Although Colchester has been identified as a potential super-garrison, it is too early for any firm decision on that. Regardless of that, the Ministry of Defence and Essex local authority officials continue to discuss schooling for the children of Colchester garrison. Paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Government response to the Select Committee on Defence inquiry responded to recommendation 5 and made our position clear.
I wonder whether the Minister would kindly write to me, and put the letter in the Library, to provide the precise dates when those discussions, and any subsequent ones, commenced. The first the Colchester garrison knew about the proposal to close Alderman Blaxill secondary school, where between 20 and 25 per cent. of pupils are children of military personnel, was when it appeared in Colchester’s Evening Gazette. When did those discussions start and how do they comply with the spirit of the Defence Committee’s recommendations?
I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about the matter and I am happy to meet him to discuss it in further detail. Discussions with the education authority are ongoing and I am assured that MOD officials are content with their involvement in them. I believe that the result of those discussions will be the provision of the best possible education for our service children. As I say, I would be happy to update him at a meeting.