Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1971 Aug 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [822/1813-35]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1100-c1142.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6870
Themes: Autobiography (childhood), Education, Private education, Higher & further education, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Transport, Trade unions
[column 1813]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

London Schools (Improvement)

1. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she intends to meet members and officials of the Inner London Education Authority to discuss with them her proposals for improving primary and junior schools.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

My right hon. Friend has just approved, at a cost of over £2 million, 21 of the 24 projects submitted by the Authority for the replacement and improvement of primary schools as part of its proposals for the 1973–74 building programme.

Mr. Cox

I am grateful for that Answer. Does the hon. Gentleman agree, however, that we are only scratching at the problem that exists in Inner London, bearing in mind the deplorable conditions at many primary and junior schools? Is he aware that the I.L.E.A. wishes to make improvements but that, without financial support from the Government, it is unable to do so? May we be assured that there will be continuing discussions with the I.L.E.A. and that financial resources will be supplied by the Government to enable this problem to be tackled?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is a sour response to my Answer. I suggest that £2 million compared with £1.2 million the previous year, and 21 of the 24 projects proposed by the Authority having been approved, is a triumphant vindication of my right hon. Friend's priorities.

[column 1814]

Higher Education

2. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will publish a Green Paper on the future development of higher education.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This very complex subject is currently under thorough examination by my Department, but I cannot yet add to the Answer I gave to the Question by my hon. Friend on 4th March, 1971.—[Vol. 812, c. 496.]

Mr. Lane

May I wish my right hon. Friend and her colleagues a good holiday and thank her for the information about individual sectors of higher education that she has made available in recent months? Will she bear in mind that many people, including students and would-be students as well as taxpayers, are anxious to know more about the Government's plans for higher education as a whole and to engage in public discussion before final decision are taken?

Mrs. Thatcher

I return my hon. Friend's good wishes. I know his great interest in this subject and I look forward to answering his Questions when we return after the Summer Recess.

Mr. Rhodes

Would the right hon. Lady be a little more responsive to her hon. Friend? Is she aware that there are considerable disparities in the provision of, for example, libraries, staff and accommodation even among students doing the same degree-level work in different sectors of higher education and that this is causing great concern in the profession? Will she conduct an overall review and possibly issue a Green Paper dealing with the whole question of higher education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware that the polytechnics are not up to the standard of universities, but I announced a £22 million further education capital last December, and a further capital programme will be announced at the end of this year.

Mr. Faulds

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the polytechnics recently added their complaints to those of the [column 1815]universities about the lack of Government guidance on the future development of the universities? Is it not time that this disaster-dazed Government stopped dithering and gave a clear and unequivocal outline of their plans to meet what will be a doubling of the number of youngsters with university qualifications in the next ten years?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already made it clear that the University Grants Committee is gathering advice to give to me. I cannot reach a decision until I have received that advice; but I expect that a decision for the first year of the next quinquennium will be made by the end of this year.

School Children (Transport)

3. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will set up a departmental committee to investigate all aspects of the problems associated with the transport of school children in rural areas.

Mrs. Thatcher

My right hon. Friend J. Peytonthe Minister for Transport Industries and I are in touch about the problems of transport in rural areas, but consideration of the issues involved is still at a very early stage.

Mr. Hicks

I am pleased to learn of these consultations. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that with the withdrawal of public bus services, the school bus is in many rural areas the only daily link between various communities? In reviewing this matter, will she see whether it is possible to incorporate one with the other, which would probably do away with the inflexible and, in my view, outdated concept of mileage limits?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a later Question about mileage limits. I am well aware of the problems connected with the transport of children to and from school in rural areas. My Answer was meant to be sympathetic without entering too much into a commitment.

Mr. Ashton

The right hon. Lady does not wish to enter into a commitment, but meantime will she look at the situation in Nottinghamshire, where parents have been told that the transport fee is to be increased from £1 to £4 a term for children attending primary schools? This increase, together with the additional [column 1816]cost of school meals, is a severe burden on parents with young families.

Mrs. Thatcher

This is a matter in which local education authorities have a good deal of discretion. From what the hon. Gentleman said, it appears that the local education authority in this case is using its discretion and he is complaining about the way in which it may be using it.

22. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, if she will cancel the regulations regarding free transport of children to school in view of the increasing problems the two and three-mile rule is inflicting on parents, and institute free transport for school children of all ages.

Mrs. Thatcher

The two and three-mile walking distances are laid down in the Education Act. Legislation would be needed to change them and I have no present proposals on these lines.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Would my right hon. Friend look at this again? Does she not agree that it is becoming one of the most urgent problems in rural areas, causing a great deal of hardship not only because of rising fares but because of the difficulties and problems with transport in these areas? Would she treat this as a matter of urgency and if possible make room for it in the legislative programme in the coming Session?

Mrs. Thatcher

Local education authorities have discretionary powers to pay fares within these limits. They are used to varying extents, and if my hon. Friend has any problems in his own constituency perhaps he would consult his own local education authority.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the right hon. Lady take it that on an issue of this kind she would have no difficulty in getting legislation to deal with it? Is she aware that in many rural areas this is becoming a very difficult problem? Does she appreciate that we would be only too glad, knowing that we might have done it ourselves, to rectify this position and give her all possible assistance?

Mrs. Thatcher

May I make it clear that over the statutory limits local education authorities have to pay fares; under these limits they may pay.

[column 1817]

Mr. Longden

Could my right hon. Friend say how much this proposal would cost? As it must always be a question of priorities, perhaps books might come before free transport. Could not some of the money saved on feeding children's bodies be switched to feeding their minds?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have not been able to cost free transport by altering the limits. At present £25 million is spent on providing free transport, that is, both through the statutory payments over the limits and the discretionary payments within them. Even at present the sums are considerable.

Mr. Bob Brown

Will the right hon. Lady accept that this is now a problem not only in the rural areas but in the urban areas, particularly with school reorganisation, when children often have to catch two or three buses to get to school? Is she aware that with increasing fares it is becoming an added hardship? Will she accept that the method of calculating distances by education authorities often causes hardship because children do not fly like crows? The trouble with many education authorities is that they measure distance as the crow flies.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am afraid that the local education authorities are coming in for a pounding on this. They have powers to provide their own transport as well as to pay for transport for children. I accept that in some areas the problem has been aggravated by setting up very large schools where formerly there were a number of smaller schools serving the area.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment in the next Session.

Dyslexia

4. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to receive a report from the Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children on the problem of dyslexia.

Mrs. Thatcher

The full Advisory Committee will be considering the find[column 1818]ings of the expert Sub-Committee which it constituted for this subject when it next meets at the beginning of October. I expect to receive its advice shortly thereafter.

Mr. Ashley

Leaving aside the lethargic manner in which dyslexia has been handled, is the right hon. Lady aware that there is growing anger and dismay at the lack of provision for dyslexic children in many parts of the country? Is she aware that when she receives the report she will be expected to take strong and vigorous action? In the meantime, will she consider sending a representative to Denmark, which has 150 special remedial classes and obviously has a great deal to teach us?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am seeking the best advice I can get on what provision should be made for these children. I think that it would be best to wait for the report before I enter into any commitment.

Voluntary Youth Organisations

5. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what machinery is to be set up for consultation between central Government and voluntary youth organisations at national level; and what will be the machinery at local level.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Good arrangements already exist for consulting the national bodies concerned. Under the new arrangements for financing Youth Service, village and community hall capital projects, local education authorities will be asked to inform the Department annually of those schemes they propose to assist. My right hon. Friend has encouraged the establishment of local joint committees where they do not already exist.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Is my hon. Friend aware that voluntary youth organisations are disturbed at the lack of consultation about future policy regarding consultative machinery, partnership and capital and headquarters' grants? If local education authorities are to be made the final arbiters on capital grants, many worth-while projects will be snuffed out at local level.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has seen the [column 1819]reply which my right hon. Friend gave yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack).

Mr. Sutcliffe

indicated dissent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

He indicates that he has not. I draw his attention to that answer because, in it, he will find that, in terms of capital grant in the interim period, it goes a long way to meeting the representations which have been made and which are the outcome of the very consultations he has asked us to undertake.

21. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science on what date she proposes to meet representatives of the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations to discuss government policy for the Youth Service.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My noble Friend met representatives of the Standing Conference and the National Councils of Social Service for both England and Wales on 29th July.

Mr. Sutcliffe

May I thank my hon. Friend for that reply? Would he agree that it is important that voluntary youth organisations should know how they fit into the urban aid programme and how they can fit into the educational priority area proposals? Is it not important, when many young school-leavers are unemployed, to concentrate efforts on assisting them?

Mr. van Straubenzee

All of these matters are important. My hon. Friend's Question was directed towards consultation and I hope that my Answer shows that there is very real, and, on the Government side, meaningful consultation with the voluntary representatives.

Student Unions

(Finance)

6. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now make a statement on her consideration of the misuse of funds and other irregularities by members of student unions; and of the future thereof.

Mrs. Thatcher

I now have a great deal of information about the provision and use of student union funds but I [column 1820]am not yet ready to make a further statement.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we much appreciate her interest in this matter but that if it is left too long people will begin to take it for granted that union funds can be misdirected to finance subversive demonstrations and that political favouritism will begin to be recognised as normal? Will she not leave it too long but press on with her good work?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the misuse is comparatively small but quite large matters of principle are nevertheless involved. I would like any changes we propose if possible to be done by agreement with all the parties concerned.

16. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State of Education and Science whether she has received the report of the Vice-Chancellor's Committee on student union finance; what action is to be taken; and whether the report will be published.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has given me access to information supplied to them by universities on the financing of student unions, but has made no report. I am still studying this information.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend say why no report has been made? In view of the public anxiety on this matter, surely, there should be a report and it should be published.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not a question of a report. We asked for certain information, which we now have. It reveals very different conditions prevailing in very different institutions, and it is this factor which is making a simple solution difficult—if that is not too Irish.

Teachers in Further Education (Pay)

7. Mr. Terry Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she has taken to obtain an early settlement of the salary claim by teachers in further education in view of the recent pay award to schoolteachers.

Mrs. Thatcher

A meeting of the Burnham Further Education Committee [column 1821]was arranged as soon as practicable after the arbitrators made their award for school teachers. At the meeting on 2nd and 3rd August, the teachers, whose claim was for about 37 per cent., rejected the management panel's final offer and the matter is now referred to arbitration.

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Lady review the procedure for negotiations on the pay of teachers in further education, so that in future they do not have to suffer the delay which they have suffered on this occasion whenever their colleagues who teach in schools do not immediately accept an offer made to them?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not normally review procedures while a claim is still being considered. When the claim is settled, anyone who wishes to make representations to me will, of course, be welcome and I will listen to what they have to say.

Free Milk

8. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now state what proposals she has for guiding education authorities and their medical officers in the certification of pupils in need of free milk in school, so that the preventative aspects can be fully taken into account.

Mr. van Straubenzee

A circular will shortly be issued to local education authorities on the new arrangements for free school milk to be introduced from next September. This will include guidance on administrative aspects of medical certification, but medical opinions will be the responsibility of school medical officers.

Mr. Spearing

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor), when Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, told a deputation from Glasgow City Council that the preventive aspect would be taken into account? Is he further aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland told my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) in a letter that when a child's health was considered to be at risk a medical officer might give a certificate? Will the hon. Gentleman consider putting these things into the circular?

[column 1822]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will consider all these matters. The hon. Gentleman was an assiduous and effective attender at our debates on the Education (Milk) Bill at every stage, and he will recall that those are almost exactly the same words as I used. I used the phrase “medically at risk” , and this met with some approval by medically-qualified Members of the House.

Mr. Buchan

But in the letter which the Secretary of State for Scotland, presumably on behalf of the Government, wrote to me, he made it clear that, first, a local authority could employ general practitioners as temporary medical officers of health in order to undertake a full-scale medical examination of all children in the area, and, secondly, that it would be open to the local authority to decide that “health at risk” was a preventive factor and that milk could be allocated to all the children on that basis? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not enter into matters arising outside England and Wales, and I should be sharply criticised by the hon. Gentleman if I attempted to do so. I have explained the position fully as it relates to England and Wales.

