HC Deb 14 February 1978 vol 944 cc226-7
7. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is now satisfied that all colleges and departments of education scheduled for closure will be retained for other educational purposes.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

As I explained to my hon. Friend in reply to his Question on 30th November, it is for the individual maintaining authorities and voluntary bodies to determine the future of premises which become available in due course, and lengthy negotiations are often involved. To date, alternative educational use is firmly in prospect for 15 colleges or annexes and parts of three other colleges. Most of the remainder are as yet undecided.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he accept that there is absolutely no cause for complacency in the present position? Is there nothing which could be done by the Department of Education and Science to convince local authorities of the necessity of retaining educational capital for educational purposes rather than selling it off to make a quick buck for some ratepayers?

Mr. Oakes

I agree with my hon. Friend. Of a further 17 colleges, six parts of five others and one annexe yet to be decided, 13 are being considered for other educational purposes. Therefore most educational authorities are doing as he suggests. However, we shall be writing to education authorities who have redundant colleges, pointing out the strong hope of my Department that they will be retained for educational use.

Mr. Roderick

In view of the changing economic climate which we are led to expect by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will my hon. Friend reconsider the closure programme so that we may have a real breakthrough in the teacher supply situation and have reduced class sizes on a scale that we have never known before?

Mr. Oakes

I do not think so. The House considered this matter after long negotiations last summer. To reopen the question would do a great disservice to higher education.