Expenditure in 1987–88 will be £729 million, an increase of £54 million on previous plans. The provisional figures included in Cmnd. 56 plan for a further £60 million increase over the following two years to £790 million in 1989–90. This is a clear indication of the Government's commitment to providing the highest standards of educational opportunity for the young people of Northern Ireland.
Recognising my hon. Friend's strong commitment to continuing educational support in Northern Ireland, may I tell him that it is a matter of great pleasure that so much money is to be put into Northern Ireland? It will be money well spent, because in Northern Ireland we have the highest number of school leavers—22·5 per cent.—with one or more A-levels, whereas in the rest of the United Kingdom the figure is only 17·2 per cent.
I thank my hon. Friend and commend him for his interest in this matter. I am sure the teachers of Northern Ireland will appreciate his comments. I pay tribute to the standards of education in the Province. I know that my hon. Friend will also welcome the new vocational education programme which I have just announced, which will particularly help in science and technology in the secondary intermediate school area.
Is the Minister aware of the strong resentment among the university staff affected by the Butler report, in that the working party gave them no opportunity to discuss their concerns? Will they be given that opportunity before the recommendations are implemented? Can the Minister confirm that none of the options will be foreclosed by the initial conclusions of the working party or group?
On the contrary, Mr. Speaker. The interim report of the Butler committee was discussed and endorsed by the academic bodies responsible in both universities, and they are now considering how much of a financial consideration is attached to their acceptance of that report. I have made clear to both vice-chancellors and to Sir Clifford Butler that I am willing seriously to consider the representations that they make to me based on that report.