Classes (Size)

9. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take steps to ensure that governors and managers of schools have access to information about the size of classes in their schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. I should expect that normal consultation with head teachers would enable managers and governors to have any information they wish about their schools.

Mr. Willey

While not wanting to persuade the right hon. Lady to interfere unduly in local affairs, may I ask whether she will look at this matter, because local councillors and others responsible for schools should have access to information they require to carry out their duties? Therefore, will she use her good offices to see that councillors and others in Sunderland have this information about the size of classes?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have looked into this case. I am sure that if either the right [column 1823]hon. Gentleman or I were a manager or governor we should have no difficulty in getting information. Managers and governors must have access to information which they need properly to carry out their duties—let there be no doubt about that—and they should be able to get it without recourse to a Secretary of State.

Independent Sector in Education

10. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is now the policy of Her Majesty's Government on a private sector in education.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Government continue to believe in a strong and healthy independent sector in education.

Mr. Huckfield

Does not the right hon. Lady recall the rather amazing speech she made at Ellerslie Girls School, Malvern, on 19th March, about which she has had a great deal of correspondence with the Malvern Young Socialists, in which she said that the private sector of education was necessary in order to prevent abuse which would arise if there were a monopoly of State education? Can she tell us what abuses she thinks would be likely to arise? Can she explain herself?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am a great believer in the private sector of education. It is a great defence against a possible monopoly, and monopolies I believe are bad and often confer great powers on Governments which they should not have.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Lady aware that I used to attend Haileybury College on Saturday mornings—delivering meat? Having now met again in this House some of the pupils whom I used to meet then, I have come to regard their attendance at such a college as a sheer waste of time on their part. Is it not time to end privilege in education, to abolish the public schools and to bring them into the State system?

Mrs. Thatcher

My answer to that is, “So what?” . My father used to serve in the tuckshop at Oundle, but he did not come out with a chip on his shoulder.

Primary Schools (Derbyshire)

11. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what increased allocation of funds she [column 1824]will make for the replacement or renovation of primary schools in Derbyshire following the recent announcement of increased funds of £100 million available for public works this winter.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Only the districts served by the Alfreton and Heanor employment exchanges are assisted areas. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has told the Derbyshire local education authority that she is prepared to increase their minor works allocation by £25,000 both this year and next, and that she hopes that these additional resources will be used for primary and special schools. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is also ready to approve under the Urban Programme the provision of a nursery unit near Alfreton.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I thank my hon. Friend for that information, but does he realise that Derbyshire is one of the counties with the greatest number of old and out-of-date primary schools and that, although the help he has announced will be very well received—and I am grateful for it—there is still an enormous amount to do?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir. I understand that. My right hon. Friend is not in a position this morning to announce the major programme for primary replacement and the design list for 1973–74, but I hope that it will not be long delayed.

Mr. Whitehead

What proportion of this delayed largesse will go to the County Borough of Derby, which also in Derbyshire, although it is a separate education authority?

Mr. van Straubenzee

My answer referred only to the assisted areas covered by the employment exchange districts.

Nursery School Places

12. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many nursery school places are at present provided by each local education authority in England and Wales; and what percentage these figures represent of the population in each area aged under five years.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall, with permission, circulate the figures in the Official Report.

[column 1825]

Mr. Meacher

In view of the crucial and, perhaps, overriding influence of the pre-school years and the still disgraceful lack of provision of nursery places, will the Minister institute a crash programme of nursery school building on priority criteria like the Plowden E.P.A. scheme?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. The essence of good administration in these matters is priority—some admirable examples of that priority working out have been given already in Questions today—and the Government have no intention of varying the priorities which they have already laid down.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Bearing in mind that it was one of the Conservative Party's election pledges to increase the number of nursery schools, will my hon. Friend say whether, in the context of the figures he is about to publish, he is satisfied that the rural areas are having a fair allocation?

Mr. van Straubenzee

With respect, I suggest that it might be helpful if my hon. Friend had an opportunity to look at the figures, which, as he will understand, are very extensive. There is a certain discrepancy between various types of area.

