HC Deb 20 April 1982 vol 22 cc107-8
3. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will introduce legislation to improve the efficiency of local education authorities.

Sir Keith Joseph

No, Sir. This is an important area, but not one where further legislation would be helpful.

Mr. Marlow

Is my right hon. Friend aware—I believe that he is—that industrialists throughout the country have sweated blood to improve productivity, even at the expense of having to make painful decisions to cut labour and overheads, yet local education authorities, including my own in Northamptonshire, which is Labour-controlled with Liberal support, have recently increased massively the number of people that they employ in the education service, thus increasing industry's overheads? Is that not monstrous? Will my right hon. Friend get together with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to introduce, in a short measure, ways to overcome that terrible unfairness?

Sir Keith Joseph

We are conscious of the difficulties caused by large rate increases. Our proposal to ban supplementary rates will be some protection for ratepayers. If Northamptonshire's spending increases beyond the level of its grant-related expenditure it will incur financial penalties.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister accept that there are people, certainly on the Conservative Benches, who believe that efficiency means cutting education to the bone, so that all our people are hampered in their education, at whatever level? Will he also accept that we on the Labour Benches believe that it is necessary to provide more money for education and to ensure that it is used—especially by Tory authorities which are overenthusiastic to cut—if we are to benefit the children under our care?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. Friends are just as keen as any other group in the House, if not more so, to achieve effective education, but effective education cannot be measured simply by money spent.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in recent years schools have had devolved on them a great many administrative functions formerly undertaken centrally by local education authorities and have been given facilities to undertake the functions? Therefore, does he also agree that the swelling of central bureaucracy is not as justified as others have suggested?

Sir Keith Joseph

There may be much truth in what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Kinnock

If educational effectiveness cannot be measured in terms of money spent, is it not even more the case that it cannot be measured in terms of money cut? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor, the right hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), showed that less than 2 per cent. of all education expenditure was on administration and that the service is not overburdened with administrators? Indeed, in some respects it is administratively underserviced. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that if efficiency means anything in education it means adequacy of provision? How efficient does he think the 99 education authorities are which Her Majesty's Inspectorate in its most recent report describes as not making adequate provision in essential areas in their schools?

Sir Keith Joseph

As the hon. Gentleman is willing to accept the general posture that-I advanced, I am willing to accept the corollary that he produced in the first part of his question. As for the administrative burdens of local education authorities, it is true that falling rolls and an increased attempt to take out surplus places and perhaps to remove ineffective teachers involves overheads.

Mr. Pawsey

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the educational effectiveness of LEAs may improve if more time and resources were devoted to what used to be called the three Rs instead of to peripheral subjects?

Sir Keith Joseph

I cannot but agree that more emphasis in some places on basic skills, provided that it resulted in effective teaching, would be welcome.