HC Deb 07 February 1995 vol 254 cc147-201
Madam Speaker

Before we begin, I have to tell the House that I must limit Back-Bench speeches to 10 minutes both in this debate and in the next, on passenger services under railway privatisation.

3.46 pm
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

I beg to move, That this House believes that the 1995–96 financial settlement for schools will, in the words of the Secretary of State for Education, `cause class sizes to shoot up' and 'lead to the loss of thousands of teaching posts', with a consequential detrimental impact on standards and opportunities for young people. In tabling the motion, it is we in the Labour party, not the Government, who speak for the pupils, parents, governors and teachers who are rightly concerned about what the Government's financial settlement for local government in the coming year will do to our schools and to our children. Those people say, as we say, that that is a cut too far—a cut that will damage education prospects, standards, achievements and opportunities for children in every part of the country.

We are backed not only by those who have traditionally fought for education but by the words of the Secretary of State herself, who clearly admitted the truth in a letter leaked to The Times Educational Supplement, in which she gave her Cabinet colleagues a clear picture of what would happen if the Government's increase in expenditure and their predictions of what local authorities should spend did not even manage to meet the sum necessary to take account of the 110,000 extra pupils who will have to be accommodated in schools in the coming year. That is the equivalent of two primary schools in every area of the country. The 1.2 per cent. increase necessary to match that growth in numbers has not been included in the Government's calculations, never mind the 2.5, 2.6 or 2.7 per cent. increase in teachers' pay that the Government will agree later this week.

It is a scandal that while the Secretary of State for Education sits on the sidelines—not sulking, I hope—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and even, today, the Prime Minister, treat the issue as if they were in the right and governors, parents and teachers should be abused and bemused.

Every governor and every teacher in the country knows exactly what the position is.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what he makes of a council that makes provision for an increase in pay for council bosses but none for teachers' pay or for schools—a council that, on the contrary, cuts those budgets? I refer to Kent county council, which has had a 2.1 per cent. increase in Government funding and is controlled by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Blunkett

The £8 million shortfall on the Government's determination of what Kent county council can spend on education—known as the standard spending assessment—is dealt with in terms of Government grants and the capping regime, and that precludes the council from being able to spend the money even if it was able to raise it.

Mr. Arnold

That is not true.

Mr. Blunkett

Kent county council—after 20 years—has now, under an alliance between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, opened the first nursery class in two decades and is about to open another eight. It is strange that the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) should raise only the issue of financing Kent. The Government are not prepared to provide the necessary spending for the pay increase for teachers, and they are not even prepared to begin to suggest where the money will come from to pay for the much-vaunted promise of the Prime Minister at the Tory party conference that four-year-olds would receive nursery education.

The truth is known by every governing body and parent in the country. The delegation now permitted to governing bodies is used effectively by authorities up and down the country—the average delegation to governing bodies is between 85 per cent. and 90 per cent.—which is why governors and parents are up in arms. It is because it is no longer a battle between the local education authorities and the Government, but a battle between parents and governing bodies and the Government. That is why those involved with schools—often from leafy suburbs—are now suggesting that their task should not be to cut the number of teachers, increase class sizes or reduce the availability of books. Their task should be to fight for standards and opportunities in education.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

May I correct the hon. Gentleman on one point? Kent county council was Conservative-controlled for 104 years, not 20.

In Kent, 50 per cent. of secondary pupils and a significant number of primary school pupils are now educated at grant-maintained schools. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that there should be a reduction in education bureaucracy to match the number who are taught outside the LEA?

Mr. Blunkett

The Secretary of State pointed out to her Treasury colleagues in the leaked letter just before Christmas that the cuts that we are talking about this afternoon would apply equally to grant-maintained schools as to LEA schools—[Interruption.] That is in the letter, and it is in brackets to emphasise it. The reason the Secretary of State wished to emphasise that point was to ensure that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was aware that the favoured schools would not escape the cut, and would be affected by an increase in class sizes and reductions in teacher numbers.

Kent's SSA—as we are dealing with Kent—is £55 down per pupil for every primary school and £203 down per pupil for every secondary school. That makes a total of £8.7 million, a figure which the hon. Member for Gravesham shouted was not true. It would appear that the hon. Member for Gravesham has something in common with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—they are both, to use politically correct language, mathematically challenged. Both are under misapprehensions about grant, SSA and the capping regime.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Blunkett

I shall give way in a moment. The Chancellor said at lunchtime that there would be no reason for cuts if only local authorities were prepared to delegate more of their budgets. Labour-controlled Dudley council delegates the most of its budget to schools, while Tory-controlled Wandsworth delegates least. Dudley delegates 93 per cent. while Wandsworth delegates 82 per cent.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's answer a fortnight ago—not this lunchtime—to the suggestion that the money allocated would not match the teachers' pay increase was that local authorities should consider selling off and leasing back their buildings, just as he was doing with the Treasury. If that is intelligent financial management, I am a Dutchman. And if I were a Dutchman, I would experience much better standards of education than under the present regime in this country.

Moreover, it is time that we challenged the Prime Minister. This afternoon, he said in reply to the leader of the Liberal Democrat party that there was no problem because local authorities could simply remove a million surplus places.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

And 13 per cent. in Lancashire.

Mr. Blunkett

As usual, an intervention by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) sheds no light on the situation and shows that the didactic education that she received with chalk and talk did nothing to expand her learning and understanding.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I shall have to give way.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Gentleman may think that it is funny to have 13 per cent. surplus places in Lancashire, but school governors in my area do not think so because the money spent on those 13 per cent. surplus places should go into the schools. Does he really think that it is necessary to have one bureaucrat at county hall for every 17 teachers in the classroom in my constituency?

Mr. Blunkett

Lancashire faces cuts of £24 million in its budget. Every time a local authority attempts to reduce its surplus places, struggles to persuade its community, involves through consultation parents, governors and teachers, and puts the proposals to the Secretary of State, schools that appear to want to opt out to save themselves from rationalisation have permission to do so from the Secretary of State. Remaining schools must then pay for the unfair distribution of capital and revenue resources that flow from that decision, so children in other schools are further disadvantaged. That has happened throughout the country to the point—

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I shall give way in a moment. I have already given way three times. Unlike some Conservative Members, I can count.

A little honesty from Tory Members would be welcome this afternoon. We are addressing a genuine crisis in the way in which excellent schools are facing up to their budgets, and all we get is silly heckling from Tory Members who, instead of representing their communities, their parents and the future of their children, attempt to score inaccurate party political points.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Blunkett

Which one shall I give way to? Perhaps the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), as he may shed some light on the situation.

Mr. Waterson

Will the hon. Gentleman apply his own nostrum of honesty to the question by telling the House, when he reaches a logical point in his speech, whether a future Labour Government would spend significantly more across the board or adjust the distribution of SSAs? If so, which authorities would gain and which would lose?

Mr. Blunkett

We had it at Prime Minister's Question Time and we have it again now—the Government are now treating the Labour party as the Government and themselves as the Opposition. I have made our position unequivocally clear. If one does away with the bargaining between local education authorities and teachers, excludes governing bodies and schools from the ability to determine what happens with pay and conditions, but then accepts the report of an independent pay review body, one has an obligation to meet the proposed expenditure, unless one is prepared to stand up and say that it is the pupils in schools who must pay the price of that expenditure and the teachers who must face redundancy, instead of the Government.

The Government's dishonesty in suggesting that reductions in standards and opportunities in our schools should now take place, when only a few months ago they were boasting that they intended to improve standards and to match the needs of schools, reveals the duplicity of a Government who have run out of steam and who no longer care about what happens to those who are most vulnerable in our society.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Blunkett

I shall give way to the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin).

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

The hon. Gentleman spoke about schools using their resources properly. As he lives in Sheffield, he will be aware that the neighbouring county of Derbyshire has, in the past 14 years, subsidised school meals to the tune of more than £100 million. This year it plans to subsidise school meals by £4 million. Does he regard that as a good use of education money?

Mr. Blunkett

My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has just cryptically said to me that the hon. Member for West Derbyshire does not look short of a meal or two. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I will answer, because the shortfall faced by Derbyshire is £17 million.

We are in favour of nutritional standards and of school meals that children can afford, because we believe that a well-fed and happy child is one who will learn and respond in our classrooms.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. McLoughlin

As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) has just insulted me, will he give way to me again?

Mr. Blunkett

I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who is a representative of Derbyshire.

Mr. Skinner

We should recall that, for many years, the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) and his Tory friends called upon Labour-controlled Derbyshire county council to put up the price of school meals, which were the cheapest in the country. They said that if the county council just put up the cost of those school meals, it would get more money from the Government for teachers and for kids. The truth is that in the past two or three years the cost of school meals has gone up three times, yet Derbyshire pupils get £272 per head less than those in the leafy suburbs of Surrey. That has not done them any good, has it?

Mr. Blunkett

I agree with the powerful point that my hon. Friend has made.

According to yesterday's briefing from the Prime Minister, he said that a compromise, a settlement, a gesture, would be made to find a solution. According to the Chancellor's briefing this lunchtime, no such settlement will be reached. I shall be interested to know whether the Secretary of State for Education has a solution to offer either today or on Thursday, or whether she is simply a pawn, an unwilling one, in a game of Government retrenchment. After all, the Government amendment speaks about a "tough" settlement. That game is obviously more important than investment in our children's future.

I regret that the Secretary of State, who means well and does her best, has become tragically enfeebled. The previous Secretary of State was missed by no one. After five years of utter turmoil, with contradiction following contradiction; after the creation of a national curriculum that caused confusion and chaos in every classroom; and a'ter disa7e.:ment and insults being exchanged over tests, t, Secretary of State came in with a pledge to be different. She said that she would be gentle and sweep the past under the carpet, but the previous Secretary of State at least managed to get a 1.8 per cent. increase in the SSA even though he did not believe in state education. The new Secretary of State, who is committed to state education, obtained a 1.1 per cent. increase in SSA and only a 0.5 per cent. increase in real spending power—

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it correct for the hon. Gentleman to refer to my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State in the way that he has, saying that he does not believe in state education, when he sent his daughter to a state primary school?

Madam Speaker

Hon. Members should be careful in their comments across the Floor of the House. They are themselves responsible for the remarks that they make, but I think that they ought to be responsible in what they say.

Mr. Blunkett

Let me rephrase that, Madam Speaker. The previous Secretary of State showed his commitment to state education by the way in which he tried to destroy it in everything that he did in every classroom, in the conflict that he created with the teachers and in the way in which he undermined morale and confidence. We knew that we were about to have something different, in a Secretary of State who was sent to bury education.

Fortunately, that will not happen, because we are here this afternoon to praise education, to fight for education and to refuse to allow other people to be blamed for the Government's decisions. It was, after all, the Secretary of State who, in a leaked letter to colleagues, wrote the following to explain how she was trying to dig the Government out of a hole of their own making: All of this"— the effort that she is making— will be in immediate jeopardy if we now offer teachers either a provocatively low pay settlement or acceptable pay levels only at the cost of sharp increases in class sizes. That is precisely the issue that we are debating this afternoon—whether the Government are prepared to match the review body's proposals on Thursday, which are, we understand, within the predicted inflation levels, not above them. The implementation of those proposals will ensure that teachers' morale is restored, and, for instance, the Marches school in Shropshire, whose results improved dramatically in the past few years, will not have to cut three or four teachers from its classrooms.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

No, I will not.

This afternoon, we are talking about a challenge to the Secretary of State, in matching the increase in pupil numbers and in matching the need for improvement in investment, books and equipment.

The Office of Standards in Education report, published last week, showed that a third of 14-year-olds are not reaching an adequate standard in maths, English and science. More than half the secondary schools in our country do not have sufficient books in the classroom, as the chief inspector succinctly said in only one sentence of a long report.

Mr. Hawkins

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I shall give way one more time.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the fact that so few of our 14-year-olds reach the required educational standard is partly a result of the mad, doctrinaire socialist ideas of comprehensivisation, and the vast waste in Labour-run local education authorities such as Lancashire? That is why schools want to opt out, to ensure that better resources are targeted directly to pupils, not wasted by Labour-run local education authorities.

Mr. Blunkett

The hon. Gentleman shows staggering effrontery. Instead of defending his community's parents against the £24 million cuts that are threatened, he starts abusing and lashing out at everyone around him. What sort of a party have Conservative Members degenerated into when, instead of defending their schools and their pupils, they simply seek someone else to get tough on?

What about standards and achievement? What about the £20 million cut that the Government are imposing on education support and training, £9 million of which comes out of the appraisal budget, which has done so much to lift the standard of professional work undertaken by teachers? What about the £13 million cut from the inspectorate budget? What about the removal of £14 million from the crucial reading recovery scheme, which is vital to ensure that primary schoolchildren have a real start in life? We face all those funding cuts before the Government have to find the money to move on nursery education.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

No, I will not give way any more. I will continue my speech so that other hon. Members have the chance to speak in the debate.

The Government have illustrated time and again that they believe in rationing excellence and rationing opportunity. That rationing exercise will continue in the way in which funding cuts are implemented and in the way in which they impinge on schools across the country. Excellence for a few and mediocrity for many is not acceptable to Opposition Members.

From Shropshire to Lancashire, from Sheffield to Somerset and from Cornwall to Oxfordshire, people are struggling to defend their services. There are proposals for voluntary income tax contributions and some schools are talking about a three-day week. The last time there was a three-day week was not in the winter of discontent, as was wrongly suggested in the build-up to the previous election, but under the 1973–74 Tory Government when the lights went out and people were told to clean their teeth in the dark. This time perhaps teachers and pupils will be told to work in the dark, to switch off the heating or to bring their own chalk.

The Government's disgraceful amendment has the cheek to congratulate governors and teachers for meeting the challenge of education reform". It is right to give credit to teachers, governors and parents. The spokesman for the Conservative party in Shropshire, speaking at lunchtime today, said that it was an insult to suggest that local authority representatives, members of governing bodies and teachers should take the blame for what was, in his words, the responsibility of the Government of the day in terms of funding and support for the service". We must let our children learn. Our school governors should be concerned about meeting education standards, not struggling with cutting services and undermining their schools. How can children learn if schools are falling into disrepair? Only one fifth of the amount requested for capital investment this year will be granted to schools across the country.

How can the nation face the economic and social challenges of the 21st century with a penny-pinching, underfunding and sanctimonious bunch of ne'er-do-wells running the country? Government Members know all about practising what they preach because so often they preach greed, selfishness and exclusion and then they practise it with their families and friends. It is also evident in what goes on in privatised industry and in quangos up and down the country.

Everyone in Britain is worse off under the Tories. Everyone in Britain is expected to pay more for less in Tory Britain. We offer something very different: we offer hope for the future, investment in children's education and optimism about our country's future success. That is why we are giving our backing to parents, governors and teachers in their fight to save their schools in Britain today.

