Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Education and Science]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [826/601-20]
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7058
Themes: Education, Primary education, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Social security & welfare
[column 601]


School Milk

1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the number of children of ages seven to 11 years who now do not receive free milk at school; and if she will list those education authorities which contain the highest and smallest proportions of children who are to receive free milk because official medical opinion deems this to be necessary.

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

Returns so far received from 138 out of 163 authorities in England and Wales [column 602]suggest that about 1 per cent. of pupils in the relevant age group are getting free milk on grounds of health. On the census date, proportions varied from nil in a number of areas to 8.9 per cent. in the area of the Inner London Education Authority. Authorities in some areas are still examining children referred to them.

Mr. Hardy

Is it not clear that that reply shows how utterly unworkable and discredited is the Government's primary-school milk policy? Is it not also clear that it is proving a very heavy burden upon medical officers engaged in the public service? In view of public reaction and the effect which this measure is having, will not the Secretary of State reconsider the whole wretched business?

Mrs. Thatcher

No; the reply shows that in some areas the provisions are working extremely well. In other areas, authorities are still examining children referred to them. I know that in some areas where the return is given as nil some milk is being supplied on a health basis, but the supplies started after the census date.

Mr. John Fraser

Is not the truth of the matter that the high supply in the Inner London Education Authority area is not due to anything that the Secretary of State has done but is because some courageous authorities have gone ahead and supplied milk themselves?

Mrs. Thatcher

I was reporting what the local education authorities have told me about what they are doing. There was no suggestion that I myself am doing it.

9. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities are continuing to provide free school milk to children from seven to 11 years of age; and what action she intends to take.

Mrs. Thatcher

No local education authorities in England are continuing to provide free school milk contrary to the provisions of the Education (Milk) Act.

Mr. Hamilton

That is a very disappointing reply. In view of the letter which she has sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) to [column 603]the effect that medical officers could give certificates for the supply of milk on preventive health grounds, will the right hon. Lady confirm that the door is wide open to all local education authorities to provide milk to every child in every school in the country?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have consistently said that the Government will not give instructions to doctors about how they should discharge their duties under the Act. I believe that that is the right answer, and I do not intend to go against it.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Could my right hon. Friend say how many local education authorities are now using their powers to make milk available for purchase, whether she is satisfied with the number and, if not, whether she will take steps to encourage that practice?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir, I could, but that is the subject of another Question, and it would be more courteous to wait for it.

15. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities are enabling milk to be sold in schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

Returns so far received indicate that 30 authorities have made arrangements for selling milk.

Miss Lestor

Is the right hon. Lady aware that on Second Reading of the Education (Milk) Act she said that it was not expected that demand for milk in schools would fall by more than 1 per cent., because of her enabling it to be sold, and that in secondary schools she expected consumption to go up? Does not the very bad figure for the sale of milk that the right hon. Lady has given show that what we forecast has come true and that large numbers of children cannot obtain milk free of charge or by buying it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that more local education authorities will use their powers to sell milk. Thirty of them have shown the way, and I believe that the parents are very satisfied that their children can get milk on purchase. The supply of milk in secondary schools has gone up since the hon. Lady's Government left office, because local education authorities can now supply it for sale.

[column 604]

Mr. Gurden

Does my right hon. Friend know why local authorities will not allow milk to be sold in schools, since most of them did so throughout the period since the milk-in-schools scheme started?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. I wish that I could answer that question. I see no fundamental difficulty in selling milk in schools. I myself bought it as a primary school pupil many years ago, and it was not too difficult then.

Mr. Swain

Is the right hon. Lady aware that since her vicious Act was put on the Statute Book children in the Claycross urban district have not for one day missed being provided with their free milk? Will she now send out a circular to all rural and urban districts telling them that they can, if they desire, supply free milk to the children within their districts?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman seems to be referring to the penny rate powers, which are a matter for the Department of the Environment.

23. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied that all children who are in medical need of milk at junior schools are receiving it; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Some authorities are still examining children referred to them and the October census figures are likely to understate the number who will qualify for free milk on health grounds.

