HC Deb 13 March 1973 vol 852 c1103
10. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the results so far achieved by policies of positive discrimination in allocating resources in education.

Mrs. Thatcher

A great deal still remains to be done but a useful start has been made. There are a number of research projects to devise and evaluate new approaches.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Minister aware that positive discrimination programmes were seen originally as massively expanding in the early 1970s in order to produce greater equality of opportunity? Why has the right hon. Lady, therefore, kept down such expenditure to a pathetically minuscule 1 per cent. or so of the educational budget, which cannot possibly seriously influence educational standards in the deprived areas and at present offers no more than a mere political shop window facade of concern about these areas?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is nonsense. What is involved in the raising of the school leaving age cannot be called petty cash in either capital or revenue expenditure. We are discussing £50 million a year on improved primary schools. That cannot be called petty cash. Nor can the nursery school programme be called petty cash. None of them was able to be undertaken by the hon. Gentleman's own Government.

Mr. Hattersley

Has the right hon. Lady thought of using her Department's resources to establish objective criteria for education priority areas to ensure that resources are allocated to areas with a general national need rather than leaving it in part to the decision of local authorities?

Mrs. Thatcher

The criteria are those for the urban programme. But they would inevitably be comparatively crude criteria, and for our nursery programme we must leave some element to local education authorities.