Dame Joan Vickers

In making his surveys, will my hon. Friend let us know how many places are supplied by voluntary organisations?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall gladly see whether I can provide that information for my hon. Friend.

Following are the figures:

[column 1826][column 1827][column 1828]

St. Marylebone School (Merger)

13. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations she has received in respect of the Inner London Education Authority's proposal to amalgamate the St. Marylebone Grammar School with the Rutherford Secondary Modern School.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend has received letters from parents of boys attending St. Marylebone School, organisations connected with the school, and local residents.

Mr. Baker

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, if this scheme is approved, it will result in a comprehensive school on three separate sites in old and inadequate buildings, and if the merger is forced through without the provision of new buildings it will have the effect of sacrificing the educational interests of the children of my constituents to the doctrinal prejudices of the I.L.E.A.?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am sure that those are all matters which will be carefully considered by my right hon. Friend, [column 1829]under whose guidance Section 13 procedures are no mere formality. But my hon. Friend will not expect me to make a pronouncement before the statutory period has elapsed after the notice, which was published on 18th June.

Mr. Lipton

Why is the Department taking so long to come to a conclusion about the carefully considered plans of the Inner London Education Authority? The delay is having a most unsettling effect on pupils, teachers and the whole of the educational structure in London.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman have heard me when I said that the I.L.E.A. itself and the governors—for the governors come into this, too—published their statutory notice on 18th June. The two-month period starts to run from that date.

Concorde

14. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what research the research councils are undertaking on the Concorde project.

Mrs. Thatcher

Applied aeronautical research is a matter for my right hon. Friend J. Daviesthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and the Research Councils have not been directly involved in work on Concorde. They have, however, contributed indirectly: the Medical Research Council has collaborated on decompression studies, and the Science Research Council has been consulted on the use of computers and on radiation hazards at high altitudes.

Mr. Adley

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that detailed Answer, but I ask her to bear in mind that Concorde represents a unique opportunity for young engineering apprentices to study at practical first-hand the developments which will, obviously, in the next 20 or 30 years, go to keep this country hopefully ahead in the technological race. Will she, therefore, see it as her responsibility to the young people of this country to do all she can to encourage and foster the project?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not sure that I could quite enter into that full commitment. So far as we can derive scientific observations from it, we are doing our level best both to help and to take ad[column 1830]vantage of the opportunities which it offers.

School Meals

15. Mr. Fox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will take steps to encourage schools to offer a more varied menu as a means of ensuring that more children have a meal at school.

Mrs. Thatcher

The planning of menus for the school meal within overall nutritional standards laid down by my Department is a matter for individual authorities, but a choice of dishes is now a common feature of the school meal, particularly in secondary schools. I do not think that any further action on my part is required.

Mr. Fox

I thank my right hon. Friend, but I venture to disagree that a choice of menu is a more or less accepted thing, and in too many schools the fall-off in school dinners taken——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

Mr. Fox

I shall not disagree, but I would ask that any encouragement to extend the choice should be welcomed. In my constituency, schools are now serving more dinners than ever before——

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mrs. Thatcher

We have an informal inquiry in the Department, about the school meals service, and I shall certainly take note of what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that the main reason for the decrease in the take-up of school meals is the increase in price and nothing much to do with the menu? Will she, therefore, do everything she can to ensure that every school provides facilities for children who wish to take sandwiches and who cannot afford the new price?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is usually a fall-off in the take-up of school meals after an increase in price, whether that increase is imposed by a Conservative or by a Labour Government. I have put out a circular about sandwiches and the provision which we should like to see made [column 1831]for children who eat sandwiches on school premises.

Mr. Faulds

Even if a varied menu attracts more children to school meals, does not the right hon. Lady realise that they will not be those for whom the meal is too dear and who at the same time do not qualify for free meals?

Mrs. Thatcher

An increasing number will qualify for free meals when the income scales are raised yet again in September.

Language Laboratories

17. Mr. Kenneth Clarke

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will issue a circular advising local authorities on the use that can be made of language laboratory facilities in schools and colleges of further education during holidays.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The use of language laboratories during holidays rests with the local education authorities and colleges concerned. The Department has in recent years issued administrative guidance encouraging them to make the maximum use of their educational plant and equipment.

