Education (Expenditure)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th January 1974.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg 12:00 am, 28th January 1974

Before calling the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I should point out that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.

3.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I beg to move, That this House deplores the cuts in the education service which will result from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on 17th December last. The Opposition intend to debate not the theory but the practice of Government cuts. I do not propose to contest with the Under-Secretary of State whether the cuts are worse than those made in 1926 and 1931, nor do I propose to argue about the interesting concept of cuts in education which provide special savings in the fuel supply. I want to talk about reality—what happens to real children in real schools in the real world.

However, before describing the effects of the cuts, I wish to say a few words about what, if past behaviour is to be our guide, will be the burden of the Government's defence. In almost every previous education debate in this Parliament the Government have subjected us to defence by bogus comparison. I put aside the intellectual unacceptability of comparing the problems of a Government who inherited a record balance of payments deficit with a Government who inherited a record balance of payments surplus and then dissipated it. I refer simply to the intellectually disreputable practice of comparing what the Labour Party achieved in the mid-1960s with what the Government promise but seem increasingly unlikely to deliver in the early 1980s.

The obvious example of that practice is central to the cuts which we are de- bating.For 14 months the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State has been projected as the author of a national nursery programme. In fact, the major part of that national nursery programme has seen one development since 6th December 1972, when it was announced—and that is its postponement until July 1974.

Equally important in this area for which the Secretary of State claims so much is the effects which the cuts we are debating will have on her general pre-school policy and aspects of that policy which fall outside the major development she prophesies will eventually begin in July next year. Rising fives in primary schools, the use of empty primary school classrooms for nursery classes and the encouragement of the creation of playgroups are all supplementary parts of the right hon. Lady's nursery programme and urged on local education authorities in her White Paper on nursery education.

Yet in all those areas of pre-school education there is a desperate risk that they will be affected deeply and perhaps permanently by the revenue cuts we are debating. Indeed, some local education authorities have already chosen to make savings in exactly these areas. What is more, the best, most enthusiastic and most progressive local education authorities which have had the temerity to admit under fives more freely than was recommended in the White Paper were told by the Under-Secretary of State 10 days ago that they should cut the number of under fives they are admitting to their schools.

I hope that, looking at the reality of the Secretary of State's achievement in nursery education, we shall today hear a little less of what she plans to do and a good deal more about what she has done, not least because her plans so often go awry. The Chairman of the University Grants Committee told the universities last week that …we have to be prepared for the possibility that the economic situation may require further economies in subsequent years. I hope that the Secretary of State's nursery plans survive the next Budget, but we must all be sceptical about that. No doubt the right hon. Lady will assure us that they are safe, but on 13th November last year I was told, in rather tart terms, that the building embargo would end completely on 1st January 1974. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not allow that to happen for most of the building programme. We know very well that when he nerves himself for the Budget the nursery programme even in its present truncated form may not survive.

But, having hoped that we shall hear a little less about what might happen and a good deal more about what has been done, I turn to the subject of the cuts themselves. By any standards, they are massive—£119 million from capital and £63 million from revenue. Many of the cuts, on both accounts, fall on higher education.

I have always made plain my belief that in times of financial stringency higher education should stand further back in the resources queue than schools, and I reiterate that belief. But the Secretary of State proposes a massive reduction in higher education spending and deeply damaging cuts in schools. We now understand that the estimates for student admission—the targets for 1976–77—may be cut by between 40,000 and 50,000. I hope that the Secretary of State will try to justify that reduction. Indeed, I hope she will do more. I hope that she will say clearly whether the Government have abandoned the Robbins principle that courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attaintment to pursue them and who wish to do so". I should like to say a few words about the phrase "who wish to do so". I know that the number of applications to universities and colleges fell by 6,500 last year. The level and pattern of student grants is now becoming a severe and genuine deterrent to potential working-class students. In fact, the Government are depressing the demand for university places. It would be inexcusable if today we were told that university places were being cut because demand was falling when, in fact, demand was falling because the Government were depressing it. That is all I wish to say about higher education, for I hope that we shall debate the matter in greater detail on some future occasion.

