§ 1. Dr. Lynne Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Education what plans he has to improve the resources available for children with special educational needs.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth)
It is for local education authorities and schools to determine how much money is allocated to special educational needs, within totals which are adequate for the provision of the education service as a whole. Part III of the Education Act 1993 and the draft code of practice, which the House is due to debate shortly, will help schools and local education authorities to manage their responsibilities for children with special educational needs more effectively.
§ Dr. Jones
I welcome the draft code of practice on special educational needs, but not the dismissive attitude of the Minister, who belongs to a Government who fetter local authorities' discretion. Will the Minister give the commitment that adequate resources will be made available to allow children with special educational needs to receive their entitlement to obtain the education that they need in the time scale laid down by the code? In that regard, will he congratulate Birmingham city council, which has substantially increased its education budget under the new leadership so that it is now well in excess of the Government's standard spending assessment, and in particular the additional—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. We are getting off to a bad start today. I have cautioned both sides of the House that I want brisk questions. I am entitled to ask the Minister to answer only the first question if hon. Members continue in the same way as the hon. Lady.
§ Mr. Forth
I am aware of no fettering of local education authorities' discretion. The hon. Lady seems to have ignored the 1992 report from the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's inspectorate, which said nothing about more money but concentrated on the lack of clarity and responsibility shown by many local education authorities and schools, not least Birmingham, to which the hon. Lady referred. In answer to her question, if Birmingham is belatedly catching up after years of neglect of education, I welcome that.
§ Mr. Waterson
Does my hon. Friend agree that many parents welcome the new rights contained in the Education Act 1993, in particular their new rights of appeal and the imposition of a time limit within which a child's needs have to be assessed by the local education authority?
§ Mr. Forth
Yes, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting that matter. It is an issue which concerned my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Minister of State and me when we arrived at the Department two glorious years ago. The code of practice that the House will consider shortly states that the disgraceful time delay in providing statements on children will no longer be acceptable. I am convinced that, in raising the quality of response of everyone to that which already exists among the best, we shall be doing a service to children with special educational needs and their parents. That provision, backed by the tribunal, will make a dramatic change in the quality of special needs provision.