Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1972 Jul 13 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 [840/1817-38]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1430-1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7916
Themes: Education, Private education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Women
[column 1817]

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Polytechnics (Residential Accommodation)

1. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on the Government's policy concerning residential accommodation for students at polytechnics.

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

My right hon. Friend is prepared, within the resources available, to consider on their merits proposals for the provision of additional accommodation that are put to her by education authorities responsible for polytechnics.

Mr. Judd

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that despite the devoted work of the specialist staff, the range of accommodation available for students at polytechnics, especially when compared with universities, is totally inadequate? Does he recognise for example that the plan to double the size of the polytechnic in Portsmouth, which is already a worrying situation, would make the position [column 1818]worse and that a grave existing housing shortage in the city may become still more problematical and inflationary? What reassurances can be give in this respect?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I begin by accepting the point made by the hon. Gentleman at the start of his supplementary question. There is no doubt that residential accommodation at polytechnics is well down the league compared with the universities. However, the building programme is encouraging. It is not a reason for complacency but it is encouraging. The hon. Gentleman knows that the starts for 1973–74 at the Portsmouth polytechnic amount to no less than £1.16 million. In Portsmouth alone there is provision for 150 residential places. The programme that comes after that also includes another substantial allocation or, rather, a request for an allocation.

Mr. Moyle

Has not the hon. Gentleman seen the speech by Mr. Anthony Speaight, Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students, who says that next autumn there will be the biggest crisis in student housing we have ever faced? What is the Government's thinking for dealing with the short-term problem?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The answer is contained in the the building programme already announced in the university sector which shows an increase in proportion to the students at universities being accommodated—and that is in spite of increasing overall numbers.

Direct Grant Schools

2. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will publish a list of the names and locations of every new direct grant school which has been added to the list in the last two years.

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

No schools have been added to the direct grant list in this period.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is a disappointing answer? I am sure, however, that she is doing her best to fulfil our declared intention to encourage direct grant schools because they provide opportunities for children of academic ability which they might not otherwise have, irrespective of [column 1819]parents' incomes. Can my right hon. Friend say why there has been no increase in the number?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with many of the views expressed by my hon. Friend. I have before me applications or inquiries from about 30 schools which would be interested if the direct grant list were reopened, but it would be expensive to reopen it if, in addition, one were doing as one has done already—that is, help the direct grant schools by increasing the capitation fee and by a much more generous income remissions list, which has been much appreciated.

Students (Academic Performance)

3. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what evidence she has relating to the relative academic performance of home-based students compared with other students.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The available evidence is not very substantial and is largely inconclusive.

Mr. Deakins

Will the Minister therefore encourage institutions of advanced education in England and Wales to give some degree of priority to taking home-based students rather than students living away from home, so that resource costs can be saved and used more expeditiously elsewhere in the education system?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support. He is absolutely right. I am sure he will be encouraged, as I am, by the recent initiative, for example, of the Vice-Chancellors, who have publicly circulated universities broadly on the lines the hon. Gentleman has just outlined.

Mr. Moyle

That being so, will the hon. Gentleman support the suggestion of the Vice-Chancellors that there should be a kind of public works loan board to provide money for the creation of more student accommodation? Does he not think that if there is any sorting out of people for home-based residence and residence away, those who have the least satisfactory conditions for home study should be the ones who have the first option of living away from home?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The idea that there is no expenditure on home-based students is one which I do not accept. [column 1820]There are sometimes problems, for example regarding places to study and other matters, but the hon. Gentleman will know that the universities have been remarkably successful in raising the necessary 75 per cent. from the private market in relation to their student residents. I should have thought that was a successful sector.

Careers Guidance Teachers (Industrial Experience)

4. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice she has given to local education authorities, arising from her survey of careers guidance, on allowing teachers involved in careers guidance in schools to spend some time in industry.

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not expect to receive the report on the survey before Easter, 1973. In the Department's circular 9/69 local education authorities were encouraged to take part in the CBI's Introduction to Industry Scheme.

