The University Commissioners

Orders of the Day — Education Reform Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 24th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil 7:45 pm, 24th March 1988

I beg to move amendment No. 450, in page 150, line 24, at end insert 'and who shall ensure the maintenance of academic freedom'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 146, in page 150, line 30, at end insert 'and(c) to respect the principle of academic freedom.' No. 446, in page 150, line 30, at end insert 'and(c) to maintain freedom of enquiry and expression for academic staff at qualifying institutions'. No. 370, in clause 168, page 150, line 48, at end insert— (aa) provision for a statement, placing a duty upon the institution to secure academic freedom within the law for its members, as may be proposed by the institution and in terms agreed with the Commissioners;(bb) procedures enabling disputes between the institutions and its members over alleged breaches of the duty imposed under paragraph (aa) above, to be heard and determined;'. No. 380, in page 151, line 19, at end insert— 'and before granting such approval the Privy Council shall be satisfied that any such modification shall have had regard to the need to preserve academic freedom.' No. 417, in page 151, line 38, at end insert— 'A member of staff shall not be taken to be dismissed by reason of redundancy where, at the time of dismissal, it is intended to replace the member of staff by a more junior person who would perform the same work.' No. 418, in page 151, line 38, at end insert— '(4A) No dismissal by reason of redundancy shall have effect unless reasonable attempts have been made to find suitable alternative employment within the institution.' No. 144, in page 152, line 5, at end insert— '(7) Any member of staff dismissed for any reasons falling under this section, other than under subsection (1)(b), shall receive that compensation at the time of the dismissal currently agreed between the institution and the Funding Council.'. No. 415, in page 152, leave out lines 13 and 14 and insert— '(a) his first appointment or first contract of employment in any qualifying institution is entered into on or after 20th November 1987; or'. No. 376, in page 152, line 14, leave out '1987' and insert '1990'.

No. 377, in page 152, line 22, leave out '1987' and insert '1990'.

No. 416, in page 152, line 38, at end insert— 'In particular, the Commissioners shall ensure that no modification of statutes under subsection (2) of this section shall apply to any person employed in any qualifying institution merely as a result of a change in contract or appointment brought about by a merger of one or more qualifying institutions with any othe educational institution on or after 20th November 1987 ': No. 381, in page 152, line 41, at end insert— ', being apparent to Her Majesty that instrument does not interfere with the need to preserve academic freedom.'.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I am delighted to be able to move the amendment on Report, just as I moved a similar group in Committee, on the key issue of academic freedom. I am also delighted to have the support of the official Opposition in this matter. Indeed, I hope that I have the support of Conservative Members as well.

The words in the amendment were not chosen lightly or ill-advisedly. Nor was the place. The amendments appear right at the beginning of the relevant clause—clause 167—which deals with university commissioners. They are placed here specifically so that we can get round the business of having to define academic freedom. We are dealing with these amendments now because they relate to the first sentence in clause 167 and therefore all the subsections are conditional upon the wording.

The words have been carefully chosen to ensure the maintenance of academic freedom. We have tried to choose the words that appear in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 relating to freedom of speech. That matter was introduced at the Government's behest predominantly to protect Conservative Members. No doubt the Government will claim that it is intended to protect everyone who wants to speak in universities. However, as we recall what happened, we are all aware that there was an attack on the freedom of speech predominantly of Conservative Members and that caused that measure to be introduced.

I believe that it is right and proper that freedom of speech should be assured. However, we must note that the Government did not find it difficult to find words to protect the freedom of speech of Conservative Members. However, when, as in this case, we are talking about protecting the academic freedom of academics in universities, the Government will argue that they cannot find appropriate words.

On my next point I part company with the official Opposition. I am not trying to defend or argue the case for tenure. I believe that tenure is an outdated and antiquated practice. Provided that there were alternative bulwarks against the erosion of academic freedom, I would be happy to see it abolished. I believe that tenure is partial and, at its very best, ineffective. It is partial because it does not apply to others in higher education, for example, to the PCFC whose academics are involved in equally important work. The Labour party has suggested, and we agree—indeed we made the suggestion first—that we should remove the binary divide and put together the universities and polytechnics in a single body. I see no logic in supporting tenure which applies only to one sector and not the other.

Indeed, tenure does not apply to the whole sector. It applies to some universities and not others. Within universities it applies to some academics, not others. I believe that tenure is outdated. I would he happy to see it abolished provided—and that word must be emphasised—that some other bulwark to ensure academic freedom, to insure against the interference in the work of academics, their curiosity and right to express their views, is created. In that context, I believe that clause 167, which was so strongly argued in Committee, is now necessary. Indeed, that view is accepted strongly in the academic sector.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

Is there not an inconsistency in the hon. Gentleman's points when he argues, on the one hand, that tenure only applies partially in higher education, while, on the other hand, some general bulwark is needed to replace it? If academic freedom has survived in those parts of higher education where there is no tenure, surely that is the best method.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

The hon. Gentleman has made an important point and I will refer to it later.

I argue that academic freedom will be required and it should apply to the UFC and the PCFC sectors. It should apply across both sectors. The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) made a good plant when he asked how, if this has been inadequate, academic freedom has survived without the statutory requirement elsewhere. The answer is simple. The threats that can be posed in the Bill in the form of the instruments present a threat to academic freedom of a kind that we have not seen before. I do not suggest that the Secretary of State himself will pose them.

The threat exists not least because the UFC, quite contrary to the Croham committee recommendations, is not its own creature, but a creature of the Government. I use the Croham committee's phrases there. The UFC is appointed by the Government of the day and it may be sacked by the Government of the day. There is no safeguard to ensure that an incoming Labour Government could not dismiss the UFC overnight and install its own placemen. We must look not at what this Secretary of State will do, but at the potential powers available to Secretaries of State for Education and Science in future.

I do not intend to argue the case for tenure. However, if the Government did not accept an academic freedom clause, tenure—partial and ineffective though it is —would nevertheless provide some kind of barrier to ensure academic freedom. Therefore, that is preferable to nothing at all.

There is justifiable concern across the whole spectrum of academia and elsewhere about insuring academic freedom so that it cannot be tampered with. We can understand those concerns among academics who have seen within their lifetimes the interference with acadernic freedom which has always been the first act of a tyrannical and despotic state. That happened in Germany and the Soviet Union, and it began to happen in the United States of America in McCarthy's era. It is perfectly reasonable that academics should be worried.

I want to make a broader argument. I believe that academic freedom, so long fought over and so anciently established, is not something simply convenient for academics. It is a fundamental freedom and human right that lies at the heart of our democracy. It is important that academics should have the right to study what they want to study according to their own curiosity, not to Government diktat, and to say what they believe to be the truth. That is fundamental to the nature of our society.

The Government will argue two cases. First, they will argue how academic freedom can be under attack now if it has been sustained in Britain so far. I would reply to that argument in the same way that I replied to the hon. Member for Elmet. It is threatened by the instruments in the Bill in the hands of the Secretary of State, including the power of centralisation, the ability to instal placemen in the UFC and the potential dangers in that. It is also threatened as a result of the Government's actions in the past over civil liberties.

We are also aware that the Government have admitted that, because of the cuts and the restructuring to which the Secretary of State referred earlier, there will be a loss of 5,000 academics in the UFC and PCFC sectors. Indeed, Government documents confirm that. We believe that that cut is unnecessary and is against the best interests of the nation. However, we want to be certain that, when the restructuring occurs, it takes place on the ground of restructuring alone, and not for any more sinister motive. That is the first case that the Government will make, and it does not stand up to examination.

The second case that the Government will no doubt make is that the amendment is impossible to draft, would create a charter for lawyers—a charter of contention—and would be tested only in interminable issues of judiciary review. I find that a strange argument from the Government, who have used the ultimate back-stop of judicial review as a reason for being able to legislate so frequently, not by primary legislation, but by secondary legislation. They have always argued that the citizen of the nation need not worry, as he will have access to the courts. Here we see a different case. When access to the courts is against the Government's wishes, they argue that judicial review is unnecessary.

A more powerful case, however, is that it is impossible for the Government to argue that they cannot find the form of words to describe and define academic freedom if they have already done it in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 in regard to freedom of speech. When we drafted the amendment, we did not seek to provide a definition; we sought to parallel precisely what the Government did in the 1986 Act. We merely said that one of the duties of the commissioners would be to ensure the maintenance of academic freedom. That does not require any definition that is challengeable in the courts. It merely lays on them, as a duty, actions that they consider necessary in respect of the conditions at any given university to ensure that academic freedom continues. Surely the Government must be able to concede that. Surely they would appear grubby and partial if, having been able to find the words to protect freedom of speech for Conservative politicians, they could not find the words to protect freedom for the academics of our nation.

I do not consider this a perfect solution; I wish to go much further. It is, however, the minimalist solution, and I hope that the Government will be able to accede to it tonight. It at least provides some form of barrier.

Finally, let me deal with what I regard as the threats. I do not think that we can take lightly threats to our basic liberties. We have seen those threats develop in this nation since the Government came to power and, against the background of that erosion of our civil liberties, I regard this as a matter of prime and fundamental importance.

We must remember that this is the Government who have found the stomach to get rid of a whole tier of local government and to abolish elections in the process, to tamper with our jury system, to begin to limit our rights to protest, and to use the police, in a fashion, to bully the BBC—which I find entirely reprehensible. This is the Government who have taken away the right of GCHQ employees to belong to trade unions, and have found the will and the power to remove from 400,000 teachers the right to negotiate their own pay and conditions. Added together, that does not amount to a series of capricious acts by a Government who do not know better; it amounts to a sustained attack on the whole network of our civil liberties. In that context, the issue of academic freedom is of more than passing interest to academics.