I want to deal chiefly in this debate with schools, pre-school education and the problems which local education authorities are facing. I deal first with their problems on revenue account. These problems did not begin on 17th December. Local authorities, in the same way as the rest of us, face unremitting and unaparelleled inflation. Indeed, their association has estimated that a 20 per cent. increase in capitation and book allowances would be necessary to keep provision simply up to last year's level. Local authorities—and, indeed, all local government bodies—are facing problems consequent upon the Government's three-stage reduction in the rate support grant. Education committees have been provided with £45 million less than they believe they need simply to sustain services to carry out approved policies. The statement of 17th December on savings came on top of all that.

Some savings required from 17th December are, I understand, believed by the Government to be possible—I quote the Under-Secretary of State's words— without damage to the standards of the service ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th January 1974; Vol. 867, c. 609.] I suppose that depends whether one's standards are the standards of the best local education authorities or the standards of the Secretary of State.

I hope that when the right hon. Lady hears some of the cuts which have been reported to us, she will explain how they can be accomplished without standards being diminished. But most of the revenue services which are to be cut—and this applies to most of the savings to be made—come from what the Department of Education and Science calls "procurables", or part of non-teaching costs. Some of these non-teaching costs are specifically recommended for exemption from savings. I refer to rent and rates, food in school meals, discretionary grants and direct grant school fees. I ask no questions about the exceptions—except one. Why are the direct grant schools to get more when all other schools are to get less? I do not draw any conclusions from that, but I shall look forward to the right hon. Lady's explanation.

None of the exceptions is mandatory, and the advice is, to say the least, confusing. In column 610 of HANSARD on 16th January the Under-Secretary said that books were not exempted, whereas in the next column he said that he hoped they would not be cut. I am sure he would agree that that is not the clearest of advice to local authorities. While that is the case, it does not matter very much that the distinction is blurred, because unfortunately the distinction between the exempted categories and savings and the non-exempted categories is bound to be meaningless. Inflation, the cut in the rate support grant, and the 17th December budget make it impossible to confine the education cuts to the rather simple areas specified by the Department.

Let me give an example from one of my favourite local education authorities—"favourite" not in terms of what it does but of what it demonstrates. I refer to Essex County Council. Tomorrow the Essex County Council Finance Committee will consider cuts in the county's education budget. The right hon. Lady must tell the House how those cuts will fit into the interesting concept enshrined in the Government's amendment embraced by the words "essential educational priorities".

The cuts contemplated by Essex County Council are as follows. They will save £500,000 on capital account because of a postponed nursery programme. They intend to save £126,000 on revenue from postponement of developments in the much-vaunted nursery programme—money which would have been expended in respect of developments in advance of capital programmes. I hope that the right hon. Lady will say whether she approves of that cut. Essex County Council will make some cuts in approved areas. For example, the county council will reduce cleaning costs and also will cut repairs and maintenance by 8½ per cent. in schools and by 15 per cent. in technical colleges. It will reduce provision of furniture and equipment in technical colleges by 15 per cent.

That is only a beginning of what the Essex County Council intends to do. It intends to slow down special school improvement plans. We were promised that this would not happen. The county council will slow down teacher recruitment substantially. That authority intended next year to improve the basic—not the average—staff-pupil ratio in primary schools from 1: 36 to 1: 34. The improvement is now to be limited to a basic 1: 35. The county council intend next year to recruit 50 teachers to Southend Secondary School. It now intends to recruit only 25 more teachers. It intended next year to employ 40 additional technical college teachers. That plan is now abandoned. All this is happening in a county which is at the bottom of the county league table of teacher provision in primary schools and near to the bottom of the table in teacher provision in secondary schools.

