HC Deb 26 June 1973 vol 858 cc1294-6
2. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what deputations she has recently received to discuss the adequacy of the standards laid down in the current school building regulations.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

None, Sir.

Mr. Spearing

Is the right hon. Lady aware that within the last six months both her Under Secretaries—the one sitting next to her and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead—have refused to give me an interview to discuss very important matters concerning standards of school building?

In view of recent events, and as the pressure on architects to skimp on maintenance, on standards, and on the standards laid down about the numbers of pupils, are quite unrelated to educational needs, should not her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and the right hon. Lady herself see me about this subject?

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has just indicated that he is unaware that he has ever refused the hon. Gentleman an interview.

Mr. Spearing

Quite wrong—he has.

Mrs. Thatcher

There may be some misunderstanding. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to come and see me.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

As regards the school building programme, will my right hon. Friend look closely at the facilities being provided for teachers and staff in schools? Does she recognise that many of these facilities are hopelessly inadequate in many schools, such as Hands-worth Grammar School? Although I agree that the provisions of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act do not apply to educational establishments, should not those minimum requirements apply?

Mrs. Thatcher

Those minimum requirements are for different circumstances from those prevailing in schools. I am aware of the circumstances at Handsworth Grammar School, which my hon. Friend raised with me before. Hitherto the standards have been well above minimum standards, but I know that some difficulty arises and this was pointed out in the debate we had on the cost limits. I hope that the recent increase of 22 per cent. will help to overcome the difficulty.

Mr. Stallard

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is widespread alarm and despondency in my constituency following last week's disaster at Camden School for Girls? Is she aware that the technical study she has promised to institute will leave many questions unanswered? Will she reconsider her decision and have a full-scale public inquiry in view of the repercussions of that accident on many similar structures?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Member knows from a reply he has received, we thought it best to set up as a matter of urgency an inquiry conducted by the Building Research Establishment into the technical reasons for the failure. We expect that to take about two months. I have undertaken to publish the report. When it is published and we know what it says, I shall decide whether further action is required.