The amendment demands the upholding of that most ancient right — the freedom of academics to inquire according to the curiosity of their minds, rather than the constraints of Government, and to speak the truth according to what they believe it to be, rather than to what is acceptable to the Government. Such freedoms—inalienable and ancient—should be enshrined in statute.

I hope that the Government will see the thrust of our argument. The amendment offers no threat to them, but it will offer reassurance to many others.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I commend the speech by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and his efforts in pursuing this matter. Our views differ in one crucial respect, but I live in hope that we can persuade him to come our way, not least because of a statement by the Secretary of State during the small hours of one of our debates late in the Committee stage.

Three blocks of amendments fall to be discussed. Amendment Nos. 450, 146, 446, 370, 380 and 381 are all concerned with writing academic freedom into the Bill. Amendment No. 417 proposes to prevent the redundancy of staff where a more junior person would be put in to perform the same job. Amendment No. 418 proposes that, where someone is made redundant, reasonable steps should be taken to find him or her suitable alternative employment. Amendments Nos. 415 and 416 are concerned with the operative date of 20 November 1987 and its effect on the ending of tenure. It proposes that that should operate only in respect of first appointments or first contracts established after 20 November, and that reorganisations by a university or college should not have an effect on removing the tenure of someone who would otherwise have it.

There is, I believe, wide agreement that universities play a central part in the sustenance of democratic and advanced society. They do that not least by their willingness and ability to pursue inquiry, however uncomfortable the conclusions, and however much those conclusions may challenge received wisdom or vested interest.

8.15 pm

That pursuit of the central role of the university can take place only in a climate of academic freedom—supported, in our view, by security of employment. Let me say to the hon. Member for Yeovil that, while it is true we discussed this in Committee—that academic tenure exists legally in some universities, but not in others, and does not exist in polytechnics, the other truth associated with that is that the legal existence of tenure in some universities has created a norm, a standard, by which every member of the universities and polytechnics has behaved. It is odd for Conservatives, especially today's Conservatives, to challenge the idea of the force of a moral climate. That is what they claim their whole philosophy to be about.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

Is it not a consequence of what the hon. Gentleman has just described that so many academics are now on short-term contracts?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

No. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about that. As any university manager will tell the hon. Gentleman, that is a consequence of a shortage of funding and uncertainty about funding in the years ahead. The Secretary of State tried to suggest that there were more short-term contracts in universities with tenure than in those without it. I suggest to him that any statistician trying to find a correlation between those two factors would be hard put to find any close relationship. The truth is that, both in universities with tenure and those without, the number of short-term contracts has shot up because of uncertainties and cuts in funding.

Security of employment is critical. The hon. Member for Yeovil mentioned the challenges to academic freedom in Eastern Europe and South Africa, and, during the McCarthyite period, in America—within the lifetime of most hon. Members. In Berkeley, California, academics were told that if they did not sign a pledge not to associate with Communists they would lose their jobs. There could be no clearer indication of the association between academic freedom and security of employment.

Interestingly, all serious universities in America regard tenure as of great importance. It is true that they generally arrange for tenure to take place later than it is often—typically—gained by academics in this country. If that were the only argument between us and the Secretary of State, I would tell him that I felt that there was a good case for universalising tenure, but ensuring that academics could obtain it only later in their careers. The right hon. Gentleman should note that, in the free-market country of America, tenure is regarded as central to the pursuit of academic freedom.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Leeds North West

Although I have never gone along with the hon. Gentleman in wanting to re-establish tenure across the board, I have, as he knows, told my right hon. Friend many times that there could well be a case for giving an institution the right to accord tenure, not across the board, but in exceptional circumstances. It has come to my attention that the London School of Economics has failed to recruit a very distinguished professor from Australia, who had been expected to arrive, but who has now withdrawn simply because it is no longer possible for the LSE to offer him tenure. It is a free market indeed.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I was coming to that point. The Secretary of State justifies the abolition of tenure on the ground that it will lead to greater flexibility in the reorganisation—not to say cuts—that he seeks in the university world. He said: It is important for all universities to have the flexibility that polytechnics and some universities enjoy to use their resources and facilities as they think fit. Tenure restricts that freedom."—[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 25 February 1988; c. 1768.] The experience in universities that are seeking to reorganise is that abolition of tenure is restricting their ability to reorganise. There is a strange paradox.

The Secretary of State should make the inquiries that some of us have made into the problems associated with reorganising the earth sciences. There may be a strong case for such a reorganisation. Is the Secretary of State aware — [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is being given the answer by the Under-Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

He is having a general chat.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

He probably needs one. Is the Secretary of State aware that those who organise earth sciences find that academics with tenure are asking, "Why should we move to jobs elsewhere which lack tenure?" There is no better example of the abolition of tenure reducing the flexibility to reorganise rather than increasing it.

Abolition of tenure not only makes university management inflexible and more difficult to organise, but will lead to mediocrity among candidates for posts and discourage people from moving towards high levels. As the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) said, most disciplines, but especially science, are international. There is an international market in those disciplines.

Britain has always suffered because it does not offer comparable salaries to America and many other places. Nevertheless, in the past people have been willing to come here because of the climate of opinion. Now, not only do people not get the salaries paid in the United States, Australia or elsewhere, but they will not have any academic freedom. That is shown by the report in The Independent, which referred to Professor Christopher Hood, a leading professor of government and public administration at the University of Sydney. He had been appointed to the chair of public administration and public policy from next March, but his appointment was made six days after the day on which, retrospectively under this legislation, tenure was to be abolished. He has decided to abandon that appointment because the Government are denying tenure to university lecturers.

The Independent article said: The heads of geology, chemistry and physics in the universities also told Kenneth Baker, the Secretary of State for Education, that his proposals, which mean that promoted lecturers will lose tenure, will prevent transfers and restructuring of their subjects. The Secretary of State obviously treats the erosion of academic freedom lightly. I hope that he will say what answer he intends to give those senior academics who have raised these deep concerns with him. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to offer a view now, I shall be happy, as ever, to give way.

Last week I spoke to one vice-chancellor who previously had supported the abolition of tenure, hut who said that he was shocked that one of the first questions put by candidates for senior academic posts was how their tenure could be guaranteed, given that it would be abolished by this legislation. I was told that many candidates for professional posts now seek contracts for a term of years because that is the only way in which they can envisage guaranteeing security of employment.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is not just a matter of the abolition of tenure, important though that is, since it provides the classical protection of academic freedom? Sadly, the Government have introduced a Bill the notes on clauses to which specifically say that the intention is to make it possible to replace seniors with juniors if they are cheaper. No wonder everyone wants tenure.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

That is right. The hon. Gentleman indicated his assent by a nod to amendment No. 417, to which he appended his name with ours. I hope that the Secretary of State will say that he is willing to accept this point.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and some of his points hold water. I believe from my experience and the experience of many others that in a large number of university departments senior staff have become very idle and, if they have not become idle, they have become extremely dull. They are kept in post because they have tenure and there is no easy way of easing them out. Such a department becomes extremely difficult to run. In times of economic hardship it becomes extremely difficult to attract new young blood into those departments.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman has raised a serious point, despite the fact that he is wearing the tie of a technical college near Slough, as we heard earlier. There is a price to be paid for tenure. Occasionally—much less often than the hon. Gentleman suggests—people who might otherwise be sacked are not sacked, not because they have views with which others disagree, but for other reasons. No one suggests that gross idleness or gross incompetence should be overlooked by university managers.

In America people have managed realistically to bolster tenure by a process of academic assessment of staff which is more systematic than the process in this country. Such an approach must come here. It is one of the measures that need to be considered alongside academic tenure. [Interruption.] I have been told that I need to be careful.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Of course not. I support the idea of tenure in America where, none the less, there is some accountability of staff. I was in favour of that 20 years ago when I was wearing a different hat, and I am in favour of it now. We do not argue for state pensions for people who are incompetent or idle. We argue for protection for serious academics to enable them to pursue their lines of inquiry, thought and research without feeling the threat of intimidation by outside forces, including those of the Government.

The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State say that they want to protect academic freedom. In answer to a parliamentary question on 20 November 1987 the Under-Secretary of State said : We have recently affirmed … that academic staff should have freedom within the law"— note "within the law"— to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have at their institutions … The Government therefore consider it more appropriate for the requirements of academic freedom to be taken into account by the university commissioners, in consultation with individual universities and colleges, when statutes are amended to provide appropriately for the definition of good cause for dismissal and for arrangements for appeals against dismissal."—[Official Report, 20 November 1987; Vol. 122, c. 676–77] Those words have been repeated by the Secretary of State.

Despite the protestations of the Secretary of State that he is in favour of academic freedom, and since I have listened carefully to the debates in Committee and noted that there is little chance of amendment No. 450 being accepted, we question the Government's real intentions. If they are willing the end, they are certainly failing to will the means. Many of the amendments in this group simply ensure that enshrined in the law is the Government's commitment that the requirements of academic freedom should be taken into account by the university commissioners, in consultation with universities and colleges, when statutes are amended.

Why has the Secretary of State consistently, in Committee and now, refused to accept these amendments, which will write that into law? The only half decent explanation of which I can think is that this is some elaborate tactic whereby the right hon. Gentleman wants to refuse here in order to concede in the other place. If that is the tactic, the other place will certainly see through it as rapidly as we have.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I am fascinated by that quotation which I had not picked up. Those words are repeated precisely in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, which refers to freedom of speech within the law".