4.13 pm
The Secretary of State for Education (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: welcomes the substantial increase in the real level of education spending since 1979; applauds Government policies to raise standards in schools; acknowledges that this year's settlement is necessarily tough but congratulates teachers and governing bodies for meeting the challenge of education reform; and recognises that parents will judge schools above all by the performance of pupils and the quality of teaching and learning.". I welcome the opportunity to debate these issues. Conservative Members understand that spending by local authorities—which accounts for a quarter of all Government spending—cannot be immune from tough decisions and economic reality. Public borrowing will have to come down if we are to keep a tight rein on inflation and increase prosperity and jobs. It is a tough local government settlement this year. That is my view and I have made it quite clear. The hon. Gentleman has made quite a lot of a leaked letter. I do not intend to comment on it, save to say that it is of a certain age and that the settlement that we finally reached provides for funding for local authority education to rise by 1.1 per cent. That is, of course, on top of a 2.4 per cent. increase for 1994–95.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the teachers' pay award will be provocatively low, or has she changed her mind since that letter was leaked?

Mrs. Shephard

On the pay award, I shall not anticipate the statement that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make in due course on the reports of the review bodies.

The 1.1 per cent. increase masks a substantial rise in some authorities, reflecting their different needs. For example, in inner London boroughs there have been increases as high as 7.5 per cent., in Trafford there are increases of 4.4 per cent. and in Bury there are increases of 3.3 per cent.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment said during the debate on the revenue support grant, there are always questions about methodology. He said that he would look at areas of particular concern when considering with local authorities whether improvements could be made next year.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

As the Secretary of State will not anticipate the Prime Minister's statement on the public sector pay award, why will she not anticipate in the House of Commons what the Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipated on "The World at One" today?

Mrs. Shephard

I did not have the privilege of hearing my right hon. and learned Friend on "The World at One" today. I rather wish that I had, because there have been a number of conflicting reports as to what he might or might not have said.

The Government share the view that it is a tough settlement, but, of course, it should be set in the context of last year's 2.4 per cent. increase in spending and also the following facts. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends should take account of the fact that spending per pupil has gone up in real terms by almost 50 per cent. since 1979.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

Can the Minister explain to a constituent who wrote to me why £211 less is spent on children in Northumberland than on children in other counties such as Oxfordshire?

Mrs. Shephard

I shall address in general terms the hon. Gentleman's comments as I proceed. The following facts cannot be ignored by the hon. Gentleman, his constituents and everyone else.

Since 1979, real spending per pupil has gone up by 50 per cent. Spending on equipment and books has gone up by 55 per cent., on repairs and maintenance by 15 per cent. and on support staff by 135 per cent.

The hon. Member for Brightside mentioned the Ofsted report. It is rather interesting, certainly to Conservative Members, that the Labour party voted against the establishment of Ofsted and, therefore, all means of measuring pupils' achievements, standards and attainment, but they are happy enough to quote from the Ofsted report now. The hon. Gentleman was quoted last week as saying that the recent HMCI report was about as unbiased as you can get", so what does the chief inspector say about resources? In overall terms the provision of resources is satisfactory".

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. Friend will have noticed that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) signally failed to answer my question about the need to slim down bureaucracy in the light of more children moving into the grant-maintained sector. That is certainly true of the county of Kent, where spending is out of control. In March last year, the local authority spent £35,000 on a conference at a luxury hotel for head teachers and the only Labour chairman of the Kent county council spent £1,200 of taxpayers' money on takeaway curries from shops in Dartford.

Mrs. Shephard

That would be amusing were it not so shocking. It reminds one of the equally shameful example in Staffordshire where one understands that hard-earned resources have been spent on sending members of a school's staff on relaxing weekends at a health farm.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Does not the Secretary of State realise that it is her policies that are causing stress to so many teachers in the classroom? How can she justify so many schools not having sufficient books, the reduction in teacher numbers when schools have already lost so many teachers and the way in which school swimming, which is now part of the national curriculum, will not be properly funded as a result of her cuts?

Mrs. Shephard

I have no doubt that people in Staffordshire, parents and governors, will note that the hon. Lady is in favour of jacuzzi education.

The hon. Member for Brightside claims that, as a result of the local government settlement, local education authorities will have to cut their budgets. In fact, under the provisional capping regime, all local authorities will be able to increase their cash spending in order to spend more next year than they are spending this year. What they may not be able to do is to meet all their spending aspirations. Many of the stories circulating about budget cuts are the result of authorities complaining that they will not be able to expand their services in quite the way that they had envisaged.

Mr. Blunkett

If the ability to spend is increased by 1.1 per cent. and the rate of inflation, coupled with the teachers' pay increase, is more than 2.5 per cent., how on earth can there be a capacity to spend more? In real terms everyone can see that they will have to spend less.

Mrs. Shephard

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked that question because it coincides exactly with the answer at this point in my speech.

Local education authorities face tough decisions, but they are in the best position to decide their priorities and what they can afford. They can cut their costs because they are still spending millions on running their central bureaucracies and on maintaining surplus places in schools. Last year, the Audit Commission found scope for saving £500 million on the pay bill for local authorities' administrative and clerical staff.

Some authorities are also wasting huge sums on retaining surplus school places. The cost is calculated by the Audit Commission to be at least £250 million a year. I know that it is not always practicable to remove such surplus places—for example, in some rural areas and in areas of population growth—but there is scope to remove some of them, as Warwickshire is trying to demonstrate.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is wrong if, as is the case in Lancashire and other counties, the Government have increased cash resources by 1.4 per cent., for the same counties to cut the delegated budgets to schools by 5.5 per cent? Is not that specifically because they are not making the savings in their overheads at county hall that they should be?

Mrs. Shephard

Lancashire seems to be a good example of that kind of practice. I am amazed that our most recent figures demonstrate that unspent school balances in Lancashire amount to £33 million. Lancashire is an important example of how local authorities can exploit opportunities to have more to spend on teachers in the classroom.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

If the Secretary of State is citing Warwickshire as an authority whose education budget has benefited from the removal of surplus places, she must also explain why the vagaries of the capping limit and the financial settlement have produced a situation in Warwickshire where, despite removing those surplus places, 200 teachers now face the sack and massive cuts will have to be made in the education budget. Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democratic councillors have united in condemning that financial settlement.

Mrs. Shephard

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the detailed plans for reorganisation in Warwickshire are not yet agreed, but it is, of course, worth noting that it has had just above the average increase in its standard spending assessment.

Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mrs. Shephard

I will give way, but I am conscious of the time and will soon have to make progress with my speech.

Ms Morris

I am grateful to the Secretary of State. She will be aware that many local authorities have seen an increase in class size to cope with the cuts. Her colleague, the Minister of State, has said repeatedly in the House that he sees no connection between an increase in class size and pupil performance. Does she share his view, or does she share the fears of many parents whose children are now in classes of more than 30 or 40?

Mrs. Shephard

I shall repeat the words that are likely to have been uttered by my hon. Friend. No research exists in this country to show that marginal increases in class sizes harm standards.

I shall deal now with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Brightside. He has not made it clear how much more he and his party intend to spend on education spending in general, how and from where he might get the money, and which of the Labour party's well-known routes he would follow—whether he would tax, borrow or print money. One thing is for certain—the money will come from the taxpayer, who will pay for Labour's usual mix of inefficiency and ideology, not for better education.

The hon. Gentleman has talked a great deal about the threat to teachers' jobs posed by the settlement. We hear those predictions from Labour Members and from Labour councillors year after year. But the truth is that the number of teachers has remained stable at about 390,000 for the past four years, and teacher vacancies are lower than they have ever been. As pupil numbers increase—as they have done over the past few years—it is possible to tighten some staffing ratios, without threatening standards, as the recent improved exam results show. One must put that teacher staffing ratio in the context of a marked increase in spending on non-teaching staff in schools, thereby releasing teachers for their real work of teaching.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Will my right hon. Friend condemn absolutely the scare story that is being put out by certain Liberal Democrat councils, particularly in Devon, that the Government have cut the grant to local authorities? In fact, in Devon it has gone up by 2.2 per cent? Those councils then go on to say that they are likely to lose 300 teachers. That is putting fear into parents in Devon, which is quite wrong and must be condemned.

Mrs. Shephard

Those are indeed extraordinary assertions from a county which, as my right hon. Friend said, has had twice the average increase; and which, we understand, has unspent school balances of more than £10 million, has reserves of £51 million and has increased administrative staff numbers over the past year by 718.

Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Shephard

I will give way to my hon. Friend, but then I must make progress.

Mr. Elletson

Is my right hon. Friend also aware of the scaremongering of Lancashire county council, which is talking about having to make hundreds of teachers redundant? Will she deal with the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), but which was so blithely and arrogantly ignored by the hon. Member for Brightside? Is it not a disgrace that the county council should be threatening to do that at a time when there is a ratio of one bureaucrat in county hall to every 17 teachers? A further point that Lancashire county council refused to take account of is that there are hundreds of surplus places in secondary schools throughout the county.

Mrs. Shephard

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As I said earlier, a county with unspent school balances of £33 million seems to be making a lot of fuss.

The number of non-manual staff employed by councils increased by 90,000 between 1987 and 1993. The Audit Commission found that less than half that increase resulted from central Government initiatives. So there is room for manouevre—and it is worth reminding ourselves that LEAs have yet to set their own budgets.

Of course, the number of teachers actually employed depends not just on the pay settlement and what LEAs decide, but on how governors deploy the budgets delegated to them. I hope that the hon. Member for Brightside noted carefully what the chief inspector said in his report about the level of balances in schools. He said: A quarter of the primary schools inspected carried forward more than 10 per cent. of their budget. Around one-sixth of secondary schools carried forward over £200 per pupil. He went on to note: Such deficiencies underline the need to strengthen financial management…Some schools had clear reasons for their surpluses…others‖exhibited undue caution in retaining substantial sums for no considered purpose.

Mr. Blunkett

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mrs. Shephard

I will, but then I really must move on.

Mr. Blunkett

I shall be brief. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the six schools with the largest balances in Britain are grant-maintained schools with balances of more than £500,000 each?

Mrs. Shephard

What the chief inspector says applies to any school, whether LEA or grant-maintained. It is obvious that schools must manage their resources carefully and to the benefit of their pupils. Our latest estimate is that nationally schools held about £700 million in balances at the end of 1993–94. The clear message of that is that there is scope for substantial efficiency savings.

What we have heard today is the usual tired old story. The Opposition's approach is, and always will be, concerned with input rather than output; with money going in, not results coming out; with excuses for deficiencies rather than efforts for achievements. Perhaps I should congratulate the hon. Member for Brightside on the service that he has performed this afternoon: he has revealed the truth. Despite the carefully crafted images of the new Labour party, despite the carefully cultivated middle class-friendly, "trust me" approach of the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), and despite the phrases so cleverly constructed somewhere in the smartest part of north London, the hon. Member for Brightside has blown the lot. He has confirmed—as, no doubt, his hon. Friends will do again during the debate—that the Labour party is still the same old Labour party: the party that always costs you more and, as the hon. Gentleman has confirmed this afternoon, the party that intends to go on costing you more, but with no idea of where the money will come from, except that it must come from the taxpayer.

I read with interest what the hon. Gentleman said last week. Here we have the authentic voice: he will have to be reported to high command. He said: I believe we must see three key roads to success within the education system: raising standards, increasing achievement and providing opportunities. Those are, of course, admirable aims. It so happens that they are precisely the education policies of the present Government, pursued in the teeth of objection from the Opposition parties.

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mrs. Shephard

No. I have said that I cannot give way any more, in the interests of those who wish to speak later.

If the hon. Member for Brightside and his party now support the raising of standards, why did they say that tests for children were educationally unsound? How could they vote against testing in the Education Reform Act 1988? If they agree with increasing achievement, why did they say that performance tables were an unacceptable management tool in the assessment of school performance? Why did they vote against the publication of such information in 1980?

If the hon. Gentleman and his party now support the provision of opportunity, why, when we introduced grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges, did they say that they would abolish grant-maintained status and force CTCs back under LEA control? Why did they then vote against choice and diversity in education, as provided for in the Education Reform Act? Of course, we cannot be sure about anything that Labour thinks, because some Labour Members have done a U-turn and other.; ha-:e not. The right hon. Member for Sedgefield reminded us frequently that GM schools are state schools, and that parents have the right to choose schools. Other Opposition Members share his views and demonstrate that by their use of GM schools, but the hon. Member for Brightside opposes GM schools. He said: We are against inequity wherever it exists, and that is why we oppose grant-maintained status."—[Official Report, 21 November 1994; Vol. 250, c. 430.] In December, he assured his fellow Labour Members that Labour had no intention of continuing GM status, so who speaks for Labour? I accept, of course, that we should be wary of anything that the hon. Gentleman says about new Labour education policies, because the last one that he announced was axed within two hours of him making it by the Labour high command.

The real issue for quality education is outputs. Our reforms in providing a framework for accountability, and our spending decisions in the past 15 years represent a substantial commitment to raising standards in our schools. The facts speak for themselves. More than 43 per cent. of 15-year-olds achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C or higher in 1994, compared with 33 per cent. in 1989; one in three young people are entering higher education, compared with one in eight in 1979; a record 73 per cent. of 16-year-olds are following full-time education, up from 42 per cent. in 1979–1980.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)


Mrs. Shephard

I am sorry, but I must finish my speech now.

Those achievements are a marvellous tribute to our schools, to their teachers and their governing bodies, and to our further and higher education institutions.

If we consider the international picture, we have a record to be proud of. We spend a higher percentage of gross domestic product on public education than Germany or Japan, and we have the highest graduation rate in the European Union. It is on those achievements that schools and colleges will be judged.

The Opposition have a simple policy development system. When the Government announce a new policy, they oppose it. When that policy proves popular, they claim it as their own, and then they promise to double, treble or quadruple the amount that the Government are spending on it. It is quite simple: all one needs is the gall to do it.

Our record speaks for itself. While the Opposition have been dithering, the Government have been doing. While they have been demanding and denigrating, we have been delivering. The threat to education is real. It comes from the Opposition Benches. We shall continue to deliver and to raise standards for all our children.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I remind all hon. Members who hope to take part in the debate that speeches are now restricted to 10 minutes, with the exception of that by the spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party.

4.36 pm
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

I propose to deal exclusively with the small part of the speech of the Secretary of State for Education which dealt with the question under debate: this year's payment round to local authorities and, specifically, its effect on education.

The Secretary of State said loftily that she did not propose to deal with the subject of the letter that she sent to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I understand why that is, but some of us do not feel the same restraint as it does not put us in the position in which it puts the Secretary of State. That leaked letter leaves her with two alternatives: to explain why she has undergone such a massive conversion in the past six weeks, or to admit that she intends to administer a policy that six weeks ago she said would be disastrous for the education service. Perhaps the Minister replying to the debate will tell us which of those alternatives the Government intend to choose.

