He should also lobby his colleague, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, to ensure that proper funding is given to Edinburgh university. I know that other colleagues will wish us to express similar sentiments on behalf of the institutions in their constituencies.

The buck stops with those who will sit on the Treasury Bench for a few more months, and those months are critical for the campaign to unfreeze the appointment to the chair of Scottish history. Edinburgh's international and domestic reputation has been damaged by the decision to freeze appointment to that post and to so many other chairs. It is time that the Government recognised that damage and accepted the new clause.

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

From looking around me, I believe that I have the privilege of being the only graduate researcher who has worked in Edinburgh's leading institution. I refer to Heriot-Watt university, not the other place, which is known to some as Edinburgh university.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) is aware that part of the research study that led to my doctoral thesis related to the establishment of the Aberdeen Steam Trawler Engineers and Firemen's Association—not that anyone, I regret to say, ever reads that thesis.

I have great sympathy for the concern that has been expressed about the chair of Scottish history. I want to make two points about funding for research and, with respect and a total lack of modesty, I believe that they are extremely important. First, whichever party is in government—we are coming towards a change—research funds should not be denied to those who work outwith the orthodoxies of all disciplines in our universities and research institutions. Whether one is talking about history, sociology or even the physical sciences, some scholars are defined by orthodox scientists and professors—often powerful figures in established departments within faculties—as having an unorthodox approach to a particular study of a certain subject. It is often felt that that non-conformist should be denied research funds. It is difficult enough for such non-conformists to gain advancement because the career structure of universities is, to a considerable extent, dictated by the conventional approach. That was spelt out by C. Wright Mills in his seminal work published 40 years ago.

If one chooses to follow the unconventional path—I note that I have the attention of one such scholar on the Government Front Bench, the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell)—and one chooses to go against conventional wisdom, one can be penalised in terms of being denied promotion, or even security of tenure. The funding authorities within universities and at a higher level must respect such unconventional research. I regret to say that my research was utterly conventional; I am not claiming to be a Marxist scholar.

Secondly, I do not have anything against the ancient universities, but funds must be made available to those who work in our newer, younger universities. It does not necessarily follow that the creme de la creme of research talent is to be found in the ancient universities alone. I am not making a special plea as I have no intention of returning to research. My intention is to return to this place with, I hope, an increased majority. It is important that funds are made available to Paisley college—soon to be the university of Paisley—the new university at Glasgow and to Aberdeen university. However, I accept that many years ago Aberdeen had two universities, Aberdeen and King's college.

Mr. Robert Hughes

It is the most ancient university in the country.

Dr. Godman

Yes, I accept that. Those new institutions, including Napier college, are home to first-class researchers. Their accessibility to funds for their research projects should be unconstrained and they should be treated in the same way as those working in our more venerable institutions.

The unorthodox, non-conformist social or physical scientist, historian or linguist should not be denied access to research funds. We must also acknowledge that many first-class researchers work in our newer institutions. They, too, should have ready access to any research funds. We must have no second-class institutions among our universities. Privileges should not be given to ancient universities simply because of their venerability. We must recognise talent, even if it is unorthodox.

I hope that those two points have been noted by those on both Front Benches. Most importantly, I hope that my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench have taken them on board.

Mr. Douglas

Originally I thought that new clauses 1 and 2 were not linked, but, on reflection, I believe that they are. The burden of my remarks will relate to new clause 2.

It is not my intention to make a speech similar to that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), except to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for what he said. What we are asking for, and what we must try to display in this House, is tolerance. [Interruption.] Oh yes, tolerance of different views. I was an academic, and I never expected my students to take me as other than someone who had a Labour bias and held Labour principles. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths), who is chattering from a sedentary position, should bide his whish a little.

It is the responsibility of any academic, particularly in the social sciences, to be honest with his or her students, who expect the university or institute of higher education to be a forum for all ideas. No matter how objective a lecturer tries to be, his responsibility is to let the students know that he speaks from a certain bias.

I was brought up in Govan and was taught that the only good Tory was Torygellig, and he played for Rangers. If that was not biased, I do not know what biased is.

Mr. McAllion

We were told exactly the opposite in Springburn.

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Member confirms my point. An academic who deals with susceptible and impressionable individuals, even at the ages of 18, 19 or 20, particularly if he teaches economics, political theory, politics or Scottish history, should let his students recognise his bias. He should make them realise that a university is not simply a forum for lectures but a community of students and academics. Students will probably learn more there than in a formal lecture.

The new clause provides that the funding council should take cognisance of the fact that it will deal with Scottish circumstances. If we are to pursue the truth in relation to Scotland, we must consider the fact that we are not all good. The Douglases were terrible people, with an extremely bad record, and I dare say that that will continue.

We do not seek to say that the Scots are better than anyone else but that we are every bit as good. The whole thesis of the Scottish National party, which seeks independence in Europe, is to cease blaming everybody else. We must stop blaming the English, make our own decisions and take the blame for them. That is what taking personal, independent decisions is about.