Mr. Duffy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is the view of the working party set up by Sheffield Youth Employment Committee that it would be valuable for teachers to acquire not so much the kind of detailed knowledge that is enjoyed by full-time youth employment officers as some insight into the demands and pressures that children will have to face subsequently in industry?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think I would agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that was one of the objectives to which the CBI scheme was directed. I should be happy if more people were to take advantage of it because I think it would achieve what the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Schools (Parental Preference)

5. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many cases parents have declined, on educational grounds, to send their children to a particular school, whilst willing to send them to some other school in the neighbourhood; how many such parents have made representations to her; what action has been taken in consequence; and with what result.

Mrs. Thatcher

The majority of cases in which there are differences between local education authorities and parents [column 1821]about choice of school are settled locally and no information about them is available in my Department. A detailed analysis of cases which have been the subject of appeal has not been undertaken. But if my hon. Friend can specify a particular area, or a short period of time, in which he is interested I will provide what information I can from readily available records.

Mr. King

I am obliged for that reply. But has my right hon. Friend heard of the case in Bedfordshire where two girls are having no education at all because their parents decline to allow them to attend a certain school? Has she heard of the protest last night against the Inner London Education Authority's policy of redistributing children among schools against the wishes of their parents? Will she consider whether the concept of educational conscription, which was satisfactorily and easily accepted in the nineteenth century, can be quite as easily enforced with the raising of the school leaving age in the twentieth century?

Mrs. Thatcher

A large number of parents object to a school selected by the local education authority for their children. About 1,000 such cases were referred to me last year. I am naturally anxious that the spirit of the Act should be honoured and that parents should have as wide a choice as it is possible to give them, commensurate with places being available and a reasonable admissions policy on the part of the local education authority.

Mr. Marks

Does the right hon. Lady still support, as she did in 1970, the idea of banding which the ILEA is carrying out?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot remember having supported the idea in 1970, but I pointed out that it would be the logical consequence of a Bill which was before the last Parliament.

Mr. Edward Short

Does not the right hon. Lady think that the ILEA is to be congratulated on trying to give parents a choice of school and on enabling about 86 per cent. of parents to have their first choice? Is not this a remarkable achievement?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am very happy if local education authorities make it one of their main objectives to give parents [column 1822]the maximum choice of schools. But the number of protests against local education authorities which do not seem to be able to do so satisfactorily in every case is increasing.

Graduates (Petroleum Industry)

6. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will list the number of graduates from universities in Scotland in 1971, or the latest available date, in science and technologies associated with the petroleum industry.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The following are the numbers of graduates from universities in Scotland in 1971 with first degrees or higher degrees in science and technologies most associated with the petroleum industry: chemistry 389; physics 206; mathematics 295; chemical engineering 74; and mechanical engineering 333.

Mr. Douglas

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those statistics, but will he take steps to increase the facilities available in Scottish universities for studies in this sector? Will he endeavour to give the University of Aberdeen in particular all possible assistance to pursue research studies into the impact of North Sea oil on the Scottish economy?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman will know as well as or better than I do that the allocation of resources by the University of Aberdeen or any other is a matter for the university itself and it would not take kindly if I were to interfere. But it is relevant to tell the hon. Gentleman in view of his interest that I understand from the figures supplied by the University Grants Committee that 10 graduates in science and 11 in engineering from universities in Scotland entered the oil industry in 1972 as first employment. So there is clearly a link there.

Medical Schools

7. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will seek powers to control admissions to all medical schools, in view of the existing quotas on grounds of sex.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. The admission of students is best left to the authorities of the universities and medical schools.

[column 1823]

Dr. Summerskill

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that 13 major medical schools in the United Kingdom have admitted in evidence, which has gone unchallenged, to the Select Committee of the other place dealing with discrimination that they operate a quota restricting the entry of women medical students? Does she not have a responsibility to ensure equal opportunity in education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not believe that that responsibility would best be exercised by any Minister taking over the admissions to medical schools. I think it can be done only by the academic authorities. I think that the hon. Lady and I would both agree with the view in the Todd Report that the criterion for admission to medical school should be the ability to profit from the course and become a good doctor. That is the only criterion which should be adopted.