The right hon. Lady and also the Minister of State, who represents part of that county, have given advice and have issued constant Press statements saying that the level of teacher recruitment will not be affected by cuts. Clearly Essex needs advice and guidance from the Department. It needs to be told what is the reduction in costs and the relationship to the teaching profession. Does all the trumpeting about teach recruitment not being affected simply mean that nobody will be sacked, or that extra teachers can be recruited? Is there a tacit moratorium on the size of the teaching force? Is this one of the ways in which the right hon. Lady plans to meet the situation?

Essex is not the only county that is behaving in this way. I am advised that Lincolnshire intended to recruit 163 additional teachers next September. Now it will recruit only 25. I am also advised that every county and borough has recently been supplied with new figures on the teaching quota and each will have to decide whether it should recruit the extra teachers. Many authorities are not recruiting them because of the cuts for which the right hon. Lady is responsible. We should be told in this debate whether that was her intention and, if it was not, what advice about that policy she intends to give to local authorities.

The cuts fall so widely across the education services—far more widely than the Press handouts suggest. It is not possible to confine cuts to the areas which the Government have specified. Let me take a simple example. In Sheffield—an excellent authority—the local education authority, simply to keep expenditure at the anticipated level and to maintain the standstill position without aspiring to any expansion, must cut £600,000 from its budget. That is not possible simply by reducing transport and minimising repairs, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.

I turn to the capital cuts. Twenty per cent of expenditure is to be cut from the building programme. In fact, that may amount to a cut of 60 per cent in building starts anticipated for next year. We are assured that money remains available for special schools, and we applaud that decision. Money also remains available for basic needs, for "roofs over heads", or so at first it seems—at least so the right hon. Lady says. However, two caveats must be entered to that assurance. The first is that 10 days ago we were told that there needed to be a "closer scrutiny of need." This was one of those Delphic and therefore slightly sinister statements, written by civil servants and read by junior Ministers. I hope that the Secretary of State will explain in simple language what the Dhrase means.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Is my hon. Friend aware that, following information given by the Department of Education and Science to the London Borough of Ealing on its "roofs over heads" programme, councillors and officials in Ealing now find themselves in total despair because their programme has been completely smashed?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I know that in some ways Ealing is typical of the nation and in other ways unique. But it is typical in that all over the country local education authorities are in despair because they regret that their services are to be diminished and because they cannot understand how the Minister can pretend that the cuts can be carried out in the way that the right hon. Lady's circular implies.

I turn to my second caveat. We are told in paragraph 6 of Circular 15/73 that there is now to be an aggregate value of approvals. That equally Delphic phrase means that there is to be a total amount of capital available for school building. May we be told what happens when, because of building inflation, that aggregate volume of capital for school building is used up before all the schools that the right hon. Lady has approved have actually got their loan sanction and tenders have been approved? May we be told how big the total is? May we also be told how she looks back at her building record over the past 18 months? Up to May 1972 we had a period of peculiar building difficulty because of the absurdly low cost limits. Between May and August we had several months of frenzied activity in council architects' departments while officers tried to adjust new estimates to the sudden increase in cost limits. In October we had a total building moratorium. Next year capital for school building will fall to under £300 million.

Speaking of the total building programme for the remainder of 1973–74 and for 1974–75, the Under-Secretary said last week that more than £300 million had been preserved out of a total of £570 million. I suppose that that is right. It is also rather disingenuous. It could be described another way by saying that building had almost been cut in half. That would have been a more accurate and succinct way of putting it.

I am sorry to keep quoting the Under-Secretary of State. The difficulty is that although he and the Minister of State have both made public speeches on the cuts, the right hon. Lady has not done so. The Under-Secretary will discover that one of his departmental responsibilities is "bad news".

The actual figures of cuts and their implications on future years we do not know. I believe that we need desperately to know the detailed figures. The local authorities are in similar desperation. Because of that, I tabled a Question today asking for publication in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the "Framework for Expansion Figures" revised in the light of 17th December and the other difficulties.

