HC Deb 26 June 1973 vol 858 cc1299-300
6. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will publish her estimate of the percentage of the gross national product to be devoted to education during each of the next 10 years.

Mrs. Thatcher

Figures are not available for 10 years ahead. However, in 1971–72 public expenditure on education was 6.5 per cent. of the gross national product. Over the subsequent five years expenditure on education is projected to grow at 5.0 per cent. a year in cost terms. This may be compared with the illustrative growth rates for the economy as a whole over the same period of 3.5 per cent. and 5.0 per cent. referred to in Cmnd. 5178.

Mr. Carter

Is that not an evasive reply? Are not the Government intending to cut the percentage of GNP devoted to education? Following the proposals for adult and nursery education, should we not be thinking in terms of expanding this percentage?

Mrs. Thatcher

Far from being evasive the reply I gave was a full one, bearing in mind that Governments do not publish forecasts of growth of the economy. They make assumptions about it and we have made two sets of assumptions, one of 3.5 per cent. and one of 5 per cent., for hon. Members to compare with the growth rate of education. The expected growth rate of education expenditure is 5 per cent. and that is compared to a 5 per cent. increase assumed for the GNP.

Mr. Marten

Was it not the previous Government which set the pattern for looking five years ahead and not 10 years ahead on these matters?

Mrs. Thatcher

Indeed, and it was also the previous Government which left me with plans for spending very much less on education than I am now spending.

Mr. Ellis

Will the Secretary of State give equivalent figures for adult education?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot give those figures at the moment.