HC Deb 15 June 1972 vol 838 cc1712-3
21. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations she has had concerning the size of local education authorities proposed in the Local Government Bill.

Mrs. Thatcher

Following the publication of the Government's White Paper in February 1971 there was a period of nine months in which all concerned had ample opportunity of making their views known. Many factors have to be considered in deciding the size of local education authorities.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Lady not agree that the larger the local education authority—and some of the new proposed local education authorities will be very large indeed—the greater the need for the delegation of some powers to elected authorities? Is she aware that the Local Government Bill abolishes all delegation and that for a personal service such as education this is a completely retrograde act? Would she impress upon all concerned that provision ought to be made in the Bill for delegation for the reason I have given and also to avoid the farcial situation in which major cities such as Bristol, Hull, Nottingham, Leicester and so on will have no educational functions of any kind?

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that this matter has been debated during the passage of the Local Government Bill on several occasions. It is true that statutory delegation goes, but it is my intention when the Bill has passed through all its stages, to give guidance in a circular about the administration of education with a view to giving as much of a say locally as possible.

Mr. James Johnson

Since Hull has been mentioned, may I ask the right hon. Lady whether she has any idea of the sociological and geographical divisions of the new non-metropolitan Humberside county? Does she realise that the two banks are not yet linked by a bridge and that there are wide open spaces in Lincolnshire? Will she think again and use her influence to bring about the linking into local education administration units of places such as Scunthorpe and Grimsby, as well as the North Bank?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not have the details in mind, but within the 1944 Education Act there is power to amalgamate local education authorities into a joint committee.