Although we do not know the answer to that Question, we know the short-term effect on our schools. We know that the cuts will fall most heavily on the areas of least advantage. Repairs and maintenance cuts specified by the Government will further depress the standards of inner city schools. Replacement of school buildings is most necessary in the decaying central areas. At the moment, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) is fighting a battle for St. Luke's Church of England Primary School, which is in this category. We know also that the halting of the most advanced nursery programmes will be felt most deeply and desperately by the low-income working mothers. We know, if the Essex example is common, that the technical college cuts will hit most hard the already neglected 16 to 18 year olds. We know, too that if teachers, are not to be recruited it means a delay to ending the largest and least justifiable class sizes. That does not seem to the Opposition to be any way to build one nation.

Someone on the Government benches is bound to ask from where the Opposition propose the money should come. I have never shrunk, nor has my party, from making it clear that we prefer taxes going up to social services expenditure going down. That seems to be morally right. It also seems necessary in terms of creating a permanently prosperous and expanding economy.

In Sunderland, near to and in the Durham coalfield, eight building developments are being delayed. In Wigan, in the Lancashire coalfield, six projects are being postponed. When the Prime Minister next writes to the miners urging them to act in the national interest he should add a paragraph saying, Your sons and daughters have to be educated in old schools in order that we may preserve the surtax concessions of 1971. I have to tell the right hon. Lady that that is not the Opposition's vision of the good society. I do not believe that it is the vision of the British people. I believe that the Government will soon discover that.

3.55 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof, endorses the Government's decision for the reasons given in the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17th December to reduce during 1974–75 the demands on resources for the education programme, whilst substantially preserving the Government's essential educational priorities ". The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has just made his usual provocative speech. From what he said one would hardly think that he was a member of the Government which postponed—indeed abandoned—the raising of the school leaving age pro- gramme which this Government have, in fact, carried out. There are a certain number of ironies about the situation because at that time he was propounding a prices and incomes policy from the Treasury Bench.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to say what this Government had done. They have carried out the policy which his Government abandoned of raising the school leaving age. They have carried out all the associated building requirements. They have also carried out a very big primary school improvement programme. Certainly he could not have cut that in his time; it was not there to cut. In addition, the Government have on their own primary school improvement programme got schools started in 1972–73 and this year to the value of £74 million, which is far more than the Labour Government ever did.

The Government have continued with the improvements in teacher supply. In fact, recruitment has exceeded all expectations this year—

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

And the teachers are going on strike.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

We expected it to be an additional 20,000. We are, in fact, 22,315 up on last year. The total number of qualified teachers now in the service is 424,398, which is nearly 80,000 more than there were in February 1970. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook does not like the true figures—

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

Neither the hon. Member for Sparkbrook nor the NUT can refute the increase of numbers in the service.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Then why are the teachers going on strike?

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg

Order. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) must not persist in making sedentary observations.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

The NUT and everyone else will admit that my Department has one of the best and most accurate sets of statistics, and the officials in my Department served the Labour Government as well as they have served me—

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg

Order. Three sedentary remarks are not better than one—

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I asked the right hon. Lady to avoid bogus comparisons. Since she has failed to do so, will she say whether one of the additional teachers recruited by the Government started his or her course of teacher training under her Government or whether he or she entered a college of education when my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) was Secretary of State?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

There will be some married women returners. [Interruption.] I will give the hon. Member for Spark-brook an accurate reply. Some married women returners did not, otherwise all of them will have come from the time of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short). I wish only that the Opopsition had been as generous in their accolades to my predecessor, Lord Boyle, who was responsible for the increases in numbers in the time of the Labour administration. The Opposition expect to collect compliments, but they are prepared to give none. The point is that money has been found to recruit all these extra teachers—in fact, more than we had expected.

