HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 cc490-2
14. Mr. Michael Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the proposed changes to the Eglwys Wen primary school at Whitchurch, Cardiff.

Mr. Barry Jones

As well as three letters forwarded to my right hon. and learned Friend by the hon. Member, he has received 10 letters from local residents, some with multiple signatures.

Mr. Roberts

Does the Minister recognise that the proposals for the Eglwys Wen primary school are totally unacceptable to parents because they diminish the amenities available to children and introduce segregation by language so that children in the same building will not eat, play or talk together? However, does he appreciate that, despite all these factors, there is no hostility to the Welsh language? Will he allay the genuine fears of people in the area by holding a public inquiry?

Mr. Barry Jones

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the proposals will fall to be considered by the Secretary of State for Wales under the provisions of section 13 of the Education Act 1944. I cannot comment on the merits of the proposals at a time when the statutory procedures are in process. Nevertheless, I confirm that the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter with me and expressed his concern. It is our policy generally to encourage local education authorities to make provision for bilingual education in keeping with the needs and characteristics of their areas and taking account of the wishes of the parents.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the Minister accept that in this and other cases one has to balance the position in a neighbourhood against the inconvenience to many parents who require Welsh-based education to "bus" their children long distances to the inner city areas because there is no neighbourhood provision? Will he examine the amount of money which the Government propose to allow local authorities in specific grants and consider whether that amount should be increased to enable difficulties of this kind to be alleviated by a new building programme?

Mr. Barry Jones

The hon. Gentleman speaks with experience of his subject, but I shall not be tempted into going wider than the original Question. However, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned specific grants. I am sure he agrees that throughout Wales there has been a good welcome for the proposals. Indeed, when the NUT and the Welsh Joint Education Committee agree, it is a matter for rejoicing in Wales.

Mr. Abse

Will my hon. Friend underline the fact that Wales does not want to see any system of apartheid operating inside its schools? Does he agree that there is no desire by Wales to introduce the kind of system which exists in Ulster and that, judging by the strong feelings which have been expressed to me and to other hon. Members in Wales, the view is that once again there has been strong politicising of the language, which is causing grave and unnecessary divisions in Wales?

Mr. Barry Jones

There will be no apartheid in Wales. That is the last thing the Department would wish. I draw attention to what the Secretary of State for Wales said when the initiative on specific grants was announced. He said—and I agree with him— that he hoped that the grant would help to end the hostility and diversiveness caused by providing bilingual education.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Will the Minister give a firm assurance that there will be consultation with parents in all these cases, and that the Welsh Office will ensure that such consultation takes place and will supervise the process?

Mr. Barry Jones

The Welsh Office has always ensured that consultation is adequate and genuine.

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