HC Deb 08 April 1986 vol 95 cc7-8
5. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received in support of legislation to privatise educational services; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

There have been many responses to the Government's consultative paper on compulsory competitive tendering by local authorities issued in February 1985. The Government remain committed to the principle of requiring local authorities to submit certain of their in-house services to the discipline of competitive tendering against outside private contractors and are preparing the necessary complex measures for inclusion in the legislative programme as soon as is practicable.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the demand for private and independent education in this country has never been higher? Will he now consider introducing new incentives to satisfy that demand? Does he agree that the alarming expressions of teacher power over the Easter weekend will serve only to encourage those who believe that the privatisation of state education services is now due?

Mr. Dunn

As the House knows, the Government continue to consider all possibilities for improving school education. We also take the view that the greater the variety available to all parents, whether in the maintained or the private sector, the better for the future well-being of the country.

Mr. Bell

May I commiserate with the Secretary of State for being described in today's Daily Telegraph as

the most misunderstood man in British politics"? We welcome the fact that there are no privatisation plans for the polytechnics. May we nevertheless have an assurance that the proposals announced yesterday by the National Advisory Board, as they affect Teesside, Newcastle and Sunderland polytechnics will be set aside after counter-proposals have been made to the Department, whether they are privatised or not?

Mr. Dunn

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the ingenuity of his supplementary question, but it has no relation to my hon. Friend's original question.

Mr. Stern

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in view of the Government's wholesale success in privatisation across Government Departments, the privatisation of existing schools should not be ruled out?

Mr. Dunn

I am certainly prepared to consider any schemes along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend, but I must point out that we are concerned about privatising educational services and that many of the least efficient local authorities are the least interested in increasing efficiency. That is why the Government propose to take this step.

Mr. Canavan

As education should be a right for all and not just a commodity to be bought and sold in the market place, may we have a categorical assurance that the Government will reject the crazy proposals of some of the Right-wing extremists in the Tory party and also, apparently, Mr. John Pardoe of the Liberal party, who want to take education out of the hands of elected local education authorities and contract it out to private agencies and private schools? That will be the surest way of creating the type of "yob society" to which the Minister of State referred during his speech last week.

Mr. Dunn

I feel that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of not understanding the debate about the future of the education service. His rather crazy and convoluted question does not deserve an answer from me.