I am aware that this decision has aroused a good deal of discussion and that different views are taken of these decisions. It had occurred to us that this point might come up, and, lest it should, I took the precaution of asking my hon. Friend the Minister of State if he would be good enough to reply to it, in case it comes up in more detail, when he winds up the debate tonight.
The third anxiety in the university world is of a rather more specialised kind. It has been suggested, though not I think very widely, that there has been some neglect of science and technology within the higher education field. I want to answer this by quoting a few facts, to one or two of which the hon. Member for Walsall, South referred.
On 29th June I informed Parliament that special supplementary recurrent grants would be made to the universities for technology up to a total of £1·4 million. On 21st December I announced the Government's general approval of the ambitious Report of the Flowers Committee on computers for universities and research councils, the cost of implementing which will be some £30 million over six years.
Turning to pure science, I remind the House that in addition to the support which the Government give through the U.G.C., their expenditure on the research councils this year is estimated to be 20 per cent. up on last year, compared with increases of 16·6 per cent. and 19·9 per cent, in the previous two years. Next year the growth of expenditure in real terms will be at least maintained.
Again, my hon. Friend the Minister of State will elaborate on the detail of some of these points when he winds up the debate, but here and now I must say that these large increases in expenditure —on university computers, on technology, and on the research councils made at a time of considerable strain on our resources are an eloquent proof of how high a priority the Government give to science and technology.
As a final optimistic point, I may add that the famous 1,500 missing places which we discussed some time ago and which caused such alarm last year have not reappeared this year. When the Report of the Council on Admissions is published this afternoon the vacancies in technology will be found to be negligible and in pure science about 400. The expansion in these faculties was remarkable, being well over 20 per cent. up on last year's entry.