HC Deb 10 February 1972 vol 830 cc1547-9
23. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many additional nursery school places have been provided by local authorities since June, 1970.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Since June, 1970, the provision of nearly 7,800 additional places in nursery schools and classes in socially-deprived areas of England has been approved under the urban programme.

Mr. Meacher

Despite that figure, is the hon. Gentleman aware that the total number of nursery school places is at present disgracefully inadequate and that such places are grossly maldistributed? Is he also aware that in some local authorities there are 165 times as many nursery school places per thousand children aged five as in other local authorities, many of which provide no places at all? Will he take steps to ensure that all local authorities provide at least a certain minimum number of places, in view of the importance attached to this provision by Plowden?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The essence of the proposals under the urban programme is that there is discrimination in respect of certain areas of special need.

Mr. Barry Jones

What representations has the Minister had from the teachers' unions on this subject? Is not it likely that the cost of implementing the James Report will push nursery schools right to the back of the queue?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is not necessarily the case. Before long, local authorities—not local education authorities—will be asked to make further proposals under the programme of which I have spoken.

Miss Lestor

Bearing in mind the national campaign to pressurise the Government into an expansion in the provision of nursery schools, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that his Government have now abandoned the proposal being discussed among hon. Members opposite that any expansion in nursery schools should be accompanied by charges to parents?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am limiting my answer to the urban programme. There is no suggestion of charges in respect of the programme of which I am talking.

Mr. Ridsdale

Does my hon. Friend agree that the provision of nursery schools has been helped considerably by the halving of selective employment tax?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is one of many examples of the way in which Government policy is interlocking.

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