Mr. Edward Short

That really is not good enough. The right hon. Lady knows that there is another criterion, and that is sex. This is a gross example of discrimination against women. What does the Secretary of State intend to do about it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have already expressed my view on the Todd Report and the way I believe these admissions should be determined. I do not believe that the solution would be for a Minister to take over the admissions policy of a particular academic institution.

School Meals Service

8. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will consult the trade unions having membership in the school meals service with a view to ensuring that a person experienced in working in the service is appointed to the body looking into its future development.

Mrs. Thatcher

Members of the review committee have not been appointed in a representative capacity. The committee itself will decide how to take the views of those with experience of working in the service.

Mr. Moyle

All sorts of people will have a responsibility for writing the report of the committee but no one who has an [column 1824]intimate knowledge of the manual staff working in the school meals service will be on the committee to help write the report. In this day and age, is this good enough? Will the right hon. Lady think about it again?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. The committee was set up clearly to have on it representatives of local education authorities, which are statutorily responsible for the school meals service, and of teachers, since everything in the school affects the teacher. The committee is chaired by an official of my Department. It is expected that it will work through a large number of sub-committees which will deal in detail with the catering and nutritional aspects among other things.

Secondary Reorganisation (South Derbyshire)

9. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied with the arrangements for secondary education in Melbourne and the surrounding areas of South Derbyshire which will result from the reorganisation by the Derby Borough; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend concluded that the county borough's proposals should be approved. Secondary education in Melbourne is to be the subject of a discussion as requested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Rost

While I welcome the meeting which my right hon. Friend has agreed to have with those concerned, may I urge her please to start the new secondary school building before 1975–76, otherwise equality of educational opportunity will be prejudiced for many of my constituents' children in the Melbourne area because they will have to take selective examinations in order to enter a non-selective system?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It would probably be most convenient if this were the subject of the discussions to which my hon. Friend has referred. My hon. Friend will recall that I thought it wise to write to him on 8th May explaining a supplementary answer which I had given. I would not want there to be any misunderstanding about the position of the school at Chellaston.

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Comprehensive Education

10. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why, in each of the 70 decisions she has made to veto proposals for comprehensive schools under Section 13(a) of the Education Act, 1944, as amended, her consideration of all the relevant factors including local objections led to the conclusion that the proposals would not be in the best interests of the pupils concerned.

Mrs. Thatcher

The proposals did not fully meet the main criteria for approval.

Mr. Tuck

The right hon. Lady has dodged this Question from me on four occasions. The first three were Written Questions; now we are face to face. Could the real reason for her vetoing the 1970 proposals be that the school buildings were not adequate and that she is dodging the question in order to hide the fact that the Government are unwilling to provide money to improve old secondary school buildings? If that is not the reason, why is the right hon. Lady deftly ducking the question?

Mrs. Thatcher

Where school buildings are not adequate for the reorganisation proposed, that has usually been set out in the reply to the proposals of the local education authority. No Government have yet given a specific grant for secondary reorganisation. The capital expenditure on secondary schools in my first four-year programme will be about £400 million.

Miss Lestor

Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be a great help if she would set out the educational reasons why the scheme was turned down?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not aware what the hon. Lady means when she refers to one particular scheme. The reasons are usually set out in the reply to the proposals from the local education authority.

16. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what aid she intends to give the London Borough of Ealing in its endeavour to produce a viable comprehensive education system.

Mrs. Thatcher

Under successive Governments no capital resources have been [column 1826]available specifically for reorganisation but the authority's normal allocations including those for raising the school leaving age have been substantial.

Mr. Molloy

That reply does not exactly square with some of the comments the Conservative Party was making before the election about the wonderful things it would do and how much money it would allocate. Is the right hon. Lady aware that under the admirable leadership of the chairman of the education committee in Ealing the councillors have worked very hard indeed to produce a scheme which has support on both sides of the council and that a little help from her now could produce a viable scheme? Will she see a deputation which would explain their difficulties to her?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have before me Section 13 notices from Ealing about the scheme. Enormous allocations have been made for primary schools and for raising the school leaving age, and no other Government have succeeded in doing that. The Labour Government made the allocation and we found the money.

Educational Courses (Secondment of Teachers)

11. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will seek powers to establish the right of every teacher to be seconded for one year, on full salary and without loss of status, to an approved full-time educational course at least once in his/her career, but not before 10 years' service is completed.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In-service education and training is one of the matters being covered by the present consultations on the James Report.

