§ Mrs. Fyfe
Is the Minister aware that he has presided over the worst pre-school provision of all the member states of the EEC? Britain has the lowest provision, and Scotland is lower than that. Has he read the modest proposals in the EEC Childcare Network report? If so, how does he intend to respond to them? What is he hiding by refusing to publish his Department's report?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I am not aware of the assertions that the hon. Lady has made, but if the position is unsatisfactory it is because pre-school provision is a local authority responsibility. If the hon. Lady is arguing that the position is less than satisfactory, I should point out that under this Government the number of pupils under-fives attending some form of pre-school provision has risen by 5,000 since 1981. The majority of children aged between three and four are involved in pre-school provision. As to not publishing the Department's study, the hon. Lady will know that it was not completed. It was a research project, not a symphony, and it would not be useful if it were published in an unfinished form.
§ Mr. Wray
Will the Minister explain why in 1977 a Labour Government spent more on nursery education than this Tory Government spent in 1988? According to Government figures given in answers to questions on 25 July, 29,300 pupils were receiving education in 1977, which cost £29,490,000. In 1988, with 10,000 more pupils and 89 more school departments, £300,000 less was spent on nursery education in Scotland, with £3 million less being spent in Strathclyde.
§ Mr. Forsyth
It was not a Labour Government who spent the money. The responsibility for pre-school provision rests with local authorities. Through the rate support grant, the Government have made an increase in provision of 26 per cent. since 1979. Although we have given mainly Labour-controlled local authorities more money for this purpose, they have chosen to spend it on other priorities. The hon. Gentleman must take up the matter with his colleagues on Stratchclyde regional council and other Labour-controlled authorities.