HC Deb 12 June 1969 vol 784 cc1654-5
25 and 26. Mr. Astor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) why arrangements were made for the Minister of State to receive a delegation from a political organisation in Newbury to discuss the reorganisation of secondary education in the area of the Newbury Divisional Executive Committee;

(2) why he has refused to agree to the requests of the Newbury Divisional Executive Committee and of four teacher organisations in Newbury to receive delegations to discuss the reorganisation of secondary education in the Newbury area.

Mr. Edward Short

Five deputations on this matter were requested and I arranged for four of them to be received at senior official level. My right hon. Friend received informally an information deputation from the Newbury Constituency Labour Party to honour a long-standing undertaking given by her predecessors and because it would have been improper for officials to see such a deputation.

Mr. Astor

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it appropriate that a delegation from one political organisation should be received in this way, when a similar courtesy and opportunity was refused to the divisional executive representatives of the education committee and the teacher organisations? Might not subsequent joint meetings have been prejudiced by this earlier reaction?

Mr. Short

As far as I am aware only one political organisation in Newbury asked for a deputation to be received. It would be improper to allow officials to receive a deputation from a political party. I always regard these as unofficial deputations. I never see them on the premises of the Department.

Sir E. Boyle

Is it not a very curious procedure for the right hon. Gentleman not to see the officially constituted body, the divisional executive, but for the right hon. Lady to receive, even unofficially, a particular political party? Is that not all the more discourteous and surprising bearing in mind that Berkshire has tried to pursue a policy on secondary education dictated entirely by educational considerations?

Mr. Short

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say how many times he met Birmingham Conservatives on this matter.

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I cannot recall any occasion on which I received a delegation of my party and did not receive the Labour Party in power in the local authority?

Mr. Short

I imagine that, whether as Minister or Minister of State, the right hon. Gentleman turned down thousands of deputations. He knows that if in this Department we were to receive all the deputations we are asked to receive we should not have time to eat or breathe.