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I do not understand why the Secretary of State refuses to do, not what we said he would do, but what he said he would do. No wonder his good faith is challenged when, on the day the Bill was published, in answer to a planted question he said one thing, but six months later he has refused to do what he said. The Secretary of State says that it is difficult to put the concept of academic freedom in the Bill because it is a difficult concept to take before the courts, but he has already written into the Bill that the concepts of fairness and justice shall be taken into account by the courts. In one of his memorable and entertaining speeches, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) said that there were no more difficult concepts to take before the courts than justice and fairness.

The real issue is why the Secretary of State has refused to write academic freedom into the Bill. He gave the game away on 25 February, during a long debate about academic freedom and tenure, when he said: I say to the Committee what I have said to the vice-chancellors … that they must face the question of a general declaration … of academic freedom not being anything more than declaratory legislation. If they wanted something more specific, they would be reintroducing a form of tenure by another name.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

That is what we want.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The Secretary of State says, "That is what we want." It is also what the Secretary of State acknowledges to be the reality, which is that he cannot have academic freedom unless he has tenure. He says that he wants academic freedom. By what other means can he secure tenure? He admitted to the Committee that tenure and academic freedom went together. That is the reality. He cannot have one without the other, and he had better have a better explanation tonight than he had in Committee.

8.30 pm

We are talking about statements that the Secretary of State has made but has so far failed to carry out. On 25 February he gave the undertaking: It is the Government's firm intention that every academic dismissed other than for 'good cause' should receive compensation. I shall come back on Report and, I hope, satisfy the hon. Gentleman." —[Official Report, Standing Committee J. 25 February 1988; c. 1768–73.] We look forward to being directed to the amendments that will satisfy that undertaking. Perhaps I have missed something, in which case I would be happy to be reassured.

We also want to know where the money is. There is no point in providing words, even in the Bill, for compensation for every academic dismissed other than for good cause unless the Government cough up the money. They are coughing up money for this year and next year for reorganisation, but this demand will continue. We must have an undertaking that not only will this be written into the Bill but that the Secretary of State is willing to back it with cash.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

At the end of the previous debate, when the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber—I make no criticism of him for that — I replied on that point to my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins), and my reply will be in Hansard tomorrow. The gist of my reply was that it is more complicated than we thought, but I am looking at it.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the fact that he takes account of the need of Opposition spokesmen to eat occasionally. That is why I was absent for his speech. The Secretary of State now seems to have dived under the table—

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I assume that the complexities are gaining the agreement of the Treasury.

If the Secretary of State does not believe that academic freedom and tenure are connected, he should contemplate his own position, because his freedom of manoeuvre is directly related to whether he has security of tenure. He has to put up with the diktat of the Prime Minister precisely because he has no tenure. If he had tenure he would have freedom, and he ought to bear that in mind.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

In the previous debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was clairvoyant in referring to me as having raised the problem that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was discussing—the problem of compensation for university staff made redundant. I had not raised that point. However, as the relevant amendments are now being discussed, I shall raise the matter briefly.

In his reply, my right hon. Friend said that he had not been able to find any cases of senior staff being replaced by juniors. That is because the Bill has not been passed. He cannot find cases of seniors being fired and replaced by juniors merely because juniors are cheaper, because at the moment staff have tenure. The Bill introduces the provision allowing seniors to be replaced by juniors if it is cheaper. That is in the Bill. Of course it is cheaper. The Government imposed a pay scale which rewards age and experience and makes it absolutely certain that it is cheaper to replace seniors with juniors.

I can think of no more harmful measure in any Bill that I have seen since I have been a Member of Parliament or read about before I came to the House to which I object more strongly than the idea that people in universities should be fired not because they are not doing their jobs well, but simply because it is cheaper to employ someone younger. Since we have failed in Committee to shill that part of the Bill, I hope very much that those in the other place will put right this appalling provision in the Bill.

In Committee, my right hon. Friend, on an amendment that I tabled, gave me a firm undertaking—the same undertaking as he gave to the hon. Member for Blackburn and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)—that if we must have the clause which provides that seniors may be fired and replaced by juniors, he would guarantee a voluntary, generous redundancy scheme, which he would bring to the House on Report, that would survive his term of office. It may be difficult for him to do that on Report. In my view, it is not difficult; it simply means writing it into the Bill. However, if we cannot do that on Report, let us make sure that it is done in another place.

If we are to replace senior people before they have made their major contributions to academic life, let me point out that Marie Curie, Keynes, Milton Friedman and Alexander Fleming did not make their major contributions to academic life until they were in their forties and fifties, and Milton Friedman not until his sixties. Of course, under the provisions of the Bill he would have been fired and replaced by someone cheaper.

For that reason I commend to my right hon. Friend amendment No. 370 in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends. It does not ask the Secretary of State to define academic freedom, which I fully accept he does not want to do, on the face of the Bill. I accept the difficulties that would impose. Amendment No. 370 does not ask that academic freedom should be defined on the face of the Bill; it requires that the principle of academic freedom should be borne in mind when rewriting the statutes of universities.

I put it to my right hon. Friend, who will not like what I have said about seniors and juniors—that is a genuine difference of opinion—to fulfil his undertaking and to have academic freedom but not to define it on the face of the Bill. We have made a genuine attempt to meet the undertaking that he gave in a speech to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals on 30 October, when he said: I believe that university statutes should be such as to give academic staff the assurance that they will be able responsibly to exercise academic freedom, and I shall seek to ensure that the Commissioners will approach their task with that in mind. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept that amendment No. 370 tries to achieve precisely that aim. For that reason, I commend it to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. My fear is that if that is not done academic freedom will be seen to be an issue—which it has not been during my lifetime—it will be seen to be questioned and it will be seen to be threatened.

I was in university at the time of the teaching cuts. I had tenure, but none of us checked whether we had tenure. It was not an issue. It turned out that only about half of the academics had tenure, but we did not know that. We lived in a society that we thought was civilised. We thought that it was appreciative of freedom of choice, of freedom to speak one's mind, of freedom to write what one wished and to think as one wished. It is regrettable that those who went through the small print when the Bill was drafted were civil servants in the Department of Education and Science.

I should hate this Government to be blamed for destroying what should be an integral part of any civilised society and of the policies of any party that values freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of the written word. The defence of freedom under the law may be a difficult task for my right hon. Friend, but it is something that we should all surely wish to achieve.

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith , Oxford East

I welcome the changes that the Secretary of State has made to limit his powers over the Universities Funding Council. Whether he calls them concessions or clarifications is of no importance. What is important is the substance of his concessions. The time has now come for the Secretary of State further to clarify academic freedom.

In Committee I was the fortunate beneficiary of what the Secretary of State put to me as the Oxford, East question, which was whether the polytechnic lecturers on one side of Magdalen bridge enjoy some benefits of academic freedom while not having tenure because dons on the other side of Magdalen bridge enjoy tenure. The Secretary of State put it forward as the Oxford, East question, by analogy with the West Lothian question which was unanswerable. But the Oxford, East question is answerable. We answered it. The answer is that the academic freedom of polytechnic lecturers has been safeguarded by tenure in universities through the creation of a climate of freedom. The hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins) referred to his own experience of that climate of freedom. Sadly, unfortunately and dangerously that climate of freedom is now under threat because of the impending staff cuts. The UGC letter referred to 5,000 staff who will have to go in the next three years. Academic freedom is also under threat from authoritarian developments because of the way in which the Government conduct their business. I cite as an example the conditions that the Department of Health and Social Security is placing on research contracts. It retains the right to decide whether research work should be published. Presumably that depends on whether it is politically convenient to publish it. Academic freedom is also under threat because of the increase in the amount of funds that may be required from outside sources.

I do not dispute plurality of funding. That is good. However, we can all think of examples where dependence on particular sources of private funds puts academic freedom at risk. Cases were reported this week in The Guardian. Dr. Denis MacEoin was removed from the university of Newcastle's department of religious studies, where there was the fear of indefensible pressure from outside funding bodies. Another case at the university of Newcastle was that of a professorial fellowship being restricted to candidates with "a clear Christian commitment." The hon. Member for High Peak referred to a hypothetical case in Standing Committee in which Eli Lilly sponsored research at a university that happened separately to employ an academic who was conducting research into the side effects of Opren. In such a case there must be conflicts of interest, and pressure could well be brought to bear on such an institution to limit the scope or cease the funding of that academic's work.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has provided further instances of academics undertaking research who could find that they are vulnerable. If somebody is conducting research into the relationship between leukaemia and nuclear generation or nuclear waste storage plants, that could be embarrassing to the Government. There is also the example of Dr. Cyril Smith at Salford university who is researching the effect of electro-magnetic fields, such as those produced by pylon cables, and their effect on people's health. That is a very live issue, and one can see the dangers. Another example is that of Dr. Harold Hillman who is working at Surrey university on cell structure and his findings about the distortion of cell structure by electro-microscopy. His work challenges fundamentally the work of many people whose professional reputation depends on the use of that particular technique. Such an individual might be seen to be a threat to the standing of the institution, whose funding would consequently be at risk.

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One could cite many other examples. Ministers may argue that there are few such cases and that only a few individuals are concerned, but the fewer people who are involved the more important it is. If only a few people challenge the orthodox and conventional wisdom of the age, they are under more pressure and they are at greater risk. Therefore, it is important that they should be protected effectively.

Ministers have deployed a range of arguments against the inclusion of a definition to protect academic freedom, but none of them stands up to examination. Ministers have argued that such a definition is unnecessary because of the employment protection legislation. However, dismissal for good cause under that legislation could include the expression of views that are known to be embarrassing to an employer. If the Secretary of State says that the courts can use the legislation in such a way as to protect academic freedom, they will have to rely on the form of words that he says it is impossible to include in the Bill.

