HC Deb 30 January 1969 vol 776 cc1513-4
29. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why his Department has made a reduction in local authorities' forecasts of the increased costs of teachers' salaries and of other costs in further education by approximately £17 million in 1969–70 and £23 million in 1970–71.

Mr. Edward Short

In my view, the local authorities' forecasts of expenditure on further education for rate support grant purposes were related to a rise in student numbers out of line with recent trends, and implied an increase in costs per student going beyond what we can afford in present circumstances.

Mr. Hill

Has not the Secretary of State failed to take into account the fact that even if the trend in student numbers may not be rising all that steeply, the trend in the cost of further education—the trend to take more expensive courses—is rising very steeply and that this is an element which, in looking only at numbers, he has failed to take into account?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter, because it gives me an opportunity to make it clear that I sincerely believe that the local authorities overestimated the increases. They were suggesting that there would be an increase of 13 per cent. in the first year and 20 per cent. in the second. My officials estimated that there would be an increase of 9 per cent. in the first year and 14 per cent. in the next. That was the first difference.

The second difference was about the additional amount that would have to be spent per student. They thought that it would be 3 per cent. and we said that it would be about 1½ per cent. The third factor was the fact that we felt that more progress should be made on implementing the Pilkington Report. Those were the only three issues which arose in the sphere of further education.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to this problem of further education remembering that, as opposed to his control over primary and secondary education, he has very little control over local authorities which choose, perhaps for other reasons, to dismiss teachers in mid-career?

Mr. Short

I agree, but this works in the opposite direction, too. I am sure that many local authorities do not really understand the staffing position in their colleges. The Pilkington Report suggested that the staffing was, in many respects, over-generous. We have made some progress in this matter and all that I am asking local authorities to do in the next year and the year after that is to make a little more progress.