I was amazed to read a Labour party press release today saying that the Scottish National party wanted separatism, and that we would be dealing with a market of some 5 million. The thrust of research is that it should be based on a wide market. Why is it fundamental that we devote resources to research in Scottish institutions of higher education? Any academic institution must have research. One of the most impressive books that I have read recently was a biography of Stephen Hawking. If he were to enter the Chamber now, we would wonder who that poor specimen was, but he has one of the great minds of our time.

Mr. Ernie Ross

He is still a member of the Labour party.

Mr. Douglas

I do not deny that he may be a member of the Labour party—good luck to him. I do not care which party he belongs to, because he has a great mind. He has gathered round him students of a high calibre because he is capable of doing certain fundamental research in Oxford. Although he may have been bid away to other institutions in the United States, he stayed in the United Kingdom. It is difficult to attract people of that calibre, because there are few of them.

If an institute of higher education is to succeed, it must be able to devote resources to research. That is the purpose of new clause 2. Educational institutions must be attractive in order that we can compete. We can blame Governments of all political colours—certainly two political colours in the United Kingdom—for starving universities of funds. Not only the Tories have done that. They have altered the proportion of funds in the past couple of years—

Mr. Michael Forsyth


6.15 pm
Mr. Douglas

I concede that. However, in relation to need, we are well behind other nations' industrial market strategies. We have devoted far too much of our fundamental research expenditure to defence purposes and the spin-off, in terms of our industrial market share, has not come about. Scotland is a small nation that must exist on its intellectual capabilities, which is why the new clause has been tabled.

The thesis of the Scottish National party is not to be inward-looking. If we are to consider Scottish history, let us do so objectively. However, unless we provide resources for it, we shall not get objectivity. If we deny resources to an organisation, it cannot work.

The great work of Professor Barrow, who was mentioned earlier, was about Bruce and the community of the realm. Not everyone agrees that Bruce was a great hero. Some people think that he was the Neil Kinnock of his day. He was a politician, and the true patriot was Wallace, which no one likes to hear. In making that assertion, I doubt whether I have carried all hon. Members present with me, but that is a subject for discussion and dispute. Unless we devote resources to research, we shall not achieve the necessary analysis and objectivity.

I therefore hope that new clause 1 will at least have the unanimous support of Opposition Members.

Mr. Wilson

I wish to support the new clause without digressing too much. It is a little rich of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) to tell us that the Scottish National party is no longer about anti-Englishness. I can think of no more inherently anti-English slogan than "They've got ours". Those who analyse politics from a class dimension rather than a nationalistic dimension are bound to ask, "Who are 'they'?" Are "they" the working people of Liverpool and Newcastle?

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Unfortunately, they do not get it either.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Lady is right, but I am bound to point out gently that there is no implication of that in the poster.

Are "they" the sons and daughters of Corby steel workers? Are "they" the tens of thousands of people in the English telephone directories whose surnames begin with Mac because they were the victims of highland landlordism? To categorise people as them and us is not a promising platform on which to proceed on the outward-looking basis to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

I support the motion. It should be axiomatic that any educational organisation in Scotland concerned with funding or academic curricula should take account of the Scottish dimension in education. However, I warn the hon. Lady that merely having academic chairs does not guarantee much. The paradox is that I join other hon. Members in deploring the standard of Scottish history teaching, and the place of Scottish culture, in many dimensions of the Scottish education system after a long period in which all those academic chairs have existed. Precious little good they have done us in terms of teaching the history of the ordinary Scottish people or, to quote a particular personal interest, the history of the highlands.

When the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West referred to the greatest work of the retiring holder of the chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh University I thought that he was going to mention his recent column in The Sun, which is where Professor Barrow has ended up—

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Like Professor Sillars!

Mr. Wilson

I shall not take up that remark, as this is a conciliatory speech.

I think that the penultimate holder of the chair of Scottish history was Professor Gordon Donaldson, now professor emeritus in Scottish history at Edinburgh university. He was the David Irving of the highland clearances and made a life's work of proving that the clearances did not exist—it would be difficult to identify a more revisionist or more establishment historian and, thus at root, a more anti-Scottish historian. We can have as many chairs as we want, but if the people filling them come from the establishment and have an interest in teaching establishment history, they will find a way of doing so.

The chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh university should be maintained. I agree, as I am sure would the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), that the cuts involving other chairs and courses should not have been made. They were made due to the lack of funding in Scottish higher education, and responsibility rests with the Government. I agree with the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) that there are at least two nations within Scotland. Shetlanders might argue that there are three. Within every country there are various nations, and within Scotland there is a distinctive Gaelic and highland nation with its own history, culture and identity.

If people think that the teaching of Scottish history as a whole is bad, they should consider the teaching of highland history. They could go to any of the districts in the highlands and islands of Scotland—the seat of some of the most radical activity in our country's history during the past 150 years—and find that the great majority of people who had been educated in those counties had heard little of the region's history.

I was educated in the highlands and studied history at a Scottish university. It is my shame and my loss that it was not due to the formal education system that I learned anything of the true history of the highlands and islands —the history of the common people, of landlordism, and the courageous and radical struggle against landlordism.

When we set up chairs and academic councils to form a framework, let us not forget that the content also matters. At least one of the chairs should be in the highlands; not to teach partisan history or argue the political case through history, but to let people know the facts of their own culture and heritage. In that way, people can draw their own conclusions.

