HC Deb 13 February 1973 vol 850 cc1115-7
1. Mr. David James

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in view of the growth in population in the south-eastern corner of the county, whether she will increase the allocation of funds to the county of Dorset for school building purposes.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St, John-Stevas)

No, Sir. Major building programmes in the period 1972 to 1975 will provide 4,790 new primary and secondary school places in South-East Dorset, 85 per cent. of the 5,600 new places to be started in the county as a whole.

Mr. James

I am grateful for that reply. Will my hon. Friend recognise, however, that between 1966 and 1970 the number of electors in my constituency rose by 10,808? This inevitably has meant that there are a great many more children, and in the area from Verwood, Ferndown, West Parley, West Moors, Corfe Mullen down to Poole there is still a grave shortage of school places.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We appreciate that there has been a local population explosion in South-East Dorset, and the major programmes which we have provided for new school places exceed £1 million in value in each of the three years 1972–73, 1973–74 and 1974–75. In addition to the major programme, my right hon. Friend has recently increased the authority's minor works programme for 1973–74 by £50,000 to meet local shortages of primary school places.

3. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has to increase the money available for new school building.

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

Since June 1970 the existing primary and secondary school building programmes up to 1974–75 in England and Wales which has been planned by the last Government have been increased by about £160 million. I have also announced new programmes of £30 million for nursery education in 1974–76 and £20 million for secondary improvements in 1975–77.

Mr. Dormand

In spite of what the right hon. Lady has said, may I ask whether she is aware that there is an immediate need for additional moneys by some local education authorities, including my own, Durham County Council, because of their inability to meet the cost limits set by the Department? It is no exaggeration to say that in some parts of the North East the position is becoming critical. Will the right hon. Lady be a bit more generous in her special allocation, which I know she makes from time to time, and look at the matter as one of urgency?

Mrs. Thatcher

With respect, there is a specific Question about cost limits later on the Order Paper. It would perhaps be best and most courteous if I left the reply until then.

Mr. Hattersley

Despite the answer which my hon. Friend received to his Question, will the Secretary of State confirm that the public expenditure White Paper, unlike the White Paper "Education: A Framework for Expansion", makes it very clear that over the next four years the capital available for school building will be reduced by 22 per cent?

Mrs. Thatcher

The public expenditure White Paper was drafted in conjunction with the "framework" White Paper. There is a reduction in the amount of money allocated to the basic needs programme. This occurs because the number of children coming into the education ambit is reduced.