HC Deb 19 January 1982 vol 16 cc146-7
13. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the cost effectiveness of education in inner city areas.

Sir Keith Joseph

Many of the local authorities concerned are spending at or close to their grant-related expenditure assessments for education, which take account of the socio-economic problems of inner city areas. A few are spending far above their GRE. The report by Her Majesty's inspectors in 1980 on the biggest of these, the Inner London Education Authority, suggests to me that savings could be made in some cases without damaging the quality and range of education offered.

Mr. Spearing

The Secretary of State has said that expenditure can be reduced without damaging the quality of education in inner London, but he and his predecessors have consistently refused to set out those reductions. Will the right hon. Gentleman slate them now, or give an undertaking that he will do so in the future before, through his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, requiring the ILEA to reduce its expenditure in real terms on any part of its service?

Sir Keith Joseph

No. I shall not do the ILEA's job for it. In recognition of the problems that inner London faces, our assessment allows for 30 per cent. more expenditure by the ILEA than the average urban education authority, but the ILEA is spending 40 per cent. above that 30 per cent. Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the 7½ per cent. economy that we are seeking from it is moderate and well within its power without doing damage to its educational quality or range, taking into account the ILEA's excessive spending above the level that has been judged suitable for its special problems.

Mr. Silvester

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this very day Manchester city council, which covers the inner city of Manchester, is employing headmasters without schools at an enhanced salary, because they are being appointed for schools that cannot possibly operate until he has given approval to the scheme before him? Is that not an example of a lack of cost effectiveness, is it not illegal and will he do something about it?

Sir Keith Joseph

The advice that I have been given is that the Manchester education authority has made these appointments and arrangements for pay conditional upon the decision to be made by me on its new proposals, when the objection and consideration periods are over. On that understanding, and on that understanding only, I understand that its action is not in itself illegal. That is a quick reaction to the information that I have been able to gather since I was told what had happened.

Mr. Eastham

Is it not true that while Manchester city council has been waiting for many months for a satisfactory conclusion and a decision from the right hon. Gentleman, he has been holding secret meetings with Conservative Members at the Tory Central Office? Has the right hon. Gentleman held such secret meetings? If so, is that proper as, in a sense, he is in a quasi-judicial position?

Sir Keith Joseph

It was, Mr. Speaker, no doubt wrong of me to answer a supplementary question about Manchester following a question about the ILEA, but I am paying for it now. Yesterday, at the Central Office, I was handed a letter after the information about which my hon. Friend has just asked had been made available to the press.