Ministers have argued that it is impossible to define academic freedom, but I understand that the Secretary of State subscribes to the view expressed by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals that it is the freedom within the law for academic staff to question and to test received wisdom and to put forward new and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing individuals in jeopardy of losing their jobs. That is a perfectly good definition. The argument that it cannot stand up in law is utterly unconvincing, as the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) pointed out, precisely because the 1986 Act contains a definition of freedom of speech that is no less nebulous. Indeed, the Bill contains other concepts, such as fairness, to which the Secretary of State must have regard, that are no more closely defined.

The Government have argued—here we are closer to their real reason for being reluctant to provide protection for academic freedom in the Bill — that statutory protection for academic freedom would impede the managerial flexibility that they wish should exist in universities. That is the real reason for their reluctance. We cannot afford to cast aside such an important principle as academic freedom and lay it on the altar of managerial expediency.

The Secretary of State made in Committee what I regarded as extraordinary and dangerous statements. He referred to the hypothetical example given by the Under-Secretary of State of a member of a theological college or faculty who had lost his faith and no longer wanted to teach the basic tenets of Christianity, and asked: In such a case, if the faculty and vice-chancellor tried to dismiss him, should there be provision in the Bill to allow him to remain in the faculty because his academic freedom would otherwise be inhibited? The Secretary of State referred to a second example—that of the biologist who no longer believed in evolution. He asked: Should he be allowed to demand to stay in the faculty, teaching in the name of biology, with time allotted to him to teach, if he expressed views that were completely contrary to those of his colleagues? The Secretary of State said that that would be good ground not to reinstate him. I subsequently challenged him to withdraw, and pointed out: His hypothesis is very dangerous to basic academic freedom." —[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 25 February 1988; c. 1773.] The Secretary of State said, "I do not agree." We demand a clear answer from the Secretary of State : will he or will he not accept that it is essential and integral to any meaningful concept of academic freedom that it would be wrong to dismiss someone because his views were inimical to his colleagues' views or to refuse to reinstate him for that reason?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I have been following the argument with interest. But surely it is difficult to make the distinction between someone expressing independent views — something that we want to preserve—and someone who goes round the bend and starts talking nonsense so that his competence as a lecturer is affected. How would the hon. Gentleman tackle the latter problem?

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith , Oxford East

There are two answers to that. A few eccentrics and lunatics at our universities may well be a price worth paying for academic freedom. Indeed, we have paid it down the centuries. The second, slightly more serious, answer is to be found in the distinction made by the Under-Secretary of State between what he called "strict tenure"—the idea that in no circumstances could one remove someone from his position, which finds few defenders in the House—and the idea of tenure simply as security of employment for a person undertaking his basic teaching responsibilities. I again use the example of the teacher at the theological college who ceases to be a committed Christian. Surely he should be judged on his ability to teach religion and to undertake useful research rather than on his beliefs or statements. [HON. MEMBERS: "How would the hon. Gentleman deal with it?"] It is clear that a court would need to decide, given the statutory protection that the individual would have through the insertion of such a clause in the Bill, whether in the circumstance that prevailed he had been dismissed for his views or because of his incompetence as a teacher. At least the individual would have the protection and security of knowing that there was some statutory safeguard for his position.

What the universities and polytechnics and all those committed to genuine free academic inquiry will be interested in in the reply of the Secretary of State will be not so much the Oxford, East question but the Oxford, East answer. The Oxford, East answer is that statutory protection for academic freedom should be written into the Bill. Let the Secretary of State have the grace to concede that we—I include some Conservative Members — have won this argument and to accept that real protection for academic freedom must be written into the Bill.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

I am wholly committed to the proposition of academic freedom. If, as was suggested just now, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State believes that somebody who holds views inimical to the views of his colleagues thereby puts himself in a position in which he should be forced to resign, I regard it as monstrous. But I am sure that my right hon. Friend, for whose judgment I have great respect, cannot really have meant that.

Having said that, the picture that is being painted of the academic community is fanciful to say the least. It is fanciful in both directions. Is my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins), for whom I have a high regard, seriously suggesting that universities in this country are composed of people of so little academic perspicacity and scruple that, confronted with an Alexander Fleming — someone of manifest academic superiority—they would manoeuvre to get rid of the person bringing lustre to their university and to replace him with someone about whom they knew nothing except that he was cheaper? If so, he is demeaning the quality and standards of the academic community to an extent that I find horrifying.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

There have been numerous people whose ability was not recognised early in academic life and whose achievements came later. Many people have been regarded as highly controversial early in their academic life, just as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was regarded as controversial in this place. His merits were recognised later. The same happens in academic life; it is no different.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Clearly, one reeds to try to protect the person who is controversial, but I do not feel that that is necessarily something that has to be written into statute. If the academic community itself is incapable of protecting colleagues whom it finds controversial, there is something more rotten in the state of academe than I believed.

The opposite argument is also true to some extent. Anyone who has worked in the academic community knows perfectly well that at every stage pressures are put on individuals which are very difficult to protect against in law and which are very often unscrupulous and disgraceful. When I was teaching in a university, a large number of university departments would not allow Eysenck to come and talk about his highly controversial views on psychological testing—in clear breach, it seems to me, of the whole principle of academic freedom. It also applies to the selection of new colleagues to take the place of someone who is retiring, in which the judgment often seems to be made on grounds very different from proper grounds of academic excellence. Such selections seem to be made on all sorts of other disgraceful grounds. However, I do not believe that a definition in law will necessarily save us.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Leeds North West

Surely it is not a matter of deciding one side of the equation. The concern that some of us have is with the other side of the coin. Our worry is that all the disgraceful pressures, as my hon. Friend describes them, could be a reason for dismissing someone, and they do not have to be stated if all that the university administration has to do is to say, "We want to remove an older person who is expensive and replace him with a junior person who is cheap." They do not have to give reasons of disgraceful pressure; they simply have to say that they want a cheaper person.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

I am electrified by the proposition that that is a ground for getting rid of any academic. That is disgraceful. However, one gets rid of that by removing it from the Bill and not by writing in a whole lot of other shibboleths which, if they are not carefully defined—it is not easy to define them—will have the effect about which I have spoken before. They would freeze a large number of departments, because it is perfectly fair that for every senior academic whose excellence was not recognised until he became senior, there are many other academics who, as they get older, become more stupid and dull. The inability of a university to remove such people from their posts freezes those departments in a state of mediocrity that I find distressing.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has finished his speech or is simply giving way.

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Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

It is with some trepidation that I rise, particularly since the majority of hon. Members who have spoken in the debate had the privilege of serving on the Committee of the Bill. I attempted to follow the Committee proceedings by reading the documents from it. However, the nuances that emerge in Committee are never recorded quite as effectively in the written word as one would hope.

I wish to speak to amendment No. 146 and to support the other amendments in the group. Amendment No. 146 is a simple and straightforward amendment and reflects the genuine concern felt in many parts of the House about the issue of academic freedom. I am grateful that the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) has supported the amendment without my request.

When anyone asks us to define what is meant by academic freedom, we immediately run into problems. I encountered such problems earlier today when I was asked directly by one of the radio stations in Scotland what I meant by academic freedom. After 10 minutes of informal chat with the reporter, we eventually agreed on a format that he thought might be comprehensible to the listeners. I do not wish to denigrate the people who may listen, but it is a difficult concept to define. That is part of the difficulty we are facing tonight.

In my attempts to define academic freedom, I have always said that I believe it to be the right of academics to speak and research objectively in whichever discipline they may be an expert. I believe that we have to find a form of words to write that into the legislation. There are many genuine fears within our universities that the Bill, as it stands, will deny that academic freedom, however vague we may think the concept is.

I do not believe that the people who talk to us as Members of Parliament are scaremongers. I cannot think of any group less likely to scaremonger than the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. Yet that committee has written to hon. Members to draw their attention to various amendments tabled at the end of last week on the issue of academic freedom. The letter said: By academic freedom—as we have repeatedly said—we do not mean job protection for life, we mean freedom within the law for academic staff to question and to test received wisdom and to put forward new and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing individuals in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Surely that sums up a responsible attitude within our universities and we should take account of that.

The CVCP is concerned that this Bill goes against what was recommended by the Croham report. Indeed, just two nights ago we had a debate in the Scottish context on part of the problems that we see as restricting academic freedom or restricting the freedom of our universities. I do not want to rehearse those arguments, but part of the problem is the issue of the centralisation of funding. That is part of the denying of academic freedom because we may find ourselves with centralised diktats on research telling us which departments can survive, which can expand, which will have to go, which subject areas are popular and which are not. That goes against the whole concept of education as we understand it.

I should like to touch briefly on the issue of tenure. Part of that issue centres on the restructuring within our universities. Perhaps within Scotland we are much more conscious of what is happening in the restructuring of universities because of what has been happening at Aberdeen university, which could lose six or seven departments, and Dundee university, where departments are under threat.

It might be useful for hon. Members to hear details of a letter which was sent to the Secretary of State from the department of modern languages at Dundee, which is to be closed with effect from 1992. The letter relates the problems which were faced by lecturers in that department who were seeking relocation in preparation for the closure. I do not want to go into the whys and wherefores of the department's being closed. I would obviously argue against that, as I would argue against the closure of departments at Aberdeen university.

Anyway, being realistic people, the lecturers in the department decided to go ahead and look for relocation. They turned to the university of Exeter, and Dr. Kearns, the senior lecturer in French and the Leverhulme research scholar, wrote as follows: Relocation negotiations between the two universities were well advanced when it emerged that as a result of the Education Reform Bill we would be subject to considerably less favourable terms and conditions of appointment than we have at the moment. It seems to us grossly unjust that the very members of staff who are prepared to contribute to the rationalisation process which you"— meaning the Secretary of State— have initiated should be penalised in this way. That is a view that I would endorse. The letter goes on to say that this whole process will lead to immobilism within our academic system, and surely we do not wish to see immobilism within our universities.

