§ 3.5 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will institute official mathematical competitions, on the lines of the Olympiads in the U.S.S.R.]
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, the Government's view is that it is best left to independent organisations to promote mathematical and, for that matter, other competitions. The Government appreciate the importance to this country's technological progress of a high standard of mathematical education and the stimulus which competitions on Olympiad lines can give to mathematics students. But the educational system of the country is based on devolution, and the Government consider that it would be a mistake to attempt to take over these competitions or to supersede them by officially run contests.
§ LORD SNOW
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. May I ask the noble Lady to suggest to the Government that there may be a case for looking again at this matter? We all know that private initiative has done a great deal, and we are grateful both to the Guinness Foundation and to eminent mathematicians for running these competitions, but they have gone as far as they can go. May I ask the Government to consider whether the results of extending them may be worth while? May I also ask Her Majesty's Government to remember that Government participation in such competitions would suggest an interest in intellectual excellence which at this moment it is very desirable that they should be appearing to encourage?
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his questions. I would remind him—possibly in reply to both his supplementary questions—that the local education authorities are jealous of their rights and privileges in this connection. I will certainly take his suggestions to the Minister. The encouragement given by Her Majesty's Government shows that they agree with him in connection with the stimulus given to mathematics students.