Mr. Clark

How many other authorities share the same opinion as the West Riding authority and have stated that they cannot give priority to the medical examination of children for the provision of milk?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an answer. A number of authorities have returned a nil provision, but since they made that return they have been supplying milk to children on health grounds because their arrangements for medical examination have gone on faster.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Would the right hon. Lady say what her reaction would be if she were a poor woman with two children aged between 7 and 11 years, [column 605]not in medical need but in great hardship, and the Secretary of State withdrew milk from them?

Mrs. Thatcher

Probably the same as that of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) when milk was withdrawn from secondary schools for children between the ages of 11 and 16.

Mr. Buchan

Why does the right hon. Lady still insist that she will not give guidance to medical officers of health when she has given guidance to me? She has given guidance in the form of a circular. Why does she not now give them the further guidance she gave in her letter to me that they can issue milk for preventive reasons? Medical officers of health believe that the milk should be issued.

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a simple answer to that. I have greater confidence in the medical officers of health.

25. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many letters she has received about the withdrawal of free school milk.

Mrs. Thatcher

About 600 have been received in the Department.

Mr. Price

Is the right hon. Lady aware that anyone listening to the earlier exchanges could only come to the conclusion that she is the most mean and vicious member of a thoroughly discredited Government? In view of her determination to stand firm on the question of free school milk, will she give the House an assurance that she has no other eighteenth century measures tucked up her sleeve?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am trying to relieve conditions in eighteenth and nineteenth century primary schools.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does my right hon. Friend accept that some primary school headmasters are refusing to supply milk to the children of parents who wish to buy it? Will she issue a directive to education authorities refusing to supply milk for sale to the effect that in junior and secondary schools they should provide milk for the children of parents who wish to buy it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot issue a directive. This is a matter for local education [column 606]authorities. We have issued guidance through a circular. I hope that my hon. Friend will take up the matter with the local education authority concerned.

Derby College of Technology

2. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will consider granting polytechnic status to the Derby College of Technology.

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

No, Sir. There are no plans at present to create additional polytechnics beyond the 30 already established or proposed.

Mr. Rost

Could I persuade the Minister to take another look at this as Derby College of Technology already has the staff, facilities and premises to act as a polytechnic and is at present frustrated from carrying out this function, the result of which is that large numbers of students from the Derby area are having to go to Nottingham, Leicester and elsewhere? An area of the size and importance of Derby ought surely to be entitled to have something of polytechnic status.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Nothing in my reply is in any way critical, and it is not critical of the Derby College of Technology. I join with my hon. Friend in the tribute he has paid to the work being done there. He will know that the polytechnic policy does not mean the closing down, for example, of existing advanced courses, and the general strategy behind the polytechnic policy will be adhered to.

Mr. Walter Johnson

Is the Minister aware that Derby is already regarded as an important technical centre, because of Rolls-Royce and other industries in the town, and is likely to become even more so in the future with the advent of the advanced passenger train for British Rail? Will the Minister think again on this important question?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am always prepared to look at policies generally, but quite clearly, in the foreseeable future, there can be no question of further designations beyond the 30 polytechnics already established or planned. The concentration of new advanced courses, [column 607]initiated bipartisanly over the years, seems to be making a lot of sense.

Student Unions

3. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on Government policy on student unions.

13. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now state her proposals on the future of student unions.

42. Sir E. Bullus

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a statement on the financing of student unions.

48. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she now intends to publish her definitive proposals for the reform of student unions.

Mr. van Straubenzee

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 11th November, my right hon. Friend has sent out to the various bodies concerned a consultative document outlining proposals to establish the financing of student unions on a new basis. They have been asked to send in their comments as soon as possible.—[Vol. 825, c. 214.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are many hon. Members on this side who, although admiring the foresight and courage which the Department has shown in tackling this difficult problem of minority abuses in student unions, nevertheless feel that a registrar would be a more desirable solution? Can he assure the House that this matter will be given serious consideration?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir; I am well aware of the strength of feeling in certain quarters that the right way to proceed would be by a form of registrar, either combined with the new proposals or instead of them. Naturally I read my hon. Friend's powerful article in this respect in The Times on Tuesday. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noticed that the documents says, not once, but several times, that it is consultative, and such proposals as those he has outlined are definitely still on the table.