Mr. Chapman

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the proposal contained in the Question is a sort of halfway point between the existing position and what the teachers would like as expressed in the resolution passed at the last conference of the ATTI. Will he consider this point because it seems to many on both sides of the House that in view of the increasing sophistication of teaching techniques and materials it would be good for teachers at least once in their working lifetime to have these refresher courses?

[column 1827]

Mr. van Straubenzee

I undertake to consider this and all the other suggestions relating to this aspect of the James recommendations. It was this aspect of the recommendations which probably achieved the maximum of general support.

Mr. Dalyell

Are Ministers in favour in principle of sabbatical years for teachers?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Ministers are certainly interested in anything which improves the quality of the training of one of the most important professions in the country.

Foreign Languages (Overseas Teaching)

12. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will cause a comparative study to be made of the worth of the various ways by which, at public expense, United Kingdom students abroad learn foreign languages.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, Sir. It is best left to the academic authorities to decide what arrangements their students should follow.

Mr. Lyons

In view of the enormous and growing expenditure incurred in sending thousands of students overseas every year to learn foreign languages, is it not common prudence to ensure that public money is used advantageously? There are many ways in which students who go abroad learn foreign languages and no check has been made on the relative efficiency of those methods. This is not fair to students or to the taxpayer.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Unquestionably it must be right to keep an eye on the efficacy of the training and I suggest to the hon. Member, who I know has studied the subject, that there is a wide range of courses under which young people go abroad. I wonder whether one study to evaluate them all is the most efficacious way of considering them. The hon. Member wrote to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 21st June about a specific research project related to the matter. The subject is being carefully considered and I shall write to him as soon as I can.

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Pupil-Teacher Ratio

14. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will circularise all local education authorities requesting them not to worsen the pupil-teacher ratio in their schools in September.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. It is for local education authorities to determine their own staffing standards, having regard to the improving supply of teachers.

Mr. Marks

At what stage does the Secretary of State use her powers of control and direction in the case, for instance, of Berkshire, where the council has overturned its own education committee's recommendations and will probably make the ration worse next summer?

Mrs. Thatcher

The case of Berkshire is the subject of a later Question on the Order Paper. I make it quite clear that I hope there will be no cutting back of staffing standards.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State make any overall estimate throughout the country of the likely trend in the pupil-teacher ratio as a result of the raising of the school leaving age in September?

Mrs. Thatcher

We do not expect the ratio to change because there should be sufficient additional teachers coming into the schools to preserve the present ratio for one year, after which there should be a further improvement.

Mr. Edward Short

The right hon. Lady will be aware that thanks to the Labour Government 20,000 additional teachers will be coming into the schools this year. Can she assure the House that they will all get jobs?

Mrs. Thatcher

I expect they will all get jobs, especially in view of the raising of the school leaving age. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is one of the purposes of having a quota.

15. Dr. Glyn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what requests she has received from the Berkshire Education Authority to enable it to improve the pupil-teacher ratio at Royal Free (Infants) Church of England, Windsor, Clewer Green (Infants and [column 1829]Junior Mixed) Windsor, Furze Platt Maidenhead (Infants) including supply teachers, King's Court (Infants and Junior Mixed), Old Windsor, and St. Peter's Church of England (Infants) Old Windsor schools, where children are being taught in classes of between 38 and 42 pupils: and what reply she has sent.

Mrs. Thatcher

None, Sir.

Dr. Glyn

I hope my right hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that I had anticipated that answer. Does she agree that classes of this size are quite unacceptable to parents and teachers in primary schools and that in spite of the pupil-teacher ratio we could not possibly continue with a system in which there are 40 children in a class? Will she use her good offices to persuade Berkshire County Council to change its policy when it meets this Saturday because the cost of doing so represents a small proportion of the total educational precept for the county.

Mrs. Thatcher

We are always very concerned when we hear of classes of 40 pupils or more and I share the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. I know from comments and letters we have received just how much anxiety the original proposals caused. I understand that modifications have been made since then but I will certainly draw Berkshire's attention to the views expressed by my hon. Friend today.

