HL Deb 03 December 2002 vol 641 cc1030-2

3.11 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the £45 billion additional expenditure for education by 2006 announced in the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report on 27th November breaks down between early years, primary, secondary, further and higher education.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

My Lords, the Chancellor confirmed last week that by 2006 UK education spending will have increased by £15 billion compared with the current year. We will be announcing before Christmas more details of how the additional £12.8 billion for education and skills in England will be allocated. Over £4 billion will be for local authorities, which will take decisions on allocations between primary and secondary schools. Further education will be allocated an additional £1.2 billion.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, will the Minister listen to the Chancellor's own words last week? He said: So I can not only confirm that we will fund our planned investments: by 2006, there will be £8 billion more a year for local authorities; £15 billion more a year for education; £63 billion more a year for public services".—[Official Report, Commons, 27/11/02; col. 326.] Those were extremely misleading words. It is not £15 billion more a year; it is £15 billion more over three years. I call that deceit and I think the House deserves an apology.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I, too, have the words of my right honourable friend the Chancellor in front of me. I shall read them back to the noble Baroness: So I can not only confirm that we will fund our planned investments: by 2006, … £15 billion more a year for education". The figures before us mean that we will be spending £53.7 billion, followed by £58.6 billion, £62.9 billion and £68.4 billion. By 2006, funding will be up, from this year to then, by £15 billion. I believe my right honourable friend was perfectly clear.

Lord Saatchi

My Lords, I had hoped at this moment to be able to thank the noble Baroness for following the normal courtesies and civilities of your Lordships' House by apologising to my noble friend Lady Blatch for creating a totally misleading impression during consideration of the Chancellor's speech in this House. As she has decided not to do that, will she consider that the Government's repeated use of misleading statistics to flatter their achievements and to understate their failures and the various errors of omission and commission that appear in the Chancellor's statements lead to only one result: an ever-diminishing trust in government?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I do not believe that I owe the noble Baroness an apology. If I did, I would have apologised. There should be no doubt in your Lordships' House about that. I am saying that we are perfectly clear. We contacted the noble Baroness before this Question was raised this afternoon to explain precisely what was meant. I believe that I have spelt out in my Answer precisely what was being said. My right honourable friend the Chancellor said that by 2006 we will have increased education spending by £15 billion from the figure for the current year.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

My Lords, on this occasion, from these Benches we agree with the Minister's interpretation of the statistics. There are many occasions on which we have had spin on the statistics, but on this occasion I do not think we have. However, I have a question for the Minister. A great deal of the extra money that was going into the education budget is to go directly to schools through the Standards Fund. Since this Government have come to power, a great deal of money has gone not through local education authorities, but through the Standards Fund. What proportion of the budget will be going through local authorities and how has the proportion changed since 1997?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I cannot give the noble Baroness those details at this stage, but I shall of course make a Statement in your Lordships' House before Christmas announcing the precise details. I reiterate that of the £12.8 billion, £4.3 billion was announced for local authority education standard spending assessments. Noble Lords will be aware that the SSA settlement will be announced in another place on Thursday this week by Nick Raynsford.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

My Lords, can my noble friend remind the House of the extra provision for spending in further education—I declare an interest as a patron of a sixth-form college in Birmingham—given the excellent job that they do in providing education and training for those who have perhaps not got all that they should have done out of their secondary education?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

Yes, my Lords. As I have already said, we have allocated a further £1.2 billion for further education, which I am sure is welcomed on all sides of your Lordships' House.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, if one asked the Plain English Campaign what these words meant—that by 2006 £15 billion more a year would be spent—it would expect £15 billion more each year until 2006 to be spent. That is deceitful.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My Lords, I have read out what my right honourable friend the Chancellor said. I reiterate that we are perfectly clear about the fact that by 2006 there will be £15 billion more a year for education. That represents increases in each year of £5 billion, £9 billion and £15 billion to get us to that point. I am sorry if the noble Baroness misinterpreted what my right honourable friend said. I hope that I have clarified for your Lordships' House precisely what the figures are.

Forward to