While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I tell him that we on these benches always want to see him winning the competition with the Minister of Defence in this matter? Is he aware that we hope that he can give the House an assurance that there will be no saving or economising on numbers of teachers employed?
I can give my hon. Friend the assurance for which she asks. The expenditure on education next year will exceed defence expenditure for the first time in our history. On her other point, I have not cut down by a single one on the number of teachers the local authorities have told me they wish to employ next year.
We are to debate this matter on Monday, but can the right hon. Gentleman say how he can be sure of the 3¾ per cent. figure in view of the responsibility given to local authorities under the rate support grant procedure?
I cannot be sure of it. What I am really saying is that in computing the rate support grant figure we have agreed with the local authorities on the apportionment of a 3·7 per cent. increase for education.
These savings, and others made in the course of the normal processes of managing the expenditure programmes, have increased the resources available for the carrying out of our policy generally. It is impossible to relate a particular saving to a particular new development.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that he was reported in the Press recently as saying that this money would be used to provide 2,000 nursery classes under the social needs programme, which, of course, would cost something like £16 million at costs estimated by the Department? I am sure that he would want to correct that. Is he also aware that many of us on these benches want to see that money used for the purposes he indicated?
One cannot hypothecate bits of expenditure and say that a certain sum of money will be used for a certain purpose. The urban programme, in which nursery schools will play a very big part, will cost about £25 million over the next four years. In addition, the recent rate support grant negotiations, as the White Paper showed, mean that about £55 million more will be spent on education next year.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it would be better to use some of this money to bring in educational systems of which democratically elected majorities approve, rather than compel them by withholding funds to bring in educational systems of which neither they nor the majority of their electors approve?