[column 608]

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Reinforcing what my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that many of us on this side think that the proposals now put forward might tend to increase conflict in the universities rather than bring about more harmony in universities? Has the fullest consideration been given to the proposals of the Federation of Conservative Students, the Monday Club and other bodies with considerable and increasing experience of student politics and the problems arising therefrom?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir, the most careful consideration is to be given to the proposals of the bodies mentioned when they reach us. I believe that this underlines the importance of issuing a consultative document first and then listening very carefully to the arguments which are based upon it.

Sir E. Bullus

Is my hon. Friend aware that a certain amount of misleading and biassed literature is being circulated by a minority of students? Will he ensure that his own proposals are widely disseminated?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I think that there has been some almost wilful misunderstanding of some of the suggestions made in the consultative paper. After all, there are in this field a large number of people who have a strong vested interest in leaving things exactly as they are.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend endeavour in his reforms to make political activities in student unions self-financing, because surely what we are seeking is responsible autonomy and not, as in the third suggestion, a more paternalistic, authoritarian scheme which will tend to put college authorities on a collision course with students?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The suggestions at present put out in the consultative document would have the effect that my hon. Friend suggests, though I think that the whole House would want to avoid treating political activities in isolation. There are other activities that take place in colleges and universities. The problem which will have to be resolved is whether control should be exercised from an external body or whether it is preferable that it should be done from within the [column 609]government of the university or college concerned.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is the Under-Secretary aware that this inept document has united students and staff as never before, because they realise that if the proposals are implemented, there will in future be a division between students and staff such as we have never seen before? Does the Under-Secretary realise that this will cripple the social and cultural activities of the smallest student unions, which are the vast majority of student unions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir; I accept no such thing. In part at least, the proposals draw considerably from existing practice at the colleges of education where a very considerable number of the facilities are provided by the governing body of the college. I accept no criticism from the hon. Gentleman. One of the reasons for this discussion is that there was a technical fault in the regulations laid by his Government.

Mr. Barry Jones

Do not student unions in England and Wales make a fine contribution to further and higher education? Does not the National Union of Students provide strong and effective leadership for all its members? Finally, would it not be wrong to use this document as a witch hunt against student unions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes; I think it is important to keep a sense of balance. I gladly join the hon. Gentleman in saying that in any college or university a strong student union is a very important part of the corporate life of the whole. I accept that without question. I think that the hon. Gentleman will at least give this side of the House credit for the fact that the document is drafted in very moderate terms.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Will the Under-Secretary now admit that the real purpose of the consultative document is to emasculate the power of student unions and particularly to whittle down the number of their Left-wing activities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. The real problem which must be faced by the House, as in any other quarter, is that local authorities are required to make a payment in the negotiation of which they have had not part. They [column 610]regard that—I think reasonably—as a form of taxation without representation.

18. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations she has received from the National Union of Students about her proposed changes in the administration of student unions; and what reply she has sent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend have received no formal representations from the N.U.S. on the consultative document which was issued at the beginning of this month, nor are any expected until after their forthcoming conference.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

If the hon. Gentleman really wants to encourage adulthood, maturity and financial responsibility among students—that is the kind of language that normally emanates from the benches opposite—does not he think that withdrawing from them the responsibility for running their own financial affairs is about the worst way to do it?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Even if the proposals in the consultative document were accepted as they are—I emphasise that they are of a consultative nature—they would not withdraw from student the administration and management of their financial affairs, which, I quite agree, in a very large number of cases are very much better done by them.

20. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the proposals for control of students' funds in so far as they apply specifically to Scottish universities and centres of higher education.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The proposals in the consultative document apply to all universities in Great Britain. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will shortly be issuing a separate document about the non-university sector in Scotland.

Mr. Douglas

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does not he concede that special consideration should be given to the history of Scottish universities and the high degree of freedom that Scottish students normally have over their own affairs when he is considering any alteration in the use of students' funds on the [column 611]part of Scottish universities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I limit my answer exclusively to the universities in Scotland, for reasons that the hon. Gentleman understands. There are indeed, at least in the ancient universities of Scotland, certain practices from which we could usefully learn. Since I was fortunate enough to spend a year in one of them, I am reasonably familiar with them.

Graduate Teachers of French

5. Mr. Boyden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she is taking to overcome the shortage of graduate teachers of French.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In 1970–71, 647 graduates took courses in French in their professional training as compared with 417 the previous year. The current figure is likely to be still higher.

