HC Deb 08 February 1968 vol 758 cc633-4
14. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has to revise his programme for the reorganisation of secondary education in a comprehensive system as a result of the post-devaluation decisions concerning levels of central and local government capital expenditure.

Mr. Gordon Walker

The pace at which reorganisation proceeds will remain primarily a matter for each local education authority to decide in the light of what is practicable in terms of available buildings and the building programme I am able to approve. The Government's recent decision to make a special capital allocation for England and Wales of £7 million for each of the two years 1968–70 will allow for some adjustments for those authorities which were relying on the allocations for raising the school leaving age for the immediate implementation or development of comprehensive reorganisation.

Mr. Biffen

Does not that answer boil down to this, that the Government intend to go ahead with their original timetable on comprehensive reorganisation? Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that it will be a sad and disappointing answer to all those Members who put far greater priority in education spending on the improvement of our primary schools?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman is quite right; we intend to go forward, as far as we possibly can, with comprehensive reorganisation. Although one can argue about priorities in education, I regard it as a very high priority.

Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies

En any review which he undertakes, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the long delays caused by prolonged discussion between the local education authority, parents, teachers and the Ministry in Bangor over the instruction of comprehensive education, and will he take steps to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a Question about Bangor on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman must not anticipate it.

Mr. Walker

It is not really for me to terminate the discussions which must have with various people who are entitled to talk to me and put their views.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the special problems of those authorities whose reorganisation plans were geared to the raising of the school leaving age, as the £7 extra will not meet this problem in many cases, as he well knows?

Mr. Walker

I do not know whether it will altogether meet it. I hope that it will meet a large part of it. We have sent a circular to local education authorities, to which I hope to have replies very soon. We shall then do our best to use the £7 million in each of the next two years to the greatest possible advantage. I hope to keep some of it for educational priority areas.