HC Deb 16 May 1988 vol 133 cc679-80
67. Mr. Rhodes James

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Textbooks for Africa project.

Mr. Chris Patten

The Textbooks for Africa project aims to make available surplus O-level textbooks from Britain for secondary schools in Africa where they can be used to good effect. The project is being run by the British Council, the Ranfurly library service and Rotary International. I have agreed to provide up to £75,000 this year to the Ranfurly library service to help with the work load involved.

Mr. Rhodes James

Is my hon. Friend aware that this project has caught the imagination of a considerable number of people, incuding many of my constituents, who want to make a personal and private contribution to assisting education in Anglophone Africa? It is a project that fully deserves his support, for which we are grateful. I hope that, eventually, it will not be limited to Africa. Is there not an enormous potential in this idea, involving Churches, schools, local authorities, higher education, private individuals and Her Majesty's Government? Will my hon. Friend give a commitment that he will continue to give it his full support?

Mr. Patten

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. I assure him that we shall continue to give this important project our full support. I have written to the local education authorities and to bodies representing independent schools. I am delighted that the response has been very encouraging. For example, we have heard from 44 local education authorities so far, and 41 have agreed to contribute books to the scheme.