Information about particular shortages is included in my Department's normal publicity.

Mr. Boyden

Will the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary do a little more to encourage more British students in French-speaking countries to read for honours degrees in French? For example, will the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady take a little more interest in the British section of the International Lycée at St. Germain-en-Laye, about which I have written to the hon. Gentleman? Some constructive ideas in this field would be very helpful in increasing the number of students who come forward to take degrees in French.

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is a little wide of the Question, but I well know the hon. Gentleman's concern for this school. I must limit myself today to reminding the hon. Gentleman, as I have in correspondence, that Parliament has not empowered my Department to spend money in this way outside the United Kingdom.

Handicapped Children

6. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what increase in resources she proposes to make over the next three years for the education of handicapped children.

[column 612]

Mrs. Thatcher

The total building allocations for special schools will rise from £8.1 million in 1971–72 to £9.4 million in 1972–73 and to £10.3 million in 1973–74.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that that increase is adequate to meet the many and growing problems in special education, particularly as relatively speaking this sector of education receives less than it did a few years ago? Is not a review of special education long overdue?

Mrs. Thatcher

One would always like to spend more on this sector of education, as well as on others. This capital expenditure is accompanied by increases in recurring expenditure and by a substantial programme of research, but I cannot say how much of that will be completed in the next three years. There is also a substantial programme for increasing the number of teachers trained in teaching mentally handicapped children.

Mr. Rose

What additional facilities have been provided for autistic children in their education since my Adjournment debate early last Session? How much has been earmarked out of those sums for the provision of facilities for autistic children? Is the right hon. Lady aware that facilities are almost non-existent and are lamentable in the north of England?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give specific figures for autistic children. Schools for autistic children come within the total capital expenditure.

Dame Irene Ward

My constituency needs more education facilities for mentally handicapped children. When a school project has been agreed and all the financial arrangements have been made and everything is in order, why cannot it be brought forward? This would help to mitigate the problem of unemployment. Does not the Secretary of State for Education have the same facility as the Secretary of State for the Environment to make special financial arrangements to bring forward a project which would both help the children and help with employment?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir; we have brought forward a number of school building projects to do exactly that. If my hon. Friend has a specific case in [column 613]mind, perhaps she will let me know about it.

Dame Irene Ward

I am grateful.


7. Mr. Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will now issue a circular to local education authorities recommending them to take no further steps towards the introduction of metrication, either in equipment or curricula, until a decision on the subject has been taken in Parliament.

Mrs. Thatcher

At present, I cannot add to the guidance given in Administrative Memorandum 15/69. I shall review the position after publication of the White Paper.

Mr. Winterton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many education authorities—I am a member of one—are ordering large quantities of metric equipment and many examination papers are set solely in metric, to the exclusion of imperial measurements? What action will my right hon. Friend take in the absence of a White Paper on metrication? Does this indicate that the House is not to have an opportunity to discuss the demerits or otherwise of metrication before a decision is made? Are we to be faced with a fait accompli by default?

Mrs. Thatcher

Advice about examination papers has been given through the Schools Council. It is reasonable to expect to see more equipment related to the teaching of metric units, but the important point is that teaching about imperial units should still continue so long as there is need for it to do so.

Mr. Terry Davis

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that a great deal of equipment is geared now only to metric measurements, particularly in primary schools, and many textbooks refer only to metric measurements, so that many teachers in primary schools are teaching only metric measurements? Will the Secretary of State take it that many teachers are most concerned that if she now gets cold feet over metrication we shall be left with a situation in which children have been taught metric measures over several years but this knowledge will not be applicable in examinations?

[column 614]

Mrs. Thatcher

The guidance in the memorandum to which I referred specifically asked schools to continue to teach imperial measures. How local authorities discharge that responsibility is not a matter for me. I cannot take powers of compulsion over them. Very firm guidance was given by the previous Government, and that guidance still stands in the memorandum.

Mr. John Hall

I express no view on the merits or otherwise of converting to the metric system, but I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend agrees that the present development in schools and elsewhere, before Parliament has had an opportunity to arrive at a decision, is a denial of the rights and responsibilities of this House. Is it not wrong that the Government should seek to introduce the metric system by stealth?

