HC Deb 16 June 1966 vol 729 cc1636-7
21. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he proposes to take regarding those local education authorities who submit proposals arising from Circular 10/65 which are aimed at continuing the 11-plus examination in one form or other.

Mr. Crosland

Local education authorities are not asked to reply to my Circular 10/65 until 12th July. The remaining parts of this Question therefore relate to hypothetical circumstances.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of Tory-controlled councils are or will be submitting to him quite bogus proposals which will continue the 11-plus in one form or another? Is he also aware that parents in those areas will expect some firm action from him?

Mr. Crosland

If bogus schemes are submitted, I shall reject them.

Sir G. Nabarro

Local democracy!

Mr. Charles Morrison

How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile Circular 10/65 with local democracy?

Mr. Crosland

That is a question which might well be addressed to a number of right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench who have also occupied this post. The fact is that it is a long established tradition in this country that while the Government do not interfere with detailed local decisions, such as where to site a school, nevertheless it is the function of the Government to lay down the broad lines of national education policy, and that it what we have done.

Sir E. Boyle

The right hon. Gentleman will agree, however, that the Question of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) follows rather ironically on the second half of the supplementary answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave on the preceding Question. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the months ahead it will be much more important to scrutinise very severely some non-viable schemes for comprehensive education by some Labour-controlled authorities rather than to force comprehension on authorities which are already fulfilling their statutory duty by providing a full range of opportunity?

Mr. Crosland

There is nothing in the slightest ironic in the juxtaposition of these two Questions. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we have always left detailed questions, such as the siting of a school, to local authorities and I hope that we always shall. But it must be the responsibility of the Government, of whatever complexion, to lay down the broad lines of education policy. As to scrutinising schemes, my main worry at the moment is that expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick)—that we may have some rather bogus schemes from Conservative authorities. But the 'fight hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I have always scrutinised schemes with the greatest of care, even when they have come from Labour authorities.

Mr. Longden

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that he is acting constitutionally in seeking to alter by Ministerial circular the intentions of Parliament as to secondary education as laid down in the Education Act, 1944?

Mr. Crosland

I am perfectly satisfied, and none of the associations concerned, nor the Opposition Front Bench, has ever suggested that I was acting unconstitutionally.

Mr. David Watkins

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there is nothing democratic about the 11-plus selection system and all that goes with it?