HC Deb 10 November 1953 vol 520 cc777-9
50. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the Minister of Education at Caxton Hall on 26th October criticising the principle of comprehensive schools represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

52. Mrs. Corbet

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Minister of Education at Caxton Hall, on 26th October, criticising the London Education Plan, represents the policy of the Government.

The Prime Minister

What my right hon. Friend criticised was, not the London Education Plan or the principle of comprehensive schools, but the large size proposed for some of these schools, particularly in London.

Mr. Swingler

May I thank the Prime Minister most warmly for answering the Question? May I ask him if he has studied the speech of the Minister of Education, in which she deliberately incited the members of her audience to organise local petitions in London against changes consequential in the London Education Plan? Would the Prime Minister say if it is part of the function of the Minister of Education to go around organising local opposition to the plans of local education authorities which have received the approval of her Department, and which she is supposed to help to administer?

The Prime Minister

I think my answer covered that. She was not criticising the London Education Plan but speaking of the large size proposed for some of these particular schools. That was the answer which I gave to the Question on the Paper. I do not think I wish to add to it at the moment.

Mrs. Corbet

Will the Prime Minister take steps to confirm from the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) that on no fewer than two occasions the electors of London have pronounced in favour of the very scheme for comprehensive schools in London which the Minister was criticising, and that on the last occasion, in 1952, the electors of London did that in no uncertain voice? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore consider whether the Government are justified in trying to interfere with the carrying out of their plans by local education authorities in face of the approval of the Ministry of Education, of the local authorities and of the electors of London?

The Prime Minister

I think that that very carefully considered question might well have the advantage of separate printing upon the Paper.

Mr. H. Brooke

Is the Prime Minister aware that whatever mistakes the people of London may have made in the past, they are showing their present dislike of very large comprehensive schools in no uncertain terms?

Mr. H. Morrison

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Education is called upon to act in this matter in a quasi-judicial capacity, that is to say she has to consider the proposals of the local education authority as against objections raised by various citizens who have, properly, the right to make objections? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Education manifested a bias, as the Prime Minister admits, against at least certain aspects of the London County Council proposals? As he admits, she was critical.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister encouraged the London Conservatives to send her all the objections they could think of in order that her mind might be influenced? Is that proper conduct on the part of a Minister, especially a Cabinet Minister—[Interruption.]—this is very serious—who is called upon to act in a quasi-judicial capacity between the policy of a local authority and its citizens who object, and will he give suitable advice to the Minister of Education, who appears to need it? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that "The Times Educational Supplement" said it was as near incitement as possible?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I wish to be involved in conducting a debate on education, but I am quite satisfied the statement which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education made was very carefully considered and was in no way open to criticism or objection except such as would naturally arise in the ordinary course of party politics. But I have a copy of the speech of my right hon. Friend here, and I shall be glad to send it to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), unless he has already possessed himself of a copy.