HC Deb 15 May 1973 vol 856 cc1226-8
11. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in the light of the increase in building costs, she is satisfied that standards of school building, particularly in relation to space and quality of materials, are being maintained.

Mrs. Thatcher

Cost limits for school, further education, college of education, polytechnic and university projects will be increased by 22 per cent. with effect from 1st April 1973. All school projects approved by my Department conform to the requirements of the Standards of School Premises Regulations 1972.

Miss Fookes

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on two good announcements this afternoon?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am very grateful.

Mr. Hattersley

Will the right hon. Lady say how that figure was arrived at?

Mrs. Thatcher

By taking into account the increases in costs which have occurred since the last increase.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many local education authorities, such as the London borough of Ealing, for example, are endeavouring to struggle to make into reality a comprehensive system within their areas, and that these increases in costs are having very sad and deleterious effects? The figures that she has announced today will not be of very great help. Will she consider holding a conference of local authorities which find that building costs are inhibiting their efforts, in order to see what she can do to help them?

Mrs. Thatcher

The 22 per cent. increase in cost limits is the largest ever announced. A 22 per cent. increase in one year is a very considerable figure.

25. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement concerning cost limits on new school buildings and the adequacy of the current school building regulations.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have just announced, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes), that cost limits will be increased by 22 per cent. with effect from 1st April 1973. The requirements set out in the Standards for School Premises Regulations 1972. which have been endorsed by successive Governments, are kept under review.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Lady assure us that the standards that will now be possible as a result of the 22 per cent. increase will be equivalent in quality and size to the school buildings which have been erected in the past? Is she aware that her two Under-Secretaries have refused to provide any evidence which shows that the current school building regulations are based on any sound educational criteria and, moreover, have refused to discuss this with me on at least two occasions?

Mrs. Thatcher

The building regulations have been endorsed by successive Governments over many years. The standard of school buildings is well above the minima provided for.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to have a look at those standards as they apply to fire risk, because there is considerable worry in certain parts of the country that fire risk standards are not tight enough?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have already been doing that. I will send my hon. Friend a detailed bulletin about this.

Mr. Marks

What was the cause of the delay in the statement? It was six weeks later than last year.

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman cares to look, he will find that the announcement in spring 1970 came in February, in 1971 it came in March, in 1972 it came in April and in 1973 it has come in May.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Has my right hon. Friend considered whether, in view of the shortage of building and construction workers, her Department is making the best use of factory-built units for school building?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are a number of factory-built schools being erected by local authority consortia. We leave the method of construction to the local education authorities, which is best in the circumstances.