We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that the staff of our universities are safeguarded, that the standards which they have striven to attain are not in any way diminished, and that they are given the opportunity to maintain their commitment to the university system. It seems to me very strange that staff can be faced with the possibility of having an increment to their salary, but may at the same time lose security of tenure. That is not something that most people in working life would consider an incentive.

There are many issues surrounding these amendments for which the Secretary of State has a direct responsibility to answer to the House. We cannot treat lightly the issue of academic freedom. It is surely something that we can write into the Bill in a simple and straightforward way to relieve the genuine concern of our academics. I wish to see these people continuing to contribute to the development of society, the economy and all that we hold dear. I think that the Secretary of State, being an honourable gentleman, must respect that. I trust that at the end of this debate we shall hear a commitment from him to write in something that will guarantee that principle of academic freedom which we hold so dear.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

I do not want to enter into the Oxford, East question, as I think it is called, or into the question of tenure, because it seems to me that that has gone. Whether that is a good idea, I do not know. I only hope that my right hon. Friend is right about it, and I express no view as to whether my hope is well founded.

What seems to me to be very much the point is that the Government are the aggressor in these matters. It is the Government who are demanding that all universities should write into their statutes provisions making it easier for them to dismiss academic staff. So it is the Government who are changing the landscape, cutting down the trees, levelling the hedges and getting rid of historic buildings. The Government appear to be set on what many may think is a slight act of vandalism. If it is not to be an act of vandalism, they must be very sure that they are replacing what they are knocking down with something that is at least as good. That is their clear duty.

Why the Government have this obsession with dismissing academics I do not understand. Perhaps if I had read all the proceedings of the Committee I might be more au fait. I would have hoped that our universities would be expanded, not cut down. But we are basing our discussion on the proposition that academics have to be dismissed and on how it is to be done. The Government are responsible for the position, and it is the Government's duty, and therefore my right hon. Friend's duty, to see that the present system is replaced by something as good, if not better.

As I said, I did not have the chance or the pleasure of listening to all the speeches made in Committee on this matter, but I have read them in Hansard. My right hon. and hon. Friends are men of great intellectual gifts, but the interesting thing is that on this subject of academic freedom they were able to produce arguments which, with the greatest respect, one can describe only as wafer-thin. That suggests that there is something seriously wrong with the point of view that they are being made to argue. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), said in Committee: The Sloman report said that the freedom to teach is qualified in a variety of ways. I do not think that we need the Sloman report to tell us that. Even Back-Bench Members realise that, let alone academics. My hon. Friend went on to say: Academic freedom is not an entitlement to resources … academic freedom is subject to available resources."— [Official Report, Standing Committee J, 23 February 1988; c. 1707–08.] We could probably all have thought of that for ourselves, without the advantage of the Sloman committee.

The argument is made that academic freedom is such a recondite concept that no judge would be able to understand it, but, by their very nature, all freedoms are qualified. That does not apply only to academic freedom—there is not a single freedom under the sun that is not qualified.

I cannot believe that that is a serious objection to writing it into the Bill, especially as my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins), who tabled amendment No. 370, to which I had the honour to put my name, is going out of his way to meet the concerns of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Therefore, unless there is some new argument that none of us knows about, the case for doing as my hon. Friend suggests is absolutely overwhelming.

Whatever else one may say about universities, they contain a lot of very clever people. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) went into some rather disagreeable fantasies about people in universities getting stupider and stupider and said that academic freedom was a shibboleth. I do not think that that is right, nor do I believe that there are stupid men in universities. I certainly have not come across any. Indeed, I should be very surprised if other people have come across any. However, a number of very clever men are distinctly worried about what the Government are proposing. I gather that the Government are proposing several concessions, but, so far as I can see, they have not moved a muscle on this key point.

I hope that my right hon. Friend, with all his acumen and intellectual resources, will see his way to making some clear concessions and a clear pledge on that point this evening, otherwise the Government will be lumbered with the public having the clear idea that the Government are not interested in academic freedom.

Photo of Mr Brian Sedgemore Mr Brian Sedgemore , Hackney South and Shoreditch

During the Bill's Committee stage I made two speeches about academic freedom which between them lasted an hour. I shall not go over anything that I said then, especially because—it is nice to be able to live vicariously through the brilliance of others —my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) spelt out the general principles so well, as did the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who is sitting behind me. I take this opportunity to congratulate him on that.

The question of academic freedom is slightly more complicated than the Minister sometimes says. It can be about the relationship between the Government and the universities. It can be about the relationship between the individual and the universities. But the Minister has never made any admission of the fact that it can be about the relationship between the Government and the university and the individual. Sometimes that can be mediated in a strange fashion, through the operation of something like a research council.

In this debate I want to talk about academic freedom as regards the relationship between the Government and the Universities Funding Council. With great respect, that issue was bypassed in the congratulatory unction of our previous debate. I want to do this by one example. Let us suppose that the Bill is already law. Next Thursday is 31 March and on that day the Secretary of State for Education and Science makes a major announcement. He will make it next Thursday because Parliament is about to rise for the Easter recess and Easter is a good time for burying contentious issues. Next Thursday the Secretary of State will announce that he intends to introduce legislation to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities. Some people may think that that is a quixotic and questionable thing to do to those ancient and estimable regimes. What would the Universities Funding Council do about that? Could we expect it to say anything on the matter under the Bill?

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We know that the council cannot dissent publicly about the announcement by the Secretary of State, because the Under-Secretary of State assured us in Committee that there could be no public dissent by either of the funding councils. That would be a resigning matter. I find it strange that the councils cannot speak out publicly and dissent from what the Government say. Can they dissent privately? Even after all the amendments that have been tabled, they still cannot dissent privately, because they do not have the statutory powers to do so.

To dissent privately, the activities about which the councils were dissenting would have to relate to activities eligible for funding. I speak as a lawyer, and activities relating to funding would not allow the Universities Funding Council to protest about legislation to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities.

I have followed closely the way in which Ministers' minds work. On 6 April the secretary of the Universities Funding Council would write to the Secretary of State as follows: Dear Secretary of State,Our attention has been drawn to your proposal to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities. We would very much hope that you would feel able to give us your permission to comment on the proposal.Yours sincerely,SecretaryUniversities Funding Council". Three weeks later, on 27 April, the secretary of the Universities Funding Council would receive a reply from Sir David Hancock, permanent secretary at the Department of Education. That letter would say: Dear Secretary,Thank you for your letter of 6 April, concerning the decision of the Secretary of State to introduce legislation to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities and the desire of the Universities Funding Council to make representations on this matter.I am instructed by the Secretary of State to inform you that, exceptionally, he has no objection to your so doing, provided that your representations take the form of those set out in appendix A to this letter, which itself is a final draft of the letter which you will send to the Secretary of State making the appropriate representations. The Secretary of State will then reply to you in the form of a letter, a final revised copy of which is set out in appendix B to this letter.At that stage, the matter will be deemed to have been satisfactorily disposed of. I am most grateful for your cooperation.I have the honour to be, Sir, your humble and obedient servant, Sir David Hancock,Permanent Secretary. What are the two appendices to Sir David's letter? Appendix A is a final draft of a letter from the secretary of the Universities Funding Council to the Secretary of State, which has been drafted by the Secretary of State. It is dated 3 May and says: Dear Secretary of State,In response to the letter that we received on 27 April from your permanent secretary, concerning your proposal to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities, we would like to make the following points.

  1. 1. We are most grateful to you for allowing us, exceptionally, to make these representations.
  2. 2. We utterly refute suggestions made in the press and on television that the Government wish to abolish Oxford university because the Hebdomadal council refused to grant the Prime Minister an honorary doctorate. We felt at the time that the decision was a bad one and have now persuaded the Hebdomadal council of the correctness of our view. By way of reparation, the Hebdomadal council has agreed that its very last act before abolition will be to confer, not one, but two honorary doctorates on the Prime Minister.
  3. 3. We are distressed that Kim Philby, one of your top mandarins, who was educated at Cambridge university, should be giving an interveiw to Phillip Knightley, which the Sunday Times is publishing. This can only further damage national security. We agree with the Prime Minister that one is either for national security or against national security. Cambridge university is against national security.
  4. 4. It is true that a recent meeting of the senate of London university discussed a forthcoming visit by the Secretary of State. We utterly deplore the cry of the emeritus professor of mathematics at that meeting, 'Not that authoritarian man again. Who wants to listen to that discredited old faggot.'
  5. 5. Oxford, Cambridge and London universities have asked us to make representations on their behalf and say that they are most grateful to you for your patience in listening to and weighing up all the arguments in this complex matter.
Yours sincerely,Secretary, Universities Funding Council. Finally, there is Appendix B., the final revise, a letter from the Secretary of State himself to the secretary of the Universities Funding Council dated 24 May. It says: Dear Secretary,Thank you for your letter of 3 May clearing up a number of misapprehensions about my proposal to introduce legislation to abolish Oxford, Cambridge and London universities. Your understanding of the complex issues involved is indeed appreciated and speaks volumes for the wisdom and maturity of your members. That being so, I am sure that you will accept that there are no grounds on which I can reconsider the matter. The basic problem—this is the whole purpose of the correspondence—is that we are beginning to doubt the Secretary of State's bona fides on academic freedom. He is like a man who has stepped into a bog. As he is sinking down into that bog, ultimately to die, he shouts out, "Do not worry, it will be all right on the night. Do not worry, it will be all right when we publish the Bill. Do not worry, it will be all right on Second Reading. Do not worry, it will be all right on Report. Do not worry, it will be all right in the House of Lords." Then suddenly he is dead.

