Call for minister at Pakistan meeting

November 25, 1994

Britain should raise grants to the Commonwealth distance-learning organisation and increase the number of Commonwealth scholarships and fellowships, according to the Council for Education in the Commonwealth.

The council says it is concerned by the funding plight of the Commonwealth of Learning, whose annual budget has halved over the past two years to Pounds 2 million.

The call comes as 41 countries prepare for the 12th conference of Commonwealth education ministers, opening in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.

The British delegation will now be headed by Lord Lucas, government education spokesman in the House of Lords, despite the council's plea for it to be headed by Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State. All ministers are needed in the Commons to vote on European Union funding.

The council recalled "Britain's unintended discourtesy" at the last conference in 1990, when minister of state Timothy Eggar failed to attend because of a parliamentary vote on dog registration.

The Government has also ignored the council's recommendation that the delegation should represent the Scottish and Northern Irish education systems, although there are delegates from the British Council, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Office for Standards in Education and Overseas Development Administration as well as from the Department for Education.

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