HC Deb 19 November 1970 vol 806 cc1399-402
1. Mr. Barnett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on her proposals for primary school building in Lancashire.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

It is for the Lancashire Education Authority to make proposals for primary school building in Lancashire.

Mr. Barnett

But it is for the Government to find resources. Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that we in Lancashire for far too long have put up with Victorian slums, particularly in primary schools? Could he at least promise that we in Lancashire will get a higher priority than we have had in the past in allocation of Government funds for primary schools?

Mr. van Straubenzee

What the hon. Gentleman has said emphasises my right hon. Friend's wisdom in giving priority to primary schools.

Sir R. Cary

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the condition of some primary schools in the Manchester area is deplorable since some of them are 100 years old, and does he agree that something must be done in the immediate future to correct this?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall naturally pay close attention to what my hon. Friend has just said.

10. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total amount of public money spent on primary school building in 1963–64; and what is the estimated figure for 1970–71 at current prices.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Capital expenditure on primary school building in England and Wales in 1963–64 was £32 million at current prices; no reliable estimate for 1970–71 is available.

Mr. William Price

Is it not a fact that the figure will be well over double, and, on the ground that a good question is worth repeating, will the right hon. Lady now try to answer the point made in my original Question? Can she guarantee a similar sort of percentage increase over the next few years?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the figure probably will double. The hon. Gentleman asked about actual expenditure and not about approved starts. In those particular years there were comparative low pupil numbers in the primary schools in the earlier years and a very high increase in primary school pupils in the latter years. This must also be considered in conjunction with the figures.

Mr. Lane

Is my right hon. Friend aware how welcome is her decision to step up considerably the primary school improvement programme over the next few years? Is this not another example of the present Government getting their educational priorities right?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says. The primary school improvement programme will be an all-time record.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the right hon. Lady not recognise that at this stage when we are about to enter a period when the children in the next stage of education will increase in number, it would appear to be a peculiar priority to cut back expenditure in that sector?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not cutting back expenditure on that scheme. The raising of the school-leaving age building programme has mostly been allocated; again, unlike the former Government, I am not cutting it.

40. Mr. Leadbitter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many schools were built in the six years preceding 1964; and what is the figure for the period 1964 to 1970.

Mr. van Straubenzee

2,789 and 3,979 respectively in England and Wales. But the school population rose almost five times as fast in the second period as in the first.

Mr. Leadbitter

Although I think it can be taken for granted that the hon. Gentleman will not accuse the Labour Government of being responsible for the population explosion, does he agree that this remarkable improvement in the school building programme must be kept up by the Tory Government, and will he guarantee that the momentum will not be lost?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The priorities outlined by my right hon. Friend have been widely welcomed, particularly her emphasis on the primary side that is revealed by the figures which I have given.

Mr. Mudd

Does my hon. Friend accept that many schools built from 1964 onwards were approved by the Administration in power before 1964?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It would not be the first time that the Labour Party has taken credit for preparations made by the Conservative Party.

41. Mr. Leadbitter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the capital expenditure on school buildings in 1963–64; what was the figure for the year 1969–70; and what percentage difference these figures represent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In England and Wales £137 million and £180 million respectively at constant prices; an increase of 31.4 per cent.

Mr. Leadbitter

Again, will the hon. Gentleman agree that his Department has inherited a remarkable improvement and give a guarantee to the House that this rate of increase will be continued?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is another example of the excellent preparations made, but it also illustrates the necessity of increasing the health of the economy to sustain this expenditure.