HC Deb 11 June 1998 vol 313 c1178
2. Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford)

What responses he has received during the period of consultation before his Department issues regulations governing partnership between local education authorities and independent schools. [43752]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. Stephen Byers)

We intend to begin consultation on draft regulations once the School Standards and Framework Bill receives Royal Assent.

Mr. St. Aubyn

Given that the Minister has demanded that Surrey council spends an additional 5 per cent. on education this year, while the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has cut Surrey's funding by 1 per cent., how does he expect Surrey to meet his desire when its efforts to do so in partnership with independent schools are being hamstrung by delays caused by his own Department?

Mr. Byers

No delays are being caused by my Department. I wrote to the hon. Gentleman on 22 March and 12 May to ask for details of the scheme that is being promoted by Surrey. I regret that he has not replied to those letters or supplied me with details of the scheme. Perhaps he knows full well that Surrey's proposals have met almost universal opposition from schools in Surrey. The message to Conservative councillors in Surrey is that they should give priority to education in the county's own schools, as the Labour Government do. Those schools should be given every pound that the Government have provided to Surrey.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Who benefits from partnerships, and how?

Mr. Byers

There is the possibility, in a positive sense, to have partnerships between the independent sector and the maintained sector in a way that actually builds bridges for the benefit of all children. What the Government are not prepared to see is the sort of scheme being promoted by some authorities which seek to replace the assisted places scheme with a local variation that is not about building bridges but about reinforcing divisions. The Government believe that the time has come to put dogma to one side, and to have a school system that meets the needs of all our children, not just a few.