§ Sir Keith Joseph
The Government's consultations over the Finniston committee report, and the pattern of responses to it, were outlined to the House on 13 June by 291W my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry. As he said then, the report has been widely welcomed and has shown that there is general concern for seeking improvements in the areas covered by the inquiry. We have discerned also a willingness from every quarter to help make the best use of our national engineering capabilities.
The report's central proposal affecting the Government is the suggested creation of a new engineering authority established by statute, with all the members appointed by the Government. Not surprisingly, this recommendation has been the object of much controversy; many have expressed concern that a body of this kind would represent undue Government interference in the affairs of the engineering profession, and have advocated a body operating tinder the auspices of the Privy Council through a Royal Charter. I have received several specific proposals from different groups within the profession for a non-statutory alternative to the proposed authority.
There does seem to be a readiness in the profession and among employers and academics to tackle widely perceived deficiencies in the present institutional arrangements for education and training of engineers. It would seem sensible therefore for the Government to facilitate the emergence of a focal point for the engineers, academics and employers to work with the existing institutions to remedy the deficiencies identified by Finniston.
The Government do not propose the establishment of a statutory body. Instead they propose to facilitate the emergence of such a focal point by recommending to the Privy Council that Her Majesty the Queen should be advised to constitute a new body by Royal Charter. The Government, after full consultation with those concerned, would be prepared to nominate the initial members of this body, but only for a limited period. The central responsibilities of the body would be similar to those recommended by Finniston, centering upon the accreditation of engineering education and training and the formal registration of those engineers qualified thereby. However, instead of the new body itself organising accreditation visits and assessments of individual registrants, I would expect this work to be delegated to 292W nominated institutions, the new body simply determining the standards to be applied. The Government would expect the chartered body to become quickly self-financing, but the Government will be prepared to support initial funding.
The necessary arrangements will have to be discussed in detail with the existing institutions and I am authorising officials to enter into discussions with a view to the new body being established later this year.
The Government wish to repeat their thanks to Sir Monty Finniston and his committee for all their hard work in producing this important report, and also to those many people who have put forward their views and suggestions.