I think that it was in his introduction to his "History of the Working Classes of Scotland" that Tom Johnston wrote that anybody who did not know the past could not understand the present or have any chance of moulding the future.

Mr. Worthington

The Opposition are happy to support both new clauses and the sentiments contained in them. Much of today's debate has centred on the position at Edinburgh university and the chair of Scottish history. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) said firmly that the problem did not relate solely to Edinburgh or one chair, but was a problem of resourcing, and had to be tackled. On the other side of Scotland, Glasgow university is heading for a £2.7 million deficit unless it reduces its teaching staff. It is not just Edinburgh university that has a problem; the difficulty exists throughout higher education and is due to under-resourcing.

The Government make much of their current expansion of the higher education system. But any fool Government can let students in; it takes a good Government to ensure that the quality of education is good. It will take years before we see the consequences of expansion without resourcing. One can see some results of under-funding in the condition of facilities, but the mental, academic and scholarly results will take years to emerge.

Unfortunately, there is no survey of the condition of educational buildings in Scotland, but if we consider the condition of buildings as surveyed by the polytechnics and colleges funding council, a graph on the quality of polytechnic buildings contains a category "generally good". Edinburgh university does not even register on the graph, whereas nearly 60 per cent. of the buildings are classified as having major shortcomings.

One can see a major problem in a building, but other grave problems involving staff replacement are becoming apparent. Anyone involved in universities will say that there will be a problem with staff quality in a few years when the present staff retire. At the bottom of the scale of those involved in universities is an underclass of people employed on poverty wages and short-term contracts who are not receiving the quality of research and other experience that they need.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

What additional resources for universities—in specific terms—would the Opposition make available were they to form a Government?

Mr. Worthington

The Minister knows that it is not possible to do that, but we recognise that there is a major under-funding problem. Survey after survey shows that this country is falling behind others on research. We recognise the problem, but the Government do not even seem to do that.

Mr. Forsyth

It is no good the hon. Gentleman telling the House that there is a problem of under-funding and criticising the substantial additional resources that the Government have made available, then declaring that it is impossible for him to say what he would do were he in government. The truth is that the hon. Member for Monklands would not let him add a single cent to the fund and it is sheer humbug for the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) to complain when a Labour Government could do no better than this Government have done and this Government's record is second to none.

Mr. Tom Clarke

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister said that the hon. Member for Monklands would not allow a Labour Government to take that action, but I have never been consulted on the matter.

Mr. Worthington

I shall return to that point later.

Mr. Forsyth

Answer my question.

Mr. Worthington

I shall do so in my own way in my own time.

New clause 1 is about supporting Scottish culture and the Scottish way of life, and we are happy to support those sentiments. Our support for the Bill is centred on the advantages to Scotland of the funding of institutions within Scotland so that different priorities can apply. There would be an enormous advantage in defending Scottish institutions if we were able to link the rest of the education system with the higher education system. That would be the icing on the cake, and is an extremely valuable initiative. It was amusing, during an enjoyable Committee, to see the Minister realising what a good case we had—albeit, somewhat belatedly. There are great advantages in the Bill in terms of defending the Scottish education system, but that aspect must be linked with a Scottish Parliament, which would have prevented the initiatives of recent years.

In Committee we had a valuable discussion on research and our worries on the issue. The Opposition's role is to ask the Government about their attitude and their action in order to find out whether the amount of money devoted to research is adequate. We are committed, as are the Government, to ending the binary divide, but the Government do not seem to realise the consequences for research. As we said in Committee, it is not good enough for them to say that the polytechnics and other central institutions will maintain their traditional mission.

Mr. Forsyth

I am happy to say what we will do for research through the research councils. In 1992 the funding for research will top the £1 billion mark for the first time and over the following three years there will be a 19 per cent. increase. The hon. Gentleman is saying that research funding is not enough. Can he tell us how much more a Labour Government would provide? I was referring to his hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor, who is also a Member for Monklands. If the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie cannot say how much more he would give, he should not waste the time of the House nor con the country by suggesting that he could do anything about it. The truth is that Labour Members are not prepared to put any money behind the promises which they have been making all over the country.

6.30 pm
Mr. Worthington

That is not true. In the 1980s we would never have allowed the share of national wealth devoted to education to fall, while it rose in other countries. That was a statement of the Government's priorities.

At the moment eight universities in Scotland compete for the research pot. In future 12 universities and 13 central institutions within Scotland will be competing for the research pot. So, where eight institutions were competing for the funding in the past, in future there will be be 25. Inevitably that means that there will be cuts.

Even without increasing the money, the Government have to explain how Scotland will be dealt with in the selectivity exercise. The bulk of research money has been allocated to universities on the basis of the number of students. Because Scotland educates more students proportionately than the rest of the United Kingdom, more money was allocated to Scotland. The numbers factor as a way of allocating research funding is being abolished. Therefore, less money will be allocated to Scotland on a per capita basis and a loss will have to be made up.

The Government are adopting a selectivity—by department exercise. The top departments will be graded 5 and the bottom departments 1. That will help the big departments in the big universities. Departments will be graded on a historical basis. If they were successful in the past, they will get a grade 5; if they were not, they will be grade 1.

