HC Deb 20 March 1989 vol 149 cc718-9
7. Mr. Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in secondary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what was the comparable figure for 1978–79, at constant prices.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

In 1986–87, expenditure per pupil in secondary schools in Wales was £1,320. The equivalent constant price figure for 1978–79 was £1,053.

Mr. Knox

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the 1986–87 figure represents an increase of 25 per cent. in real terms? Does he agree that even more could be spent in real terms if surplus school places could be eliminated?

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is right to say that the figure represents an increase of, to be precise, 25.3 per cent in real terms. That is a substantial increase by any standard. There has been a fall in pupil numbers of 14.3 per cent., and that fall is due to continue until 1991. Currently there are about 63,000 surplus places in secondary schools in Wales. If they could be removed, the money could be spent on improving education still further.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Minister realise that the figures that he has given the House for increased expenditure per pupil are fraudulently deceptive because of the very reduction in pupil numbers of which he spoke? The capital cost of the whole education system is spread over a smaller number of pupils, which accounts for most of the increase. On the basis of the figures that the Minister has just given, the increase over 10 years is 11 per cent. or just over 1 per cent. per year. Does he regard that as something to be proud of?

Mr. Roberts

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis. There has been a substantial increase in spending on education. In the middle of his supplementary, the hon. Gentleman suddenly switched to capital expenditure. In the coming year we shall be providing some £53 million in capital spending on education. That is 11 per cent. above this year's level, and comes on top of a 10 per cent. increase the previous year and an increase of 19 per cent. the year before.