The memorandum said that the proposal by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to increase the standard spending assessment by 0.3 per cent. at a time when school rolls were increasing by 1.5 per cent. would produce a real reduction in expenditure of 1.2 per cent. per pupil. Let us operate exactly the same methodology and statistical technique with the present figures. They show that, when school rolls are increasing by 1.5 per cent., a 1.1 per cent. increase in the SSA produces a real reduction in expenditure per pupil of somewhere between 0.3 and 0.4 per cent.—a view confirmed by the Secretary of State's statisticians this morning. That is the basic figure of the present equation as demonstrated by her memorandum. That is also before we take into account the increase that schools are bound to face because of the increase in teachers' pay.

Let me tell the Secretary of State what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at about 1 pm today. Incidentally, the Government would work a great deal more effectively if members of the Cabinet talked to each other from time to time. At 1.10 pm today, the Chancellor said that there would not be another penny to help pay for teachers' salaries. I will now remind the Secretary of State what she said to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about that situation six weeks ago. She said that the cost of the teachers' pay settlement, assuming that it was something like 2.7 per cent. or 2.9 per cent., would be £90 million.

The Secretary of State asked my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) where the money was to come from, but she might tell us where the £90 million that she demanded six weeks ago was to come from. She said that if the £90 million was not available, the equivalent of 70,000 or 100,000 teachers would have to be sacrificed. The money is not forthcoming, and the only possible alternative for local education authorities and individual governors is to do what the Secretary of State warned the Chancellor of the Duchy would have to be done and reduce the number of teachers in our schools. We do not have to argue about that because that was the Secretary of State's opinion six weeks ago. I want her or her junior Minister to get up and tell us whether she still believes that that will be the disaster set out in her memorandum, or whether there has been an extraordinary change of heart.

I would describe the Secretary of State as the convert of the year, had not the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) appeared on television yesterday evening with a great revelation that he wanted to make to the world—that local democracy meant that local authorities ought to be able to raise local taxes according to the demands of their constituents. I welcome his conversion to the policy that the Labour party has advocated for the past 15 years.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hattersley

No, certainly not when I have only 10 minutes.

I welcome the conversion of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, but he is not so significant a figure as the Secretary of State—to whom I would, of course, give way immediately even though I have only 10 minutes. Does she stand by what she said in her memorandum about the reduction in the number of teachers and the need for a further £90 million, or has she adopted another view? I suspect that she will say that it does not matter now and that the memorandum was merely a mistake, because at the north of England education conference she offered the extraordinary view that class numbers were not relevant to performance and results. The Minister of State nods. I hope that he will try to convince the independent schools, the city technology colleges and the grant-maintained schools of that point, as those that I know best use as their great pitch to get extra pupils and persuade parents to spend money the fact that they can offer smaller class sizes than the state system.

Is the Minister of State really telling us that a group of 15 pupils preparing for university entrance will do no better than a group of 30 or 35? At the other end of the spectrum, is he saying to schools in my constituency—where many children are learning English as a second language, and where there are many statemented children who need special attention, whether with general learning, numeracy or literacy—that pupils will make the same progress in a class of 35 as they would in a class of 20? If the Minister believes that, he is not fit to hold the office that he currently holds. Every educationist in the country knows that class sizes are crucial to performance. The Secretary of State chooses to say the opposite simply because she is imposing increased class sizes this year.

The Secretary of State is also doing something else. She said in her memorandum that to pick out teachers for special treatment, when everyone from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry upward—or downward, depending on how one looks at it—says that people's wages should be determined by their efforts, at a time when teachers are beginning to co-operate in many of the reforms and proposals that she and her predecessors have introduced, is a wilful misunderstanding of the situation. She is now "provoking" teachers—her own word in the memorandum—when, above all else, schools need a little quiet, a little sensible progress and a little understanding. According to her own words, by picking out teachers she is anticipating and causing undoubted chaos.

I hope that the Secretary of State will not even consider taking my word for it; she must take the word of those running our schools—the governors. I was a Member of Parliament when, two or three Secretaries of State for Education ago—they come and go so quickly and with so little distinction that it is impossible to be sure how many ago it was—a new system of local management was introduced. I am strongly in favour of local management and I like the idea of governors being appointed not because of their political persuasion but because they have an objective interest in the welfare of our schools. They are committed to the schools' progress.

Mr. Dunn

Where has the right hon. Gentleman been for the past 20 years?

Mr. Hattersley

I have been making sure that my entry in the House of Commons guide was always accurate.

Governors were appointed to bring their objective views to bear on the schools' future. What do they say? They say that the Government are risking chaos and risking the reduction in class sizes. It is not the biased and prejudiced Liberal and Labour education authorities saying that, but the school governors who were appointed to be objective according to the Government's own proposals.

What did the Department for Education say this morning when it was asked what it would do if the governors rebelled? It said that the government of schools would have to go back to the politically biased education authorities of which we have heard so much criticism in the past five years.

The Secretary of State is going to preside over chaos in our schools. She is going to increase class sizes and do away with the good will that has been created with some difficulty with the teachers' unions. She will also do one other thing that I regard as especially unforgivable: she will squeeze education budgets in such a way that the schools that need most get least and the schools that need least get most.

The Secretary of State spoke of surpluses, but her memorandum to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster contained no such talk; nor was there any talk of bureaucratic waste or how to solve the problem without extra money. She speaks today about surpluses, but she knows—or needs to be reminded—that grant-maintained schools, partly because of the corrupt way in which they have been financed, have surpluses in their accounts which are on average 60 per cent. higher than those of state-maintained schools. Once more, grant-maintained schools will come out of this financially better than the generality of schools. That is the corruption of a divided education system. One of the reasons why we confirm—and I certainly confirm—that we shall continue our fight against that divided education system is that when the squeeze comes, it is always the schools that need most which get the least. That is what the right hon. Lady is prophesying and what she is making certain today.

4.47 pm
Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I share my colleagues' pleasure in participating in this debate, but I must say at the outset how disagreeable it is that we should be witnessing such blatant politicking by the Opposition, which serves no purpose other than to worry and upset teachers and parents to the detriment of the education provided for our children. Politicking at the expense of our children is the worst form of politicking.

It was interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) mention the £90 million which may or may not have to be produced to subvent an extra payment for teachers. In debates such as this, when we are talking about a specific subject, it is always easy to forget that every bit of expenditure has to be viewed in the context of the Government's entire expenditure. We can say that every sum of money for any particular service is most important, but the debate must take place in the context of the total amount of money available for public expenditure. I shall say a little more about that later.

Like most people—certainly like most hon. Members—I believe that education is a very high priority. I was proud to be part of the very reforms which I believe have been the basis on which the Conservative party has been able noticeably to improve the education of our children, from the earliest age through to the increasing numbers going into higher and further education, which has been a great achievement. I remind Opposition Members that the national curriculum, testing, and local management of schools did not exist before 1979. They came into being as a result of the hard work and endeavour of the Conservative party in Government. They were forced through—I was part of the process that introduced every one of those reforms—despite much resistance from Opposition Members. Despite that, it has been interesting to see and hear Opposition Members change and claim that those reforms were their idea in the first place.

I am an unashamedly strong supporter of the Government's current economic policies. It is essential that we support and sustain the current efforts to ensure that the economy is on a sound footing. Part of that policy must be restraint, reduction and maintenance—within a straitjacket—of public expenditure, which has to be set against the whole business of encouraging growth and wealth production. If we are to survive in a competitive world, which will become increasingly competitive, we should be concerned about the battle against inflation and the battle against punitive public expenditure for many years to come. Any party in responsible Government will have to consider that.

No one knows better than I the cost of teachers to local authorities. Having lived through 10 years of local government, I know perfectly well precisely how much the cost of a 1 per cent. increase in teachers' pay means to a local authority budget. I do not speak in ignorance: I realise that teachers' pay is a very high expenditure item. Few people would disagree that teachers are a very high priority and should be a high priority in local government expenditure. I have always thought it more important to protect teacher numbers than to protect some of the other items on which my local authority, from time to time, has placed priority. Indeed, I argued that case against all other expenditure to try to protect what I thought was most important. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been in precisely the same position and has done precisely as I have.

Local authorities have a special duty to address expenditure at every level and to protect sharp end services such as education and community care. It is all too easy for them to say that they will attack the sharp end services so that they can protect all the other services that they think are more important. I will cite the example of the borough in which my constituency lies—the London borough of Merton—and explain why I think that this debate is being orchestrated nationally simply to upset and to scare parents and governors in the hope that they will make unwise decisions from which the Opposition parties may make political capital.

Merton council has been Labour controlled for the past five years. When Labour came to power, it was in receipt of quite considerable reserves. Like every new administration, however, it had its particular priorities and desires to make changes and to introduce new ideas. Also, of course, central administration was increased quite dramatically. As the central administration expanded, so did the amount of money that the local authority needed to finance it on a revenue basis. Then, of course, came changes, new priorities and battles in different services; some people were made redundant, which is an expensive exercise, as anyone in local government who has ever tried to make people redundant will understand.

In the London borough of Merton over the past five years we have experienced an inability to look carefully at capital and revenue expenditure and to plan for more than one year at a time which has resulted in stop-go policies and financing that would happen nationally were such a disaster as a Labour Government ever to occur. The recently Labour-controlled council of the London borough of Merton, which has turned an authority with substantial balances into one with a current £12 million deficit, is a clear example of precisely what can happen through bad management, lack of planning and a total misunderstanding of the way in which revenue capital must be managed.

Faced with proposals for a tough standard spending assessment settlement this year, the borough has produced the usual knee-jerk reaction: it says that it will cut each school's budget by 7.5 per cent. and that youth services and music provision will have to be cut by 50 per cent. Youth provision has been carefully managed in my local authority. Being an inner and an outer borough, we experience some of the same problems as inner London boroughs. Youth services are therefore one of the more important provisions. To reduce provision by 50 per cent. and then to rant and rave at the Conservative party about law and order seems to be facing both ways at the same time with remarkable efficiency. I am not surprised that there was a near riot of young people and youth workers outside the town hall last night over the outrageous and disgraceful way in which they believed that the budget had been managed.

All that is despite the 2.4 per cent. increase in the provisional standard spending assessment for education in the coming year, which represents—proportionately—a larger share of the national funding for education. Even with rising teachers' pay, it must be possible in the context of overall expenditure to reduce the number of so-called indicator projects, security commissions, equality officers and so forth, to name but a few pet projects that my Labour-controlled council has implemented, and thus to address the serious problem of how to retain essential services such as education and, most importantly, to avoid making any of its teachers redundant or cutting youth services.

I doubt whether the London borough of Merton is all that different from many Liberal Democrat and Labour-controlled councils across the country. It saddens me to say this, but the distressing truth is that councils are conducting a cynical exercise in exploitation of the Government's financial policies at the expense of their own ability to manage cost-effectively and in the interests of their absurd, absolutely ridiculous, love affair with gesture politics.

4.57 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

I declare an interest and remind the House that I am an adviser to two teacher unions. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, SpLkbrcok (Mr. Hattersley) advised members of the Cabinet to talk to each other. He was wasting his breath, because on the few occasions when Cabinet members talk to each other, they do not seem to take any notice of what is said. Indeed, no notice was taken by her Cabinet colleagues of the pleading by the Secretary of State for more cash for education. One would have thought that she would have been bitterly disappointed by that rejection, but if she was, she certainly did not show it today. She painted an amazingly rosy picture of the education service, yet she must know of the deep concerns of all of those who work for, and are involved in, the education service; people who—frankly—deserve far more praise for their work than they receive. Many of them are wondering why they have had to go through so much to achieve so little.

I shall take just one example—class size, which has been referred to several times. As a result of the Government's figures, we now know that the number of primary pupils in classes of more than 30 has risen by 19 per cent. in the past two years—more than a million primary school pupils are now in classes of more than 30 and, in England alone, almost 100,000 children are in classes of more than 36 pupils. A similar picture of increased class sizes is emerging for secondary schools.

The Government used to believe that class size mattered. It is interesting to reflect that the 1983 Conservative manifesto boasted: The average number of children per teacher is the lowest ever". Even later, the Conservatives still thought that class size mattered. The 1987 Conservative manifesto boasted: There are more teachers in proportion to pupils than ever before". Only now, when the situation is worsening, have they changed their tune.

The Minister of State told the House: there is no proven causal connection between class size and educational output."—[Official Report, 13 December 1994; Vol. 251, c. 767.] The Minister is nodding to confirm that that is what he said.

The hon. Gentleman should know that Sir John Cassels, a distinguished member of the National Commission on Education, certainly did not agree with him when he spoke on the radio only last night. I am sure that by now he must be aware of the hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers, governors and pupils who fundamentally disagree with him, and who believe that class size matters.

I wish that the Minister would listen to the views of just one parent, whose opinion was quoted in a survey carried out by Exeter university last year. She said succinctly: Any half-wit should realise that increasing class size is detrimental to a child's education". Yet, sadly, class sizes are on the rise, and the quality of education provision is set to fall because of the Government's funding policies.

Last week, I published an analysis of the Government's figures for the money that they expect local education authorities to spend on each pupil—figures that, unlike the Government's attempts to mask the cuts, take into account both inflation and the rising number of pupils. Those figures are startling. After the difficult years that education has already faced, the Government's local government financial settlement this year means that, on average, LEAs in England are being expected to cope with £50 less in real terms for each primary pupil and a staggering £194 less in real terms for each secondary pupil. Realistically, that means a cut of £10,000 in the budget of a 200-pupil primary school and a staggering cut of £126,000 in the budget of a 650-pupil secondary school.

During Prime Minister's questions earlier today the Prime Minister accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) of having his facts wrong. I should like the Minister of State to tell me now whether those facts, as I believe them to be, are correct or incorrect. The Minister is not rising to speak, so clearly he is confirming that the Government are imposing real cuts.

The hon. Gentleman will also know that in some parts of the country the position is far worse. In Northumberland, for example, some of which is covered by the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), the cut is £72 per primary pupil and £223 per secondary pupil.

The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) mentioned her concern about what is happening in Merton. I hope that she is as worried as I am about what the Government cut will mean for Merton—a cut of £48 per primary pupil. The right hon. Lady is shaking her head, but that figure is based on the Government's own statistics, updated allowing for inflation. It represents the standard spending assessment per pupil, as supplied by the Government. For Merton it means a cut of £48 per primary pupil and £216 per secondary pupil.

Dame Angela Rumbold

Those are fine figures, but may I remind the hon. Gentleman that there is about £2.5 million of reserves in the balances for education spending alone? I hope that he will take on board the fact that when the council comes to make a budget, as I trust that it will, there will still be money there both for it to budget properly to maintain its teachers and for the necessary spending on children.

