asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will review the regulations governing the provision of free transport for schoolchildren under the age of 12 years who live, in rural areas.
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the present arrangements are sufficiently flexible for local education authorities to provide transport for pupils who live within statutory walking distance when they consider this justified.
Is the Minister aware that this reply will be received with dismay in the rural areas where young children under the age of 12 have to walk almost three miles in dark lanes in the winter through desolate country, and that the situation is wholly unsatisfactory, and that we expect a very much greater interest to be taken in this matter by the Minister?
The hon. Member must bear in mind that the statutory walking distance is not defined by regulations but by Statute—Section 39(5) of the Education Act, 1944. In any event a discretion is given to local authorities, who have been reminded of this discretion in dealing with specific difficulties in a circular as recently as February this year.