Mrs. Thatcher

I repeat that the guidance given was that an adequate knowledge of imperial measures should continue to be taught in schools. I cannot be clearer than that.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is the right hon. Lady aware that private enterprise industry is of its own volition converting to metrication, and it was the present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in his C.B.I. rôle who took the initiative in asking the Government to adopt metrication? If industry is going metric, ought not children to have an adequate education in metric measurements so that they may undertake meaningful jobs in industry?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that anyone quarrels with that. But they will also need an adequate education in imperial measures so long as they are in use.

Universities (Staff-Student Ratios)

8. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether it is her policy to provide sufficient funds to the University Grants Committee to enable present staff-student ratios in the universities to be maintained.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Grants for the present academic year form part of the settlement for the 1967–72 quinquennium which was made by the previous Government. My right hon. Friend will not [column 615]make a settlement for the full 1972–77 quinquennium until next year, after she has received and considered the advice of the University Grants Committee on the universities' requirements.

Dr. Marshall

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that over recent years the ratio of numbers of staff to students has been decreasing, thereby enabling the overall unit cost to public funds of maintaining each student place to decline?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Yes, Sir; and I should have thought that as student numbers grow and university departments reach an economic size it might be reasonable from the country's point of view to see some economies of scale.

Newton School, Derbyshire

10. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what requests she has received from Derbyshire County Council for the replacement of wooden huts at Newton School, Derbyshire, by permanent accommodation; and what reply she has sent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

None, Sir. It is for the local education authority to decide how to use its minor works allocations, which have been increased, at 1971 prices, from nearly £400,000 in 1970–71 to £470,000 in 1971–72 and over £500,000 in 1972–73.

Mr. Skinner

We could get round this problem quite easily by taking some of the £2 million which has gone to the direct grant schools. While I am on my feet, may I inquire for how many years the Secretary of State's own children suffered conditions such as those in Newton?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I answered the Question put to me, and I showed—I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the platform—that under the present Government the minor works allocation to this particular local education authority has increased dramatically. This is a familiar story under Tory Government education policy.

School Meals

11. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the latest figure available for children eating school meals; and how this [column 616]compares with the figure prior to the last increase in price.

Mrs. Thatcher

The latest figure available refers to the position in the areas of 146 local education authorities out of 163. This shows that 4,105,000 pupils, or 59.4 per cent. of those present on the day of the census, were taking the school dinner. This compares with 4,553,000, or 67.5 per cent., in autumn 1970.

Mr. Carter

Do not those figures confirm that the much-promised return to former levels has not taken place? Is the right hon. Lady aware that many thousands of school children are now going all day without a cooked meal, with consequent deterioration in their health? Will she set in train an immediate inquiry to ascertain the disastrous effects of this policy?

Mrs. Thatcher

There has been a substantial increase in the uptake of school meals since last May. Also, there has been a substantial increase in the number of meals served free, from 575,000 in the autumn of 1970 to 733,000 in the autumn of 1971.

Mr. Dormand

Over what period does the right hon. Lady expect the number to return to the former figure? It seems to me that she has completely ignored the point put to her by my hon. Friend. She has said in the House many times that it would be a temporary reduction. What is the period?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not possible to give a period. I believe that the pattern of school meals is changing, especially in secondary schools, and the change is due to factors other than the increase in the price of school meals.

21. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, following her Department's latest survey, she will state the number and percentage decline in children taking school meals following the recent price increase, giving them for the country as a whole and also separately for the City of Manchester.

Mrs. Thatcher

On a day in October 1971, 60,753 pupils in maintained schools in Manchester, representing 65.5 per cent. of those present, took the school meal [column 617]compared with 67,654, or 72.4 per cent. in September 1970. The full results of the latest survey are not yet available, but returns to date suggest that about 60 per cent. of the pupils present took the school meal in October 1971.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the right hon. Lady aware that she is rapidly becoming to British education what Attila the Hun was to Western civilisation? Will she come to Manchester and explain to the parents there why she takes such satisfaction in depriving thousands of their children of nourishment?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will gladly come to Manchester and tell the people why I have done more to alleviate conditions in 6,000 squalid primary schools than any other Minister of Education.

Nursery Education

12. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her estimate of total expenditure on nursery education in 1971–72, 1972–73 and 1973–74, respectively.