Mr. Foster

I am certain that everybody who lives in Merton will have noticed what the right hon. Lady has said. She described cuts of £48 per primary pupil and £216 per secondary pupil as "fine figures". I hope that that will be published far and wide in her constituency.

Far worse cuts are being made in other parts of the country. Because of the inadequacies of the area cost adjustments, in all the south-western counties we shall start from a base of £130 less per pupil even before the cuts that I have mentioned are imposed.

Ministers and other Conservative Members have, of course, already started accusing Opposition Members of crying wolf. It is true that in the past it has been possible for some local education authorities to take money from other service areas and deprive those areas so as to prevent major cuts in the education service, but many of those possibilities have dried up, now that we have had year after year of cuts in the other sectors. Even within many LEAs, the opportunities to take away central support money have now disappeared.

We now see the ludicrous process of Ofsted inspectors travelling round schools identifying problems, and then finding that there is no one left at LEA advisory level to provide the schools with any help in trying to put right what is wrong. Rising pupil numbers are not the only problem. There will be—indeed, there have already been—cuts in the money available for books and equipment in many schools, and there is a shortage of money for repairs and maintenance. There is now a staggering backlog of £4.3 billion worth of repairs and maintenance of school buildings.

What is the point of the Minister promoting much-improved policies for special educational needs work when the money will not be available to carry that work out? Certainly there will be no money available for any of the much-needed expansion in nursery education.

Despite all that, the Minister of State still claims, as he did on 19 December, that The plea from LEAs that they do not have much money will not wash".—[Official Report, 19 December 1994; Vol. 251, c. 1514.] He is talking complete hogwash.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

What on earth is the Minister saying to authorities such as Northumberland, which last year was allowed an extra £12 million in its standard spending assessment but was told that it could not spend more than £2 million because of the capping limits?

Mr. Foster

My right hon. Friend makes a telling point, revealing not only the absurdity of the local government financial settlement but the lack of understanding of local education authorities that Conservative Members display.

If the Minister and his colleagues take no notice of what I say, or of what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) says, I hope that they will at least start to listen to the views expressed by Conservative supporters throughout the country, especially those working as school governors. They know that education has been cut to the bone, and that the Government are now forcing cuts into the bone. Governors are being asked to do more and more, yet are given less and less with which to do it.

Things will get worse unless the Government fully fund the teachers' pay award. Nothing short of full funding immediately will do. The Liberal Democrats are committed to restoring the cuts and to funding the teachers' pay increase in its entirety. We are also committed to further boosting the funding for education, and we have an honest answer to the question of how we shall pay for it. We have made it clear that if there is no other way, we would increase income tax by 1 p in the pound. I hope that the hon. Member for Brightside. or whoever winds up for the Labour party, will give an equally clear explanation of where Labour would find the money.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one way in which money could be released for the sharp end of education would be to cut back the central bureaucracy of an education authority, especially if more than half the secondary schools in the area were grant maintained? The Liberal Democrats in Kent have signally failed to do that.

Mr. Foster

I explained the problems which many local education authorities were having because their central services have been pared to the bone. They are not able to deliver the level of support which many schools are now demanding.

It is crucial that we all understand that, in this increasingly global market, we boost investment in the education service. Despite the weasel words of the Prime Minister and the Government, the Conservative party still prefers to cut education provision in the classroom primarily—as we all know—to save money which is to be stored for possible tax bribes before the next election. The Conservatives are putting their party before the needs of the country.

5.9 pm

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

I shall not follow the comments of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), except to say that I had thought that we might hear the odd word about the Liberal Democrats' education policy in relation to grant-maintained schools and the other initiatives which the Government have brought forward. I heard nothing, however, and I can only assume that the hon. Gentleman still believes what he said at the end of 1993, when he pointed out that there was virtually no difference between the Liberal Democrat party's attitude towards education and that of the Labour party.

Mr. Don Foster

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mans

No, I only have 10 minutes in which to speak. The hon. Gentleman has had his chance to make his points.

Everyone who has spoken in the debate today realises that this year's education settlement is a tight one. It is not fully appreciated that many LEAs—Lancashire being but one—have made a tight settlement for themselves even tighter for their schools. Lancashire, for instance, has had a 1.1 per cent. SSA increase. That has been translated into a 5.5 per cent. decrease in the delegated budget which the Labour-controlled authority has given to the schools under its control.

The only possible conclusion to be drawn from that is that Lancashire and other authorities—mainly controlled by the Liberal Democrats or the Labour party—have given less priority to education this year than has been given in previous years. They may well have had a case if they had increased the delegated budget by the same amount in cash terms as the Government had given them, but they have not done that. Instead, they have cut the budget in real terms.

Instead of demonstrating against Government cuts, the governors and head teachers in Oxfordshire be demonstrating against the cuts imposed by their own county council, and if they wish to set an illegal budget, they consider carefully the consequences of doing so. Where do they think the money for that illegal budget will come from? Are they proposing to increase the public sector borrowing requirement nationally to cope with illegal budgets? Are they proposing a tax increase, or are they proposing that cuts should hit some other part of the community, such as health or community care? Those in Oxfordshire and other parts of the country should pay more attention to the cuts which are being imposed because of overheads at county hall.

In that context, my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) made a good point in saying that, for every 17 teachers in the county of Lancashire—I suspect the figures are not too different in other counties—there is one bureaucrat. That is where cuts should be imposed.

Across the country, a huge number of surplus places need to be taken out. Many county councils have been bad at being proactive. They have failed to anticipate the numbers coming forward for primary education, and failed to anticipate that there would be a decline in the numbers going into secondary education.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

It is tragic that Lancashire does not take out surplus secondary school places, but very frequently does try to take out primary places, where there is a deficit. There is a shortage of primary places, yet the council is always trying to close primary places.

Mr. Mans

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is very important that, when one is looking at the number of places required—

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mans

No, I have only 10 minutes.

It is important to ensure that a council takes up the surplus places as soon as possible, otherwise it will not have the money to fund extra primary places. Later in the cycle, the council might have to take out a few primary school places, if the numbers are going down, to fund the extra secondary places that may come along. A lot of LEAs—particularly Lancashire—are bad at that.

If schools feel that, as a result of being under local authority control, they are not getting the full amount of money from the budget that the local authority has been given by the Government, they should seriously consider whether they wish to remain under local authority control. That is the only logical conclusion. If the delegated budgets are cut by more than the amount of money given by the Government, it makes sense for many schools to consider carefully whether they would be better off applying for grant-maintained status.

When grant-maintained schools are created, some of the first people who take up that option for the education of their children are Opposition Members and Labour chairmen of local authorities and of education committees. They all seem to know where the best schools are and they send their children to them, despite the fact that they happen to be grant-maintained schools. That is what is happening in the Labour party. While there are certainly a few Labour Members who do not agree with that view, the fact is that the party's members are voting with their feet and sending their children to the schools that they think will be best for their children. That choice has been provided by this Conservative Government.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will explain—not necessarily this evening, but perhaps in the form of a letter—how the figures on the area cost adjustment are arrived at. I am certain that there were good reasons why this was necessary in the past, but I submit that there is now much less of an imbalance in terms of wage costs and other matters between the north and the south. I strongly recommend that my hon. Friend looks closely at the way in which the area cost adjustment applies, particularly in places such as Lancashire, and also further south in places such as Northamptonshire.

I believe sincerely that our education system needs to change, and that it is changing from being essentially a resource and input-led system to a results-led system. It is changing from—in the terms of the Labour party—a grand experiment in social engineering, which is what it was during the 1960s and 1970s, to a system which prepares children properly for life in the world that exists today and that will exist tomorrow. That is why I am sure that the Government's education policy is succeeding, while the policy suggested by the Opposition—although we have yet to hear anything about it—would undoubtedly fail.

5.18 pm
Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

As local education authorities throughout England prepare their budgets, the true size of the cuts in money likely to be available for primary and secondary pupils has been revealed by the Government, via parliamentary questions. West country LEAs have been particularly badly hit, starting as they do from a lower point than other LEAs due to the unfairness of the area cost adjustment. But if one compares the changes in real terms in the budgets for next year with this year through the SSA per pupil, there will be a real cash cut in Avon of £56 for each primary school pupil, and a staggering £184 for each secondary school pupil. Somerset will lose £46 and £176 respectively, and the corresponding figures for Gloucestershire are £41 and £183. On average, in just one year local education authorities are expected to cope with a real-terms cut of 2.5 per cent. or £50 per primary pupil and a draconian 6.9 per cent. or £194 per secondary pupil. Those cuts are in addition to cuts in previous years.

It is even worse in the west country, where the SSA per pupil is £130 below the English average at primary level and £134 at secondary level. Contrast that with the statement made by the Minister of State on 19 December 1994, when he said: the plea from LEAs that they do not have enough money will not wash".—[Official Report, 19 December 1994; Vol. 251, c. 1514.] How out of touch can one get?

Last month, the Secretary of State told the North of England conference: You will still need to find ways of making the money go further". What does that mean for class sizes, special educational needs, school repairs, and governors' and teachers' morale?

Since January 1992, the number of primary school pupils in classes of more than 30 has increased by 19 per cent. In January 1994, the figure rose to more than 1 million for the first time in many years. In Avon, there has been a staggering increase in the number of primary school children in large classes: between 1992 and 1994, there was a 32 per cent. increase, representing 6,486 more children in classes of more than 30 pupils. The increase in Somerset was 8 per cent.; in Gloucestershire it was 25 per cent.; and in Wiltshire it was an almost unbelievable 45 per cent. I am not surprised that no Conservative Members representing constituencies in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are in the Chamber today. [Interruption.] May I say to the Minister of State that I am here to speak for the west country on behalf of the Opposition.

What is the Government's response? In 1983, the Conservative party manifesto said: The average number of children per teacher is the lowest ever", and in 1987, its manifesto boasted: There are more teachers in proportion to pupils than ever before". It presumably made those statements in the belief that the lower the pupil-teacher ratio, the better. People had a right to expect further improvement. Between 1970–71 and 1980–81, pupil-teacher ratios in primary schools improved from 27:1 to 22:3 and in secondary schools from 17:8 to 16:4. But following the unprecedented rises to which I referred, the Minister of State said in the House on 13 December 1994: There is no proven causal connection between class size and educational output".—[Official Report, 13 December 1994; Vol. 251, c. 767.] He must know that he is wrong.

In 1994, Professor Neville Bennett of Exeter university undertook a survey of the views of head teachers, chairs of governors, teachers and parents. He found not only a clear consensus that increasing class size adversely affects teaching and learning, but that 90 per cent. of parents with children in classes of more than 30 showed deep satisfaction.

A teacher-governor in my constituency summed up the position admirably when he wrote to me this week saying: I am unable to give as much attention to each individual's needs as I should, because there are so many others requiring it as well". What does "making the money go further" mean for school buildings and repairs? The chair of governors of Hanham high school in Avon wrote to me saying that the Department for Education had turned down its application for replacement of what he described as "decrepit, depressing and antiquated" buildings. In my constituency, Bannerman Road school—a two-storey primary school built in 1877—is in desperate need of replacement.

On special educational needs, in two primary schools in my constituency the proportions of children with special educational needs are 50 per cent. and 54 per cent. Teachers try to motivate little children who are identified as having "low self-esteem". The chair of governors of Little Hayes nursery school in Bristol recently wrote to me saying: I would like to state, on behalf of the Governors of the above-named school, how increasingly worried governing bodies are becoming because of the gradual reduction in worth of monies that Governing bodies are receiving. As Chair of a school without a delegated budget I am acutely aware of the reduction in services due to the lack of money that Councils are receiving. Services that should have been held centrally for the school to use are no longer there having either been cut completely or having been privatised and are no longer accessible to schools without a delegated budget. As a country Britain has claimed that Education was for all for over a century, but it now appears that every parent needs to subsidise their local authority, to some extent, to keep their children's schools working. The Secretary of State says that the money must go further. What planet is she on? If she has £184 less to spend on her household shopping next year, how will she make the money go further? She will have to cut something out. In Avon, the main policy criterion has been to protect the schools' budget, to the detriment of services as diverse as discretionary awards, peripatetic music tuition and new nursery class provision, leading to further protest.

The head teacher of Redcliffe nursery school in my constituency wrote to me saying: It concerns me greatly that once again Nursery Schools, their children and staff are being discriminated against both at a local and national level. The DFE has made no GEST allocation for nursery schools. This also raises the question of equal opportunities for staff working in Nursery Schools. She called for an investigation into the DFE's continuing discrimination against nursery schools and asked how that fits with the Government's proposed policy of nursery education for all four-year-olds.

LEAs are powerless to resist that inexorable onslaught. I regret that counties throughout England are facing a dilemma that has been all too familiar in Avon, where restrictions have been placed on spending by capping criteria every year since 1990–91. It is not good enough for Conservative Members to point the finger at LEAs. They should look to their Front Bench, for that is where the blame lies. If they really want more money for our schools, they should join us in the Lobby tonight to condemn the detrimental impact of the 1995–96 settlement on standards and opportunities for our children and young people.

5.26 pm
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

May I draw the attention of the House to the motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the Opposition? The six names of Opposition Members who support it include the shadow Chief Whip and the chairman of the parliamentary Labour party. However, the list does not include the shadow Treasury spokesman, which is a startling omission. Hon. Members may find it deeply significant that no member of the shadow Treasury team is prepared to put his name to the motion. Another extraordinary and startling omission is that the motion does not mention the teachers' pay awards. That shows the true import that Opposition Members attach to today's debate.

The speeches that we have heard from Opposition Members so far have been predictable: the usual demands for more money and the usual silence about where it would come from.

Mr. Don Foster

That is not true of speeches by Liberal Democrat Members.

Mr. Pawsey

On this occasion, I shall excuse the hon. Gentleman from those strictures. He may, however, come in for adverse comments later.

It would be helpful if Opposition Members would occasionally bend their minds, however distasteful that may be, to the sordid problem of money. If they intend to make more funds available to local authorities, through them to the education service and through it to schools, where will they get it from? Do they intend to raise it from taxation or will they make savings in other services? If they take the former route of imposing higher taxes, has that been agreed by the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown)? That is no academic point, because it is crucial and central to today's debate. Hon. Members will understand that there is a world of difference between some vague, well-intentioned phrase quoted in a television studio and a firm, costed, unconditional pledge on how much cash will be provided and when. That is what counts and that will underline the true importance that Opposition Members attach to education. It is no good complaining that funds are inadequate if, at the same time, Opposition Members are not prepared to say where the money will come from.

Like everyone else, I would like more money for education and that is why I applaud the Government for embarking on the remarkable increase in education spending that has occurred since we were first elected in 1979. The Government have increased spending per pupil by 47 per cent. in real terms, an amount probably without precedent in recent times. Spending on books and equipment is up by 31 per cent. in real terms and teachers have not been forgotten either. Their pay has increased by almost 60 per cent., again in real terms.

