HC Deb 29 March 1994 vol 240 cc779-80
2. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps he is taking to encourage the injection of private sector finance into state-funded education.

Mr. Patten

I welcome the existing investment in education by the private sector, and have asked the funding councils and the Funding Agency for Schools to make further expansion a high priority. I shall publish in the summer an information pack designed to encourage wider investment, and am reviewing the possibility of further and perhaps quite radical action.

Mrs. Lait

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Hastings college on its success in attracting private finance? Will he undertake to draw those initiatives to the attention of East Sussex education authority, which is known to campaign actively against grant-maintained schools, to ensure that that authority realises that private sector financing will not displace public funding?

Mr. Patten

On the first point, my hon. Friend is right; Hastings college has a splendid record of attracting private sector investment, on the back of funds coming in from foreign students, to build new buildings in Hastings. On the second point, I regard as disgraceful Liberal Democrat and Labour-controlled East Sussex county council's recent behaviour in attacking grant-maintained schools.

Mr. Grocott

Before the Secretary of State gets too excited about private funding of public education, will he take the opportunity to acknowledge the dismal failure of the funding policy for city technology colleges, 80 per cent. of which are paid for by taxpayers? Given his unwillingness to answer any questions whatever about the operation of those colleges, will he acknowledge that they represent the only area of public life where taxpayers foot 80 per cent. of the bill in return for 0 per cent. of the power?

Mr. Patten

Our 15 technology colleges are 15 beacons of educational excellence in our inner cities. They are popular with parents, and students are queuing up around the walls to get in. The existing CTCs are being followed by a second wave of technical colleges in which we have had more than 200 expressions of interest. Needless to say, the Labour party has already pledged to abolish them, should it ever get the chance.

Mr. Dunn

Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirm that we want as much variety as possible in the funding and type of education and that the Opposition oppose the existence of CTCs, grammar schools, grant-maintained schools, the assisted places scheme and Church schools?

Mr. Patten

I would be wrong, politically and factually, if I did not take this opportunity to say that my hon. Friend is right. The Labour party's typical backward-looking way has already been picked up by Professor Barber, Mr. Fletcher and other Labour party supporters. If only Opposition Members had listened to Professor Barber, who used to be a special adviser to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), the Labour party might have some sort of educational policy; as it is, it has nothing at all.