HC Deb 27 June 1995 vol 262 cc680-1
13. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what action she intends to take to ensure that pupils attending grammar schools continue to qualify for free school transport. [29120]

Mr. Forth

Under section 55 of the Education Act 1944, it is for individual elected, accountable local education authorities to decide whether free transport is necessary to enable a pupil to attend school.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Is he aware that five of my sons attended the local grammar school in Rugby, a grammar school that, like every other, is a ladder of opportunity for pupils from all classes? Is he further aware that Essex county council's spiteful policy of cutting free school transport will prevent many parents sending their children to grammar schools'? Will my hon. Friend assure me that he and his Department will do all that they can to ensure that free transport to grammar schools remains?

Mr. Forth

I can assure my hon. Friend, who raises a subject of great concern to an increasing number of parents throughout the country, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will do everything that she can and should do to protect the interests of pupils. My hon. Friend will be aware, however, that it was the change of political control in Essex that brought about the disgraceful situation that we now face. I am sure that many of those who changed the nature of the local education authority will want to reconsider their actions of some two years ago, and will want to put those actions in the context of what is now available. Under Conservative authorities, the problem did not arise. It has arisen because of nasty political spite by the Opposition parties.

Mr. Olner

Surely it would be better to talk not about grammar school places and free transport in Essex but about transport in Warwickshire and about giving free transport to children who want to attend comprehensive schools and not just grammar schools in the Rugby area.

Mr. Forth

I hope that the people of Warwickshire and those elsewhere will keep a close eye on what their local education authorities are up to. If the hon. Gentleman's LEA acts anything like some others seem to be doing, many of the pupils in his county will risk receiving the education that they deserve.