Given those substantial increases, I sometimes wonder whether the taxpayer has always received value for money. I suspect that it is only since the Government's reforms of 1988 that educational attainment has shown a real improvement when compared with the 1960s and 1970s. It was, after all, Jim Callaghan who started the great debate in 1976 with his speech at Ruskin college.

Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

That is right.

Mr. Pawsey

I am delighted to note the assent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson).

Hon. Members will recall that the education reforms have included the introduction of the national curriculum and testing; the establishment of Ofsted, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already referred; the introduction of GCSEs; the local management of schools; and the introduction of grant-maintained schools. All those reforms and a host of other measures are set to improve the quality and standard of state education.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend must forgive me, but I just have 10 minutes in which to speak.

Since today's debate is about funding and has been held at the initiative of Her Majesty's Opposition, it is worth considering some of the ideas being actively promoted by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. They need some consideration—not a lot—but it would be useful to know exactly where they stand on grant-maintained schools. Will they allow them to continue or not? Some Opposition Members appreciate the benefits of those schools and send their children to them. Let me make it clear immediately that I do not criticise them in any way for that. As parents, they naturally want the best for their children and are able to exercise the freedom and choice given to them and every other parent by the Government. What I and my hon. Friends find unacceptable, however, is that while some Opposition Members send their children to those schools, at the same time other members of the same party are actively seeking their abolition. That suggests a degree of confusion or worse, which is intolerable. [Interruption.] I am glad that I have woken up Opposition Members, because, frankly, their attitude in today's debate is almost dozy. The debate has been held at their initiative, but the fact that so few of them are present shows how much they care about education.

The abolition of grant-maintained schools has spending implications. If Opposition Members want those schools to be returned to local education authorities, what will that cost? Currently those schools are run efficiently and effectively. They give parents what they want for their children, vide the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. If those schools are brought back under the control of LEAs to satisfy the ideological views of a small number of small-minded people, it will be at a cost to the education budget.

Another idea mooted by one Opposition spokesman—sadly he is not present this afternoon—is that a graduate tax should be introduced in place of the interest-free student loan. Perhaps Opposition Members can tell the House what that idea would cost to implement. It would mean, presumably, that the current Student Loans Company would be wound up and new arrangements made through the Inland Revenue. That is unlikely to be a cheap exercise.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pawsey

No, I am sorry, but I am almost out of time.

It is a truism that one can spend a pound only once. That applies to teachers, books, schools or crack-brained measures designed to satisfy the more socialist instincts of the National Union of Teachers.

On local authority spending, I believe that it is now time to reconsider the capping legislation—I know that a number of hon. Friends share my view. I must add that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) had the courtesy to write to me to say that he intended to mention me in his speech. I wonder how that courtesy compares with that shown by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) when he referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)? I suspect that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, who is now not here, remembers the traditions of the House far better than some other Opposition Members.

I am not ashamed to say that I believe that the capping mechanism should now be removed, because the socialist republics that ran some of our great cities in the 1980s—the Manchesters, the Liverpools, the Sheffields and some of the London boroughs—have greatly modified their position in the wake of four successive general election defeats. The capping legislation should therefore be substantially amended to restore to local authorities the right to decide their own level of local spending in accordance the right with perceived local needs, which certainly includes education.

5.36 pm
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

I shall confine my remarks to the effects of the 1995–96 settlement on Barnsley. It has not only highlighted a crisis in education generally, but, in particular, highlighted the problems faced by Barnsley. It threatens the advances that we have made in nursery education provision, but, most worrying of all, it will certainly halt the steady improvements that have been made in primary and secondary educational attainment.

It would appear that, nationally, the Government have been too preoccupied with their policy of featherbedding the private school sector while standards in schools in the public sector have fallen. By allowing that to happen, the sad fact is that the Government are not only failing our children but failing to address the important question of Britain's future. Britain can survive in a competitive global market only if we maintain good educational standards. The educational standards achieved under the Government have not come up to what Ministers would have us believe. For example, a recent survey revealed that one third of 14-year-olds are not mastering basic English, mathematics and science. That survey also revealed that one in six adults has severe literacy and numeracy difficulties. Those educated in the 1960s and the 1970s fare better than those taught in the 1980s, which contradicts the point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins). I was a teacher in the 1970s and I can at least claim that I helped young people to achieve.

Education in Barnsley has been seriously threatened. We had a long battle to persuade the Minister that the standard spending assessment formula treated Barnsley unfairly. The review of the criteria was hailed as a chance to achieve a fairer distribution of SSAs, but it has not brought any appreciation of our problem—at least, in our experience. This year, for example, Barnsley's maximum expenditure limit is only 0.5 per cent. more than our 1994–95 equivalent budget, which is only 0.5 per cent. greater than the SSA level. That compares with the average allowance above SSAs for metropolitan districts of 4.5 per cent. Obviously, Barnsley has been unfairly treated.

Already music services to schools have been lost as a result of a failure to fund properly in past years. That is an especially hurtful blow in a region that has fought hard to keep some semblance of cultural activities alive in its schools. In addition, the community education programme has been closed, as has the schools swimming programme. All those cuts, caused by a lack of Government funding, add to the demoralisation of a community that has had more than its fair share of knocks.

Between 1991 and 1994, for example, the number of our secondary school pupils has increased by 5 per cent. One would have expected that, in a rational society, the resources that Government provide would at least he proportionate to the pupil increase, but of course we are talking about irrational government.

In a typical Barnsley secondary school, the standstill budget will mean a further steep staff reduction of five teachers. A reduction of five teachers in each school will mean that there will be no special educational needs teaching in the school curriculum. Currently there are 36 periods per week in maths and English for children with special educational needs. At present, 13 additional periods are offered per week for children who have learning difficulties in science classes, but the cut will mean that the number of pupils in classes will increase from 22 to 28. There will also be a reduction in arts and technology teaching. Currently there are 16 periods a week in art, music and information technology. That could disappear altogether, and it would seriously affect the delivery of the national curriculum in those lesson areas.

As recently as a few weeks ago, I attended two school speech days; one at Willowgarth school, on the east side of Barnsley, the other at Penistone grammar school, in my constituency. Willowgarth is situated in the village of Grimethorpe, where the last colliery closure in the Barnsley area took place. The teaching staff are proud of the fact that they have done a first-class job in helping to provide the community with hope and a good school for its children to attend. Now their efforts have been threatened by a lack of funding. The governors at Penistone grammar school told me that they were struggling to ensure that the school could maintain its good record. They were afraid, however, that without a commensurate increase in resourcing to meet the increase in pupil numbers the school and, more importantly, the community, would lose out.

Barnsley has been confronted by some severe spending pressures in education. For example, the number of children with a statutory entitlement to free meals increased by 58 per cent., from 6,081 in 1990 to 9,591 in 1994, resulting in an increased cost of £1 million. The number of children eligible for a clothes grant has increased in the same period by 54 per cent. and now stands at almost 11,000, resulting in an increased cost of £200,000.

Special educational needs have increased at an alarming rate: from 1.3 per cent. of pupils in 1990 to 3.1 per cent. to date. That has resulted in an extra cost of £3.2 million.

Another increased spending pressure that will obviously bear heavily on Barnsley is the funding of the teachers' pay settlements. The School Teachers Review Body will recommend a 2.7 per cent. increase. The increase must be paid, but I urge the Minister to impress on Government that it must be met by Government funding, rather than leaving it to local authorities.

The sad thing is that the cuts have come at a time when things have been steadily improving in Barnsley schools. Although the Department for Education's league tables show that Barnsley schools are considerably below the national average, the overall school performance index illustrates an improvement between 1989 and 1994. Now the progress and the achievement of individual schools are threatened by financial constraints.

Barnsley is an authority that works well with its governing bodies. In the past year, the town has held the first educational conference for governors and staff. That was followed by a series of meetings, when a vision statement of the education service was developed and its aims and objectives were established. The tragedy is that the objectives are now placed in jeopardy by the budget.

Finally, I urge the Minister to ask the Secretary of State for Education to bring pressure to bear on the Secretary of State for the Environment to meet Barnsley's council leaders and to consider sympathetically a formula that will allow the Barnsley community to progress towards its educational objectives.

Mr. Pawsey

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During my remarks I may not have mentioned the fact that I am a parliamentary adviser to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. If I did not do so, may I ask that it now be recorded in the Official Report?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member did not declare that interest earlier. I am grateful that he has now remembered to do so.

5.45 pm
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) spoke this afternoon and also spoke on local government finance last week, although I believe that the Liberal Democrats' local government finance spokesman is the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel). On both occasions, the hon. Member for Bath rather glancingly criticised the area cost adjustment and the way in which it is calculated. Perhaps the reason why the hon. Member for Newbury is not present this afternoon and was silent last week is that the county in which his constituency lies, Berkshire, benefits from the area cost adjustment.

On local government finance in general, the Liberals in the west country are campaigning heavily about the area cost adjustment, and we also heard from the Labour Member for Bristol, East (Ms Corston).

We need to be realistic. Conservative Members agree with the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration about considering the issue and trying to resolve it in the coming year, but the idea that there is a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow that will resolve all these budgetary problems is far-fetched.

The hon. Member for Bath also referred to the Liberal policy of an increase in income tax of a penny in the pound to finance education, one of the Liberal Democrats' supposedly popular policies. Those who study the Liberal Democrats' pledges and policies believe that the actual cost would amount to 2.5 pennies in the pound. However, for every constituent who wants a penny or 2.5p spent on education, there will be some who want the same amount or more to be spent on law and order, defence, health or pensions and social security. Before we have gone very far, we shall be well in excess of a 30p in the pound basic rate of income tax. I hope that the House will consider that.

The response of Conservative Members of Parliament with constituencies in Somerset to the local government finance settlement was made in the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson) last Wednesday. I am glad to see him in the Chamber. I should like to take some of those arguments further, because there has been a hysterical campaign, not only in Somerset but in Devon.

Schools have been given indicative budgets. Sespiteincreases in Government assistance and despite increases—albeit small—in the amount that Somerset and Devon can spend up to the capping limit, those schools have been told to make substantial cuts in their budgets. Therefore, conclusions are being drawn about the number of teacher redundancies that might result.

Not surprisingly, people are worried; some are very angry. There have been marches. My hon. Friends and I have had many letters. We have had petition forms, referring, I may say, to a cut in Government support—and, as I said, there has been no cut in Government support. That is a typical lie.

The Conservative county councillors in Somerset have proposed alternatives to the Liberal budget, but the response, rather curiously, of the ruling majority party is to say, "There is no alternative." The Liberal Democrats plan to go ahead with their indicative budgets, their sacking of teachers and their causing of deep chaos in schools in my constituency and those of my hon. Friends.

In addition to the alternative budgets of Conservative county councillors, I have a few more points to consider. Last year, Somerset county council increased its staff by 500—so it was not exactly the tight year that some people have suggested. It claimed that 200 teachers would have to be sacked last year, but instead 98 teachers and 166 classroom assistants were recruited.

A note from the Library, which is based on a written answer from 17 October 1994, shows how much of their education budget the various local education authorities have delegated to schools. Somerset is about a third of the way up the list, with 86.2 per cent. of its total education budget delegated to schools. The hon. Member for Bath—I am glad to see that he is in his place—referred to Northumberland. During the same period, it delegated 88.9 per cent. of its education budget to schools. At the top of the list is Hertfordshire, which delegated 91.3 per cent. of its education budget to schools, and Berkshire delegated 90 per cent. Of course, schools would have more money if Somerset and other local authorities delegated more of their education budgets to them.

Reference was also made to the balances held by schools. I appreciate that some schools have deliberately saved balances year after year in order to fund specific projects. Therefore, I do not wish to encourage schools to dig deep into their funding reserves or spend their balances in one year. A written answer of 19 January 1995, at column 641 of Hansard, to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), shows that Somerset has £6.6 million in school balances. It is interesting to compare that with Devon, which has a much larger pupil population, at £10.3 million.

Those councillors in Somerset who are anxious to save mainstream education services might consider some perhaps more controversial proposals. For example, they could reverse, or at least postpone, the Liberal policy to have children start school at a younger age—the rising fives issue. The previous Conservative administration made a rather controversial decision about that and saved a considerable amount of money. That decision has now been reversed, but I believe that at least a postponement would save money.

We also have to look at the cost of maintaining very small schools. A school in my constituency that is about to close has only 12 pupils and at the time of the previous financial assessment it had 15 pupils. I do not see how one can make effective education provision for a school of that size. The school received funding of £70,00() and, as the Member of Parliament for that area, I found it very difficult to justify that sort of financial commitment.

In conclusion, I refer to the important matter of the forthcoming pay award for teachers. Since 1990 there has been an average increase of 36 per cent. in teachers' pay, which contrasts with a 23 per cent. increase for the whole economy. Teachers have not fared badly in recent years and we want to see that trend continue. We want to maintain recruitment levels and maintain and improve morale in the teaching profession.

I pay tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in that respect. She inherited certain difficulties when she assumed her post, to which other hon. Members have referred. I have said harsh things about her predecessor and I do not wish to return to them. I am sure that all hon. Members recognise the difficult position that the Secretary of State inherited when she took over the job and we appreciate the progress that she has made.

We must leave it to my right hon. Friend to judge how far she will go with the review body's recommendations. She must make the right decisions and she faces a difficult task. She may decide to phase in some of the recommendations, but if she decides to implement all of them at or above the level of inflation, she must expect the support of her Cabinet colleagues in dealing with the problems that will arise from meeting the pay increase.

For example, I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth mentioned the capping limit, which will he reviewed next year. Perhaps the Secretary of State will have to look at it this year. Conservative Members support capping as a way of dealing with authorities that have no regard for the financial burdens that they place on their constituents. In view of the recent reforms of local government finance, we should look carefully at the concept of capping as a way for the Treasury to decide the meticulous funding arrangements of fairly responsible local authorities. I have my arguments with Somerset, but I would not describe it as a Lambeth or a Camden.

We must look at the capping limit next year and we must maintain pressure on the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for the Environment in order to secure a better settlement next year. If we can expect a better settlement next year, local authorities may be convinced to hold the line this year in the face of what we all accept is a very tough financial settlement.

5.55 pm
Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey)—my Conservative colleague from Warwickshire—is not in his seat because he raised some points in his speech to which I wish to refer.

The hon. Gentleman talked about Labour's views on grant-maintained schools. To my knowledge, no Labour Front-Bench spokesperson has said that parents should not send their children to GM schools. We are concerned about the lack of local democratic accountability in GM schools, the unfair comparative funding arrangements arid the entry criteria in some schools. The Labour party's aim is to ensure that every pupil benefits from fair funding, that each GM school has an element of local democratic accountability, and that the entry criteria provide equal opportunities for all. I also remind the hon. Gentleman--no doubt he will read it in Hansard tomorrow—that Kenilworth secondary school in his constituency, which has a fine reputation for high academic standards, is a comprehensive school that has not opted out.

