HL Deb 15 December 1987 vol 491 cc602-3

3 p.m.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made with the adoption within the EC of a system for the mutual recognition of the higher education diplomas.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the Commission's proposal for a general directive was identified by Community Heads of Government in June 1987 as a priority for decision by the end of 1988. Work has been pursued energetically during the present Danish Presidency with a view to ensuring that the Council of Ministers meets that target.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords I should like to thank the noble Lord for that Answer. But may I ask him whether he recalls that when a report from the European Select Committee was being debated on 10th October last year the Government at that stage felt able to say very little about the criticisms and suggestions which the committee had made about that draft general directive? May I ask him whether the Government have now formulated their views and, if so, whether they have conveyed them to the Commission if not to this House?

Lord Beaverbrook

Yes, my Lords. The Government have studied with great care the very helpful and well researched report of the Select Committee. In particular, the proposal has been amended to reflect the report's observations on the distinction between professions and activities.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I do not dissent from the desirability of recognising diplomas, but will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not permit education, which is not covered presently by the Treaty of Rome, to be so covered? In my time I had some difficulty in killing the proposal for a directive whereby immigrant children within the Community would all be educated in their own language. Apart from the educational difficulties and costs in this country, it would have been a political explosion, because they would all have thought that the purpose of such education was to return them to their own countries. I hope that education will not be covered by the Treaty of Rome, as it is not at the moment.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord has said. I should point out that we are talking here about professional qualifications and not about education from a young age.

Baroness Serota

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether in their consideration of these matters the Government have given special attention to the particular problem pointed out to the Select Committee; namely, that in the UK it would be essential that the benefit of any directive should extend to those whose professional qualifications, as opposed to their academic qualifications, are recognised by charter or by other self-regulating bodies as opposed to state authorities?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a very interesting point. The directive would apply only to fully qualified professionals practising in their home state who have a university level qualification. In addition, most member states and the Commission now accept that where qualifications differ there should be provision for an adaptation exam.

Baroness David

My Lords, I am not sure that the Minister has followed what the Select Committee proposed. But, when finally the Government decide to take a line about this, may I ask him to make sure that people who have some but not all of the necessary qualifications—perhaps people who may want to move from one state to another in the course of getting their qualifications, and also people who are doing part-time study to get them—have their condition properly taken into account? This is very important for them and indeed for the country as well.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. I would say to her that the precise form of the adaptation mechanism is still under discussion and it is clearly very important to get it right.