All Ministers dislike having to make cuts in their forecast expenditure, and, naturally, my hon. Friends and I are disappointed that we have had to revise our plans for this year and next; but we recognise, as most people do, that we cannot insulate the education service from the economic situation any more than could the Labour Government.

The economic situation underlying this debate was explained by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17th December and it is now familiar. However, I should like to stress one short passage from his speech. He said: It is important to be clear about the purpose of reducing public expenditure in a situation of energy shortage. Shortage of energy and constraint on economic growth are bound to lead to a rise in unemployment. That cannot be avoided. It is inherent in the situation. But the direction of the cuts in public expenditure must be such as to avoid, as far as is humanly possible, a reduction in employment in the public sector being added to the inevitable unemployment created by the energy shortage in the private sector. It is the consumption of fuel and power by the public sector that has to be reduced, not its employment of people. There would be no point, in the wholly unique situation we face, in saving public expenditure by deliberately reducing the number of public servants. I think that answers the two points made by the hon. Member for Spark-brook. We do not wish cuts to be applied to teacher recruitment. The hon. Gentleman implied that increasing taxation would be the alternative. I have specifically quoted that part from my right hon. Friend's speech to show that it would not. The purpose of the public expenditure cuts is to save the consumption of fuel and power by the public sector

If the situation is indeed serious, as my right hon. Friend said, and calls for drastic measures, it is also uncertain. That is why my right hon. Friend concluded by saying: I do not think that any of my predecessors would dispute that, in the face of the many uncertainties ahead of us over the coming; year, an economic judgment at this time is—to put it mildly—more difficult than usual. That is why it is important to say quite openly that, while I believe that the judgment I have made is the right one, I shall not hesitate to take, at any time, any further action which may be required in the national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December 1973; Vol. 866, c. 963–5.] It is against this background that the cuts made in expenditure in 1974–75, not only in education but across the whole of the public expenditure sector, must be seen. Within the total cuts of £1,200 million in 1974–75 the Chancellor's statement attributed £182 million to the combined programmes for education, arts and science for Great Britain.

Excluding the arts and science, and non-university education in Scotland, the total saving to be found from planned expenditure on education is £157 million. Of this total, reductions in capital expenditure account for £104 million and in recurrent expenditure for £53 million. The £157 million reduction must be set against a projected total expenditure for the year of well over £3,500 million. We must therefore keep the cuts in perspective. Perhaps I should point out that the figures that I am using are calculated on the same basis as those used by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In other words, they are based on the 1973 survey prices. I thought it best to keep to those rather than to update some of them, because that might confuse the issue.

I shall now deal in turn with the effects of these reductions, first, on school buildings, second, on the procurement side of local education authorities and, third, on higher and further education.

The steps that we have taken regarding school building relate to two factors. The first is the overheating of the building industry last year leading to the severe increase in building costs referred to by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 8th October. This led to a deferment of building programmes by three months. I think that the hon. Member for Spark-brook said August, but it was, in fact, October.

The second is that the Chancellor's statement on 17th December resulted in the reduced programmes for 1973–74 and 1974–75 set out in a recent circular from the Department.

In deciding upon the reduced programmes we have taken into account the need to preserve as far as possible school projects designed to provide additional places, special school projects, nursery education and—an item to which I know local authorities attach particular importance—the minor works programme.

In all, school building projects to the value of over £300 million will be eligible to start in the period between 1st January this year and June 1975. We have also been at pains to assure a programme of school building as far ahead as is possible in the present difficult economic circumstances, and the circular covers work to be started up to June 1975. This should enable local education authorities and the building industry to organise their programmes of building work to the best advantage. Final details of the new schools programmes are now being settled with authorities, and we have already approved a number of projects since the beginning of the month. In fact, there is no difference between the way that basic needs programmes are scrutinised now and the way that they have previously been scrutinised.

