HC Deb 03 April 1984 vol 57 cc795-6
5. Mr. Jack Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has had from local authorities regarding the effect of reductions in education expenditure.

Mr. Dunn

Since 1978–79 expenditure on education and science as a whole has increased by 1 per cent. in cost terms despite a fall of 12 per cent. in the school population. My right hon. Friend has discussed spending on education with the local authority associations and with individual authorities on a number of occasions in recent months.

Mr. Thompson

Will the Minister comment on a request from Northumberland county council, which was refused, that the Secretary of State, or any of his Ministers, should meet two representatives of the 16 high schools in that county, and on the response of the education committee of the Association of County Councils to the "Training for Jobs" White Paper presented to the House?

Mr. Dunn

The Department receives many requests for meetings and interviews with Ministers. We do our best at all times to accede to those requests, but we cannot meet everyone during a very short time.

Mr. Haselhurst

Has my hon. Friend received representations from local education authorities about ways in which the administration of education could be streamlined in their areas?

Mr. Dunn

I have not, but we should be pleased to have such representations.

Mr. Boyes

Is it not a fact that our most precious asset is our youth? As we are entering a rapidly changing and highly technological society, should not more money be spent on education? Is not the threat of rate-capping and cuts in education a disgrace?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman is in danger of believing his own speeches. We are determined to improve and enhance the education service in all parts of the country. The responsibility for such provision rests with local education authorities, which must decide how they provide education in their communities.

Mr. Lord

Does my hon. Friend agree that although many factors, including finance, affect the course of education, by far the most important factor is the ability of a teacher in front of a class to interest pupils and impart information to them? If we are concerned about education, should not our scrutiny be directed towards that?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I know that he and the House will welcome our initiatives in our White Paper on teacher quality. We must motivate those teachers who do not, for some reason, reach the standards that we require of them.