HC Deb 10 December 1984 vol 69 cc717-27
1. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in primary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and how this compares with the figure for 1978–79, at constant prices.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. John Stradling Thomas)

At November 1983 prices the figures are £739 and £666 for 1982–83 and 1978–79, respectively.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures make nonsense of claims by the Opposition that there have been severe cuts in education under this Government?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. When allowance has been made for the effects of pay and price increases, local authorities' current expenditure on education has remained virtually at constant levels for number of years, while the number of pupils in schools has declined markedly—10 per cent. between 1978 and 1984. That is not, of course, consistent with allegations about heavy cuts.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the Minister accept the serious criticism of the education service in Wales contained in the HMI report on the effects on the education service of recent local authority expenditure policies? When will the hon. Gentleman respond to that report in the House? When can we have a debate on it, so that the people of Wales can see the real impact on the service of education cuts?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I can give no undertaking about a debate, because that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. What the hon. Gentleman referred to as central Government policies are, of course, local government policies—

Mr. Ron Davies

That is evading the question.

Mr. Stradling Thomas

There is no need for me to evade the question. The facts speak for themselves.

The number of pupils has fallen markedly, but the fall in the number of teachers has not kept pace with that. I must stress that it is a matter of management of resources. I have studied the report carefully and am concerned about certain aspects. However, it is clear that, in the main, there has been consistent support from central Government for local education authorities.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my hon. Friend saying that local education authorities, such as Clwyd, could avoid cuts damaging to education—especially to the size of classes—if they would concentrate their resources on those areas where they could do most good, rather than wasting money on expensive capital projects?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I concur with that in the context of what I said a moment ago. The management of resources by local education authorities is the vital lesson that we must draw from the HMI report.

Mr. Barry Jones

Why does the Minister continue to pump more than £500,000 annually into private schools in Wales when every local education authority in Wales is at its wits' end about how to manage? Will he cancel the £500,000 cash for the private schools in Wales and ensure that that sum goes to the eight LEAs?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

No, Sir. I have no hesitation in saying that we believe in a variety of provision of education and freedom of choice.

  1. Enterprise Zones and Trusts 695 words
  2. cc719-20
  3. Nurses 462 words
  4. cc720-2
  5. Coal Industry Dispute 1,216 words
  6. cc722-3
  7. Welsh Development Agency 392 words
  8. cc723-4
  9. Milk 619 words
  10. cc724-6
  11. Regional Industrial Policy 1,026 words
  12. cc726-7
  13. Labour Statistics 350 words