Parents in Warwickshire are very angry about the funding cuts in children's education. Parents and teachers are angry because 200 teaching jobs may be lost and class sizes will increase. In some schools, there are as many as 40 pupils in a class. Standards will inevitably fall and the provision of special needs education will be reduced, affecting the most vulnerable pupils. Section 11 funding will also be cut and I have been told that that could result in the loss of three teachers from one school.

The anger is not confined to Opposition politicians, parents, teachers or governors. In Warwickshire, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors have united in criticising the financial settlement's impact. The Government would have us believe that it is all about overspending local authorities that are unable to make proper budget savings. However, the headmaster of St. Francis primary school in Bedworth, Mr. Seamus Crowe, has said that the argument of parents and teachers is not with the county council but with the Government". Conservative politicians in Warwickshire are supporting Labour's case—but it is not Labour's case; it is the case of the children, the parents and the governors who want to see decent education standards in that county. Warwickshire has always been a prudent local authority; it was praised in its recent audit report. It was poll tax capped only when it was under Conservative control—for two years running. Warwickshire has always been a relatively low spender per pupil on education. If it were to comply with the Government's standard spending assessment, it would have to cut its education budget by £10 million, despite the fact that it is such a low spender. If it made the cuts in its standard spending assessment that the Government seem to suggest, it would probably fall through the statistical floor on education spending.

When I made similar points in a debate last week on the financial settlement, the Secretary of State for the Environment suggested that I was making a plea for special treatment for Warwickshire and that other counties disagreed with the claim. One can imagine his surprise when the reply came not from the Opposition but from behind him. I quote with approval the comments of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth): Warwickshire is not asking for special treatment, but for a fair deal. Our frustration is that year after year after year our representations appear to be ignored. It is no surprise that in a zero-sum game other local authorities are not interested in easing Warwickshire's position. If we care about the quality of our democracy, we should be strengthening the independence and scope of elected local government for which a strong mechanism of accountability now exists through the council tax. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our future quality of life, as well as our economic competitiveness, depends to a large extent on whether we invest in our schools? I therefore very much regret the Government's proposals for capping and SSAs—certainly as they bite in Warwickshire—which run counter to all these purposes."—[Official Report, 1 February 1995; Vol. 253, c. 1113.] Those were the words of a Conservative Member for Warwickshire, so it has nothing to do with party politics. It is not special pleading; it is concern that the impact on schools in Warwickshire is so damaging that even the Conservatives in the county are concerned about it.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, who I am pleased to see has now resumed his seat, said that the cap must be removed and I agree with him, certainly for Warwickshire. I welcome the conversion of the hon. Gentleman to Labour party policy for Warwickshire.

There has been a long campaign by Warwickshire Members and councillors to change the SSA criteria, and it has been supported by all parties. Claims of lax council spending will not wash in Warwickshire; it is plain unfair victimisation of the children of Warwickshire by the Government.

The education budget has already been cut to the bone. Discretionary awards have been cut in Shakespeare's county, where if young people want to become actors, they cannot get a discretionary award to do it. May I make a special plea as a lawyer? When I was young, I was able to get a grant to pursue my legal career. That is barely possible now; in practice, it is impossible. The opportunities offered to previous generations no longer seem to be available in Warwickshire.

The youth service budget has been halved. One third of primary classes have more than 30 pupils; 10 per cent. of classes have more than 35 pupils; and, if cuts are imposed this year, many will have more than 40 pupils. Pupil-teacher ratios are in the bottom quartile of LEAs in England and Wales, and the county has already made 20 per cent. savings in administration and elsewhere to put £2 million into primary schools.

Education spending per head in Warwickshire has fallen to 96 per cent. of the English county average, while our school-age population is 2.5 per cent. above the English county average. So the county is not only efficiently run; it has cut services to the bone.

The 1995 budget is balanced only by no contribution to the education budget for any pay or price increases, by not providing any of the £1 million needed to fund the extra 874 pupils in Warwickshire schools next year and an overall 2.5 per cent. reduction in all budgets. That totals a cut of £9 million for Warwickshire's education department, because of the cuts and increased spending pressures.

This year, a primary school pupil will be worth £1,024 until April, but after April the figure will be £993. The contribution for a 15-year-old is £1,864, but after April it will fall to £1,807. In my constituency, the effect on Polesworth comprehensive, which is to take 62 extra pupils, will be £112,000 slashed off the budget. Race Leys middle school at Bedworth will lose £43,000 and two teachers. St. Francis RC primary school in Bedworth will lose a teacher and have classes of more than 40 pupils.

On Friday, I spoke to the headmaster of Nicholas Chamberlaine comprehensive school, who told me that the school faces budget cuts identified by the county of £70,000, including a deficit carried forward because the school was unable to meet the 2 per cent. underfunded pay rises for 1994–95 of £30,000. If staff pay rises for 1995–96 are not funded, the school will face a further reduction of £36,000a cut of £136,000 in one school budget.

The school has identified the following proposals to make those savings. Seven teachers will have to go. Class sizes will be increased by two thirds across the board, with significant health and safety implications as some workshops cannot properly accommodate full classes. There will be fewer choices at GCSE, with no minority A-level subjects such as religious education or German and fewer books for pupils. The school fabric, which is already deteriorating, will not be able to have the repairs that it needs. There will be no capital investment in any new equipment. Information technology provision will deteriorate further and the school library has already closed. How in all conscience can any Government say that they care about education, yet seek to force such cuts?

I could explain the effect of the cuts on other schools in Warwickshire, but Warwickshire needs—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. Time is up.

6.5 pm

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Like a number of hon. Members in the Chamber this afternoon, I come from Kent, a county that faces a 1 per cent. cut in the delegated budget for schools. It is the first time that that has ever happened in the county of Kent. No provision has been made for any increase in the pay of teachers. It has been imposed by the Liberal Democrat-Labour pact which is now controlling Kent county council.

It is particularly disgraceful given that the Government funding for Kent county council is increasing by 2.1 per cent. in the coming year. One might ask why the council has got the county into such a predicament. During the first two years of control by the Lib-Lab pact, the co-chairs of education were breezing around the county playing Lady Bountiful and distributing sweeties to an extent that would have shamed Evita Peron. The council spent the £20 million windfall that arose from interest rates on the council debt being very much less than forecast. It blew those funds. It now faces finding some £6.5 million to pay for higher interest rates.

Needless to say, the council does not have the money. It has blown the £10 million proceeds of land sales negotiated by the previous Conservative Administration. It has held sharp conferences at four-star hotels, such as the Great Danes hotel at Maidstone and the Imperial at Hythe, with left-wing academics and pressure group spokesmen. Those conferences cost thousands of pounds of council tax payers' money.

The council spent further thousands of pounds on anti-grant-maintained schools campaigns and propaganda and, only recently, it spent £4,100 on propaganda leaflets sent to the parents of school children in Kent.

Perhaps the most criminal of all is the obesity of the central educational bureaucracy in Kent. In Kent, we are proud that 88 of our schools have decided to become grant-maintained—44 of them decided when the county was under Conservative control and 44 further schools decided to do so under Liberal and Labour control. Under the Conservatives, 174 administrators' jobs went. Under Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the central education administration of Kent county council has increased from 965 to 1,162 full-time equivalent staff. That is a 20 per cent. increase in the central administration of education that cost millions of pounds.

It is quite clear that the Lib-Lab pact has no intention to cut proportionately the central administration of education. Had it done so for the 44 schools that have gone grant maintained under its period of control, £6.5 million could have been saved and spent on the schools budget. It has not cut the central administration to reflect the departure of the further education colleges of Kent into independence or of the Kent careers service. Not only is it keeping up the spending on the central bureaucracy, it is increasing it. It has made no provision for an increase in teachers' pay, but it has made provision for an increase in the pay of the education bureaucrats right up to the overpaid director of education now spending his time on political campaigning.

Kent county council's bureaucracy is now so bloated that the county auditors have recommended an inquiry into education support and administration services and their structures. So determined has the Lib-Lab pact been to preserve the bureaucracy that in this year of cuts it has decided to make a provision of £480,000 to replace funds expected to be taken by schools when they become grant maintained during the course of the year.

Where has the Kent Lib-Lab pact decided to make its cuts? It has decided to cut 1 per cent. off school budgets. It has decided that there shall be no more discretionary awards for vocational courses at further education colleges and no more help for school transport for youngsters of 16 and older from poorer families going to their place of education. It has decided to cut 20 per cent. off adult education in the county and £2 million off school buildings maintenance. But it has decided to cut only £800,000 off central services. The cuts fall on the sharp end as usual.

The cuts proposed by the coalition of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats—I notice that the Liberal Democrat education spokesman is so embarrassed that he has abandoned his seat—

Mr. Don Foster

I am over here.

Mr. Arnold

The proposed cuts are so nasty that the two Lady Bountifuls—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. It is no longer possible for me to hear the hon. Gentleman because of the noise from the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Arnold

The Opposition parties clearly do not want to hear the facts. The people of Kent should be told what is going on. It is significant that the two Lady Bountifuls, the co-chairs, are nowhere to be seen. They have left it to the director of education to argue a political case for the Lib-Lab cuts programme. The cuts are provocative. They hit the public and the school children. They have been made for clear party-political reasons. They are a smoke screen.

We have heard speeches this afternoon from several hon. Members from counties and boroughs which may have been squeezed, but Kent has not. The politicians in Kent want to keep up with the Joneses and in order to do so they have hit Kent schools hard. They have cut £1 l million from the education budget rather than from the bureaucracy. The grant-maintained school issue alone is worth £6.5 million. They could have cut the administration for further education and for the career service which is no longer provided. They could have cut the propaganda. I have asked the leader of the council to cost the conferences and the propaganda.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Arnold

They could also utilise the underspent part of the education standard spending assessment which is the equivalent of £14.2 million.

Hon. Members

Give way.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. That is a decision that must be made by the hon. Member who has the Floor, not by others in sedentary positions.

Mr. Arnold

The Lib-Lab pact could have cut the £11 million from the £27 million of the central departments which also have provisions for a pay increase. It could have used the windfalls from lower interest rates and land sales amounting to £30 million which the Lib-Lab pact has blown. It could also use Kent county council's reserves.

Mr. Dunn

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the political leaflet issued by the director of education on the authority of the Lib-Lab co-chairmen was delivered to staff at grant-maintained schools but was not shown to governing bodies who had no knowledge of it, and that some head teachers in north-west Kent refused to deliver the leaflet because they felt it to be political?

Mr. Arnold

The leaflet was run out so fast that I am told that even the chief executive of the county council did not see it, so desperate was the Lib-Lab pact to pre-empt the results of its own folly.

My only conclusion from this sorry disgrace of a cut in Kent's school budgets, which has never happened before, is that the Lib-Lab pact that is running Kent county council is either incompetent or playing politics.

6.14 pm
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

I have no wish to proceed down the leafy lanes of Kent, which has been described as the garden of England. My contribution is the first to be made by an hon. Member representing a Welsh consistency.

The debate is most timely because there is a basic need to highlight the crisis in our schools brought about as a result of the local authority settlement. In the process, our children have been sold short and that in turn means that we will not reap the benefits of their potential tomorrow. Education is vital to Britain's international competitiveness and economic efficiency.

It has been said many times that charity begins at home. I have received a letter dated 6 January from Mr. J. P. Walsh, the Gwent county treasurer. He pointed out that when Gwent prepared its base budget it aimed to protect vital services such as education, but it was found that an increase of £14 million would be needed just to stand still and without restoring earlier cuts.

Under the settlement terms, Gwent county council was allowed to increase its budget by only 0.5 per cent., or £1.4 million. There was, therefore, a need to reduce spending by £12.5 million. Of that sum, £7 million will be taken from reserves, but the remaining £5.5 million will need to be found by making cuts. Mr. Walsh went on to say that for education that would mean a cut of £2.4 million and that schools could be affected. I took that matter up with the Welsh Office. On 26 January the Under-Secretary of State for Wales agreed that the settlement was tough, but he called for further efficiency improvements.

Long ago, it was said that it is the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches. I have received a letter dated 5 December from Mr. M. J. McCarthy, the headteacher of St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic primary school in my constituency. He pointed out that the recent inspectors' report on the school was highly favourable and that it was particularly pleasing to receive such a report because the school serves an economically deprived area.

Yet Mr. McCarthy said: We have recently heard that the schools budget for 1995–96 is to be substantially reduced and this despite careful management of previous budgets which have regularly produced a small surplus at the end of each financial year. The proposed budget reduction will result in the loss of one of the teachers who helps to make this school such a success. Resources will be stretched to the limit, the composition of classes will be affected and it will be more difficult for the remaining staff to provide the levels of care and support that have hitherto been the case. Mr. McCarthy proceeded to call on me as the Member of Parliament for the area to intervene with the authorities on behalf of the school. The basic point that I wish to make is that the position in that school is the direct result of the self-described "tough" policy being implemented by the Welsh Office and the Department for Education.

Since the correspondence to which I have referred, I have received a flood of letters from concerned parents who are anxious about the welfare and future education of their children. Typical of those is Mrs. A.E. Morris of 16, Llanwern road, Newport. She writes: My daughter Sian and my son Rhys both attend the above school,"— St. Gabriel's— I am concerned to learn that because of rules which govern funding, St. Gabriel's is to lose a teacher…which I find totally unacceptable. She calls for "swift and appropriate" action to remedy the situation. I heartily endorse that.

The situation in St. Gabriel's has happened and is happening in other schools in Newport. Indeed, the education cuts in Newport are mirrored throughout the country, as we have witnessed in the debate this evening. Yet education is vital to social cohesion and social justice, about which the Prime Minister claims to be so concerned. I am reminded of the words of Dickens in "A Tale of Two Cities": It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Let us update those words a little. It is certainly a good time for Sir Iain Valiance, the chairman of British Telecommunications plc. I did a little research in the Library on his remuneration and emoluments and found that, up to 31 March 1994, he received a salary of £465,000 plus bonuses of £185,000. Other benefits total £13,000, making a total of £663,000 per annum. He also had pension payments of £43,000 and what are known as "unfunded" pension contributions of a further £51,000. He had shares amounting to £17,084 and share options totalling £612,659—

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can help me on the relevance of what the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) is saying to the debate on the financial settlement for schools 1995–96.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am usually fairly tolerant when hon. Members make a passing reference or seek to make some short comparison. I am less happy when it becomes extended and the main point of the debate becomes lost. The hon. Member for Newport, East is fast getting to that point.