I turn now to the saving on procurement which affects local education authorities' recruitment expenditure.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Woodside

I wonder whether the right hon. Lady could help me. In a reply given by the Under-Secretary at the English Department of Education and Science to the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) it was said that no reduction was to be made in the nursery school capital programme in 1974–75. I have had a reply from the Scottish Office stating that the nursery school programme would be postponed from April 1974 to October 1974. Does the right hon. Lady's figure mean that there is a postponement in capital expenditure? If so, would it not have been better to give that answer in the reply to the hon. Member for South Angus?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

The postponement arises from the moratorium, which meant only a three-month postponement. That means that the programme to which the hon. Gentleman referred for 1974–75 will start at the beginning of July and run for a year instead of running from 1st April to 1st April. It is a three-month postponement. Otherwise the full nursery school programme will be retained. I am afraid that I cannot answer for Scotland. I have enough problems without that.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Is the right hon. Lady aware that some areas—London, Leicester, and the like—have had an enormous problem thrust upon them regarding immigrant children? Some of these areas, particularly New-ham, were already bursting at the seams and in need of more school places, and so on. Will she be careful to do nothing to exacerbate the already difficult problem that we have in my constituency? Otherwise, I assure her, some very serious problems will be created.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

Increasing immigrant numbers is usually dealt with under the basic needs programme, and it will continue to be dealt with in that way in future.

I turn now to procurement expenditure. Of the saving required, £53 million is due to be met from reductions in procurement expenditure. Most of this saving—£48 million—falls on current expenditure by local authorities. But that figure of £48 million must be compared with the expenditure forecast for the same year. The relevant rate support grant expenditure forecasts for education for 1974–75 amount to more than £2,800 million. I should say that the figures in the Rate Support Grant White Paper—hon. Gentlemen might find them confusing because they do not appear to be the same—are not at 1973 survey prices but at November 1974 survey prices, which are higher—£2,800 million rises to £3,100 million.

Even after the procurement reduction, which represents only 1¾ per cent. of the total projected expenditure by local education authorities, these forecasts allow for an increase of about £60 million above the estimated level of expenditure during the current financial year—that is, next year's forecasts are £60 million above the level in the current financial year. The kinds of expenditure which constitute procurement and from which local authorities are, therefore, expected to seek the necessary savings were fully explained in an excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 16th January. His speech gave a great deal of valuable information, but perhaps I could reiterate the most important points.

In accordance with the Government's overriding strategy, the cuts are calculated from a base which entirely excludes expenditure on staff, notably teachers—we have already dealt with that. Within the strict ambit of procurement, the calculations recognise that the authorities have to meet rent and rates, which by and large are irreducible and so they are not expected to be cut. They thus exclude this expenditure and also the cost of food and some other goods and services for the school meals service. Some things are outside the definition of procurement and, therefore, are not taken into account in reaching the base of £480 million from which the 10 per cent. cut is to be made; for example, maintenance allowances and other grants such as clothing grants to pupils.

The Government will shortly be issuing guidelines to local authorities about the steps they might take to secure the necessary reductions in their current expenditure. These will reinforce what my hon. Friend has already said and the guidance conveyed to the local authority associations by my Department during the rate support grant negotiations. I must leave it to individual authorities to decide how best to act in their own individual situations.

I turn now to higher and further education. At 1973 prices the original starts value of the 1973–74 and 1974–75 higher and further education building programmes was about £200 million. In the first half of 1973–74 projects worth about £40 million were started, so work to a total value of about £160 million was affected, first by the three-month suspension announced in October and then by the decisions on public expenditure announced on 17th December.

The Department's circular issued on 18th December said that a limited programme of higher and further education projects would be eligible for approval in the period from 1st July 1974 to 30th June 1975. I cannot give details but it may well mean that about 30,000 to 40,000 fewer purpose-built higher education places will be available by the academic year 1976–77 than had been planned.