It really is time that the Secretary of State did a simple thing, which is to enshrine in law one of the most important freedoms in our society, that of academic freedom, because freedom in society at large depends on it.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Leeds North West

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State believes firmly in, and is completely committed to, the principle of academic freedom. All that I and many of my hon. Friends want him to do is to enshrine those words in statute so that the whole world can see that he and the Government stand by that principle. I deny that my right hon. Friend treats the erosion of academic freedom lightly. I do not believe that he does. Nor do I believe that his stand is one of expediency.

Let me make two points. The first concerns the narrow and practical aspects of what he is doing. There are gross inconsistencies between what is proposed in the Bill and the Government's perfectly proper policy of trying to reorganise, restructure and create mergers of university departments. If my right hon. Friend believes in doing that, he should not be doing sonic of the things that he is doing which deny the success and flexibility of his proposals.

Let me draw my right hon. Friend's attention to two examples. In a letter sent to my right hon. Friend by the Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments, of which he will be aware, it is acknowledged that that whole area must be reorganised and that the heads wish to do that with the maximum flexibility. Of course, as we all know, the earth sciences review is part of that and a survey has shown that 30 per cent. of teaching staff who had previously indicated their willingness to transfer as a result of the review of this part of the academic world would reconsider that decision if they were to lose tenure as a result of moving.

What is the sense of inhibiting an essential reorganisation by insisting on a hard and fast date, as the Bill does, so that we make it possible for people to say that they will not move when it is our intention to encourage them to do so?

The heads of all the departments urge the Secretary of State to exclude from the relevant provision those staff who agree to transfer under restructuring and rationalisation arrangements as a result of the policy reviews. They stress that that is partly because it is more efficient but also on the ground of natural justice. I really would have thought, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins) stressed, that a Conservative Government would stand firmly by the principle of natural justice. We constantly preach that we are the party of the individual.

Let me cite an example of a university lecturer who received a letter from a member of the university's administration confirming that he has gone through his period of probation. It says: In the past, this confirmation would have led to the offer of a tenured appointment, however it is clear from the Education Reform Bill that any contracts offered and accepted after the 20th November 1987, within universities, will not carry tenure. This means that the contract which you received upon your appointment here will continue. But he has not got tenure.

The interesting point in that case is that the lecturer was on probation for four years. There is an issue of natural justice for many individuals who have been caught by the Bill and put into a position where they would not otherwise have been. It is unfair and, I believe, not in the national interest, and it is simply not efficient. So a combination of fairness and a desire to become efficient and more flexible lies at the heart of the case, which I believe many Conservative Members wish to pursue.

The rest of the argument is really about public perception because, increasingly, it is evident that the public misunderstand the Government's intentions in the Bill. But, all too often, Ministers say that it is not necessary to change the face of the Bill. I have a letter in my pocket dealing with the national curriculum. We were trying to ensure in Committee that Secretaries of State would not have control over textbooks and teaching methods. The Minister of State says in a categorical assurance that that is not possible within the framework of the Bill. But that assurance does not appear in the Bill. Therefore, in classrooms throughout the country, there is still gross misunderstanding about the degree of flexibility or rigidity that the Government seek in the national curriculum.

Here again, the issue of academic freedom is not, in my view, about the motive of the Government, which I do not question at all; it is about perception. I must raise with the Government the central issue of how far down the line one must go towards good management practice. I understand that that is what concerns the Government. It is perfectly reasonable to encourage vice-chancellors and administrators to have more nerve to take a tougher line and to be prepared to take hard decisions about hov, many people they need to employ, because that is a very costly item.

We will face these dilemmas, if the technical notes on clauses mean what they say. The notes on clauses suggest that this would enable an institution on grounds of economy to employ a junior person in a job hitherto done by a senior person. I can see that that starts off being seen as good management practice, but it is being interpreted as enabling heads of departments or university administrations to get rid of difficult people and to replace them by juniors on the grounds of economy, when the real grounds are that the man is just bloody-minded, difficult to deal with or holds difficult views —or has become a lunatic, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has just said.

I will end on the solution to the dilemma. The clause provides a loophole which a Conservative Government who believe in individual freedom ought not to subscribe to. Further, I do not believe that we should get into a position of constant judical review so that each individual who is made redundant goes through all the courts to challenge it on the basis that an institution does not like his views and that it is not a matter of economy at all. I do not believe that many lecturers will have sufficient financial resources to take a case through the courts.

9.30 pm

Let us deal instead with the question of commissioners. We require certain things of the commissioners already. They must have regard to fairness and justice, although the instances I have cited as the consequence of reorganisation do not seem to fall within the realms of fairness because of the way in which the Bill is drafted. Those people are not being treated fairly, or in terms of natural justice. We require that they should be…A set of broad principles as guidelines for the commissioners must include the maintenance of academic freedom and the independence of research. If the commissioners scrutinise university statutes with that in mind, I cannot believe that the end result will be challenged through the courts. In any case, it would be a once-and-for-all challenge — a test case. And who would bring it? At that point, no individual would feel threatened, so we are talking about the union—the Association of University Teachers. I do not believe that the AUT will want to challenge the commissioners on the basis of statutes that embrace the principles of academic freedom. They would not want to go though the costs of that process. If the commissioners do their job properly, their scrutiny of the statutes must be part of a consultative and co-operative process with university authorities and staff. So the end product should contain a broad consensus.

We are asking my right hon. Friend to acknowledge that there is deep concern in the university and academic world about this matter. The problem is one of public perception; we do not want the public to see the Government denying what is at the heart of a free society and of the modernisation of this country and its economy that the Government want. Without freedom of research we cannot stay at the forefront of knowledge and push back the frontiers that are being extended throughout the rest of the developed world.

For all these reasons, the Secretary of State must not only accept these principles but find a way of requiring the commissioners to pay heed to them when they scrutinise and draw up the universities' statutes.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Like my hon. Friends, I have listened carefully for some years to the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) speaking about this subject. In Committee he was sometimes courageous and withheld his vote. I have also listened to him for the past three days—from time to time — speaking about this Bill. If he speaks in that tone, is he not obliged to vote in a way that shows that he means what he says? I hope that he will put his vote where his mouth is.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Leeds North West

That was an unwarranted and uncalled for remark. If the hon. Gentleman had waited, he would have seen that I shall vote for this amendment. I did not support the Government on the last amendment, so I do not know what he is talking about.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Good. I have got it now.

I also listened to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) which, when I first came to the House, would have been regarded as the norm. The reactions to it today, however, were revealing. I say to the Secretary of State that Edward Boyle and David Eccles would have accepted everything that the right hon. Gentleman said. The Secretary of State's stance is not in keeping with many of his own party traditions, which some of us find more satisfactory than these new doctrines.

What will be the Bill's effect on the brain drain? I hope that there will be some answer to my question—I gave the right hon. Gentleman's officials the information—about Christopher Hood, whom some of us knew when he was in Glasgow. That question was repeated by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). The AUT document, which has been given to all of us, states: They will use this power to amend university statutes to ensure:—that academic and related staff can be dismissed on the grounds of redundancy as well as for 'good cause' (clause 131(1)(a)); — that 'good cause' dismissal itself is made easier (clause 131(1)(b)). The document continues : The clause appears in the Bill despite the insistent pleas of the UGC not to frustrate delicate restructuring processes, despite the obvious injustice of retrospective legislation, and despite the danger of worsening the 'brain drain'. It is on that that I ask the House to listen to one point. Last week 40 new fellows of the Royal Society were elected; 15 of them work abroad, at Duke university, North Carolina, at Canberra, at Rockefeller university, New York, at Austin, Texas, at Ohio State, at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia, at Sydney, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, India, at Basel, at Cal Tech, at Madras, at Stamford school of medicine, at Adelaide and at Victoria, Canada. Ken Murray, a distinguished fellow of the Royal Society and head of the school of biochemistry at Edinburgh, is only one among a number who have pleaded with us to realise that there is a brain drain of many of the best in this country and many of the younger members of the Royal Society.

It is a question not of being elitist but of making a calculation as to what the new developments on tenure are likely to do to those whose decision is balanced anyway for economic reasons, outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, whether to work in Britain or not. It may be that this tips the balance. I beg the Secretary of State to take the brain drain into account.

Photo of Dr Ian Twinn Dr Ian Twinn , Edmonton

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his clarification of his "hands off" approach towards universities. He assures us that he wants universities and departments to manage themselves without direct interference from the Government. We appreciate what he has been able to clarify. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House hope that we may have further clarification on the role of individual members of staff.

Guarantees of individual academic freedom are difficult to define. I suppose that for most of us who have had an academic life academic freedom is rather like a belief in motherhood. Most of us believe in it, but when it comes to putting it into legislation it is difficult to define and it becomes complicated. It could interfere with the good management of the university. I accept the arguments that we heard in Committee that it might indeed complicate the life of university staff if too rigid a definition of academic freedom were to be implemented.

My experience as an academic teaching in a polytechnic may be relevant. We had no tenure but certainly we believed in the principle of academic freedom. In my position as director of research, I tried to put pressure on colleagues to carry out research which they wanted to do in the good interests of the department. Increasingly staff are on short-time contracts. That may be a good thing. Certainly it helps younger people to get jobs. Promotions are dependent upon the good will of heads of departments or deans of faculties.