Nursery Education

17. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consideration she is giving to the educational findings in the National Children's Bureau's report “From Birth to Seven” , a copy of which is in her possession.

40. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recommendation she will be making to local authorities and what changes she envisages in the educational field arising out of the findings of the report, “From Birth to Seven” , a copy of which is in her possession.

Mrs. Thatcher

This valuable study is particularly relevant to my consideration of an extension of nursery education, but it is too early to say what guidance I shall be giving to local authorities.

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Mr. Hill

Will my right hon. Friend say what consideration she is giving to the disquieting finding in the report that the children and families who most need to use special education provisions, such as pre-school education, tend to make least use of it? Will she say what she has in mind to try to encourage a greater take-up in cases of need?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that one of the problems is getting at those who are least willing to come forward but whose need is greatest. This is probably one of the reasons why we should try to introduce more nursery education in due course, particularly in areas and for children from homes of the kind my hon. Friend has in mind.

Miss Lestor

I am delighted at the sympathetic noises the Secretary of State is making about nursery education, but we shall all be much more delighted when and if something more practical comes forward. The report underlines the need for a tremendous expansion in pre-school education. Will the Secretary of State say what she intends to do about the case made in the report for positive discrimination in terms of both nursery education and children who are already at school?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Lady knows, we have carried forward some of the policies of the previous Government in the urban aid programme and also positive discrimination in favour of primary schools in priority areas. That will continue, and I believe it has been of great benefit to these schools.

23. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on her latest proposals to extend provision of nursery education.

49. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now introduce a phased 10-year building programme to provide nursery school places adequate for the needs of the population in deprived areas which qualify for urban aid.

Mrs. Thatcher

At present I cannot add to my speech in the debate on 12th May, when I said that I accepted the case for a substantial expansion of nursery education.

[column 1831]

Mr. Hamilton

I took part in that debate and heard what the right hon. Lady said. The whole House will welcome what she said at the AEC conference at Bournemouth, but will she make it clear when she pleads with the Treasury for more money for nursery education that she will not be satisfied, and nor will the House, if it is to be at the expense of further education and that it must be supplementary to it? The more she can get in addition for nursery education the better, and the more she allocates to the under-privileged areas the more support she will receive from both sides of the House.

Mrs. Thatcher

My right hon. Friend A. Barberthe Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear me out when I say that I am at the Treasury just as much as Derbyshire and other counties are at me, asking for more money. Dealing with the capital expenditure figures for education I feel that the hon. Gentleman may be assured that there will continue to be an expansion in all sectors of education.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Lady consult with her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who made a welcome visit to my area in this connection on Monday, with a view to providing for some of the ideas put to him on that occasion about the urban aid programme? In addition, will she take a long-term look at this so that we can deal not only with the pressures emerging as a result of the East Africans now coming to my constituency but with events that will take place over a longer time?

Mrs. Thatcher

When any announcement is made about nursery education it would be better if it were an announcement to set up a plan which could come into operation over a period so that the local education authorities which have to deal with problems such as those in the hon. Gentleman's area will know exactly where they are.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

In considering future provision for the under-fives may I ask my right hon. Friend to consult her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, to discuss what part the pre-school playgroup may be able to play in an auxiliary capacity in supporting the expansion of nursery education generally?

[column 1832]

Mrs. Thatcher

We have been consulting quite recently on this and, as my hon. Friend knows, Sir Keith Josephthe Secretary of State for Social Services in a recent announcement increased the grant to the Pre-School Play Groups Association, because we think it has an extremely important part to play in pre-school—I was going to say education, and I think in a way it is education. It also has the great advantage that it gets parents involved closely with the work of looking after these children before they go to school.

Mr. Pardoe

In considering the financing of the provision of further nursery education, may I ask the right hon. Lady to consider the possibility of introducing legislation to compel all firms employing more than a certain number of women to provide nursery education, at the expense of those firms, at the place of work?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I do not think that would necessarily be a good way to go about improving nursery education. What the hon. Gentleman may be after is an improvement in day nursery provision, but that is slightly different.

