HC Deb 20 November 1979 vol 974 cc200-2
12. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for improving the supply of textbooks in schools.

Mr. Macfarlane

The Government have made provision, nationally, for expenditure per pupil on schools' overall running costs, excluding teachers' salaries, which are dealt with separately, to be 2 per cent. higher in real terms in 1980–81, compared with last year.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some Tory-controlled education authorities have already decided to cut capitation expenditure on textbooks by no less than 30 per cent? Will he disapprove of that educational vandalism and publish a list of local education authorities that shows clearly what each intends to do in this area?

Mr. Macfarlane

I can give no guarantee that a list will be published. Over a number of years, far too many local education authorities and head teachers have spent money on equipment in schools that would have been better spent on school textbooks. It must grieve Labour Members to realise that between 1968 and 1978–79—when Labour Governments were in office for most of the time—spending per primary pupil declined from £5 to £4. For secondary school pupils, spending per head declined during that period from £11.7 to £7.

Mr. Gummer

Does my hon. Friend agree that, because the previous Government, when they made their cuts, refused to allow local education authorities any choice in the provision of school meals and transport, the one area that was really cut was the capitation grant on books?

Mr. Macfarlane

That was a strong feature of the previous Socialist Administration's policy during their five years in office. They funked most of those measures when they should have been facing reality.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that the sum total of his proposals in the Education (No. 2) Bill and the result of his incitement of Tory councils to carry out those principal measures will be that kids will have to walk five miles to school and that, when they get there, they will be short of books? Is he aware that the Tory-controlled Derbyshire county council has said that it intends to close 14 libraries as well, so the children will not be able to read books there either?

Mr. Macfarlane

Once again, I can only deduce that the hon. Member has not read the proposed legislation. That is, unhappily, an all too frequent hallmark of his behaviour in the House.