Research time in polytechnics, perhaps more than in universities, is scarce, as is research money. Therefore, in the perception of staff their freedom is curtailed because of the pressure which is put upon them. The perception of members of staff is what we are talking about. As the discussion about academic freedom continues, perhaps not in this Chamber but in another place, I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider closely the concerns of academic staff, which may not be as real as the staff think. However, members of academic staff in universities and polytechnics feel strongly about the issue. If in another place the Secretary of State could arrange for more clarification, rather like the clarification on the funding councils, it would he widely appreciated and in the longterm interests of academic freedom and the right of members of staff of universities to teach and to undertake research as they think fit.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

This has been an interesting debate because it has dealt with fundamental issues. The two debates in Committee on these issues were interesting because there was common agreement there, as there has been across the Floor of the House tonight, that academic freedom—if one could define it—is a very important and precious right and an essential part of our universities.

1 want to begin by explaining why we are taking this action on academic tenure. The case must be made. By tabling the amendment, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) made the clear point that he did not want to keep tenure. He said that he would welcome its being phased out. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) revealed what I believe is the official Labour party line when he said that he preferred to retain tenure. Indeed, I believe that the Labour party is on record as stating that it wants to extend tenure to the institutions that do not have it. I do not think that I have misinterpreted the Labour party view on that.

We believe that tenure produces inflexibility in the administration and organisation of universities, and that is one of the reasons why the Government believe that tenure should end. Our evidence for that is as follows. In the clinical departments in universities with tenure, 76 per cent. of new posts are on short-term contracts. The figures for non-clinical departments are similar. They are having to move away from the restrictions of tenure by appointing at least three quarters of their academics on short-term contracts. Only 55 per cent. of new appointments are short-term in universities without tenure. The non-clinical figures are 57 and 43 per cent. respectively. We believe that it is right to give the roughly 50 per cent. of universities which have tenure the flexibility possessed by other universities.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The Secretary of State has asserted two facts, but he has not made the causal link between them. The more likely explanation is that all the universities are under severe financial pressure. The universities with tenure have had to accommodate that pressure in this way, and those without tenure have accommodated it differently. He has not supported his argument at all.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am afraid that I have made my case. The practice has not developed recently; it has been going on for some time. With regard to the shortage of money, I must state that I have provided some £155 million in the university settlement for next year for the restructuring of universities.

Some hon. Members have said that there will be 5,000 redundancies in the universities. The report in which that figure was mentioned was very important in my discussions with the Treasury. I was able to show that unless more money was provided there could be redundancies on that scale. As a result of the £155 million that I have secured for universities, redundancies will be on a much smaller scale and many new appointments will be made. The restructuring funds specifically include new blood appointments.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I shall give way to the hon. Lady shortly, as I want to quote her in a moment.

We need flexibility, and many universities would agree with that. In the Bill we are specifically providing that the statutes of universities should do three things, and it is important that the House understands the details because this is very complicated. The statutes should, first, enable staff to be dismissed on grounds of redundancy; secondly, to make "good cause" dismissals for gross misconduct or incapability; and, thirdly, to establish an appeals procedure. We will ask commissioners to work that out. We are using that almost 19th century way of dealing with those matters at the request of the universities. —[Interruption.] The universities asked us to use the method of parliamentary commissioners. I believe that Disraeli used them in the 1870s. That is the best way to proceed, because a great deal of work is involved in changing the individual statutes and charters of universities.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray 9:45 pm, 24th March 1988

The Secretary of State referred to the sum of £155 million. Can he give an assurance that a proportion of that will be used for Aberdeen university, which is seeking an element of transitional funding?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Lady will know—and the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) also knows perfectly well—that one of our earlier debates covered an issue that has run through all the debates on the universities, namely, my powers over the funding councils. I have provided them with funds which they can make available. I am sure that they know about the problems of Aberdeen and are addressing them. The hon. Lady asks me to intervene in the affairs of a particular institution. I took powers earlier tonight to ensure that the holder of my office should not be in a position to do that. I can only tell the hon. Lady that the problems of Aberdeen are well known.

Let me deal next with the concept of academic freedom. When this matter was first bruited some six or nine months ago, the whole debate was about the freedom of academics to engage openly in criticism of the Government of the day. It was pitched very much in terms of freedom of expression: teachers and university professors should be perfectly free to criticise the Government, monetarism, Keynesianism or anything else. It was presented very much as a political debate. The present Government have never made any attempt to suppress the freedom of academics in that regard. That freedom is innate in our country. I have not noticed that the last few years have been characterised by an absence of criticism of the Government by academics.

That brings me to the Oxford, East question, which has nothing to do with Magdalen bridge. Roughly half our universities have tenure; the other half, and the polytechnics, have not. The Oxford, East question is this: if academic tenure is the main protection of academic freedom, how has academic freedom survived in the institutions that have not had it?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I shall give way to Oxford, East in a moment.

I pose the question in the same way as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), when he was the hon. Member for West Lothian, posed the West Lothian question. That question, at heart, could never be answered. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) has answered this one, but he can have another go.

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith , Oxford East

The answer to the Oxford, East question, as we have said on many occasions, is that tenure has created a climate in which even those who did not technically enjoy it took that freedom for granted. It is precisely that taking for granted of academic freedom that is challenged by the withdrawal of tenure. If tenure is withdrawn, it should be replaced by statutory protection for academic freedom.

The answer to the Oxford, East question is this : if tenure is to be removed, the Secretary of State must insert academic freedom into the Bill.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am afraid that the answer is as thin as ever. It is preposterous to say that if three quarters of our institutions do not have academic tenure, the quarter that do somehow influence the atmosphere in the other three quarters.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

No. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must save it for another night. I have given way to him once already.

The point that I am making is that, whereas the first questions on academic freedom were essentially of a general, political nature, the issue has been narrowed down to what is really at stake : the freedom of academics within the universities to follow their courses of research or other studies without fear of being victimised by other academics. Academic freedom is protecting academics from other academics.

That point is acknowledged by Sir Mark Richmond, chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. In a celebrated letter he said that what we wanted was a process and method to protect academics from "malign administrators" — administrators within the university—or from some academics ganging up against a particular academic. That is not unknown in the universities. Members of a faculty may dislike the awkward person who does not want to conform and may want to gang up on him.

We are dealing with a system of protecting academics from other academics. How does the Bill hope to do that? My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) said that this was the Government's responsibility. He said that, because we are changing the rules of the game, we are creating a desolate landscape. Some Conservative Members think that we are creating a land of opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Some?"] The great majority.

I should like to deal with the rather gloomy vision of the desolate landscape. The Bill provides a set of proceedings to deal specifically with the problem of academic freedom. How can we protect the freedom of academics such as those described by the hon. Member for Oxford, East? The example of a theological college was given in Committee from time to time. A member of a faculty may have lost his faith but may wish to remain a member and preach to the students that he has lost his faith. A person in a biology department may conclude that Darwinism and the evolution of man are not the right explanations and that creationism was right. The question is whether he should be allowed to remain in that department and lecture. —[Interruption.] Some may say that he should. These people cannot just be dismissed as eccentrics. I am not against the retention of eccentricity in university life, but it puts tremendous pressure on universities.

In the past, people have said that academic tenure has protected such faculty members. That has been a rather feeble protection and has not operated in half our universities anyway. We seek to protect by establishing certain procedures, which I believe will be effective. There must be proper dismissal procedures. A proper committee must be set up to deal with this matter, and this committee falls short of the whole university court. At the moment, the usual arrangement is that the whole university court has to agree to the dismissal. That is too clumsy.

There should be an appeals procedure for the don, the university teacher or the professor who feels that he is victimised and that he will be dismissed because his views are unpopular. I cannot generalise as to every university, but I do not believe that this procedure is a common feature. We are ending the visitor's exclusive jurisdiction, so that the person who has gone through the procedure of dismissal and appeal can appeal, not only to an industrial tribunal against unfair dismissal, but to the courts against wrongful dismissal.

All those safeguards, which do not now exist, are substantial bulwarks to defend the academic freedom of one academic against another. The hon. Members for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and for Oxford, East said that academic freedom was difficult to define, and therein lies the rub.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) did not say that.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am sorry. If he did not, he should have done, because it is incontrovertibly true. It is difficult to define. We have considered ways of defining it. Our lawyers have advised us that if we include a phrase similar to the phrase in amendment No. 450 in an attempt to describe academic freedom, for the first time academic freedom will become a justiciable matter to be decided by the courts. A court may give a definition of academic freedom that widens the definition of good cause for academics and worsens their position.

That is not a pettifogging lawyer's point. I shall explain what we are proposing. Last week, together with my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, I had a meeting with six vice-chancellors to discuss whether we could find a way through. It came out of that meeting that it is very difficult to find a definition of academic freedom. The arguments on both sides were rehearsed. The problem comes if one includes a definition of academic freedom and a university, for example, decides that it wants to rationalise a department and it is agreed universally between the vice-chancellor, the management of the university, and the academic staff in the faculty that one or two people have to go. If the Bill contained a broad definition of academic freedom, those people could claim that their academic freedom was threatened because their jobs were threatened. That produces tenure by another route. That is the difficulty. The hon. Member for Blackburn agreed to that in Committee, and he agrees to it now, as he would prefer tenure to be restored by another route.

