HC Deb 27 June 1995 vol 262 cc676-7
9. Mr. Dowd

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what consideration she has given to the preparation of the budgets for education authorities for 1996–97. [29115]

Mr. Robin Squire

The public expenditure survey for spending in 1996–97 is currently under way.

Mr. Dowd

Can the Secretary of State explain why education authorities, parents or schools should believe her protestation of jam tomorrow, in the light of their experience this year and in all the previous years? If it is because the Prime Minister has committed himself to that, can she be certain that he is telling her the truth, any more than the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) told her the truth last Friday about his intentions for the leadership of the Conservative party?

Mr. Squire

If I can bring the hon. Gentleman back to education matters for a moment, I should like to say that he starts off from an interesting position in criticising education funding, as his own authority had an increase of 4.6 per cent. this year, which is the type of increase that most of his hon. Friends, and certainly most of my hon. Friends, would have welcomed. However, it is not a question of jam tomorrow, as he puts it. We shall increase spending on education as the economy continues to improve, but we have increased spending until now. As the hon. Gentleman will know if he is reminded, since we came to office spending per pupil has increased by about 50 per cent. and spending per pupil on repairs and maintenance has increased by about 15 per cent. in real terms.

Sir Malcolm Thornton

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the growing debate about national funding for education that is taking place. May I ask him to draw attention, in any deliberations that are taking place and any negotiations that he has with local education authorities, to the vagaries of the local formulae and the perverse effects that they can have on many schools in the same local education authority area?

Mr. Squire

My hon. Friend is right to highlight not only the possibility of a new funding formula—the Education Select Committee, which he chairs, as I said at a previous Question Time, is doing sterling work on that aspect—but the fact that every local education scheme has its own local management of schools scheme. There are 109 different schemes, and within those schemes there is significant scope for education authorities to reflect the different needs of the schools that remain under their control.

Mr. Bryan Davies

During this period, when local authorities have suffered so much from the savagery of cuts inflicted by the Government's failure fully to fund the teachers' pay award, were not local authorities consoled by the opinion of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State that things might be better next year? What are those assurances worth from a Prime Minister who may be on his way out and a Secretary of State who may be in that uncomfortable position that she has already mentioned this afternoon—in the lurch?

Mr. Squire

I am confident that the Prime Minister will be Prime Minister in two weeks', two months' and two years' time. On the substance of the hon. Gentleman's question—[Interruption.]—it has been a tight settlement, as the Government have freely conceded, but it is interesting, is it not, that every remaining Conservative education authority funded the teachers' settlement in full—as, in fairness, did several Labour-controlled authorities—and most of the problems came from Liberal Democrat and several Labour-controlled local education authorities.