HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1099-100
15. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what restriction of facilities and services in the nursery, primary and special school sectors he expects to result from the cuts that he has proposed.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

This will depend mainly on decisions on current expenditure taken by individual local authorities. In addition, there will be fewer resources for the provision of new nursery places and for the renovation of old primary and special schools as a result of reductions in capital expenditure approved by my Department.

Mr. Beith

Does the Secretary of State envisage that local authorities will take the sensible step of using unwanted classroom accommodation in village schools for nursery classes since the rate support grant cuts will bear heavily upon education expenditure?

Mr. Carlisle

I hope that as the numbers in primary schools fall there will be better opportunities to take more of the rising fives into the primary schools. It is cheaper to convert existing primary school accommodation into nursery classes than it is to build nursery schools. I hope that such conversions will take place on a greater scale.

Mr. Barry Jones

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman get back to the Cabinet and fight for more money for our schools? Has he heard of the disgraceful proposal by my local education authority to close 52 nursery units and nursery schools? Is it not most unjust that rich people should prosper from the Budget when youngsters do not have the chance to go to a nursery school?

Mr. Carlisle

I have never denied that cuts in education expenditure are bound to have some effect on education provision. The hon. Member should keep the matter in perspective. There is a reduction in capital expenditure on nursery education from £5.9 million to £4 million. That will still allow for the provision of 4,000 additional places. That figure must be compared with the previous Government's expenditure on nursery school building programmes. The expenditure in 1978–79 was £4 million, but it was only £2.7 million in 1977–78.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

When the Secretary of State discusses with the local authorities the effects that public expenditure cuts will have on education, will he impress upon them the need to try to minimise the effect of the cuts on the special provision for the handicapped, particularly in secondary education? I refer specifically to units for those with partial hearing, one of which is provided at a school in Cheshire.

Mr. Carlisle

I am aware that there is a school for those with partial hearing in my hon. Friend's constituency. This is a matter for local education authorities. I must leave it to them to decide their priorities.