HC Deb 30 October 1997 vol 299 cc1011-2
3. Fabian Hamilton

What assessment he has made of the effect of the reformed private finance initiative on projects for schools. [12650]

The Paymaster General (Mr. Geoffrey Robinson)

The House will be pleased to know that the reformed private finance initiative is making good progress on all fronts, particularly schools. Four of the six prioritized projects identified by the Department of Health were for schools. I imagine that my hon. Friend has one particularly in mind.

Mr. Hamilton

I thank the Paymaster General for that reply. Will he give us an assurance that the valuable development work in PFI Pathfinder schools such as Cardinal Heenan Roman Catholic high school in my constituency—surprise, surprise—will act as a model for the capital investment that is urgently needed in many school buildings?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend is right. Cardinal Heenan is an important Pathfinder school. He will remember that I met its headmaster, the chair of governors and the leader of Leeds local education authority at my office here and that good progress is being made. My hon. Friend will also be aware that Pathfinder projects generally are going well. The Department for Education and Employment is extending great support to that school and I believe that a preferred bidder is shortly to be announced.

Mr. Yeo

How many schools will close and how many teachers will be sacked because of the Government's introduction of a tax on the dividend income of pension funds? Will the Government now give a cast-iron guarantee that councils will be given extra cash next year to meet the higher pension contributions that result from the Government's Budget in July?

Mr. Robinson

I am not sure how that question arises, but let me assure—[Interruption.] I am very pleased that it has arisen. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that, over the next four years, we are putting £1.3 billion into school buildings. The education budget has been increased and share prices are still higher than at the time of the building, so there has been none of the impact that he wanted perhaps and direly predicted.

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