HC Deb 15 March 1972 vol 833 cc511-3
6. Mr. Buchan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what schemes submitted to him involving fee paying in local authority schools he has approved this year.

Mr. Monro

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member on 2nd February, Edinburgh Corporation's modification of its scheme of educational provision is under consideration. No scheme has been approved in 1972.—[Vol. 830, c. 113.]

Mr. Buchan

I am glad to hear that no scheme has been approved and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will keep it that way. There are two applications, one for the restoration of fee-paying selectivity and the other to abolish selectivity. If, after all the promises in the Tory manifesto about the freedom of local authorities, the Government allow one scheme to be accepted and the other to be turned down, will not this be seen by the people of Scotland as a pledge by the Government to create reaction in education?

Mr. Monro

I cannot accept anything of that. Both schemes are under consideration and until my right hon. Friend has come to a decision I propose to say no more about them.

Mr. Brewis

Does not my hon. Friend agree that none of these excellent schools should be abolished until schools of equal excellence are provided in the local non-fee-paying sector?

Mr. Monro

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point and it will be borne in mind in the careful consideration which my right hon. Friend and I are giving to the matter.

Mr. Ross

Last year the Secretary of State put through an Act of Parliament to give full discretion in these two local authorities. May I ask him, therefore, not to be pressurised and bullied into abuse of his legislative powers just because he objects to a political principle?

Mr. Monro

No right hon. or hon. Member from Scotland is less likely to be bullied or pressurised than my right hon. Friend.

29. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the future of local authority fee-paying schools in Scotland in the light of recent representations.

Mr. Monro

There are at present no local authority fee-paying schools in Scotland, but my right hon. Friend has at present under consideration one proposal from an education authority to restore fee paying.

Mr. MacArthur

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are many former fee-paying schools in Scotland? Will he protect the variety and excellence which we need in Scottish education and preserve choice for the children of parents who are not well off? Will he also assure the House that he will postpone any final decision about the future of these schools until the structure of local government in Scotland is reformed?

Mr. Monro

As I said earlier this afternoon, I must not give a view on proposals which are currently before us. My right hon. Friend is considering them and will make an announcement as soon as possible in the interests of children and their parents.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that, on the basis of his reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), there is no demand for fee-paying schools in Scotland, and will he take the lead which we gave when we were in power and depart from fee-paying schools as is done in England and Wales?

Mr. Monro

What the present Government have given, which the Labour Government would not give, is freedom of choice. These matters are under careful consideration and my right hon. Friend will make an announcement in due course.

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