HC Deb 24 April 1969 vol 782 cc634-5
10. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will introduce legislation regarding secondary education before the summer adjournment.

Mr. Edward Short

No, Sir, not before the summer adjournment.

Mr. Lane

Will the Minister think long and hard before trying to compel comprehensivisation by Act of Parliament? Will he pay special attention to the wise advice given to us recently by Sir William Alexander that we should avoid making education a political shuttlecock and that further legislation, so far as possible, should be agreed legislation?

Mr. Short

What the hon. Gentleman wishes to maintain is a system which draws a line at the age of eleven—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and divides into two compartments children between whom there is no perceptible difference. If some authorities will not end this voluntarily—and I would prefer it to be done voluntarily—it must be done by this House.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking currently to abolish segregation altogether, at any age, and when does he think that it will be achieved?

Mr. Short

The Government have been trying to do it since 1964 on a voluntary basis. We have achieved a great deal of success. Over 100 of the 163 authorities have made progress. Obviously a number of authorities do not intend to make any progress, and I do not intend to allow the children in those authorities to suffer as a result.

Sir E. Boyle

Is it the Minister's intention to present a White Paper or Green Paper to the House before the summer about the proposed legislation? Would it not be quite unprecedented to introduce a controversial Bill making a major change in the relative responsibilities of central and local government without first doing so?

Mr. Short

I hope that there will be no controversy about the desire to end this great social injustice. This is where the brain drain is, in fact. The real brain drain is not across the Atlantic but in the eleven-plus. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will support me in this.

Mr. Jennings

If segregation is wrong at the age of eleven, twelve or thirteen, how right is it at the age of eighteen?

Hon. Members


20. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he now proposes to introduce legislation to compel local authorities to produce plans for reorganising their schools on comprehensive lines.

Mr. Edward Short

I am not ready to make a statement.

Mr. Price

But is my right hon. Friend aware that the Birmingham Conservatives, by their bigoted, ideological attitude to this problem, are putting at risk school places for secondary school children within the next year or two? In view of that, together with their threat to sue him, does not my right hon. Friend think that he ought to bring in some legislation very soon?

Mr. Short

I will not comment on the threat to sue me. This is a hazard which all Ministers have to endure. I will not comment on the Birmingham position either, but I understand that the position is being reconsidered there and I hope to hear something from the local authority before too long.

Sir E. Boyle

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is right or sensible to deny to authorities school-building projects which are badly needed and perfectly consistent with the policy of all parties in this House, on the ground that the authorities concerned will not reorganise or undertake to reorganise their existing schools?

Mr. Short

All I have asked Birmingham for is information about its plans—that seems to make good sense—before I authorise any secondary projects.