HC Deb 18 March 1965 vol 708 cc1453-6
8. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will increase the 1965–68 school building programme.

69. Mr. Hazell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has for increasing the school building programme in the next three years.

83. Mr. Stones

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he intends to increase the school building programme in the next three years.

Mr. Crosland

The programmes for 1965–66 and 1966–67 have already been announced. The total size of the 1967–68 programme has not yet been determined.

Mr. Morrison

With respect, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has quite answered my question. I was asking whether he intended to increase the programme in those years, while appreciating that the Conservative Government allocated a big increase for 1965–66.[HON. MEMBERS: "Election."] Would he not agree that by increasing still further the major building programmes he would overcome in some small way some of the damage he has done by cutting so severely the minor school programmes?

Mr. Crosland

If we take the major programmes and the minor programmes together, we find that from 1964–65 to 1965–66 the total increase will be £86 million to £101 million. On the claim that this programme was announced by the previous Government, it is quite true that this was done—as one or two of my hon. Friends have hinted—in an election year. I have looked up the figures for the last ten years and I find two sets of years in which, after a comparatively high programme, there were cuts in the next three or four years. I have no doubts whatsoever, particularly in the present balance of payments situation, that these cuts would have occurred again.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me, and also inform his hon. Friend the Minister of State, that the major programme for 1965–66 was not announced in an election year but was firmly committed in October 1963?

Mr. Crosland

The right hon. Gentleman is an historian and also has a very good memory. He may remember that in October, 1963, everyone on both sides of the House was expecting an election either that autumn or the following autumn.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Would not the right hon. Gentleman admit that he has taken away from local authorities the freedom to spend their own funds on small projects up to £2,000, thereby causing grave difficulty, and will he think of restoring that?

Mr. Crosland

There are about seven Questions on this subject later on the Order Paper.

13. Mr. Dean

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, when the Somerset school building programme for 1967–68 will be announced.

Mr. Prentice

I cannot add to the answer my right hon. Friend gave the hon. Member on 1st February.

Mr. Dean

Is the Minister of State aware that that information takes us no further than we are at the present moment? Can he give an assurance, first, that there will be no cuts in the major building projects already announced for the next three years, and secondly, that lie will take fully into account in deciding future programmes that the increase in the school population in Somerset, particularly in North Somerset, is growing very much faster than the national average?

Mr. Prentice

The hon. Member will be aware that we have kept to the major programmes already announced, despite the economic crisis we inherited, in a way in which we do not think that hon. Members opposite would have done. Regarding the period 1968 and beyond, I cannot add to the original answer, but all our plans take account of moves in the population and increases in the school population.

Sir E. Boyle

In view of the fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have twice during Question Time taken credit for keeping to programmes announced, may I ask whether it is not the fact that no Government since the war have ever gone back on projects announced and approved to local authorities, which all took place in March and April of last year?

Mr. Prentice

We were considering projects which are partly allocated in the total major building programme for 1965–68. The first year has been allocated, the second partially but not completely, and the third year hardly at all.

26. Mr. John Wells

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when the Kent school building programme for 1967–68 will be announced.

Mr. Prentice

The full school building programme for 1967–68 will be announced for Kent, as for all authorities, after the Government have considered future levels of public expenditure. Meanwhile a first instalment of the 1967–68 programme has already been announced for some authorities and my right hon. Friend proposes to make a similar announcement for Kent shortly.

Mr. Wells

When this matter is attended to, will the disgraceful cuts in the minor works building programme for Kent be restored, bearing in mind the fact that, although the administrative County of Kent is now slightly smaller, the number of children in school at the period to which my Question refers will be back to about the figure that it was last year? Will the Minister, when he considers this, pay particular attention to Vinters Boys Secondary School?

Mr. Prentice

I should like notice of the individual school. On the general point about minor works, the allocation for the next financial year is £21 million, which is £3 million more than in the current year, and the share of every local authority, of course, took account of its school population, as well as other relevant factors.