Academics fear that that will bring in league tables which will make it virtually impossible for an institution to get promotion. Universities with a good record will attract more money and staff will go to them. I hope that the Minister can answer the fear of academics. Recently research money has been gravitating towards the south-east where there is a concentration of large universities and departments.

As to universities which appear in the top 10 of any research council category, such as the Universities Funding Council, the Science and Engineering Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Agricultural and Food Research, Scotland in total, mainly through Edinburgh and Glasgow taking six of the places, has seven top 10 places. London, with all its colleges, on its own has 11 top 10 places. If there is to be purely a selectivity exercise, academics in Scotland are worried that there will be less money because 25 institutions will have to go into the same pot as eight in the past, and that it will be difficult for them to get their fair share of research council funding.

In Committee we had an extensive debate on the lack of a planning role for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. Many small institutions will be encouraged to compete against each other. The Minister must deal with the fear that in that fight they will lose sight of the larger prize and that excessive competition will lead to the weakening of the institutions. That is not an argument for all the institutions to come together in a university of Scotland. The ruling out by the Government of a planning function for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will prevent the co-operation which many of those institutions want. There is a lack of concern by the Government about that.

Were I in the Minister's shoes, the first thing that I would do on research would be to commission research into the adequacy of the funding. All the evidence that I have been able to find shows great concern about the Government's sponsorship of research and its allocation within Scotland. For example, the Government's sponsorship of research through departments has been falling for years.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I shall have one more go. The hon. Gentleman talked about what he would do if he were in my shoes. If he were the Minister with responsibility for those matters—at present a Minister in the Department of Education and Science—how much extra would he make available for research on top of the record £1 billion which the Government have made available?

Mr. Worthington

The first thing that any Education Minister should do is commission research and ask his Department about the adequacy of the research base. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology said: We recommend that the Government use this period of grace"— when there was an extra £10 million— to take an overview of spending under the science budget as a whole and to consider whether, in view of the alarming response of research councils to the present settlement, they are content to live with the consequences of their public expenditure policy for science. The Select Committee said that the Government's funding of science was disastrous.

Similarly, when looking at a Community framework for research and development, the Select Committee said the same about Britain's performance when it said that we were falling behind every other country in Europe in civil research and development. The Government have been dependent upon industry to fill the hole caused by their own lack of funding for research. Because of the recession it is unlikely that industry can step in. We are worried that the Government have not done a serious appraisal of the need for basic, fundamental research. They have not considered that issue. The Government's record of funding research over the years has been deplorable. They must now ask themselves whether the system that they are setting up so casually will lead to a strengthening of the research base in Scottish universities or whether, as many fear, it will weaken that base. I do not get the impression that the Government, with all their resources, have done any work on this which will reassure the people who work in the colleges and universities of Scotland.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

This has been an interesting debate. Usually I do not intervene too frequently in speeches by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), but this time I intervened on three occasions. The hon. Gentleman was arguing that funding for research purposes was inadequate. He refused to acknowledge the large increase—to more than £1 billion —that the Government have provided or the 19 per cent. increase that we propose over the next three years, and he refused to say by how much a Labour Government would increase that funding.

When I pressed the hon. Gentleman, he said that the first thing he would do if he became a Minister would be to commission research to find out what was happening, yet he seems to have done enough research already to be able to claim that present funding is inadequate. Why then will he not give a commitment? The answer is that his speech was sheer cant and humbug.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) came to our deliberations, treated us to a speech and left. He advanced the view that Edinburgh university's problems were entirely of the Government's making. He made no reference to the management difficulties that Edinburgh university is experiencing or to the fact that the university is unique in Scotland in having a deficit problem. That problem is due to the mismanagement of resources, because of which hard decisions have had to be taken.

Although I cannot commend the new clause to the House, I can appreciate why the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) sought to raise the matter. I can appreciate the worries about Edinburgh university perhaps not being able immediately to fill the chair of Scottish history when the present incumbent retires this autumn.

I have seen a letter from the principal of Edinburgh university which appeared in The Scotsman dated 31 January. In it, the principal made it clear that no decision had been taken that the chair should remain vacant for two years—certainly not by administrators. I think that the hon. Lady may have seen the letter for herself.

Mr. Worthington

If Edinburgh university is unique, why is Glasgow university heading for a £2.7 million deficit which will mean non-replacement of staff?

Mr. Forsyth

That is an assertion. I said that Edinburgh university was unique among the institutions in having a deficit. Now the hon. Gentleman suggests that Glasgow may, if it does not take certain steps, find itself in a particular position. I have no information about that. My point was that many universities under central institutions in Scotland are not in that position. It is absurd of the hon. Gentleman to argue that Edinburgh's problems are a consequence of Government action, given that Government funds, through the funding council and directly to other institutions, have meant that they have none of these problems. Indeed, there are record numbers of students in higher and further education in Scotland, thanks to the additional funding provided by the Government.

Mr. Douglas

The Minister need go no further than along the road to Stirling university, on whose court I served. Without going into too much detail, I can tell him that the university is working under considerable financial limitations. It is not quite truthful, therefore, to tell the House that Edinburgh is unique. Other universities work under similar restraints, although they may not be of the same magnitude.

