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Lord Bach: My Lords, my noble friend's interest in this subject is well known to the House. Whether it was this Question or earlier ones which led the Government to take the view that they did on Thursday of last week, I cannot tell him, but congratulations are due to him in any event.

Of course there will be continual assessment of these matters and, as far as concerns the teacher unions, their initial reaction has been generally favourable. It would perhaps assist the House and my noble friend if I were to go into just a tiny bit more detail as to what the Secretary of State said.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am glad that I have support for that. Seventy million pounds for teacher training recruitment for next year was announced on 30th March; £6,000 for all postgraduate secondary trainee teachers; £6,000 for all postgraduate primary trainee teachers for 2000-01 only; and a further £4,000 "golden hello" for shortage subject teachers. That is a pretty good package and the House as a whole should receive it well.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that about 19,000 or 20,000 schools are primary schools and that, predominantly, the teachers who train for primary schools come through the Bachelor

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of Education degree, which is a four-year course? Does he further agree that it is very unfair to the teachers who have come through that system that they not only have to pay tuition fees for the fourth year but postgraduate students have those fees waived and postgraduate students also receive a £6,000 hand-out and a further £4,000 hand-out if they take a job at the end of that training? Is it right that some teachers should be treated in that way when the predominant number of teachers who teach in our primary schools are treated so unfairly?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we recognise the value of a diversity of routes into teaching, including undergraduate and postgraduate entry. But to ensure an adequate supply of the subject specialists, who are specially needed in the later stages of secondary education, teaching must be able to attract the best graduates. That is why the Government have adopted the policy that they have. We have to make the best and most efficient use of funds available. Shortages are greatest in secondary teacher training. Most secondary teachers qualify through the postgraduate route. However, in the present buoyant economic circumstances, competition to recruit the best new graduates is fierce.

It is on that basis that we think that the way in which we have treated this problem is fair. But I have to say that the noble Baroness certainly has a nerve. For years the status of teachers, whether primary or secondary, was downgraded, so that the noble calling of teaching became somehow a second-rate occupation not comparable to other more lucrative employment, whatever its value. We are determined to bring that state of affairs to an end. That is why we have done what we have. We have come a long way. It is not possible to put right in three years the damage that was done over 18 years.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is not an answer to the question that I asked.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, numbers are of course important but so also is quality. Is the Minister satisfied with the standard achieved by recruits to teaching as measured by, let us say, A-level scores or degree results; and are those standards rising?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we cannot be entirely satisfied, but standards are rising.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, can the Minister say whether, despite last year's "golden hellos", it is still the case that we are losing more specialist physics and chemistry teachers than we are gaining by recruitment? Is it still the case that a disproportionate number of those who are being recruited have third-class degrees in scientific subjects and mathematics?

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Lord Bach: My Lords, we are determined to raise standards, and I think that the noble Baroness ought to give what has been announced an opportunity to work to see what is the answer to her question.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, do these incentives and improvements mean that the Government will now be able to introduce more foreign language teaching at the primary stage? That is the best way to learn, as our foreign partners have found.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the Government certainly support primary teaching of modern languages. We very much hope that what we put into effect will assist that.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, last month the DTI published two reports on science teachers and technology matters. They were prepared by the Council for Science and Technology and are excellent reports. What are the Government going to do about putting their recommendations into effect, particularly in terms of continued professional development of both primary and secondary school teachers, so that they have the confidence to put forward their fast-moving subject well and with inspiration to boys and girls in our schools?

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Baroness has asked a very important question. I should like to write to the noble Baroness setting out in full what the Government propose to do about those reports.

Westminster Station: Subway Refurbishment

3.16 p.m.

Lord St. John of Fawsley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What plans the Parliamentary Works Directorate has to improve the approaches to the entrance to the Palace of Westminster from Westminster Underground station.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, as part of the construction of the new Westminster station, London Underground is responsible for refurbishing the old public subway under Bridge Street to provide a dedicated and direct route between the Palace and the station. I understand that the subway will be reopened by the time the House returns from the Summer Recess.

Lord St. John of Fawsley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that characteristically courteous reply. Is he aware that I am a member of the underground railway travelling classes, partly to give more people an opportunity to meet me and partly because I have a free pass? Is he further aware that I am depressed when I reach the tunnel leading from the Underground station to the Palace of Westminster: first, by the

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death-trap steps with which it is littered; secondly, by the builders' detritus that is there; and, thirdly, by the garbage, the cans, the papers and everything else that collects there? In view of the fact that Portcullis House is costing £250 million--goodness knows how much the refurbishment of the Underground station is costing--will the noble Lord use his undoubted charm and influence to see that the small amount of money that is needed is expended in order to supply a worthy entrance to what is sometimes misleadingly described as the Mother of Parliaments?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kindly words at the outset of his supplementary question. As a frequent user of Westminster Underground station, partly because I, too, am the holder of a free pass, I say with what I hope noble Lords will feel is uncharacteristic immodesty that I too was interested in what I had to say this afternoon.

On the substantive part of the noble Lord's attractive and entertaining supplementary, first, I hope that he and other noble Lords will be pleased to know that the major part of the refurbishment consists of a dedicated subway for parliamentary use in addition to a replacement of the public subway which we used to know. So far as cleanliness is concerned, that is the responsibility of Westminster City Council. I know that the council does its utmost to try to keep the subway clean. Other users of the station--unlike the noble Lord and, I hope, myself--do not assist the council in that task. The council is very conscious of the matter; I know that it will continue to do all that it can to improve the conditions while we await the new facilities.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, does my noble friend's Answer to this important question mean that one will be able to move happily from and to the Underground station on one level instead of having to go through a rather tiresome obstacle course, upstairs and downstairs, on more than one occasion?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, when the changes and improvements take place, the route to the top of the stairs, which I believe my noble friend has in mind, leading to our own card-operated turnstile, will no longer be involved. Therefore, we can look forward to some improvement.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, does the noble Lord know when the lift in the station will start operating? It has been there ever since the station re-opened, but it has never moved.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I try to help your Lordships as much as I can, but that matter does not fall within the responsibility of the Directorate of Parliamentary Works. It is within the responsibility of London Underground. I am sure that it will already be aware of the noble Baroness's point.

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In any case, so as to cover it, I will make sure that it does and perhaps an answer can be provided in that way.


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