3. Mr. R. C. Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the average time taken by her Department to reply to applications for changes of status of maintained schools under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944 in the year ending 1st July 1973 and what was the equivalent time taken in the years ending 1st July 1971 and 1st July 1972.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
To answer this Question would involve a special analysis of some 3,000 proposals. The information cannot therefore be provided without disproportionate cost.
Is the Secretary of State aware that there is increasing concern among local authorities about the length of time which her Department takes to deal with these applications and that the delay is growing? Because of escalating building costs, every month of delay costs local authorities large sums. Will she do everything possible to speed up her Department's replies to these applications?
§ Mrs. Thatcher
Section 13 notices and the building programmes are quite separate and decisions on one are given without prejudice to the other, and that is always stated. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that within the past five months we have been gaining on the waiting list.
Would it not help local authorities by speeding matters if the hon. Lady laid down criteria for what she would regard as acceptable reorganisation proposals? Why does she not do that?
§ Mrs. Thatcher
Because many of them are different and each has to be judged on its merit. One of the other factors in delay may be that a local authority might ask us to hold things up to see whether it can make some of the required changes.