I thank my hon. Friend for that interesting answer. Will he consider taking a sample of about 20 local education authorities and inquiring into the operation of sections 6 and 7 of the Education Act 1980, in order to satisfy the misgivings of some parents? Under section 6(5), I am talking about local authorities allowing parents to select out-of-borough schools, and under section 7 I am asking my right hon. Friend and the local authorities to consider whether the appeals committees are operating as fairly as they are supposed to.
A parent who is dissatisfied with the school to which his child is allocated may now take his case to one of the independent local appeal committes set up to resolve such cases. Last year about 9,000 parents appealed in that way and about 3,000 were successful. However, I note my hon. Friend's point.
Is my hon. Friend aware that when those appeals are heard it is not uncommon for them to be turned down on the ground that too much strain would be put on the school's resources? Does it not follow that local authorities must be encouraged to match the necessary resources to meet the wishes of the parents, rather than the other way round?
It is for local education authorities to decide on the criteria to use when deciding whether to allocate pupils to oversubscribed schools. They have to be published, together with their determined admission limits for each school. In those matters we would expect local education authorities to have regard to the general educational interests of all the pupils in their area as well as the need to make efficient use of public expenditure.