In the circumstances the colleges and universities will do their utmost to get the greatest possible use out of the very substantial stock of buildings and equipment already in use or under construction. Where there are buildings originally provided for one teaching purpose, for example, which could now be more intensively used for another, there must be no delay in pressing them into the most profitable service, whether within institutions or by reorganisation in response to Circular 7/73—I shall come to the Robbins point in a moment. Even so, the forward estimates of current expenditure on higher education over the next few years must realistically reflect that the numbers of students to be provided for will be lower than assumed in the plans previously drawn up and this, in turn, will contribute to the public expenditure savings required under the Chancellor's statement.

The local education authorities will be considering how far this helps them to meet the reduction required in their expenditure in 1974–75. For the universities, we have already announced the withholding for that year of supplementation of their grants in respect of 1973 price rises and a further reduction of £15 million in the equipment grant. These are exceptional measures, but we think that they are justified by an exceptional situation, and the adjustments required within the institutions will, I recognise, not be easy.

We must not, however, jump too quickly to alarming conclusions about the effect that these reductions will have on the higher education opportunities for young people over the next few years. The Education White Paper went out of its way to emphasise that its 1981 targets left much room for flexibility and variation in response to changes in demand as they became apparent. It is now clear that there has been a falling off in the demand for higher education in 1972 and 1973 on a scale that could not have been foreseen.

The decline since 1969 in the proportion of those with two or more A level passes entering higher education, which was becoming apparent when the White Paper was being prepared, has recently become more marked. Even if the proportion were to fall no further, the 1981 requirement for higher education places might be more like 700,000 than the 750,000 which was the White Paper's longer-term planning basis.

We had begun this reappraisal of the likely future demand for higher education well before the October moratorium. When we have carried it further, we shall consult and give further guidance to the University Grants Committee and the other interests concerned. Meanwhile, it is clear that even by 1976 student numbers will be running appreciably below the levels, explicit and implicit, in the White Paper. Already in this present academic year, the number of university students is 6,500 short of the number assumed in the quinquennial settlement. In the polytechnics and other further education colleges, recruitment is less buoyant than we expected.

My conclusion is that we may be able still, despite the loss of the building programme places to which I have referred, to meet the effective demand for higher education in 1976.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

Yes, may—I do not over-emphasise it. The recommend- dation in the Third Report from the Expenditure Committe, on postgraduate education, published last week—that the number of students doing postgraduate research immediately after taking their first degree should be considerably reduced—is relevant to what I have just been saying. The Government will be considering the report with care and will present their observations in the House in due course.

We cannot quantify the likely effects of the public expenditure reductions on the rest of the further education system, precisely because of those characteristics which are at the same time the sources of its strength—the great variety of different kinds of level of course, the ability of the service to respond to local demand, and so forth. Both the building programme and the current expenditure reductions will force the local education authorities to look critically at the courses they are offering in this sector. But I believe that they will find it possible to protect and maintain the most essential of these activities.

I must say a separate word about the Russell Report on Adult Education. I said just before Christmas that the Chancellor's statement obliged me most reluctantly to postpone for the time being the consultations on the report to which I had been looking forward. It would be unwise, and unfair to those who are charged at the moment with planning reductions in public expenditure programmes up and down the country, to embark on this until we can see the public expenditure prospects a little more clearly. I share the disappointment at having to defer further consideration of the report's explicit recommendations, but at the same time I take comfort in the steady growth of the adult education service that took place even while the committee was still deliberating.

We have tried to manage this substantial and necessary cut in public expenditure in a way which has preserved the essential priorities in the education service. It is a great disappointment to us that we have had to suspend for the time being the programme for the replacement of old primary schools, but the building programmes for necessary school places—basic needs—for special schools and for nursery education and for minor works have been preserved. Indeed,. it has been our objective to protect the schools as far as possible, particularly in the light of the evidence that I have quoted of the falling off in the demand for higher education.

I recognise that the cuts are serious, but they are not disastrous. The level of expenditure from which they are made is very high. My hon. Friend reminded us in the debate on 16th January of the advances that the education service had made. Over the past 10 years successive Governments have devoted to education a rapidly rising share of our growing national resources—from less than 5 per cent. of GNP in 1962 to nearly 7 per cent. in 1972.

