HC Deb 05 February 1970 vol 795 cc602-4
4. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why the estimated rate of increase in public expenditure on education in 1972–73 and 1973–74 has been limited to 2 per cent. per annum.

Mr. Edward Short

The recent White Paper on Public Expenditure explains that the figures for 1972–73 and 1973–74 are provisional and that changes are to be expected as programmes are rolled forward year by year and calls are made on the contingency reserve.

Mr. Hill

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that these so-called provisional figures are unrealistic? What is his current estimate for the rate of increase needed to maintain the existing standards for prospective numbers in these two years?

Mr. Short

Public expenditure is controlled in a very much more sophisticated way than it was before, certainly under the previous Government. The programmes for 1972–73 will be decided later this year.

Mr. Newens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these limitations are being used by Tory education authorities to justify considerable absolute cuts which they propose to make in the education service? Since it is impossible to maintain improvement at this rate of 2 per cent. increase, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the matter carefully?

Mr. Short

There is no need to reconsider anything. If Tory educationists can read and do read the White Paper and the footnotes to the table, they will see that it is clearly stated that these are provisional figures not yet agreed with the Department.

6. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why the estimated annual rate of growth in public expenditure on education from 1968–69 to 1971–72, as set out in the White Paper on Public Expenditure, Command Paper No. 4234, is lower than the average annual increase from 1964–65 to 1968–69.

Mr. Edward Short

The expansion programmes for the universities and the colleges of education passed their peak by the beginning of the period 1968–69 to 1971–72 and the increased charges for school meals also made for a slower rise in educational expenditure during that period. In addition to those specific factors, the prospective rate of growth for educational expenditure, as for public expenditure in general, needs to be kept broadly in step with the estimated rate of development of the country's total economic resources.

Mr. Silvester

Is it not the case that the Government continually outline needs which have still to be met? Will he say which of those needs have had to be forgone in reducing the rate of growth from that to which we have become accustomed in the past?

Mr. Short

I do not think that any urgent educational needs have had to be forgone.

Mr. Henig

Does my right hon. Friend not think it worth emphasising that this is the very first Government which has made education an absolutely top priority? Is it not a cause for rejoicing that at last this country is spending more on education than on defence?

8. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the percentage increase in public expenditure on education between 1959–60 and 1964–65; and what is the estimated increase between 1964–65 and 1969–70, at constant prices.

Mr. Edward Short

The information is not available for the earlier period. The White Paper on Public Expenditure quotes an average annual rate of increase of 4.9 per cent. for education in Great Britain between 1964–65 and 1968–69.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to consider that it is as certain as can be that there has been a slowing down in this increased expenditure? Would it not be as well to let the Prime Minister know?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman asked me for figures at constant prices. My difficulty is that there are no data for converting the figures from the period of Conservative Government. That is why I am in trouble with this Question. I cannot answer the first part of it.