HC Deb 02 April 1968 vol 762 cc171-2
Q2. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now give instructions that the responsibility for the education of mentally-handicapped children be transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Department of Education and Science and introduce the necessary amending legislation.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 15th February to a Question by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan).—[Vol. 758, c. 411.]

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he expects this change to be made?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I cannot say anything about the change at this moment. My right hon. Friends have been reviewing these arrangements. This is also being studied by the Seebohm Committee. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we have to consult with a very large number of organisations—not only local authorities but very many other associations—which are affected. These consultations are now going ahead.

Dr. Summerskill

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the present arbitrary division of mentally-handicapped children into those who can be taught at school and those who cannot is even more educationally unjust than the 11-plus examination? Would he not agree that they all have a right to be under the supervision of the Department of Education and Science?

The Prime Minister

It is because of feelings of this kind that my right hon. Friends have been reviewing this and are now consulting the associations concerned.

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the building of the first college for the training of teachers of mentally-handicapped children is being delayed pending this decision? Will he bear that in mind in getting the decision expedited?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the proposal, particularly for starting a training college—if that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind—through the National Society for Mentally-Handicapped Children. This is one of the things that has to be discussed with the Department concerned.

Dr. David Owen

While warmly welcoming the suggestion, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that many people are worried about subnormal adolescents, and that there should be no gap in their care after they leave school?

The Prime Minister

Yes—[Interruption.] Taking my hon. Friend's question as seriously as he, at least, meant it, this is again one of the considerations. In many parts of the country there are now workshops and other training establishments—I visited one recently—for these children after they have left school. All these are part of the things that have to be reviewed.