Miss Lestor

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we were delighted when her right hon. Friend increased the grant to the Pre-School Play Group Association and also that I was delighted when she used the word “education” in relation to the provision of playgroups? Can she give an assurance that when she makes the expected announcement about nursery education she will also give some indication about how she intends to bring the playgroup movement at least in part under the education umbrella?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think we can bring it under the education umbrella because under legislation passed in the last Parliament it was placed under the Department of Health and Social Security. I think it is extremely important that we should get a close working relationship between the social service authorities and the local education authorities and I hope that the latter will provide educational advisers to keep an eye on the pre-school play group.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of us on this side of the House believe that it is more important, from a priority [column 1833]point of view, that the numbers in classes in primary education should be reduced rather than that we should extend an expensive programme of nursery education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that the numbers in classes in primary schools will go on reducing. In some ways the task of the teachers in primary schools would be made easier if some of the children had had nursery education before they got to the primary school, particularly children from deprived homes.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the right hon. Lady consider lowering the school starting age? Would not this overcome the difficulty she mentioned a few moments ago of getting the most needy children into nursery education and would it not also help to meet what most of us think is a priority for this country, namely, giving children a good and early start in life?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that the way to do this would be to lower the compulsory starting age. In any event, if that were contemplated we could not do it before very adequate provision was made both for buildings and teachers. A number of authorities are admitting children at the beginning of the school year in which they reach the age of five when they have both the staff and the buildings. I prefer to tackle nursery education slightly differently.

Village Halls and Community Centres

18. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now increase the amount of money for Government grant aid for village halls and community centres; and if she will make a statement.

48. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much has been contributed by the Government in the form of capital grants in support of village halls and community centres in each of the last three financial years; and how much has been allocated for such spending during the current financial year.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Department's expenditure on village halls and community centres in 1969–70 was £513,000, [column 1834]in 1970–71 £595,000, and in 1971–72 £751,000. For 1972–73 it is expected to be over £1 million. In announcing the new grant arrangements last August I assured the House that the total of Government grants would be maintained in real terms and I am glad that it has been possible to improve on this undertaking.

Mr. Madel

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's reply. I am sure she will appreciate the growing demand for more village halls and community centres. Will she remind local authorities that the Government have increased the grant for these purposes and will she also point out to local authorities that one of the reasons for the increase was that they could catch up with those projects which were backlog projects, that is dating from two to three years back.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to make clear that the amount of money has been increased and to agree with him that part of the increase appeared to be concealed, because some of it had to go towards reducing the backlog of applications which had already been received.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the real problem is the lack of qualified community association wardens and leaders, and will she take steps to increase the facilities for their training?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is rather different from the original Question, which was specifically directed towards capital provision, but we need both the capital provision and the people necessary to achieve the results in the youth and community service which we all desire.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may have happened nationally, the grant to the Dorset County Council has been reduced from over £50,000 to under £10,000, and in consequence at least half a dozen villages in my constituency are deeply resentful of the new state of affairs?

Mrs. Thatcher

Before the present grant system was announced, there was no system of allocating the money. It was on a first come, first served basis. When we started the programme we tried to make a very fair allocation. It may be [column 1835]that some authorities which happened to do particularly well on the first come, first served basis have not done so well under a proper allocation system. I do not have the Dorset figures with me, but if my hon. Friend gives them to me I shall examine them.

Urban Aid Programme (Secondary School Improvement)

19. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will allow local authorities to include the replacement or improvement of secondary school buildings among their proposals under the urban programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) in reply to his Question on 9th March, I think it right that most of the resources available to education under the urban programme should be devoted to nursery places.—[Vol. 832, c. 1625.]

Mr. Morrison

Will my right hon. Friend have another look at the matter? Does she agree that both from the purely educational point of view and more generally, from the point of view of the need to provide good buildings of all sorts in those areas which are most relevant to urban aid, there could well be a strong case for including secondary school improvement and replacement in the programme?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that my hon. Friend's objective and mine are the same, but I do not think it should come under the urban programme because that would deprive a number of areas of nursery classes, which are even more important. I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about the need to do more to improve secondary schools. That was a point I raised in my “priorities” speech to the Association of Education Committees.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Has any of the urban aid programme been used for secondary school improvement?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir.

