HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 c1226
32. Mrs. Doris Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied that the capitation allowance per pupil, paid by local authorities, is keeping pace with the increased cost of books and equipment; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Expenditure on books and equipment is a matter for local education authorities. The last rate support grant settlement included improvement factors for non-teaching costs.

Mrs. Fisher

Would the right hon. Lady not agree that the Government should accept some minimum amount which should be spent on essential items of equipment for schools, and that one of the things which obstructs local authorities is the amount of purchase tax paid on school materials? Would she not accept the principle that a value-added tax should not be paid on materials being supplied entirely for school use?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is no purchase tax on the books side and in any event purchase tax matters are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would not accept the earlier part of the hon. Lady's question.

Mr. Finsberg

But although purchase tax matters are not necessarily within my right hon. Friend's province, would she appreciate that, on certain teaching aids, the imposition of purchase tax is a grave deterrent to their purchase by many local education authorities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will, of course, lake into account what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that one of the great difficulties about making any meaningful comparisons between the performance of local authorities in this respect is the lack of uniformity in the way in which they deal with the expenses within their accounting systems? What steps are being taken by her Department to secure a more uniform accounting technique?

Mrs. Thatcher

So far as I know, none on that matter. This is a matter for the local education authorities themselves.