Mr. Hughes

I have come to the end of the point that I wanted to make. I would say, however, that, compared with Sir Iain Valiance of BT, it is not so good for the children in our state schools at the present time, particularly those in socially deprived areas, as I have illustrated in the case of St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic primary school in Newport.

It is time for the Government to loosen the purse strings and to change their policies root and branch, otherwise the classes will "shoot up"—to use the words of the present Secretary of State for Education. Instead, though, the Government are carrying out a policy of austerity, with a view to creating some sort of economic bonanza, as we approach the general election. The education of our children is too important to be treated in that way. After 15 years in office, the Government are unlikely to change. The leopard does not change its spots. It is time for the Government to give way to a Labour Administration, who will fully recognise the importance of education and fund it accordingly.

6.24 pm
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

I do not want to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), but I would say to my hon. Friend the Minister of State that I do not want him to depart from the policies that the Government have maintained since 1979, because to do so would mean reversing the increase of nearly 50 per cent. in spending on schools that we have seen. I very much support increasing funding for schools when the economic climate allows. The very fact that we have managed to do that since 1979 is a tribute to the way in which we have run the economy. We have not had to introduce massive slashing programmes, as happened in 1976 when the Labour party was in Government. That is what we inherited.

I urge my hon. Friend, therefore, to pursue with vigour the policies that the Conservative party and the Government have followed. They are the policies that are condemned by the Opposition one day but held up the next as though they invented them. We have seen that time and again. Indeed, I read at the weekend of the chief education officer in Liverpool, who last year sent a letter to all parents telling them that schools should not become grant maintained, only to send his own child to just such a school. That is the kind of educational hypocrisy that we hear from the left of the Labour party these days.

I pay tribute to all the teachers in our schools who work so hard to achieve the improvement that we have seen in examination results. It is a credit to the parents and to the teachers. Some of the nonsensical decisions have been removed from local education authorities as a direct result of the policy which allows schools to become grant maintained and thus freed from the shackles of the local authority.

In March 1987, when I had just entered the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) answered an Adjournment debate. Some 170 parents came and sat in the Strangers Gallery to exercise their right to make representations through their Member of Parliament and to the Minister about the saving of the sixth form in Ecclesbourne school. It was one of the first schools in Derbyshire to become grant maintained. What the county council tried to do—to take away the sixth forms—was nonsense. That school has gone from strength to strength since becoming grant maintained.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)


Mr. Enright


Mr. McLoughlin

I understand that Netherthorpe school is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes). The head of that school, which is now grant maintained, recently said: We have been grant-maintained for 4½ years. The advantages include: more effective decision making; money nearer to the students (more books; equipment; teachers; non-teaching staff; better maintained buildings). Better staff training. Increased parental support. I think that we should be shouting from the top—

Mr. Barnes

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I am in the House, is it in order for the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) to comment on a school in my constituency but not to give way so that I can make a counter-argument?

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair. The tradition of the House is well known: it is up to the hon. Member who has the Floor to decide whether to give way.

Mr. McLoughlin

The problem, Madam Deputy Speaker, is the shortness of time.

Over the past 14 years, Derbyshire county council has subsidised school meals to the tune of some £100 million. When I challenged the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) on that matter, he said that he was informed that I have not been short of school meals. Indeed, I have not—nor, I suggest, has his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), who will shortly be winding up for the Opposition. The hon. Member for Brightside did not comment at all on whether he thought that it was a good thing that Derbyshire had expended some £100 million in the past 14 years on subsidising school meals. If that £100 million had been given directly to schools, Derbyshire's education would be in a far better state today.

Derbyshire allocates less to schools than any other shire county. There is more money to be allocated to schools. Before talking about cutting the number of teachers, Derbyshire should ask itself whether its administration is as efficient as it might be. We have a right to ask why it is not giving money directly to schools.

Mr. Barnes


Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Gentleman has already asked me to give way. He must realise that I cannot do so, because the winding-up speeches are about to begin.

I end by saying that the flexibility is available to allow county councils to put more money into schools.

6.30 pm
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on the way in which he speared the Government. I also congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, East (Ms Corston), for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien), for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) and for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), who—unlike many Conservative Members—did what a Member of Parliament is supposed to do: they defended the interests of their constituents, and they did so very eloquently.

When the right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) was replaced by the right hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard) as Secretary of State for Education, many saw the right hon. Lady as a lamb going among the educational wolves. She was to be the great conciliator—the professional whose experience and commitment would correct the imbalance caused by the disastrous tenure of her predecessors. The right hon. Lady came as sweetness and light to the chaos inflicted on pupils, teachers, parents and governors, and her initial input appeared benevolent. She rapidly moved on to ground long occupied by the Opposition Front Bench: she cleared the confusion over the Government's intentions in regard to standard attainment tests and amended the national curriculum following the excessive demands originally made by the Government. The commentators spoke of the refreshingly engaging style of the Secretary of State—a person who was at home in the job, far removed from the ideologues in her party who pressed for ever more radical change for its own sake.

All of that was dispelled by the leaking of the Secretary of State's letter to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. She was revealed in that letter, which was printed in full in The Times Educational Supplement on 20 January, as—I hope that the right hon. Lady will pardon the pun—not a lamb but, in education terms, a wolf in chic clothing. That missive contained a clinical analysis of the political cost to the Government of the 1995–96 education settlement; nowhere was there a hint of the huge educational loss to our country, the frustration of parents, the undermining of teachers, the disenchantment of governors or the injury to pupils. What the Secretary of State did say, unequivocally, was that—as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) pointed out—up to 10,000 teaching jobs would go, and class sizes would rocket. Even when she wrote that letter, the right hon. Lady knew full well what the results of the Government's parsimony would be. It would be seen as provocative", she wrote; there would be a renewed battle with the teachers". Crucially, she concluded that it would be a great pity to lose the ground we have gained and face new disruption in our schools". How right she was.

It appears, however, that the Secretary of State's political plea has fallen on deaf ears. The long years of confrontation in education were prematurely written off. According to The Times and The Daily Telegraph today, the Government are about to take on not only the teachers but the school governors, which will mean increased turmoil for our children—to the outrage of their parents. Those parents know exactly whom to blame. The Secretary of State herself said: Pupil numbers next year will go up by 1.5 per cent., so an increase"— in education spending— of 0.3 per cent. implies a cash fall. The increase could make no contribution towards any pay award: staffing ratios will have to be tightened to balance the books before LEAs even start to consider how to fund the pay settlement". The Secretary of State said much in her speech today about the bureaucracy which allegedly remained in local education authorities. She had the temerity to quote the Office for Standards in Education, so I will do the same. According to paragraph 224 of Ofsted's report, Almost all LEAs have experienced significant reductions in staff numbers in the last five years. Paragraph 226 states: Where budgets were reduced, LEAs generally sought to protect schools by improving economies in their own administration cost". Paragraph 227 states that support services are extensively used and generally valued by schools, including grant-maintained schools. It does not seem to me that Ofsted was condemning LEAs: quite the reverse—it was giving credit where it was due and praising LEAs which do a tremendous job in difficult circumstances.

Peculiarly, given the way in which the Government have operated historically, the shire counties are likely to be hit most heavily. Essex has had £1.4 million cut from its assessment, but faces an extra bill of £8.5 million, which means a £9.9 million shortfall. Northumberland will face a similar shortfall of £5.4 million.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

That figure is correct. Northumberland has a special problem, because it operates a three-tier system. Four fifths of the population live in one corner, while the remaining one fifth inhabit the rural parts. If schools in Northumberland are closed, they will be closed in the rural parts, which are Tory dominated.

Mr. Kilfoyle

It is a sad fact that rural areas will be hit as much as metropolitan areas were in the past, although metropolitan authorities will suffer nearly as much: Birmingham faces a shortfall of £8.1 million, and St Helens a shortfall of £4.9 million.

As the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), a noted educationist, is present, I will also cite Warwickshire, whose 300 schools have £57 million in unspent balances. Unspent balances are part of the Government's argument, but Warwickshire's balances are unevenly spread: one third of schools have no balances, one third have modest balances of between 2 and 3 per cent., while the remaining third hold sufficient reserves to cater for the worst effects of the 5.8 per cent. reduction in the real value of their budgets in 1995–96 but nothing for 1996–97. The council estimates that between 140 and 200 teaching jobs will go, probably to be joined by 23 section 11-funded jobs. In addition, class sizes will go over the 40 mark.

Croft middle school in Nuneaton represents a microcosm of Warwickshire's dilemma, which in turn epitomises what is happening throughout the country. It is a popular school, oversubscribed by 19—if we take the standard number—with a roll of 299. A special educational needs audit under the new code of practice, using nationally recognised criteria, revealed 134 children—some 43 per cent.—with level 1, 2 and 3 needs. The school has reserves of £14,523, but those reserves are already committed to teaching and support services for the final quarter of the school year 1994–95—not the financial year. Its budget allocation in 1994–95 totalled £425,385. Its allocation for next year, including the allowance for extra pupil adjustment, will be only £400,235. In real terms, that means the loss of two teaching posts to a middle school in middle England—12.4 posts rather than 14.4—and huge classes.In 1994, the fifth year in the school contained classes of 27, 26 and 29; in 1995 there will be two classes of 38 and 39. In year six, there were two classes of 35 and 34 in 1994; those will become two classes of 41 each in 1995. How does that relate to the Secretary of State's proclaimed wish for stability in our schools and the raising of standards?

Reference has been made to the role of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that the Chancellor will feel able to go along to Abbey Road primary school in his constituency and explain why it will lose £21,000 next year—or perhaps he should visit Cotgrave Highfield primary school, which will lose £20,000. A total of £442,000 will be taken from 41 primary schools in the Chancellor's constituency to fund tax cuts at the next general election. But even that is generous compared with what is happening in secondary schools in the Chancellor's constituency. They are to lose £551,000 between them. Does he think that voters' memories will be so short as not to take note of that when the election comes?

There will be less chance to address the problems of literacy and numeracy, which were highlighted by the adult literacy and basic skills unit. In recent years, the reading age in primary schools has dropped. The fresh round of cuts will do little to remedy that. If we end up with disenchanted, harassed and undermined teachers, and with even less one-to-one contact with children most in need, the graph will continue to plummet.

It may not be popular with Conservative Members to say so, but the settlement is an unwarranted imposition on teachers and it must be set in the context of other cuts in education, including £20 million from school effectiveness grants and £13 million from the planned inspection budget. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) said earlier, the reading recovery programme has been scrapped. Discretionary grants are all but a thing of the past. The youth and community service has been decimated. For example, a delegation from Shropshire could not get a hearing from Conservative Members, so it came to see me in Liverpool about 15 mainly rural youth and community projects that were being scrapped in the face of cuts imposed by the Government. Nor are Labour authorities left out: Wigan district council has been forced to dismember its youth and community provision, and to subsume it into leisure services to have any hope of providing any service for some of the more alienated sections of our community—the young and the disadvantaged. The sorry tale goes and on, but I must comment on some of the speeches that were made earlier.

The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) made a disgraceful attack on Kent county council. He was joined by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), who in interventions made laudatory remarks about grant-maintained schools. He talked about the waste of money that had been perpetrated by Kent county council. I also had a delegation from his constituency. It came to see me because four schools in his constituency, two of which went grant maintained, were sharing the same playing fields. According to the parents, they could not interest the hon. Gentleman because one of the GM schools had managed to separate off six out of the eight football pitches and to put up a huge fence. While that was going on, the hon. Gentleman sat on the fence—although I hope that he did not literally sit on the fence that the school put around the playing fields as it has been topped by razor wire. That is the sort of education in the community that the Conservative party cares for.

I appreciate the pressures of time, but I should like to mention the attack by a series of Conservative Members, mainly in interventions, on Lancashire county council. They failed to point out two important facts: first, Lancashire has a £2 million shortfall in the forthcoming year; secondly, the cuts in the standard spending assessment per pupil next year mean expenditure cuts of 2.6 per cent. for primary school pupils and 7 per cent. for secondary school pupils. You can go back and explain that to your constituents: those cuts are not down to Lancashire authority—they lie entirely at the door of your own Government.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he must address the Chair.

Mr. Kilfoyle

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Mans


Mr. Kilfoyle

I must finish my speech.

The hon. Member for West Derbyshire behaved disgracefully in attacking a neutral civil servant, the chief education officer of Liverpool city council who, so far as I am aware, is a member of no political party, does not live in the city of Liverpool and sends his fourth child to the local school, which is not in Liverpool, but in the constituency of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I believe that that officer's local school is grant maintained. For him to be attacked in the Chamber as an extension of the Labour party is disgraceful.

The hon. Member for West Derbyshire also made a facetious comment about school dinners and pointed in my direction. I am the first to admit that I enjoyed school dinners so much that I used to go for more in the holidays. The reason was simple: when I was a child, local authorities could provide deprived families with school dinners in the holidays. Now local authorities cannot even provide school dinners for kids in need in the towns and countryside of this once great nation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take that on board.

I urge hon. Members to support our motion.

6.44 pm
The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr. Eric Forth)

From time to time, the debate has been informative, but the main thing of which the House has been informed is how few Opposition Members have bothered to turn up for their own debate on a subject that they claim is important to them. I have been watching throughout the debate, and I have counted as few as two or three, to often as many as six or seven Opposition Back Benchers in attendance. That illustrates something about their motivation.

That also demonstrates the confusion of thought among Opposition Members. I shall take one example. I made a careful note of the words of the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham)—I made a note of the few words of Opposition Members that I thought were worth while. His words, however, were instructive. He opened his remarks by saying, "Standards in the maintained education sector have fallen." He followed that a few minutes later by saying, "Things have been steadily improving in Barnsley schools." The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He should either join us in taking pride in the improvements that have taken place in education consistently in the past several years, or he should maintain the opposite view. He cannot have both views.

Mr. Clapham


Mr. Forth

He will now try to square the circle.

Mr. Clapham

The point that I clearly made, and that the Minister should take on board, is that the siphoning off of resources for the private sector clearly leaves Barnsley having to make up the shortfall because of a lack of funding from the Government.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman neatly makes the other point that I wanted to make about the debate. He epitomises the confusion that exists among Opposition Members about the connection between spending and educational quality. However one considers education, whether in relation to the results in our much-welcomed performance tables, to expenditure per pupil in different authorities, to class sizes or to any other measure, no demonstrable connection exists between money in and quality of education out, or between class sizes and quality of education.

The real determinants of the quality of education in this country, as elsewhere in the world, is the quality of teaching, what happens in the classroom and the degree of parental support. It is not simply about money, which Opposition Members seem unable to grasp.

Mr. Blunkett

In that case, why is the money spent by parents on private day education twice as much as the money made available for the equivalent education in the average state school?

