HL Deb 03 December 1975 vol 366 cc596-7

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the total value of the applications which have so far been received by the Department of Education and Science for grants to defray the cost of schemes of comprehensive reorganisation of schools; to how many schemes these applications relate; and what is the total value of the allocation of funds they plan for this purpose.


My Lords, my right honourable friend has received from local education authorities in England applications for capital authorisation to a total value of £68½, million in respect of 763 projects within that part of the 1976–77 school building programme set aside specifically to assist the development of a fully comprehensive system of secondary education. As was announced in his Department's Circular 8/75, the value of projects to be allowed to start will be £23 million for England. The authorisations concerned are not grants, but sums within which loan sanction will be allowed.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that explanation, may I ask him to enlighten us as to how his Department intends to keep to the professed schedule for the completion of comprehensivisation if no additional funds are to be provided to the £23 million in the current year to which he has already alluded?


My Lords, the purpose of this is to enable projects to start where reorganisation might otherwise not take place or could not be fully effective in educational terms. They are to be quick-acting projects and authorities have been told that all necessary expenditure on them must enable completion before the end of March, 1978. We are satisfied that this and the other funds that are available for educational building generally will enable considerable progress to be made so far as the reorganisation programme is concerned.


My Lords, will the noble Lord tell me whether I am right in deducing that about one-and-a-half times as many schemes will not be embarked upon in sufficient time to be completed by 1978? May we deduce there from that the pressure to adopt schemes before they are agreed—which is evident in some parts of this country—will be relieved by the local education authorities?


My Lords, I would not make any of those deductions. We are trying to assess this matter in terms of the local authorities priorities and difficulties, and local authorities themselves are making very considerable progress in reorganisation.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend how the noble Lord, Lord Elton, arrives at the figure of £l½ million? Would not my noble friend agree that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is overlooking the efficiency of local authorities in this country which are seeking to carry out the Government's policy on the comprehensive system?


My Lords, I do not know whether it is normal to answer a supplementary question—

Several Noble Lords: No!


had given notice of his intention:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what conclusions were reached at the meeting of the European Community heads of Government in Rome on 1st and 2nd December regarding British representation at the Paris Conference on energy and raw materials; and whether it is intended that the Conference will still meet on 16th December.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister is to make a Statement tomorrow, I do not ask leave of the House to put this Question.

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