Arts Council

20. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the total sum of money allocated to the Arts Council since its inception.

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Mr. van Straubenzee

Since its inception in 1946 the Arts Council has been allocated £89,991,000 including, subject to Parliamentary approval, £13,670,000 for 1972–73.

Mr. Price

Why does the National Youth Orchestra receive tens of thousands of pounds a year while the National Youth Brass Band has consistently been refused a penny? Why is it that if I had been one of the Archangel Gabriel's middle-class harpists I should have received all the help I could have needed but that if I had been a working-class trumpeter outside the Pearly Gates I should not have got a penny from anywhere? Why does not the hon. Gentlemen tell the Arts Council that it is time the working class saw some of the money?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that when the hon. Gentleman gets there he will find the harpists in Heaven exclusively drawn from the middle classes. The short answer is that this is essentially a matter for the Arts Council and must remain at matter for the Arts Council. [Interruption.] If we have an Arts Council charged with the administration of the money, it must make sense for such decisions to be left to it.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it not a fact that the statistic my hon. Friend gave—[Hon. Members: “Cherub. You will be there.” ] We are not talking about the upper classes playing harps. Is it not a fact that the statistic given by my hon. Friend shows that the highest sum ever paid for the support of the arts in this country has come from the present Government. Could my hon. Friend use some of his notable oratorial skill in the country so that the comparatively minor Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill can be seen in its proper context?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is undoubtedly true that the increase in the recurrent grant to the Arts Council in the current year, subject to approval by the House, is 15.9 per cent.

Mr. Faulds

In view of the effects of VAT on various of the activities carried out under Arts Council auspices, when can we expect a detailed announcement of the necessary increase in Arts Council funding? Will the Government extract their finger?

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Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman always expresses himself so elegantly that it is not easy to match him. The Government's position has has already been made clear. I have no further announcements to make at present. Anyway, the VAT side will be dealt with by my hon. Friends at the Treasury.

Wooden Hut School Buildings (Derbyshire)

21. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what requests she has had from Derbyshire County Council for additional capital to remove all 40-year-old temporary wooden huts in junior and infants schools in Derbyshire.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend is continually receiving requests from Derbyshire County Council to allocate larger sums for improving or replacing old schools.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether I can assist in the matter. Could the Minister get hold of the money derived from not providing the Derbyshire youngsters with free milk and transfer it back to get rid of the wooden huts? Is it not an important issue when many teachers in in the county teaching 5 to 7-year-olds in those wooden huts are spending a considerable amount of their time looking after children's health when they should be teaching?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I gladly accept the hon. Gentleman's offer of help. I am sure he will assist me to publicise the fact that the 1972 preliminary list for expected starts in 1974–75 for the county, part of which he represents, includes 18 major projects, representing the replacement of 21 old primary schools at a cost of about £1,520,000.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is it not true that under the present Government more primary schools have been replaced in Derbyshire than during the entire period of the previous Labour Government? Although increasing sums are needed for such replacement, will my hon. Friend convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the thanks of the Derbyshire people?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Although none of us would wish to be complacent about [column 1838]some of the schools referred to in the Question, many of them are rightly affected by the programme to which I have drawn attention.

Youth Centres (Brent)

22. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will reconsider her allocation of funds to the London Borough of Brent for youth centres, and in particular, the amount available for the proposed youth centre for handicapped youngsters, in view of recent representations.

Mr. van Straubenzee

My right hon. Friend has only just received representations from the authority for an increased allocation. This will be considered sympathetically on its merits together with similar requests from other authorities.

Mr. Pavitt

In that consideration, will it be borne in mind that Wormwood Scrubs is on the border of my constituency and that the more youth clubs we can have, the fewer people we shall have in Wormwood Scrubs? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the centre mentioned in my Question is part and parcel of an endeavour by the disabled people in my community to do something for youth, and that there is a special reason why the money should be allocated?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I tried to frame my answer in as sympathetic a way as possible. I have looked at the authority's proposals. The hon. Gentleman will know that it has put as its first priority the Roundwood boys' club project, which is obviously a very good one, but I clearly see that the one in which the hon. Gentleman is interested is of considerable worth.