HC Deb 11 December 1973 vol 866 cc189-90
20. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what decision she has made in response to the request from the Cheshire County Council that it should cease to maintain the Nautical Training School, known as HMS "Conway", as an aided school, with effect from 31st August 1974.

Mr. Raison

My right hon. Friend approved in October the Cheshire Local Education Authority's proposal.

Captain Elliot

Is my hon. Friend aware that when Cheshire County Council gave notice in November 1972 to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it wished to cease responsibility for HMS "Conway", the Conway Club considered taking over the school to save it, but was choked off by the Cheshire County Council's demand for a rent of £20,000 per annum, with a review every five years, including a full maintenance lease? Is he further aware that the Cheshire County Council and the British Shipping Federation are joint trustees and jointly appoint the board of management, and were at that time secretly negotiating for the Cheshire County Council to take over the premises for £75,000? Does he know that the premises cost over £500,000—the money being raised by private subscription—and are now worth over £1 million? As the Department of Education and Science is the authority which has jurisdiction over the Conway Trust, did the Department know of the negotiations, and did it approve of them?

Mr. Raison

First, I am advised that the figure mentioned was put forward by the Cheshire County Council during informal discussions with the parents and the Conway Club. It did not constitute a firm offer, nor has it been the subject of a valuation. It was meant to illustrate the amount which rental arrangements for the premises would involve. Second, my right hon. Friend is unaware that discussions of the nature referred to took place between the parties involved. She was not in a position to approve of them or to be a party to them.