6.45 pm
Mr. Forsyth

I can only communicate the information given to me: these institutions are not running into deficit. Stirling received the largest increase in support of any institution and it is going from strength to strength—[Interruption.] Opposition Members must draw their own conclusions as to the reasons for that, but it is due in no small part to the enterprise and success generated in and by the institution.

The hon. Member for Moray spoke about the importance of a knowledge of Scottish history, even though much of her speech was devoted to what happens in schools. I absolutely agree with her, and I hope that she will support the foreword that I have written to a report on environmental studies stressing the importance of subject teaching and of giving children a grounding in history, geography and science—and, of course, Scottish history. Subject-based teaching has a significant part to play in the later stages of primary school.

The hon. Lady treated us to quite a selection of poetry. She, like me, benefited from studying in the days before the trendies decided that didactic teaching was bad news and that rote learning was to be discouraged. The hon. Lady treated us to a poem by MacDiarmid. Perhaps she remembers the lines: Mars is braw in crammasy, Venus in her green silk gown, The auld mune shaks her gowden feathers; Their starry talk's a wheen o'blethers".

I have never heard such "a wheen o' blethers" as we heard today from the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie. He spent his time in Committee arguing that we should take action to limit the Bill's powers in respect of academic freedom and the consequences that arise from that for conditions of grants and powers of direction. Today, he argues that it would be right—I have no doubt that he will vote for the new clause—for the Government to intervene by statute in the affairs of a particular university—

Mr. Worthington

I suggested no such thing. The Minister must withdraw that statement.

Mr. Forsyth

I am happy to withdraw it. I take the hon. Gentleman's remarks to mean that he will not vote for the new clause.

Mr. Worthington


Mr. Forsyth

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will make his position clear.

Mr. Worthington

We have argued extensively that the Government should not interfere in the academic affairs of institutions. We stand by that; we will not alter that line at all. We also support the sentiment behind the new clause —that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council should ensure stimulation of Scottish culture, not interference in individual institutions.

Mr. Forsyth

That is most extraordinary. We have heard of no other example of an institution in Scotland at which there is a problem to do with the teaching of Scottish history. The whole debate has centred on Edinburgh university. The justification for the new clause lies in what is happening there. The hon. Gentleman has devoted a great deal of energy to arguing for an arm's length policy—a policy which leaves these matters to the funding council and which does not give powers of discretion that are institution-specific. At the same time, the hon. Gentleman is going to support a new clause whose mover has made it clear that it is motivated by what is happening at a particular university. That seems contradictory.

The allocation of resources to universities is a matter for the funding council. The Government are quite properly not involved in such decisions and it is nonsense to suggest that Edinburgh university has been singled out for harsh treatment, or that its recent financial problems derive from Government policy. It is widely understood that Edinburgh's deficit arises from internal financial management problems which are now being tackled. A recovery plan is in place.

As for new clause 2, one of the most important functions of the funding council will be to encourage higher quality research. I do not believe that new clause 2 would add to its ability to do so.

Apart from the additional resources which we have made available, the research councils will continue to operate on a United Kingdom basis. At present, the other main source of public funds for research, besides the research councils, is the Universities Funding Council. Its role will now pass to the new funding council, which is recognised in clause 34 which gives it powers to fund institutions both for the provision of education and for the undertaking of research. It is neither necessary nor appropriate that research should be singled out as new clause 2 suggests.

The new funding council will have considerable resources to go to basic and strategic research. We have already made it clear that we do not expect institutions to change their existing missions. We expect those that have concentrated on teaching and on industry-sponsored applied research and development to continue to do so, although it will be open to them to compete for the new council's research funds in areas in which they have particular strengths.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

In Committee, I raised with the Minister the point about the two-tier structure which will inevitably develop after the new universities are created within the next two years. He told me that there would be a concentration on teaching or on research among the different institutions. That is the fear of the universities that have written to me and to other hon. Members in Committee.

The Minister failed to give me an assurance, although he talked about £274 million new money for research over the next three years. That is welcome, but the point is how the new universities will manage to grab a slice of that cake. The central institutions had no research income other than that which they were able to gain on their own. How will they be able to compete with the existing universities? Either they will not be able to compete or, if they can, a proportion of the money available will be taken away from the existing universities. Universities such as Stirling, Dundee and Aberdeen will face retrenchment and will become mere teaching institutions. How does the Minister foresee that problem being avoided?

Mr. Forsyth

I have already explained that we have published the additional provision for research which was set out in the Government's public expenditure plans. If the hon. Gentleman is advancing a case that those funds are inadequate, he must ask his hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) why he refuses to give a commitment to spend a cent more.

Mr. Watson

What proportion of money?

Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Gentleman is talking not about the absolute amount, but about distribution, I can tell him that funds will be allocated to the institutions that can devote them to the best effect. Institutions will compete for the funds. The hon. Gentleman is correct to point to the role of the central institutions in getting applied research and sponsorship from industry. Their basic mission statements will not change, but they will be able to compete for research funds according to the quality of research. The hon. Gentleman is right to argue that some of that research is of such quality that the institutions will benefit.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) made the most extraordinary speech. I have no brief to support the Scottish National party and I share the hon. Gentleman's revulsion about the way in which that party seeks to blame England and the Westminster Parliament for every deficiency, sometimes invented and sometimes real, in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman sought to lecture the House after 12 years of the Scottish Labour party telling people in Scotland that they were hard done by, that they got a rotten deal from Westminster and that public expenditure was not one quarter more north of the border than it was south of the border.

