HC Deb 21 January 1965 vol 705 cc388-90
14. Lord Balniel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy towards those grammar school building projects included in the 1965 to 1968 programmes.

24. Mr. Peter Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will continue to authorise the building of new grammar schools.

Mr. M. Stewart

I do not intend to cancel any grammar school projects already included in local education authorities' approved building programmes. I shall shortly be inviting authorities to reconsider the form of any of their secondary building projects which they wish to bring into line with the policy for reorganisation on comprehensive lines. I shall announce in due course the basis on which future programmes are to be compiled.

Lord Balniel

That Answer will require consideration but on the surface it appears reasonable. Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in future the wishes of local education authorities will be respected and that the doctrinaire political views which now prevail in Whitehall will not override the views of the locally elected authorities?

Mr. Stewart

I do not quite understand what the noble Lord means by asking whether in future they will be respected. It has not been the practice under the previous Government to respect the wishes of local authorities as to whether they wished to go comprehensive or not.

Mr. Walker

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not interfere when it is proposed to build new grammar schools at the request of local authorities? Will he agree in future that local authorities will have the right to build new grammar schools?

Mr. Stewart

It seems that the building programmes of local authorities are one of the co-ordinates we have to take into account in considering the timing and method of comprehensive reorganisation. I have tried to explain in reply to the noble Lord, who said that up to a point it was reasonable, that we shall do that.

Mr. Chataway

That reply seems less reasonable. Does it mean that in future no grammar schools will be included in building programmes which have not already been announced?

Mr. Stewart

As I explained in the debate on 27th November, our view is that a grammar school does not cease to be a grammar school when, in addition to performing its present functions, it performs other functions.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend note the apparent dissensions in the ranks opposite? In the space of 35 minutes hon. Members opposite have asked the Minister to direct a local education authority to a particular course of action it does not want to take and then have asked that local authorities should be given complete freedom to do what they wish.

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. This happens very often.

Mr. Hogg

Arising out of his last Answer but one, does the right hon. Gentleman see that the size of a proposed school may be of crucial importance to the local authority? When he said that a grammar school does not cease to be a grammar school because it adopts other functions as well, was he telling us that he will prescribe in effect to local authorities to what size they should propose to build their secondary schools?

Mr. Stewart

The size of secondary schools is a question not only of whether one has a comprehensive policy or not, but is related to one of several methods of going comprehensive which may be adopted. As I explained in November, I believe in giving a wide measure of freedom to local authorities on the choice of method. This would determine to some extent their choice of size of school.