I shall tell the House that what flowed from that meeting was a letter that I have sent to Sir Mark Richmond, and I shall quote two paragraphs from it: The conclusion which I took away from our discussion was that we have not yet found a satisfactory answer to the problem. I thought the Lord Chancellor drew out with particular clarity the difficulties we have seen with declaratory provisions of the kind you had suggested on behalf of the CVCP. I am reading out the letter before the hon. Member for Blackburn leaks it to the press.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

It continues: It is because of those difficulties that I came to the conclusion that it would be wrong to try to make any amendments to the Bill at the Commons Report stage; but the Lord Chancellor and I fully acknowledge the need to continue our discussions and to explore possible alternative ways of meeting the reasonable concerns of academic staff. I should like to assure you that I am genuinely open-minded about how we shall meet those concerns. As I explained at our discussion, I believe that the addition to the Bill of a duty on the Commissioners to establish proper procedures to deal with cases of grievance and discipline as well as with dismissal should, in practice, give academics an adequate reassurance against unreasonable treatment by institutions. In short, that is the second half of the amendment, the establishment of a grievance procedure so that a don or a university teacher, long before dismissal, if he or she is being discriminated against, should go through a proper grievance procedure. We are prepared to accept that and to bring forward an amendment in the other place to ensure that.

Should anything further be required, one possibility we noted was that of making it clear that fairness—one of the words used in the clause -- includes an essential academic freedom, but this is by no means the only possibility. The Lord Chancellor and I hope that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals will he prepared to consider a variety of alternative approaches towards our agreed objectives.

I remind the House that the agreed objective is that academics should have a proper measure of reassurance that they will not be discriminated against by their institutions on account of their views. That is the object. I have tried to explain to the House tonight why we consider that the procedures we have established secure those aims. The difficulty is in providing a genuine definition. Clearly, we are prepared to consider that again. I have asked the vice-chancellors to come forward with further proposals and we shall have to see how the debate develops in the other place.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

Those who have concern for these matters have listened to the Secretary of State with a mixture of despair and dismay, because the arguments that he has put forward are as thin as those that he used previously. There are two important factors. First, with one single exception, every speech, from both sides of the House, was in favour of the amendment. Secondly, the Minister's arguments are no more than a repeat of those that he put forward previously. His arguments do not hold water. We may take comfort only from two facts. First, the right hon. Gentleman says that he retains an open mind on the matter, if we can believe him. Secondly, he may be maintaining a position that he will give way in the other place.

The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersharn (Sir I. Gilmour) described the Secretary of State's arguments as "wafer-thin." I should have described them as threadbare. For that reason, this matter should now be put to the vote. I hope that all those who hold academic freedom dear will vote for the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 191, Noes 296.

Division No. 232][10 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeFaulds, Andrew
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Fearn, Ronald
Allen, GrahamField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Alton, DavidFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterFisher, Mark
Armstrong, HilaryFlannery, Martin
Ashdown, PaddyFlynn, Paul
Ashley, Rt Hon JackFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashton, JoeFoster, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Foulkes, George
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Fraser, John
Barron, KevinFyfe, Maria
Battle, JohnGalbraith, Sam
Beith, A. J.Galloway, George
Bell, StuartGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bermingham, GeraldGolding, Mrs Llin
Bidwell, SydneyGordon, Mildred
Blair, TonyGould, Bryan
Boyes, RolandGraham, Thomas
Bradley, KeithGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bray, Dr JeremyGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Grocott, Bruce
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hardy, Peter
Buchan, NormanHarman, Ms Harriet
Buckley, George J.Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Caborn, RichardHeffer, Eric S.
Callaghan, JimHenderson, Doug
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Holland, Stuart
Canavan, DennisHood, Jimmy
Carl Me, Alex (Mont'g)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clay, BobHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Clelland, DavidHoyle, Doug
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cohen, HarryHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coleman, DonaldHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Illsley, Eric
Corbett, RobinIngram, Adam
Corbyn, JeremyJanner, Greville
Cousins, JimJohn, Brynmor
Crowther, StanJohnston, Sir Russell
Cryer, BobKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cunliffe, LawrenceLamond, James
Cunningham, Dr JohnLeadbitter, Ted
Dalyell, TamLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Darling, AlistairLewis, Terry
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Livsey, Richard
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dewar, DonaldMcAllion, John
Dixon, DonMcCartney, Ian
Dobson, FrankMcFall, John
Doran, FrankMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dunnachie, JimmyMcKelvey, William
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMcLeish, Henry
Eastham, KenMcNamara, Kevin
Evans, John (St Helens N)McTaggart, Bob
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)McWilliam, John
Fatchett, DerekMadden, Max
Mahon, Mrs AliceRowlands, Ted
Marek, Dr JohnRuddock, Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Sedgemore, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Sheerman, Barry
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maxton, JohnShore, Rt Hon Peter
Meacher, MichaelShort, Clare
Michael, AlunSkinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Moonie, Dr LewisSnape, Peter
Morgan, RhodriSoley, Clive
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Spearing, Nigel
Mowlam, MarjorieStott, Roger
Mullin, ChrisStraw, Jack
Murphy, PaulTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Nellist, DaveThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Brien, WilliamTurner, Dennis
O'Neill, MartinWall, Pat
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWalley, Joan
Parry, RobertWarden, Gareth (Gower)
Pendry, TomWareing, Robert N.
Pike, Peter L.Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Wigley, Dafydd
Primarolo, DawnWilson, Brian
Quin, Ms JoyceWinnick, David
Radice, GilesWise, Mrs Audrey
Randall, StuartWorthington, Tony
Redmond, MartinYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Reid, Dr JohnTellers for the Ayes:
Richardson, JoMr. Frank Haynes and
Robinson, GeoffreyMr. Tony Banks
Rooker, Jeff
NOES
Adley, RobertBuck, Sir Antony
Aitken, JonathanBudgen, Nicholas
Alexander, RichardBurns, Simon
Allason, RupertBurt, Alistair
Amess, DavidButler, Chris
Amos, AlanCarlisle, John, (Luton N)
Arbuthnot, JamesCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Carrington, Matthew
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Carttiss, Michael
Ashby, DavidCash, William
Atkins, RobertChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Atkinson, DavidChapman, Sydney
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Chope, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Churchill, Mr
Baldry, TonyClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Batiste, SpencerColvin, Michael
Bellingham, HenryConway, Derek
Bendall, VivianCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Cope, John
Benyon, W.Cormack, Patrick
Bevan, David GilroyCouchman, James
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCran, James
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Blackburn, Dr John G.Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterDavis, David (Boothferry)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDay, Stephen
Bottomley, PeterDevlin, Tim
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaDickens, Geoffrey
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Dicks, Terry
Bowis, JohnDorrell, Stephen
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardDover, Den
Brandon-Bravo, MartinDunn, Bob
Brazier, JulianDurant, Tony
Bright, GrahamDykes, Hugh
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonEmery, Sir Peter
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Evennett, David
Browne, John (Winchester)Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Farr, Sir John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickFavell, Tony
Fenner, Dame PeggyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyMcCrindle, Robert
Forth, EricMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Fox, Sir MarcusMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Franks, CecilMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Freeman, RogerMcLoughlin, Patrick
French, DouglasMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Fry, PeterMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gale, RogerMadel, David
Gill, ChristopherMajor, Rt Hon John
Glyn, Dr AlanMalins, Humfrey
Goodlad, AlastairMans, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMaples, John
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMarland, Paul
Gorst, JohnMarlow, Tony
Gow, IanMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gower, Sir RaymondMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Maude, Hon Francis
Gregory, ConalMawhinney, Dr Brian
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grist, IanMellor, David
Ground, PatrickMeyer, Sir Anthony
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynMiller, Hal
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Miscampbell, Norman
Hanley, JeremyMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Moate, Roger
Harris, DavidMonro, Sir Hector
Hayes, JerryMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Hayward, RobertMoore, Rt Hon John
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidMorrison, Hon Sir Charles
Heddle, JohnMorrison, Hon P (Chester)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Moss, Malcolm
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Neale, Gerrard
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Needham, Richard
Hill, JamesNeubert, Michael
Hind, KennethNicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Holt, RichardNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hordern, Sir PeterOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howard, MichaelPage, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Patten, Chris (Bath)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Pawsey, James
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, AndrewPowell, William (Corby)
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPrice, Sir David
Irvine, MichaelRattan, Keith
Irving, CharlesRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jack, MichaelRhodes James, Robert
Jackson, RobertRiddick, Graham
Janman, TimRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jessel, TobyRidsdale, Sir Julian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRoe, Mrs Marion
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Rost, Peter
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Rowe, Andrew
Kirkhope, TimothyRyder, Richard
Knapman, RogerSackville, Hon Tom
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Sayeed, Jonathan
Knowles, MichaelShaw, David (Dover)
Knox, DavidShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lang, IanShelton, William (Streatham)
Latham, MichaelShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lawrence, IvanShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShersby, Michael
Lightbown, DavidSims, Roger
Lilley, PeterSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Soames, Hon NicholasTrotter, Neville
Speed, KeithTwinn, Dr Ian
Speller, TonyVaughan, Sir Gerard
Squire, RobinWaddington, Rt Hon David
Stanbrook, IvorWaldegrave, Hon William
Steen, AnthonyWalden, George
Stern, MichaelWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Waller, Gary
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Walters, Dennis
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Ward, John
Stokes, JohnWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWarren, Kenneth
Sumberg, DavidWatts, John
Tapsell, Sir PeterWells, Bowen
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Wheeler, John
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Teddy (Send E)Widdecombe, Ann
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWilkinson, John
Temple-Morris, PeterWilshire, David
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Wolfson, Mark
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Wood, Timothy
Thorne, NeilWoodcock, Mike
Thornton, MalcolmYeo, Tim
Thurnham, PeterYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Tracey, RichardTellers for the Noes:
Tredinnick, DavidMr. Robert Boscawen and
Trippier, DavidMr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Orders 11 and 17 February] and the resolution yesterday, put forthwith the Questions on amendments moved by a member of the Government up to the end of clause 175.