HC Deb 09 November 1976 vol 919 cc201-2
11. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will curtail expenditure on special allowances made to enable the children of members serving in the Armed Forces to attend fee-paying schools, in the interests of Her Majesty's Government's policy on comprehensive education.

Mr. Mulley

No, Sir. My primary concern is with the interests of the Armed Forces, and I am satisfied that the educational needs of their children in the special circumstances of Service life could not be met if reliance were placed only on the limited boarding school facilities available within the maintained system.

Mr. Rodgers

I appreciate the necessity for providing boarding school accommodation for the children of parents who are likely to be posted at short notice, but does the Secretary of State not accept that the policy of dispatching such children to private fee-paying schools is in contradiction to the Government's comprehensive policy? Will he not, therefore, utilise the boarding schools provided by local authorities for this purpose?

Mr. Mulley

As far as I am aware, a considerable number of Service men send their children to the boarding schools maintained by local authorities, but there are very few such schools. It would not be a matter for me, but certainly it would be a complete change of policy for many local authorities, and the cost would be considerable if, as I would naturally prefer, comprehensive boarding schools were to be available for all the children concerned. At the moment they are not.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

How many children of parents in the Armed Forces are at fee-paying boarding schools and how many are at boarding schools maintained by local authorities?

Mr. Mulley

I could not give the hon. Gentleman the exact figures without notice, but if he will put down a Question I shall certainly seek to give him the figures.