HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1093-5
11. Mr Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will publish a White Paper on his policy on educational selection.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

No, Sir. Our policy is to restore to local education authorities the freedom they had before the passing of the Education Act 1976 to determine the best pattern of secondary provision for their own areas.

Mr. Meacher

In order to test the system of retained selection that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now implementing, will he institute research to compare the educational and social performance of pupils in the secondary modern schools that he is now keeping on with those of equal ability in the comprehensive schools? Or is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's ideological commitment to parental choice—that is, class choice—so great that no amount of empirical evidence will dissuade him?

Mr. Carlisle

I cannot see the connection that the hon. Gentleman attempts to make between class choice, as he calls it, and parental choice. Our desire is to extend parental choice as widely as possible to parents of all classes, as he would say. I do not think that it is necessary to do the research for which the hon. Gentleman asks. There is considerable evidence now available about the various schools. Certainly, I shall consider evidence from the hon. Gentleman if he puts it to me in writing.

Mr. Gummer

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that many local authorities, such as my own in Suffolk, which are in favour of comprehensive education and have a fully comprehensive system still welcome the fact that he is returning to local authorities the right to decide what is the best system for their own areas, rather than be dictated to by his Department?

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comment. As he rightly says, there are many areas that have a fully comprehensive system or wish to go comprehensive and to remain so. That in no way argues against the reason for our Bill, which is to return to local education authorities the right to choose.

Mr. Kinnock

Was that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Gummer) really asked, or was the implication that where established comprehensive systems existed there could be a prospect of, and provision could be made for, the revocation even of those established systems?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman will have to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Gummer) what he meant by his question. I thought that his question was clear and that its implication was clear. I gather that the hon. Gentleman is asking something wider, using my hon. Friend's question as a basis for asking whether local authorities will be able, if they wish, to change their present systems if they are now comprehensive. The answer to that in general terms is "Yes", in that local education authorities will be free to submit any form of section 13 proposals that they wish, and those proposals will be considered on educational merits.