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give an answer in the precise form requested, but I estimate for the years in question that expenditure on nursery schools financed by the rates are rate support grant will amount to £4.8 million, £5 million and £5.1 million. I have no separate figures for the complementary expenditure on nursery classes in primary schools. The specific grants under the urban aid programme will support further expenditure of about £2.3 million, £2.7 million and £2.9 million on both schools and classes.

Mr. Lane

Is it not clear that nursery places are already being provided at a considerably higher rate than under the previous Government? Will my right hon. Friend make sure that that progress is maintained and, if possible, accelerated?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am happy to report that the general trend is up, and I will do my best to see that it goes up more in future.

Mr. Edward Short

I have with me a copy of the Home Office Press release of last February or March in which it was announced that for a two-year period, beginning 1st April, 5,219 places would [column 618]be provided. That is almost exactly half the rate of provision under the previous Government. Will the right hon. Lady explain that?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman's Government left three capital phases of the urban education programme. Those phases have been followed according to the timing the last Government left. In addition to that, in the education debate I announced further provision for extra nursery schools.

Mr. Short

That is not good enough. The right hon. Lady is diddling the House. The document goes on to say that 10,626 places have been provided in the previous two years. It announced the provision of 5,219 places for the two years beginning last April. That is half the rate of provision under the previous Government.

Mrs. Thatcher

The right hon. Gentleman's Government did not leave a capital phase 4 but only a recurrent expenditure phase 4. Bearing that in mind, I made an announcement in the last debate of extra nursery provision over and above that which the right hon. Gentleman provided for.

Handicapped Children (Tizard Report)

14. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recommendations or advice she has received from the Tizard Advisory Committee on handicapped children.

Mrs. Thatcher

This year the Committee has submitted reports on research and on a question I referred to it concerning dyslexia. I have approved its recommended programme of research into various aspects of special education down to 1978, which will be financed by my Department at a total cost of £316,000. The Committee's report on dyslexia was submitted to me very recently, and I am considering it.

Mr. Hill

To what extent will the reports be published? Is it within the Committee's remit to consider the important problem of how handicapped children should, where possible, be better enabled to be educated in ordinary schools along with their fellows?

[column 619]

Mrs. Thatcher

That will be one of its tasks. The report on dyslexia will be published. The Committee has let me know that it will have no objection to its being published.

Primary and Secondary Schools

(Replacement and Improvement)

17. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a further statement concerning the limits imposed on local education authorities in respect of replacement and improvement of primary and secondary schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have nothing to add to what I said in the debate on the Address.—[Vol. 825, c. 498–9.]

Mr. Spearing

Is the right hon. Lady aware that she added a great deal yesterday in answer to some 30 of my hon. Friends from the older urban areas when she told them that those areas had asked in the two years concerned for about £25 million worth of primary schools and £18 million worth of secondary schools and were permitted to use of their own money £16 million for primary schools only? Why does she not give them the freedom to choose their own priorities, to spend their own money as they think fit in their own areas? Does she think that she knows better than they do?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are committed to priority for primary schools. The money for the improvements programme is greater than has been supplied for quite a long time, but we think that the tiny children should come first in the replacement programme.

Museums and Galleries

22. Mr. Cormack

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries to report on the question of the display of pictures belonging to national collections but not on public view.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The findings of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries are expected early next year. They will be examined, as part of the more general review of relations between national and principal local museums, by [column 620]a Committee which my noble Friend, the Paymaster-General has appointed.

Mr. Cormack

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging reply and remind him that there are many people, particularly in the provinces, who are anxiously awaiting the outcome of these deliberations.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am well aware of the interest in the deliberations, and I know that my hon. Friend entirely concurs that the interests of the provincial local museums have sometimes been overlooked.

Mr. Faulds

Will the hon. Gentleman get to work on his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and get her to work on the Secretary of State for the Environment to support the campaign being sponsored by the Evening Standard to free Somerset House for uses more appropriate to its spaciousness and elegance, in two respects: first, possibly to use it for housing a British collection of national art; and secondly, and very simply, to open the terrace for lovers and other couples to wander along? I will gladly wander hand in hand with the right hon. Lady along the terrace on the first night that it is open.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Questions about Somerset House are not for me. If we are to make the terrace a success, I think that the hon. Gentleman had better stay well away from it.