HC Deb 10 November 1966 vol 735 cc1509-14
7. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he intends to bring forward legislation to remove from local education authorities their powers to determine the pattern of secondary education in their areas.

Mr. Crosland

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) on 3rd November.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If this idea is not in the Government's mind, why was it in the mouth of the Minister of State at Croydon on 20th October? Does this mean that it is yet another example of government by threat and intimidation?

Mr. Crosland

What it means is that this was another example of the rather sensational methods of reporting of that particular newspaper.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Secretary of State aware of the feelings of many parents in areas such as Croydon, where the local council is refusing to go comprehensive? Will he bear this point in mind in his consideration of this problem?

Mr. Crosland

There has been no change of any kind in Government policy on this. I have said consistently that the great majority of authorities are cooperating wholeheartedly with the Government's policy. There is a tiny minority of authorities which is not, and I believe that this tiny minority of authorities will find themselves subject to the general force of public opinion. Supposing I were wrong, and supposing any of this considerable number of authorities were to reject what is now the clear national will on this subject, any Government would reserve the right to legislate. However, I regard this question as entirely hypothetical, in view of the way the comprehensive reorganisation policy is going over the country as a whole.

Mr. Jennings

In this context, how does the right hon. Gentleman regard his Circulars 10/65 and 10/66? Does he regard them as being permissive or as directives? What does he intend to do with local education authorities which continue to support schemes for secondary reorganisation of which he would not finally approve?

Mr. Crosland

In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, the hon. Member, who has great experience of these matters, will know that the language of Circulars 10/65 and 10/66 was identical with the language which has been used in circulars over many years, even decades, past. In answer to the second part of the supplemenetary question, if an authority submits a scheme which does not appear to carry out the intentions of the circular, I shall say that that scheme is not acceptable under the terms of the circular.

Sir E. Boyle

Did not the Minister of State say in his speech at Croydon that the Government's policy is a national policy and that the L.E.A.s are only their agents? Is not that statement clearly out of accord with both the letter and the spirit of the 1944 Act which, after all, assigned specific rights, duties and powers to local authorities, irrespective of political majorities in the House of Commons?

Mr. Crosland

Those remarks, put like that, are rather curious coming from the representative of a Government who frequently in practice prevented local authorities from doing what they wanted in this matter. I read the text of my hon. Friend's speech with great care after the highly misleading headline which appeared. There was nothing in the speech which would go counter to the tradition of co-operation between central and local Government which has been built up in this country for many years.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the Secretary of State withdraw his rather absurd remark about the national will? This is surely a matter for local option. If it be the desire of the Government, as it should be, to help comprehensive schools, will he look into the hold-up of a new comprehensive school in Stafford—which meets the local general will—because he is holding things up in the most ludicrous fashion?

Mr. Crosland

I am delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman says about Stafford, and I hope that he will seek to convert his right hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I used the phrase "national will" because on this subject, taking either election results or the results of public opinion polls, there is a clear national majority against segregation at 11-plus.

12. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will issue a circular to discourage local education authorities from modifying or changing the method of the 11-plus, while still retaining this method of secondary selection, in view of Circular 10/65.

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some local education authorities, mainly Tory-controlled ones, are changing or modifying the 11-plus procedure but still retaining this form of selection at 11? Will he warn these local education authorities that this sort of trick will not work?

Mr. Crosland

I am not personally too much concerned with what exact procedures are used for 11-plus selection during the interim period while it still survives. What I am much more concerned with is eliminating it as soon as possible.

20. Mr. Joseph Kevin McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he proposes to announce his decision on the scheme for comprehensive education submitted by the City and County of Kingston-upon-Hull Education Committee.

Mr. Crosland

At the end of this month.

21. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in examination and approval or otherwise of the scheme for secondary reorganisation submitted by the Redbridge Borough Council.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Edward Redhead)

My right hon. Friend is not yet ready to make a decision on the Redbridge authority's proposals. I am meeting representatives of the authority on the matter on 6th December.

Mr. Shaw

I thank my hon. Friend for that Answer, but is he aware of the growing anxiety in the borough, particularly among parents who are directly worried about this problem? Could he do something to expedite the procedure?

Mr. Redhead

My right hon. Friend will take account of all expressions of opinion from the locality, and at the meeting which I propose to have on 6th December with representatives of the authority I shall discuss all aspects of this subject.

Mr. Iremonger

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the enforcement of his compulsory "comprehensivisation" of secondary education in Ilford is ruining a perfectly workable system at great expense and no benefit to anybody, and that it would have been far better to accept the original plans of the borough?

Mr. Redhead

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that the fact that I am to meet representatives of the authority to discuss it is in itself a refutation of the suggestion of enforcing or imposing something on the authority.

31. Mr. Dobson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has received from Gloucestershire Education Committee concerning the new selection procedure for secondary education; and whether he is satisfied that the 11-plus examination is not being replaced by a similar or identical selection arrangement under another name.

Mr. Redhead

My right hon. Friend has received a reorganisation plan under Circular 10/65 from the Gloucestershire authority, but he cannot comment on it until he has had more time to study it.

Mr. Dobson

I thank my hon. Friend. Will he confirm that he will not allow a scheme to go forward that does not abolish the 11-plus examination in Gloucestershire?

Mr. Redhead

I repeat what my right hon. Friend has already said today. He will not be prepared to give approval to any plans which retain selection at 11-plus.

Sir E. Boyle

Is it not the case that the Gloucestershire authority for many years has been abolishing the 11-plus and introducing comprehensive education in those areas where it makes educational sense? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if pressure is put on Gloucestershire, of all authorities, by the Government, their policy will be seen to be as dogmatic as their strongest opponents fear?

Mr. Redhead

I gladly seize this opportunity to acknowledge that Gloucestershire is moving steadily towards comprehensive education throughout the county and that, in terms of geography, about one-third of the county is already served by fully comprehensive 11–18 schools. I am encouraged to feel that its initiative will carry it further to full implementation of the principle.