asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will provide additional finance for education authorities to prevent the closure of schools.
No, Sir. That would not be money well spent. The Government's policy is that local education authorities should take advantage of the educational and financial benefits of taking surplus places out of use.
Does the Minister agree that one of the reasons why education authorities are having to propose school closures—especially infant schools—is the lack of money that the Government have allocated because they do not want to have to increase rates to astronomical heights? Is he aware that Shirebrook Carter lane school in my constituency will resist? Is he aware that I received a deputation this morning about that school's amalgamation with others in the area and that we call on the Government to provide additional money? Does he agree that, if necessary, that money should be fetched back from the Falklands? The Government seem to have plenty to spend there. Why does not the Minister spend some money on Shirebrook Carter lane in particular, and on Derbyshire education authority in general? And speak slowly.
Is my hon. Friend aware that Lancashire county council is trying to close St. Aidan's primary school in my constituency, when it could put two schools on one new site where all the facilities that are required could be provided? Is he aware that when the blame is laid, it will be laid at the door of the Labour party, which controls Lancashire county council, not at the Government's door?
Does not the Minister realise that falling school rolls present a marvellous opportunity for the Government to reduce class sizes and the sizes of schools, so giving teachers the opportunity to improve standards of education and behaviour — issues that are supposedly dear to his and his colleagues' hearts? Will the Minister provide resources to achieve those ends?
The removal of surplus places by local authorities reflects the needs of the local community. Between 1979 and 1983 the total school population fell by about 1 million. We must take account of that, as must local authorities.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, when parents and governors want to challenge a local education authority's decision to close a school under section 12, the local education authority should be obliged to make the financial data and projected savings available to parents and governors so that they can challenge the closure? Is he aware that the Labour-controlled Staffordshire education authority is fudging the issue and denying parents the right to acquire that basic information?
Will the Minister confirm that, in the previous Parliament, local education authorities were instructed by the Department to review the number of pupils on their rolls and told that where there had been a decline, grant to education authorities would be cut unless they acted appropriately?