HL Deb 06 November 1979 vol 402 cc698-700



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 are their reactions to the recommendations of the Astin Committee on the management of schools in Northern Ireland; how far the process of consultation has progressed and when they expect to publish their own proposals on this subject.


My Lords, the report of the Astin Working Party was published on 28th June 1979 and interested organisations have been invited to submit their views on that report not later than 1st January 1980. The Government will take no decisions on the recommendations in the report until all the views received have been fully considered.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply, which I realise can be only an interim one. Will he accept that there is a considerable body of opinion, which is pressing, and which succeeded in convincing Professor Astin's working party of the need for change and improvement in the present system?


My Lords, the pressure to which my noble friend refers is, of course, evidenced in the report itself. I have asked all the interested bodies to comment on the report by the beginning of next year. We have sent out 52 copies of the report and a further 750 copies have been sold by Her Majesty's Stationery Office to interested parties. Therefore, an interest is being taken in the contents of the report, which I hope will be reflected before the end of the year in submissions to my department and myself.


My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that there has been some feeling in Northern Ireland that to some extent the report has been shelved? Despite the very satisfactory number of copies of the report which have been circulated, will the noble Lord go a little further than he did in his original Answer and say whether the Government consider the present arrangements for managing schools in Northern Ireland to be satisfactory, or whether, when they have heard everybody's comments, they would like to make some changes?


My Lords, the working party was in fact set up under the aegis of the noble Lord, and I share his interest that the management of schools in Northern Ireland should be of the best possible form. I can only repeat that on numerous occasions, both through the media and at this Dispatch Box, I have said that I wish to have comments on the report's recommendations from those parties—and they are many—who have an intimate concern with this, before I consider the report. When I consider it, it will be in the light of those comments.