HC Deb 03 May 1972 vol 836 cc382-4
26. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a further statement about the future of local authority selective schools.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

My Department has today written to the Glasgow Education Authority explaining why I am unable to reach a decision on the proposed amendments to its educational provision and transfer schemes in time to take effect from the beginning of the 1972–73 session, and asking whether the authority intends to carry out its duty under the existing schemes. I am putting copies of my letter in the Library.

Mr. MacArthur

Will my right hon. Friend state clearly that he is rejecting all proposals that are educationally unsound? Will he immediately insist that these excellent schools should be required to take the usual intake of pupils this coming academic year?

Mr. Campbell

I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety about this. While the corporation has now supplied me with some further information that is required, the scheme is still not complete and it is not possible for me to consider it or to give approval until I have had these further details and further consultations have taken place with those concerned.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that he is now in a very dangerous position? Is he aware that the people of Glasgow have again given their decision and the political outlook of the party opposite is such that it may be thought that he is using administrative obstruction as a means of thwarting the will of the people in Glasgow? Will he not agree to accept the decision of the people and try to co-operate?

Mr. Campbell

I do not regard this as a decision of the people on this matter. It has to be considered in the light of the enormous number of gains by Conservatives three years ago. The effect of local elections does not release the corporation from the duty to formulate schemes which meet the requirements of the Education Acts. Neither does it release any Secretary of State from his duty of examining schemes and ensuring that they are not defective before giving the approval required of him.

Mr. Galbraith

My right hon. Friend is a very polite gentleman but would he not agree that the plan put forward by Glasgow Corporation does not even begin to make sense? Will he please say this firmly and clearly so that we can set at rest the anxieties of parents who feel that their children are being treated not as children requiring education but as units to be shifted about like sacks of potatoes?

Mr. Campbell

As I have made clear in the House earlier and when I saw members of the corporation, the first proposals were defective and not enough consultation with parents and teachers had been carried out. For those two reasons alone it was not possible for me to give my approval.

Mr. John Smith

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he does not object to the abolition of fee-paying in principle if that decision is arrived at by the local authority? Will he make that crystal clear to his hon. Friends on the back benches who do not seem to accept it?

Mr. Campbell

The issue at present is selection rather than fee-paying, but I confirm that the Government are not trying to lay down what local authorities should do in these matters. However, that does not release them from their duty to put forward schemes which meet the requirements under the Act.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is it not outrageous that parents of children in the first and second years of school do not know to which school their children will go in the new session? Will my right hon. Friend make clear to Glasgow that, even if Labour wins every seat in the city, this will in no way release the corporation from its obligation to ensure that children's education is not disrupted by mad schemes?

Mr. Campbell

I agree about the unsettling nature of the present situation, and I know there are a great many parents—thousands have written to me—who are anxious about their children's future.

Mr. Buchan

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that he is indulging in a disgraceful piece of stalling? If he wishes to break his own promises of freedom for local authorities, why does he not have the courage to do so plainly instead of proceeding in this way? Was not a further, statement about the future of local authority schools made by the people of Edinburgh yesterday?

Mr. Campbell

"No, Sir" to the first point, and "No, Sir" to the second.