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Adult Literacy

Volume 893: debated on Tuesday 17 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he intends to announce a second year's allocation for adult literacy, to follow his initial allocation of £1 million in July 1974.

The allocation last July was authorised with no commitment to further grants of this kind, and much of it still remains to be distributed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will be keeping the progress of this scheme under review, in relation to the continuing effort to promote adult literacy, our economic circumstances and other educational priorities.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the regional programme which was started last year began in response to a specific Labour Party commitment in our manifesto to help the disadvantaged student, whether he be an adult or a child? Does my right hon. Friend agree that having started this scheme, and having aroused a great deal of enthusiasm in many parts of the country, it would be an absolute scandal if it were strangled at birth? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the people working in the field are given some assurance that further money will be available?

As my hon. Friend knows, the scheme is administered by the Adult Literacy Resource Agency. I understand that so far it has allocated £368,000 among 58 local education authorities and 19 other organisations. Therefore, there is quite a lot of the £1 million still left to be allocated before the scheme reaches its limit. However, I shall strongly bear in mind the views that my hon. Friend has put forward.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the British Broadcasting Corporation's important project to spend £800,000 of its own money over three years on programmes to stimulate the interests of illiterates and to encourage them to take lessons? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the BBC's charter prevents it from spending approximately £144,000, the sum which is required for ancillary work in connection with these programmes, including a telephone referral programme? Will the right hon. Gentleman take an interest in this project and consider whether part of the money available could be directed in the area to which I have referred?

I am not informed about that difficulty, but I shall look into it. It may be one of the ways in which the money could be spent.