HC Deb 13 December 1995 vol 268 cc978-9
7. Mr. Heppell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment she has made of the effect of the introduction of the nursery voucher scheme on children with a disability. [3874]

Mr. Robin Squire

We attach great importance to provision for children with special educational needs.

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Employment and for Health arc considering the responses to the consultation on provision for such children in the nursery education voucher scheme.

Mr. Heppell

Does the Minister agree with the organisations for and of disabled people, such as the Council for Disabled Children and the Royal National Institute for the Blind, that the proposed voucher scheme is incompatible with the idea of the promotion of increased choice for children?

Mr. Squire

In a word, no. Indeed, it would be hard to do so. I explained to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) that they will need to wait just a short time for the final detail. It is self-evidently true that universal provision for four-year-olds must logically increase the number of children with special needs coming into the education sphere. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree—the outside organisations that he mentioned would certainly agree—that earlier diagnosis of special needs is in the interests of the pupil, and is also much cheaper for the country.

Mr. Evennett

Does my hon. Friend agree that increased choice and diversity in nursery provision, which the Government's proposals for vouchers will enhance, will be good for all children, including those with disabilities?

Mr. Squire

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why Conservative Members welcome wholeheartedly the introduction of the voucher scheme.