Education Institutions (Agency Staff)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 5 February 1997.

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Mr. Robert Hughes:

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with education institutions concerning the employment by them of agency staff. [12889]

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

None. The employment of agency staff in colleges is for individual college boards of management to determine.

Mr. Hughes:

Does that answer not show the Minister's cavalier disregard for his responsibilities to education? Is he not aware that the decision by Aberdeen college and others to force their part-time staff out of service into agency employment is causing great concern about pay, conditions and standards in education, with the fear that that may be a precursor to turning all full-time staff over to agency employment?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that many further education colleges, including Aberdeen college, in which he and I share an interest as constituency Members, are restructuring staffing levels so that they can deliver a more efficient and effective service to students. He does Aberdeen college a great disservice by choosing to ignore the fact that, as part of the restructuring, 42 new posts have been made permanent.

Photo of Mrs Helen Liddell Mrs Helen Liddell , Monklands East

Why has the Minister not ordered an immediate public inquiry into the college board members who operate the very agencies that undercut the pay, conditions and job security of college lecturers? Is he aware that the matter is likely to be raised with Lord Nolan? Why did he wash his hands of it when I raised it with him in correspondence?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

If the hon. Lady wishes to raise the matter with Lord Nolan, she is entitled so to do; but, in all kindness, I must tell her that it was obvious on Monday that the pressure is getting to her. She should take some time off, away from the House, and visit Scottish colleges and schools to find out what the real situation is. Then she should come back to the House and stop running down the great achievements of Scottish education.