HC Deb 19 November 1959 vol 613 cc1316-9
8. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Education if he is aware of the concern arising from the decision of his Department to reduce extensively the proposals of the Kent County Council for building urgently needed primary schools in 1960–61 and 1961–62; in view of this, why such action was taken; and when he anticipates action will be permissible to catch up on the programme in keeping with modern needs and in accordance with policy outlined in the Government's White Paper on education.

Mr. Dodds

On a point of order. May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that line 3 of my Question should read "primary and secondary schools"?

Sir D. Eccles

I regret that the Answer, of course, is based upon the Question as printed.

The most urgent task is to provide secondary schools. Nevertheless, 13 primary school projects asked for by the Kent Local Education Authority can start in 1960–62 in addition to 20 secondary school projects. I know there has been some disappointment about proposals which must wait, but it was not intended nor in terms of building capacity would it have been possible to start the whole of the five-year programme in the first two years.

Mr. Dodds

While I can appreciate that the Minister is pleased that the word "secondary" is not in my Question, may I ask if he is aware of the terrific disappointment which has been caused in Kent in that he has eliminated in a ruthless fashion many urgently needed schools, and, in particular, stage one of the Picardy Secondary School for Girls at Erith? In view of what he has done in Kent, does he not think it is making a mockery of the Government's White Paper? Is he aware that, before long, representations will be made from both sides of the House about the disgraceful way in which he has wielded the axe with regard to Kent?

Sir D. Eccles

I certainly cannot accept any of those statements. When my predecessor quite rightly decided upon a five-year programme, of course it was an invitation to all the local authorities to ask in the first place for a start on all the schools in that programme. We knew that would happen, but we thought that the advantages of being able to plan over five years would outweigh the complaints that I think we are bound to receive.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister aware that this proposal would replace the worst secondary school in the county, and that he has eliminated it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I called the hon. Gentleman to ask his next Question.

Mr. Dodds

All right, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory Answer, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment as soon as possible. Question No. 9.

21. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Minister of Education the sums submitted to him by the Kent Education Committee for the building of primary and secondary schools, respectively, in the next two years; and the amounts he has approved.

Sir D. Eccles

The local education authority submitted proposals costing £811,000 for primary schools and £2,529,000 for secondary schools. I have approved projects amounting to £522,000 and £1,555,000 respectively. These will enable the authority to provide the additional places needed and to make a substantial start on the improvement of secondary schools.

Mr. Irving

Do not these figures make nonsense of the statement last week by the Parliamentary Secretary that the White Paper proposals were fundamentally sound? Here is a county which states its minimum requirements—it is a county not given to rashness, but its requirements have been cut by almost half—and a county which does not believe that the White Paper proposals will allow it to achieve its minimum requirements. Therefore, will the Minister review his proposals, and allow a number of schemes to go ahead which would be more in keeping with the minimum?

Sir D. Eccles

No I will not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because there is all the difference in the world between programmes which the local authorities put forward and would like to carry out, and those which they are capable of doing over a five-year period. Naturally, if a local authority wants to start building schools and puts proposals forward to me and I have to turn them down because I know the programme is beyond their resources—

Mr. Manuel

Why turn them down?

Sir D. Eccles

—I have to postpone them—the responsibility is then on the Minister. If I were a member of a local authority I would do much the same thing.

Mr. Greenwood

Is not what is happening in Kent typical of what is happening in the country as a whole? Is not it a fact that of schemes submitted by local authorities totalling £117 million, only £55 million have been allowed by the Government?

Sir D. Eccles

The point is that we can do only this £400 million worth of work in the five years, according to the building capacity which we foresee. It is sensible to plan that out over the period. But that does not mean that local authorities do not try to get in a maximum number of their plans during the earlier years of the programme. We have to tell them that some of their plans must be postponed.

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