HC Deb 27 October 1955 vol 545 cc357-9
22. Miss Bacon

asked the Minister of Education what reasons he gave the Manchester Education Committee for his refusal to approve its plans for secondary education.

Sir D. Eccles

I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the letter I wrote to the authority.

Miss Bacon

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not in that letter he enunciates an entirely new principle and in fact says that no new comprehensive school will be established except in a new school specially built for the purpose and in an area where no grammar school exists? If that is his policy, how can there be any experimentation whatsoever in comprehensive schools?

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Lady has, I think, seen the conditions for an experiment that I laid down at the Scarborough meeting of the N.U.T. last Easter. In fact, I have approved four comprehensive experiments this year, and I am genuinely anxious to see whether, in proper conditions, this experiment is a success. I am quite sure that the proposal at Manchester was not in conditions calculated to make a successful experiment.

Mr. H. Morrison

This is an administrative decision of very great importance in relation to a very great city. Surely if my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) puts a Question on the Order Paper asking the Minister to indicate his reasons, he is answerable to the House. May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman ought not briefly to indicate what those reasons ate? If he has no time to think it up, he might consult his public relations officer, who is apparently mobilised at the public expense for party political service at Bournemouth.

Sir D. Eccles

The letter has been published already and I thought that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have followed this case, to which they attach so much importance. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes it, I will, of course, publish the letter again. I will see if it can be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. W. R. Williams

In view of the tremendous discontent in the Wythenshawe district of Manchester, among parents of children in that area and among local authorities in Manchester, regarding this most arbitrary decision on the part of the Minister, will he now say what adverse conditions there were in Manchester justifying the decision which he has taken? The right hon. Gentleman referred to some adverse conditions. What were they?

Sir D. Eccles

In the first place, I do not accept at all that there is a tremendous discontent. I have naturally heard from both sides. The main adverse condition was the proposal to make a comprehensive school out of two buildings at least half a mile apart, and that is not a suitable structure for a comprehensive school, in my judgment.