Mr. Clarke

In view of the increasing demand for this sort of facility in industry and commerce, would my hon. Friend agree that it is unfortunate that there are still cases where, in universities, colleges of education and schools very expensive equipment lies unused during the academic holidays? Will he continue to take an interest in the subject and carry on giving the guidance referred to in his Answer?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes Sir, within the limits of the powers of the Department, particularly in relation to universities, which are obviously under a quite different head. It is not just a question of making facilities available, however desirable. With highly expensive equipment of this kind the provision of staff is often a limiting factor.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that no laboratory facilities will protect either himself or his right hon. Friends from the anger of the parents of the thousand children in my constituency whom they have deprived of school meals?

[column 1832]

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is the sort of remark that makes one think how much better it would have been if the hon. Gentleman had remained upstairs.

School Books

19. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she can now give detailed figures of the number of local education authorities who spent less than £1 per head on school books for each child in primary schools during the year 1969–70, and which they were.

Mr. van Straubenzee

According to statistics compiled by the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants, and the Society of County Treasurers there were 71 such authorities: four counties and 56 county boroughs in England; two counties and three county boroughs in Wales; and six Outer London boroughs. With permission, I will circulate their names in the Official Report.

Mr. Goodhart

Does my hon. Friend recognise that those education authorities which now spend less than £1 per head on school books for each child in primary schools have their educational priorities wrong? As there is a wide-spread disparity between areas over the provision of school books, will he consider issuing a circular to try to stimulate those authorities with the worst record?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It may well be that my hon. Friend's Question and the details which will be circulated in the Official Report will go some way towards drawing attention to these matters. I am sure he knows that in the rate support grant settlement for 1971–72 and the following year there were improvement factors of 3½ per cent. and 3 per cent. respectively for non-teaching costs, which is a direct incentive.

Mr. Marks

Is 3½ per cent. sufficient to cope with today's rising costs? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some authorities include in this figure for books the hire of transport for physical education and swimming and all kinds of things? Is it not time we had the facts about expenditure on books and equipment? Is he satisfied that the rate support grant is being properly spent?

[column 1833]

Mr. van Straubenzee

All of us are concerned about the provision of books, but the hon. Gentleman has probably overlooked that what I was talking about was the improvement factor, and those figures are a real incentive.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the need to give a clear lead to education authorities to ensure that they adopt accounting methods which make meaningful comparisons possible?

Mr. van Straubenzee

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures I am circulating he will find that very meaningful comparisons are possible.

Following is the information:

Educational Priority Areas

20. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what [column 1834]plans she has for further help to educational priority areas and for research into their problems.

Mrs. Thatcher

Further support will be given through the urban programme to the four local authorities' projects initiated under the original action research programme in educational priority areas. The Social Science Research Council has also offered a grant, of which my Department will pay half, for some additional research in this field by Dr. A. H. Halsey.

Mr. Lane

As special projects in these areas have already proved valuable, will my right hon. Friend continue to look kindly on the possibility of increasing their scope as widely and generously as possible?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that these projects have proved very valuable indeed, and when Dr. Halsey 's work is finished on evaluating some of the particular activities under these projects, I would like to look further at the possibilities.

Metrication

23. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science by what date she expects that her Department will have adopted metrication for administrative purposes.

Mrs. Thatcher

The construction industry is adopting the metric system, and in consequence bodies responsible for educational building have been asked by my Department to see that projects expected to start on or after 1st April, 1972, are designed in metric measurements.

Mr. Goodhart

Does my right hon. Friend realise that metrication is one area in which many people hope that her Ministry will give a lead by way of syllabuses? Does she realise that educational publishers in particular are in grave difficulties trying to foresee Government policy?

Mrs. Thatcher

A circular was issued some time ago, but before deciding further on what to do we are waiting for the White Paper on metrication.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. Lady not realise that the Government are endangering the planning of school curricula and examinations by being somewhat less than clear in their policy [column 1835]simply, as we all know, to appease some of the backwoodsmen scattered behind her? Is she aware that the N.U.T. has complained about the effect of this uncertainty?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have been very clear about our education policy in the circular to which I referred.