I am glad that the tune has changed. The Daily Record now extols the virtues of the Westminster system for Scotland. That is a change of tune by the Scottish Labour party. The hon. Gentleman must bear some of the responsibility for the resentment and for the rise of nationalism about which he now has the temerity to complain in the House.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The Minister cannot point to a single word in any of my speeches in which I have claimed that the responsibility for the difficulties in Scotland was due to the Westminster Parliament or to the English. I have always put the blame on the Tories, which is where it lies.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman has spent the past six months arguing that the health service in Scotland is underfunded when it is in fact funded to the extent of 25 per cent. more than in England and well beyond what the hon. Gentleman proposes on his own party's behalf. He knows full well that he and his colleagues have sought to fight the Government by fighting the Westminster system, and that they have played straight into the hands of the Scottish National party. I urge the House to reject the new clauses.

Mr. Dalyell

In Committee, I had a great deal to say about research, but because the House wants to get on and because I have given undertakings to the Whips, I will scrap my copious notes on research. However, I want to say something about the chair at Edinburgh university and about new clause 1.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) and I are fretting a bit about what the Minister said about the mismanagement—the word he used—at Edinburgh university. It is not quite as simple as that. I asked the Minister to put the matter in terms of partial mismanagement at certain stages of the past 30 years. Those of us, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central and I, who are immersed in the matter know that the problems go back to Sir Edward Appleton's time as vice-chancellor and are not of recent making.

Dr. Godman

Good point.

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend says, "Good point." That is the truth of the matter

Another part of the truth is that, when the Minister asks about other universities in Scotland, he should realise that Glasgow suffers from almost the same problems and is getting into difficulties. The other universities may have special circumstances. The special circumstances of Edinburgh, as I think the Whip, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), will admit, are shared by the great universities of Manchester and Leeds. Many of the universities whose buildings were constructed in the previous century and scattered throughout our great cities have maintenance problems. Sir David Smith and his senior colleagues the year before last went over the maintenance problems of running Edinburgh university.

They are horrendous.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

If it helps the hon. Gentleman, I am happy to acknowledge that I did not intend to imply that the difficulties experienced in the management at Edinburgh university were to be attributed to the present management team. Those difficulties are now being addressed. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are great management difficulties. I was trying to make the point that it is wrong to suggest that the problem arises because of Government action in respect of the funding regime, which was the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths), who is still absent from the Chamber.

Mr. Dalyell

I do not want to pursue the matter,

I want to return to the subject of the chair of history. When we were first approached by the students, Sharon Adams and Kirsty Lingstadt who is one of the many Norwegians at the university, I was greatly impressed by the fact that the students were prepared to go to such lengths to defend their own department. The natural reaction of a politician is that, when students and young people care so much about their department, they deserve a proper hearing.

I told the students that their next port of call was the dean of the faculty of arts. Naturally, I rang up Eric Fernie, the chairman of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland—like others, I have greatly benefited from the visits around Scotland of the Ancient Monuments Board —and asked for his opinion. His reply is of importance to the House. He said first that it was a matter of undershooting targets. He said that there was not enough money in the faculty of arts to do what it wanted to do. It is wrong for the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) to think that such people are insensitive to the situation. They are highly sensitive.

What calculation has been made of the employer's costs? It is an expensive post. The agreed words between Professor Fernie and anybody who cared to listen were: If Parliament directs the university of Edinburgh to fill the chair of Scottish studies, then it should permit the university to undershoot staff savings targets by the equivalent of one post. Are the Government prepared to make any special dispensation? I suspect that they are not, and that therefore it would be right to press the new clause to a vote, for the reasons given by hon. Members from all parties.

7 pm

The vital question is, what is the understanding of the Scottish Office about the endowment element in that chair? Again, it is important to put on record the fact that the present incumbent, Professor Barrow—not wishing to make controversial statements—simply said that, if the chair was suspended, there would be harmful discontinuity to studies. Whatever my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South rightly says about other chairs, I agree with the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute and other hon. Members that Scottish history is a uniquely important chair to the university of Edinburgh. Others can have chairs in molecular parasitology and astronomy, but the chair of Scottish history in the Scottish capital is surely of considerable importance.

I defend the vice-chancellor and others, who have come under some criticism. We have kept the Polygon—the only university press in Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South knows, it has done many good things.

The Minister quoted the vice-chancellor's letter in The Scotsman. I shall quote another part of that same letter. Sir David Smith said: Ring-fencing Scotland's higher education would not enhance that reputation or the health of our higher education institutions. It would, in fact, imply the loss of minority interest subjects, which might no longer be viable within an exclusively Scottish framework. It would imperil the proportionately higher share of the UK's public higher education resources that has, so far, come to Scotland. It could well threaten Scotland's standing in research and it would also remove the resulting direct financial return to the Scottish economy, which has been valued conservatively at a figure of at least some £40 million annually. Scotland's interests' are not always as simple as some would have us believe. That is an important part of that letter.