Mr. Forth

I have always defended the absolute right of parents to exercise their choice in sending their children to schools. I personally chose to send my children to state schools. I was happy to do so and I believe they received a good education, but I equally welcome those of my hon. Friends, colleagues and others outside who make the personal decision to send their children to private schools, for whatever reason. It is their decision and their choice.

We have confusion among Opposition Members. The proportion of primary pupils in classes of more than 30 has fallen from 26.5 per cent. in 1979 to 23.2 per cent. now. The proportion of secondary pupils in such classes has fallen from 9.9 per cent. in 1979 to 5.3 per cent. now. Many of my hon. Friends have quoted the figures about real expenditure in education since 1979. We take 1979 as our starting point because that is the last time Opposition Members were in Government. That is the only way in which we can judge their real commitment to education. On any indicator one may choose, things are significantly better now than they were in 1979.

Mr. Don Foster

If there is no connection between "cash in and performance out", why has the Secretary of State urged her Cabinet colleagues to give more money to the education service?

Mr. Forth

It is clearly one of the functions of Government Departments to make a perfectly legitimate argument for their expenditure, something that the hon. Gentleman cannot and probably never will understand. It is something normal and natural which occurs every year and throughout Government. For the hon. Gentleman to give it such mystical significance shows that he has missed the point entirely.

The real point of the debate is this: it must be understood that local education authorities have enormous flexibility and freedom in the way in which they can determine their priorities and expenditure within their overall totals.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it might improve the way in which local authorities set their budgets and publish their figures if they declared precisely which items of expenditure related to statutory requirements and which related to non-statutory requirements? At the moment, when constituents look at local authority education budgets, it is very difficult for them to determine which items of expenditure are required by law and which are the result of good old-fashioned socialism.

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue which leads me to my next point.

One decision that authorities must make is how to allocate their expenditure. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) gave us a graphic example of this. He told us that Kent had chosen to increase its education bureaucracy by nearly 200 members of staff. In other words, it increased not the number of people in the classrooms but the number in the county council buildings. My figures also show that in Devon, for example, the number of local authority staff has gone up by some 700; in Oxfordshire, numbers have increased by more than 200; and in Warwickshire by nearly 500. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) told us that in Somerset the number of non-education staff—not teachers—has also gone up by some 500.

It is for local authorities to make such decisions, but they cannot at the same time cry wolf and, having increased the number of bureaucrats, say that they are forced to cut the number of teachers. They cannot have it both ways.

I now cite other recent examples, culled at random from newspapers, about priority spending decisions made by authorities across the country. The Birmingham Evening Mail of 3 February carried an article with the headline "City Row On Hyatt Takeover". It stated: City Labour leaders want to buy a majority stake in Birmingham's luxury Hyatt Hotel". That seems to be the sort of priority adopted by one local education authority. It is also reported: Birmingham schools were accused last year by the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers of hoarding £17 million in their combined reserves. One school in Erdington was said to have had a surplus of more than £400,000 stashed away. The Manchester Evening News stated: Schools in Salford are under threat from huge cuts despite the council having a staggering £13.5m in reserves … Some members of the ruling Labour group believe the surplus should now be used instead of making devastating savings in town hall departments. However, it is not all bad news. Also in the ever-instructive Manchester Evening News, but on 24 January, I found a good news story entitled "Hard-up heads' £1 million lift". The article states: Hard-up headmasters in Oldham are likely to get a surprise £1 million boost for the coming year. The increase will be recommended to a meeting by the education committee next month by chairman Coun David Jones. That illustrates a different point. If authorities choose to make such priority decisions, it proves that many could increase the money spent on education if they had made sensible use of their balances and decided to give education sufficient priority.

However, it is not only authorities that can make such priority decisions. Schools also have the same degree of flexibility. Thanks to delegated budgets and the local management of schools, which were eventually praised by many opposition Members, schools have the capacity to order their priorities and make their own spending decisions to a very large extent.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

Although the Minister might challenge it, the evidence from the midlands is very different. We have a £70 million deficit; we are going to lose 1,000 teachers; and there is no question but that class sizes will increase. Governors and parents in the west midlands will not accept the Minister's red herrings because they know the reality of the underfunding from which their schools are suffering.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken on a number of points. He has completely forgotten the example of the Hyatt hotel. If one of the Labour-controlled west midlands authorities wants to make that sort of spending decision, it is open to that authority to do so, but it has to account to its electors. The hon. Gentleman should not come to the Chamber and complain about the cuts threatened as a result of that decision.

I have been in the Department for Education long enough to have reached my fourth year of hearing whingeing and cries of wolf. I have heard the story so often that I can repeat it in my sleep. Every year the story is that there will be devastating cuts in the number of teachers. We have yet to see those cuts; every year, the number remains broadly the same across the country.

Mr. Hattersley

If this is all whingeing and cries of wolf, and if there is so much money sloshing around in the system—I see that the Minister nods his head in confirmation—why did the Secretary of State write to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to say that without an extra £90 million there would be chaos in the education service?

Mr. Forth

Of course, the Secretary of State has to make her case for her Department, as does every other Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman's memory goes back that far, he will probably recall doing the same when he was a Secretary of State, except that at that time, in 1976, cuts were forced on the Labour Government by the International Monetary Fund which led to deep cuts in spending on education, health and the whole spectrum—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The class is getting distinctly unruly. I cannot hear the Minister and I wish to do so.

Mr. Mike O'Brien

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You are well aware of the rules governing the making of controversial comments about other hon. Members. It appears that the Minister is saying that the Secretary of State might not have been telling the whole truth when she wrote that letter.

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for me. I heard no such thing.

Mr. Forth

In order to illustrate my point about schools' flexibility in the use of their budgets, I cannot resist quoting The Guardian, which is something that I rarely do. I never read The Guardian so this had to be brought to my attention. On 1 February, it—

Mr. Blunkett

What does the Minister read?

Mr. Forth

For the hon. Gentleman's edification, my principal reading each day is The Sun, which I find universally uplifting. The article in The Guardian read as follows: Eight women teachers from Picknalls First School, Uttoxeter"—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. It is quite impossible for me to hear the Minister. I especially deprecate noises from Front Benchers making it impossible for me to hear what is being said.

Mr. Forth

I shall not be deterred from completing this little quotation. The article states: Eight women teachers from Picknalls First School, Uttoxeier, spent a day among the Jacuzzis, whirlpools and health lectures of Hoar Cross Hall … and the £250 bill for their visit was paid for by public funds after being approved by their chairman of governors … Staffordshire county council said that it was up to an individual school how it spent its budget on education and training. The point is that that was a decision made by the school. We may think it bizarre, but, in these allegedly hard-pressed times—we know that there is more than £500 million in school reserves and balances—that was the school's decision. We respect the decisions made by schools in choosing their priorities. We understand that some schools may choose to have higher reserves, while others schools may choose to use their money to adjust and alter classes sizes or pupil-teacher ratios. We understand that and accept and applaud their freedom to make those decisions. We accept that different local education authorities will decide on different priorities, perhaps to invest in hotels or to do other things, but we object when they come along and try to blame the Government for cuts that may or may not have to be made in education. That will not wash.

We have found out today that Opposition Members have failed consistently to understand the nature of education and its funding. I hope that, having listened to the debate, the few Opposition Members who were present earlier and my hon. Friends will, without hesitation, reject the motion and support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 295.

Division No. 65] [7.00 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Bell, Stuart
Ainger, Nick Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'ry NE) Bennett, Andrew F
Allen, Graham Benton, Joe
Alton, David Bermingham, Gerald
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Berry, Roger
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Betts, Clive
Armstrong, Hilary Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Blunkett, David
Ashton, Joe Boateng, Paul
Austin-Walker, John Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bradley, Keith
Barnes, Harry Bray, Dr Jeremy
Banon, Kevin Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Battle, John Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Bayley, Hugh Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Burden, Richard
Beith, Rt Hon A J Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard Hinchliffe, David
Callaghan, Jim Hodge, Margaret
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hoey, Kate
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Home Robertson, John
Campbell-Savours, D N Hoon, Geoffrey
Canavan, Dennis Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Cann, Jamie Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Chidgey, David Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clapham, Michael Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hutton, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Illsley, Eric
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Ingram, Adam
Clelland, David Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Coffey, Ann Jamieson, David
Cohen, Harry Janner, Greville
Connarty, Michael Johnston, Sir Russell
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Corston, Jean Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Lynne (B'ham S 0)
Cox, Tom Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jowell, Tessa
Dalyell, Tam Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Darling, Alistair Keen, Alan
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Lianelli) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Khabra, Piara S
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Kilfoyle, Peter
Denham, John Kirkwood, Archy
Dewar, Donald Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dixon, Don Lewis, Terry
Dobson, Frank Liddell, Mrs Helen
Donohoe, Brian H Litherland, Robert
Dowd, Jim Livingstone, Ken
Durnnachie, Jimmy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Llwyd, Elfyn
Eagle, Ms Angela Loyden, Eddie
Eastham, Ken Lynne, Ms Liz
Enright, Derek McAllion, John
Etherington, Bil McAvoy, Thomas
Evans, John (St Helens N) McCartney, Ian
Fatchett Derek Macdonald, Calum
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McFall,John
Fisher, Mark McKelvey, William
Flynn, Paul Mackinlay, Andrew
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Maclennan, Robert
Foster, Don (Bath) McMaster, Gordon
Fraser.John McNamara, Kevin
Fyfe, Maria MacShane, Denis
Galbraith, Sam McWilliam, John
Galloway, George Madden, Max
Gapes, Mike Maddock, Diana
George, Bruce Mahon, Alice
Gerrard, Neil Mandelson, Peter
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Marek, Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Godsiff, Roger Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Golding, Mrs Llin Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Gordon, Mildred Marttew, Eric
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Maxton, John
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Meacher, Michael
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Meale, Alan
Grocott, Bruce Michael, Alun
Gunnel, John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hall, Mike Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hanson, David Milburn, Alan
Hardy, Peter Miller, Andrew
Harman, Ms Harriet Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Harvey, Nick Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Henderson, Doug Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Heppell, John Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mudie, George
Mulin, Chris Skinner, Dennis
Oakes,Rt Hon Gordon Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Olner, Bil Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
O'Nill, Martin Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Snape, Peter
Parry, Robert Soley.Clive
Patchett, Terry Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Pearson, Ian Steinberg, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Stevenson, George
Pickthall, Colin Stott, Roger
Pike, Peter L Strang, Dr. Gavin
Pope, Greg Straw, Jack
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Primarolo, Dawn Timms, Stephen
Quin, Ms Joyce Tipping, Paddy
Raynsford, Nick Tyler, Paul
Redmond, Martin Vaz, Keith
Reid, Dr John Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Rendel, David Wallace, James
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Walley.Joan
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Wardel, Gareth (Gower)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Wareing, Robert N
Rogers, Allan Wicks, Malcolm
Rooker, Jeff Wigley, Dafydd
Rooney, Terry Wiliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wiliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Brian
Ruddock, Joan Worthington, Tony
Sedgemore, Brian Wray, Jimmy
Sheerman, Barry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Short Clare Mr John Cummings and Mr. Dennis Turner.
Simpson, Alan
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Browning, Mrs Angela
Alexander, Richard Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Budgen, Nicholas
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Burns, Simon
Amess, David Burt, Alistair
Ancram, Michael Butcher, John
Arbuthnot, James Butler, Peter
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Butterfill, John
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Ashby, David Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkins, Robert Carrington, Matthew
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Carttiss, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cash, William
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Baldly, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Churchill, Mr
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Clappison, James
Bates, Michael Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Batiste, Spencer Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Bellingham, Henry Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Bendall, Vivian Cotvin, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Congdon, David
Body, Sir Richard Conway, Derek
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Booth, Hartley Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boswel, Tim Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Couchman, James
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Cran, James
Bowden, Sir Andrew Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bowis, John Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Brandreth, Gyles Davis, David (Boothferry)
Brazier, Julian Day, Stephen
Bright, Sir Graham Deva, Nirj Joseph
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dicks, Terry
Dorrel, Rt Hon Stephen Kilfedder, Sir James
Douglas-Hamitton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan, Alan Knapman, Roger
Duncan Smith, Iain Knight, Mrs Angela (Ere'wash)
Dunn, Bob Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Elletson, Harold Knox, Sir David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lamont Rt Hon Norman
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valey) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evennett, David Legg, Barry
Faber, David Leigh, Edward
Fabricant, Michael Lemox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lidington, David
Fishburn, Dudley Lord, Michael
Forman, Nigel Luff, Peter
Forth, Eric Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) MacKay, Andrew
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Maclean, David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gale, Roger Maitland, LadyOlga
Gallie, Phil Major, Rt Hon John
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Malone, Gerald
Garnier, Edward Mans, Keith
Gill, Christopher Marland, Paul
Gillan, Cheryl Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mates, Michael
Gorst, Sir John Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Merchant Piers
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mills, Iain
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mitchell, Andrew (Geding)
Grylls, Sir Michael Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Moate, Sir Roger
Hague, William Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Sir Michael
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hamam, Sir John Nichols, Patrick
Hargreaves, Andrew Nichollson, David (Taunton)
Hawkins, Nick Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hawksley, Warren Norris, Steve
Hayes, Jerry Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Heald, Oliver Oppenheim, Phillip
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Ottaway, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, David Page, Richard
Hendry, Charles Paice, James
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Patrick, Sir Irvine
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Patten, Rt Hon John
Horam, John Pattie.Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Pawsey, James
Howen, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Pickles, Eric
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew Powell, William (Corby)
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jenkin, Bernard Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jessel, Toby Richards, Rod
Johnson Smilh, Sir Geoffrey Riddick, Graham
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff, North) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Robathan, Andrew
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Key, Robert Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Temple-Morris, Peter
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Thomason, Roy
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Sackville, Tom Thurnham, Peter
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Townend, John (Bridlington)
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Shaw, David (Dover) Tracey, Richard
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Tredinnick, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Trend, Michael
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Trotter, Nevile
Shepherd, Richard (Adridge) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shersby, Michael Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Sims, Roger Viggers, Peter
Skeet Sir Trevor Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Walker, Bit (N Tayside)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waller, Gary
Soames, Nicholas Ward, John
Speed, Sir Keith Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spencer, Sir Derek Waterson, Nigel
Spicer Sir James (W Dorset) Watts, John
Spicer, Michael (S worcs) Whitney, Ray
Spring, Richard Whittingdale, John
Sproat, Iain Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Squire, Robin (Homcnurch) Wilkinson, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Willetts, David
Steen, Anthony Wilshire, David
Stephen, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stern, Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Stewart, Allan Wolfson, Mark
Streeter, Gary Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Yeo, Tim
Sweeney, Walter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. Bowen Wells and Mr. David Lightbown.
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the substantial increase in the real level of education spending since 1979; applauds Government policies to raise standards in schools; acknowledges that this year's settlement is necessarily tough but congratulates teachers and governing bodies for meeting the challenge of education reform; and recognises that parents will judge schools above all by the performance of pupils and the quality of teaching and learning.