§ Mr. Dunn
In January 1983 there were some 458,000 under-fives in education—the highest number ever and an increase of about 22,000 over the previous year. It is for local education authorities to decide on the level of provision in the light of local needs and priorities and, of course, in the light of resources available.
§ Mr. Dubs
Does the Minister agree that the Inner London education authority's record in providing nursery education for the under-fives is second to none? Does he agree that that excellent level of provision is under threat from the Government's proposals, which will surely reduce the opportunity for many deprived and disadvantaged children in our city? What does the Minister propose to do about that?
§ Dr. McDonald
Is the Minister aware that a small number of local authorities discriminate sharply against summer-born children, who receive only six terms of infant school education instead of a full three years? What action will the Government take to end such blatant discrimination against children who apparently have the misfortune to be born in the summer, so that they have a chance of decent infant education?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
Has my hon. Friend any plans to reconsider the provision of under-fives education by local authorities so that it is a discretionary option?
§ Mr. Radice
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that his answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) is rather complacent? Does he not understand that the proportion of under-fives receiving nursery education is planned to be marginally lower in 1986–87 than it was in 1981–82, although the Government's Green Paper on public spending admits that the demand for nursery education is likely to rise rather than decline?
§ Mr. Bruce
Will the Minister acknowledge that allowing nursery education to be discretionary is unfair? The Prime Minister, when Secretary of State for Education and Science, claimed that she wanted nursery education for all. How, therefore, can the Government justify the situation that exists in my constituency where, for example, in the city of Aberdeen nearly 50 per cent. of children who are under school age receive nursery education, but in Gordon district, under the same education authority, only 5 per cent. get it? Is that fair and just? Should not the Government be doing something to redress the balance?
§ Mr. Dunn
Such complaints should be directed to the hon. Gentleman's local education authority. I am prepared to acknowledge, however, that there has been a slight increase in both part-time and full-time attendance levels in the past five years, and that is something for the Government to be proud of.