Of course, it is not only the chair of Scottish history that matters; it is the vexed question of the Audubon books. Some of us think that, because of Audubon's special relationship with Edinburgh, that issue should be given some priority. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South rightly said, the matter must be put in context. It must be of some concern that the chair of astronomy is not filled—a chair most recently held by Malcolm Longair. It is a distinguished chair. Other chairs are not filled, such as African literature. We must remember what Edinburgh has done for Malawi and other parts of east and central Africa. It is a tragedy. Natural philosophy—the chair of Clerk Maxwell and Norman Feather—is unoccupied, and that is also a tragedy. The chairs of Russian and of tropical animal health speak for themselves.

Although the matter must be seen in context, there is a special case for a chair of Scottish history. I ask the Minister to be clear when answering my question—does he view Scottish history as different from any other chair in the university of Edinburgh?

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

In view of some of the comments made about the new clause, it is appropriate for me to reply briefly to the debate. When we tabled the amendments, we thought that they were gentle amendments with which people could not possibly disagree. Some of the speeches, especially from Labour Members, were incredible. I appear to have stirred up a hornets' nest, which was certainly not my intention. Anyone who read the two new clauses carefully would have clearly realised that we were only asking that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council should pay particular attention in its funding and its assessment of quality to the study of history, languages and the culture of Scotland, and ensure that appropriate funds and attention are devoted to certain areas of research. I should have thought that few people could disagree with such amendments.

Mr. Robert Hughes

We are voting for them.

Mrs. Ewing

That is difficult to believe in view of some of the speeches.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) appears to be out of touch with what the teaching of history actually involves. I assure him that learning history parrot fashion, date after date, has long since disappeared. Anyone who has been involved in the teaching of history, as I have, can assure him that the importance of the teaching of that subject lies in the development of analytical skills in youngsters, so that they can look at issues and problems and reach an objective conclusion.

The teaching of history, as of any other subject, should be accompanied by straightforward objectivity. It might interest the hon. Gentleman to know that, as somebody who taught history with great objectivity, from time to time I was supervised by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), and he equally observed objectivity in the teaching of mathematics.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North appeared to think that the study of Scottish history would involve people in trying to imbue in Scottish youngsters a particular philosophy or approach to the political scene. Nothing could be further from the truth. The hon. Gentleman does himself, his colleagues and the people of Scotland a great disservice by the remarks that he made tonight.

I say both to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South—[HON. MEMBERS: "North."] I am sorry, I mean the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). There seems to have been great difficulty with direction during the debate. Both hon. Members seem to be saying that an emphasis on Scottish history, culture or languages would imbue a sense of superiority and suggest that Scots were all good. I have never adhered to the philosophy Here's tae us, Wha's like us? Damn few—they're a'deid. I recognise that there are people in Scotland who have exploited others—just as anywhere in the world there has been exploitation. We are a party that strives hard to show that its argument is with the establishment, not with the people of England, so I regret those speeches.

The hon. Members for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) and for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) were mean-minded when they referred to the fact that the amendments specifically mentioned the chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh university. It was used as an example because it is a topical matter. People are talking about it at home and they want to know what will happen and what elected Members think.

I have represented education interests for many years —not just in this Parliament, but in previous Parliaments. I suggest that those hon. Members read some of my speeches, when I spoke clearly about the difficulties that all universities face—not just those in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom—in developing chairs in various subjects and in research. I do not think that they do their case very much good by adopting such a petty attitude.

The Minister referred to a letter from Sir David Smith. It is true that no final decision about the chair of Scottish history has been reached, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie), who spoke of the fear that, if the chair were not filled immediately, there would be a continuous knock-on effect and it would remain vacant indefinitely. The debate has brought to light the strength of feeling on the subject, and I hope that that will influence the university authorities when they have to make a final decision. Ultimately, however, the Government have a responsibility to make their view known to the university.

I am sorry that the Minister felt that he could not support this very gentle measure, which does no more than emphasise the importance that Scots the length and breadth of our country—and firth of Scotland—attach to our culture, history and languages. As we have already engaged in a poetic exchange, and as the Burns season in Scotland is currently ending, may I quote the following: Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, To think how mony counsels sweet, How mony wise and sage advises the Government from this Bench despises.

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

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 261.

