asked the Minister of Education if he is aware of the wide-spread concern at the high cost of school uniforms especially in areas where the monopoly of supplying school uniforms is vested in one shop; and, in view of the more reasonable prices ruling where several selling points are recognised, if he will circularise all local education authorities requiring them to allow a choice of more than one shop for the purchase of uniforms.
asked the Minister of Education if he is aware of the resentment of many parents at being compelled to buy school uniforms at one particular shop as being wrong in principle and unnecessarily costly in practice; and if he will cause an investigation to be held with a view to a revision of the present policy.
asked the Minister of Education if he will hold an inquiry designed to reduce the problems of manufacturers of school uniforms and consequently the costs of production and to give adequate consideration to the complaints by parents of unsuitable materials, monopoly selling points with unnecessarily high prices and the refusal in some schools under his control to approve garments produced in the home even when of a high standard.
Parents who have cause to complain about school uniforms are quite right to do so, but no representations have been made to me. I am glad to learn that the British Standards Institution is discussing this problem with the manufacturers. I shall keep in touch with the Institution so that I can consider whether there is any action which I can usefully take.
Is the Minister aware that this shocking monopoly racket—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is a shocking monopoly racket—is causing widespread dissatisfaction and anger? Will he re-read the Report of the women's section of the British Standards Institution, which surely indicates the necessity for immediate Government action in this matter?
I am always willing to read that Report, and I think there is something in it, but as the Institution itself is discussing the question with the manufacturers we had better see how it gets on.
Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer is constantly asking for economies and the Minister is constantly practising economies on the children in the schools, will he not consider sending a circular to local education authorities, governors and head teachers, if only for the sake of poor parents like myself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Poor?"]—who have to pay for the uniforms?
Is the Minister aware that it is extremely difficult for parents to influence schools and local education committees on this problem? It is urgently necessary that the Ministry should hold an investigation and give guidance to local education authorities on this problem if parents are to have the freedom of choice which is their right as consumers and if prices are to be kept under control and standards maintained.
My reply to the hon. Lady is that the investigation is going on. If as a result of it I consider that action should be taken, I assure the hon. Lady that we shall take it. I cannot speak as to the position in Scotland.
The Minister said that he had not had any representations made to him, but as Minister of Education is he not aware of the widespread complaints about school uniforms? If he is not willing to be bothered to go into the problems of harassed mothers, is he ready to have representations made to him, and will he keep an open mind on the matter?