My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what decision has been reached on the proposal to abolish the Tiffin schools in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.
My Lords, as far as the Government are concerned, if the Kingston local authority wished to close the Tiffin schools, it would first have to publish its proposals under Section 12 of the Education Act 1980. No such proposals have been published. I understand that the authority has now revised its plans.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and for the indication that two of the best schools in England will be allowed to continue. Can my noble friend confirm that this happy change of front on the part of the local authority concerned is not unconnected with the Liberal Party losing control of the council as the result of a recent by-election?
My Lords, I am happy to confirm my noble friend's understanding.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the party of which I am proud to be a member believes that non-selective education is a good thing for the benefit of all children? Furthermore is the noble Baroness aware that on Tuesday of last week in the Kingston-upon-Thames education committee, where the Conservative Party has a majority of three to one, a new proposal put forward by the leader of that group was withdrawn because of the confusion that existed within that committee?
My Lords, my understanding of the decision of that meeting of the education committee on Tuesday last week was that the plans that had previously been put forward to "comprehensivise" the system in Kingston-upon-Thames has been abandoned.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree with the implication of her noble friend that this Government will only support worthy causes if they are put forward by a Conservative council?
My Lords, I think that there are many examples that would refute the statement made by the noble Lord.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, chose to rejoice in the result of a single by-election. Will the Minister acknowledge that at the last election across the whole of the London borough of Kingston-upon Thames a majority of votes were cast for those parties—the Labour Party and the Alliance party—which supported and still support the abolition of selective education?
My Lords, I think we are going a bit wide of the specific Question. Nevertheless I rejoice that the result of the General Election is providing the country with the opportunity to decide whether it wants more choice in the field of education.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in the context of education in Surrey, in which I used to take some part some 40 years ago as vice chairman of the education committee, the two schools of Tiffin, boys and girls, stood as shining lights in a very fine educational system and won more education honours than everywhere else in the county and probably in the country? Will she agree that their maintenance as two individual grammar schools will continue to give the opportunity for excellence which has existed in the past? Leaving aside all these local manoeuvres, is my noble friend aware that the continuation of these schools will undoubtedly be for the benefit of the young people of Surrey?
My Lords, I happily agree with my noble friend and say that we should all rejoice in the excellence that these two schools have provided.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness avoid "de-comprehensivisation" and promise never to use it again?
That is a promise I can cheerfully give, my Lords.