Division No. 70 [7.10 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Allen, Graham Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Alton, David Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Ashton, Joe Canavan, Dennis
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Carr, Michael
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Cartwright, John
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Barron, Kevin Clelland, David
Beggs, Roy Cohen, Harry
Bellotti, David Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Cousins, Jim
Benton, Joseph Crowther, Stan
Bidwell, Sydney Cryer, Bob
Blunkett, David Cummings, John
Boateng, Paul Cunliffe, Lawrence
Boyes, Roland Dalyell, Tam
Bradley, Keith Darling, Alistair
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McMaster, Gordon
Dixon, Don Madden, Max
Dobson, Frank Mahon, Mrs Alice
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. Marek, Dr John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Eadie, Alexander Martlew, Eric
Eastham, Ken Maxton, John
Edwards, Huw Meacher, Michael
Enright, Derek Meale, Alan
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michael, Alun
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fatchett, Derek Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fearn, Ronald Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fisher, Mark Morgan, Rhodri
Flannery, Martin Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Flynn, Paul Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foster, Derek Mowlam, Marjorie
Fraser, John Mullin, Chris
Fyfe, Maria Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Galloway, George O'Hara, Edward
Garrett, John (Norwich South) O' Neil, Martin
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Godman, Dr Norman A. Patchett, Terry
Golding, Mrs Llin Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Gordon, Mildred Primarolo, Dawn
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Quin, Ms Joyce
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Radice, Giles
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Randall, Stuart
Grocott, Bruce Reid, Dr John
Hain, Peter Robertson, George
Haynes, Frank Robinson, Geoffrey
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Rooker, Jeff
Hinchliffe, David Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Home Robertson, John Rowlands, Ted
Hood, Jimmy Salmond, Alex
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Sedgemore, Brian
Howells, Geraint Short, Clare
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Skinner, Dennis
Hoyle, Doug Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Smith, J.P. (Vale of Glam)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Soley, Clive
Illsley, Eric Spearing, Nigel
Ingram, Adam Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Janner, Greville Steinberg, Gerry
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Stephen, Nicol
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Strand, Gavin
Kennedy, Charles Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Kilfoyle, Peter Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Kirkwood, Archy Turner, Dennis
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Vaz, Keith
Lamond, James Wallace, James
Leadbitter, Ted Walley, Joan
Leighton, Ron Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lewis, Terry Wareing, Robert N.
Litherland, Robert Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Livingstone, Ken Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Livsey, Richard Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Wilson, Brian
Loyden, Eddie Winnick, David
McAllion, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
McAvoy, Thomas Worthington, Tony
McCartney, Ian Wray, Jimmy
Macdonald, Calum A.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Tellers for the Ayes:
McLeish, Henry Mr. Dick Douglas and
Maclennan, Robert Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Adley, Robert Arnold, Sir Thomas
Aitken, Jonathan Ashby, David
Alexander, Richard Aspinwall, Jack
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Allason, Rupert Baldry, Tony
Amess, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amos, Alan Batiste, Spencer
Arbuthnot, James Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bellingham, Henry
Bendall, Vivian Hannam, Sir John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Benyon, W. Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Harris, David
Blackburn, Dr John G. Haselhurst, Alan
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hawkins, Christopher
Body, Sir Richard Hayes, Jerry
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Bottomley, Peter Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv'NE)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Bowis, John Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Hill, James
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Hind, Kenneth
Brazier, Julian Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Bright, Graham Hunter, Andrew
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Irvine, Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Irving, Sir Charles
Burt, Alistair Jack, Michael
Butcher, John Jackson, Robert
Butler, Chris Janman, Tim
Butterfill, John Johnson, Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Carttiss, Michael Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Kilfedder, James
Chapman, Sydney King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Churchill, Mr King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Kirkhope, Timothy
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Knapman, Roger
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Couchman, James Knowles, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knox, David
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Davis, David (Boothferry) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Day, Stephen Latham, Michael
Devlin, Tim Lawrence, Ivan
Dickens, Geoffrey Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Dover, Den Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dunn, Bob Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dykes, Hugh Lightbown, David
Eggar, Tim Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Evennett, David Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fallon, Michael Lord, Michael
Farr, Sir John Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fishburn, John Dudley Maclean, David
Fookes, Dame Janet McLoughlin, Patrick
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Forth, Eric McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Madel, David
Fox, Sir Marcus Malins, Humfrey
Franks, Cecil Maples, John
Freeman, Roger Marland, Paul
French, Douglas Marlow, Tony
Gardiner, Sir George Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Maude, Hon Francis
Gill, Christopher Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mellor, Rt Hon David
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Meyer, Sir Anthony
Goodhart, Sir Philip Miller, Sir Hal
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Miscampbell, Norman
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Moate, Roger
Gorst, John Monro, Sir Hector
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Morrison, Sir Charles
Gregory, Conal Moss, Malcolm
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Moynihan, Hon Colin
Grist, Ian Neale, Sir Gerrard
Ground, Patrick Needham, Richard
Hague, William Nelson, Anthony
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Neubert, Sir Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hampson, Dr Keith Nicholls, Patrick
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stevens, Lewis
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Norris, Steve Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Sumberg, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Summerson, Hugo
Page, Richard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Paice, James Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Patnick, Irvine Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Pawsey, James Temple-Morris, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Porter, David (Waveney) Thorne, Neil
Powell, William (Corby) Thornton, Malcolm
Price, Sir David Thurnham, Peter
Raffan, Keith Townend, John (Bridlington)
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Redwood, John Tracey, Richard
Rhodes James, Sir Robert Tredinnick, David
Riddick, Graham Trotter, Neville
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Viggers, Peter
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rost, Peter Walden, George
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Sackville, Hon Tom Walters, Sir Dennis
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sayeed, Jonathan Watts, John
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Shaw, David (Dover) Wheeler, Sir John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Whitney, Ray
Shelton, Sir William Widdecombe, Ann
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wiggin, Jerry
Sims, Roger Wilshire, David
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Mrs Ann
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Winterton, Nicholas
Speller, Tony Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Yeo, Tim
Squire, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stanbrook, Ivor
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Tellers for the Noes:
Steen, Anthony Mr. Tim Boswell and
Stern, Michael Mr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived.

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