HC Deb 11 December 1996 vol 287 cc277-8
15. Mr. Hanson

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans she has to review provision for assisted places in 1997–98. [7065]

Mrs. Gillan


Mr. Hanson

If the Minister has no plans for a review, perhaps she should take time to consider whether any changes should be made. Does she agree that the £140 million that is planned to be spent on subsidising 40,000 people on assisted places schemes next year could be far better spent on reducing class sizes for 400,000-plus five, six and seven-year-olds? Will the Conservative party make time for a review next year and try to take care of the many rather than the few?

Mrs. Gillan

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Everyone knows that Conservative Members believe that the assisted places scheme offers a valuable choice to many parents throughout the country. The scheme plays an integral part in our policy of choice and diversity. The Labour party's proposals to phase out the assisted places scheme would yield about £5 million in the first year, which could possibly deliver 200 teachers into the system, meaning that the Labour party would weigh the interests of 200 more primary teachers against those of the 10,000 children whom they would deprive of the scheme.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Does my hon. Friend accept that, excellent as the assisted places scheme is, it is still nowhere near as good as the direct grant scheme that it replaced?

Mrs. Gillan

The assisted places scheme is an extremely good scheme, but we all know what happened to the direct grant scheme and who was responsible for abolishing those schools.