HC Deb 25 April 1995 vol 258 cc648-9
6. Mr. Burden

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what conditions attach to the release of £50 million grant withheld from the Further Education Funding Council for 1995–96. [19173]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education (Mr. Tim Boswell)

Grant will be released to the council as colleges certify their commitment that all contracts entered into with lecturers during 1995–96 will be as flexible as their contracts signed with newly appointed lecturers last year.

Mr. Burden

Is not the reality that the Government are using cash penalties to force college managements to impose on their staff the conditions that the Government want? Does not that make nonsense of the Government's claim of flexibility, and does not the Minister realise that it is undermining industrial relations, prolonging the dispute in places such as Birmingham and doing nothing to improve relations between college managements and their staff?

Mr. Boswell

The Government and the taxpayer have a very strong interest in flexibility and efficiency in the delivery of the further education system, expenditure on which runs to nearly £3 billion of public money and which has targeted an increase of 25 per cent. in student enrolment in a short period. It is imperative that that is delivered in general. The Government have no intention of intervening in the day-to-day or detailed negotiations that take place between individual colleges or, indeed, the colleges employers forum and the respective unions. We said that we would welcome the opportunity for those parties to come together. I have today written to the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers commending him on his readiness to take his union into discussions at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service with the colleges employers forum. I hope that the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education will follow suit.