We cannot yet tell how things will go in the months and years ahead, but in the present economic circumstances the Government's essential priorities in education have been substantially preserved and the forecast education expenditure for next year is £3,500 million. I therefore ask the House to approve the amendment.

4.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ernest Perry Mr Ernest Perry , Battersea South

I listened with great interest to the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State and noted that she used the phrases "cost yardstick" and "small reduction in the amount spent on education in the coming two years". I appreciate with her that it is a problem that we all have to face. However, this afternoon I am interested in a particular school in my constituency in Wandsworth.

This school has the normal problems of a normal school in London—it suffers from a shortage of teachers, from part-time education, and from having a large percentage of immigrant children. I have to declare a vested interest in that three of my children went to this school and I now have a granddaughter there.

Fifty-two of my constituents wrote to the right hon. Lady last week about Honeywell Road School, Battersea. Unfortunately, about 18 months ago, the school roof was completely burnt out and other fire damage was done to the first and second floors. As a result, a huge corrugated iron roof had to be erected to make the school habitable. There are now to be cuts in expenditure on repairs and closer scrutiny is to be given to the cost of roofing, but I ask the right hon. Lady to give special consideration to this case, because it deserves it.

The roof caught fire in June 1972 and following that the Inner London Education Authority commenced the preparation of plans for re-roofing. Due to a dispute with its architects, ILEA could not decide whether to have a pitched roof or a flat roof, but it finally came down in favour of a flat roof. It then submitted its plans to the local council—the London Borough of Wandsworth—and the town planning committee turned down that plan after consultation with local inhabitants. The school is a landmark and was well known for its nicely gabled and pitched roof, and local people wanted the roof to be restored to its original form. The plans went back to ILEA, which in 1973 finally decided on plans for a gabled and pitched roof.

That was where the trouble started. Because of the over-heating of the building industry, there were difficulties about getting a tender for the job. The result was that time went by and it was not until December 1973 that the authorities were able to get acceptance of a tender for £121,500. Will the right hon. Lady do her best to expedite the repair of this roof? During the gale in London a fortnight ago the temporary roof was blown off and the children could not go to school for a week.

I should like an undertaking that the right hon. Lady's Department will do all in its power to speed up the re-roofing of this school. ILEA has been told that, because of the steel shortage, it is unlikely that it will get the steel for the roof for some time, but will the right hon. Lady do her best with ILEA and with the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that the roof is restored as soon as possible so that the children may go to school? It is a primary school for 400 children, and the right hon. Lady's interest in primary schools is well known.

I hope that the right hon. Lady's cuts will not delay this renovation, which is required so that the children may be safe while they are at school. That is why I have raised this constituency matter, which is of great urgency, and I hope to have the right hon. Lady's undertaking that she will expedite this work as much as possible.

4.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

The hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) has made his special plea with moderation and I hope that my right hon. Friend will listen to it. Labour Members rarely give her credit for the skill and energy with which she fights the battle for extra resources for education.

At the time of the General Election in 1966, the then Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, boasted that for the first time in the country's history expenditure on education was running ahead of expenditure on defence. As one who takes a great interest in defence matters, I am not sure that that is necessarily something to boast about, but the position today—and Labour Members often complain about the size of the defence budget—is that expenditure on education is now running almost £900 million a year ahead of expenditure on defence. By the time we get to 1977–78 the disparity between defence and education budgets will be £1,500 million. Given that disparity, that enormous increase in the size of the education bill, one cannot say that the Secretary of State has been lax in her fight for her Department.

I am, however, worried about one aspect of the check in the regular surge in education expenditure which will come about as a result of the expenditure cuts announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. That is the cut in the spending on school books. In reply to a Question of mine some time ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that expenditure on school books in 1972–73 was running at about £23 million a year. That is only a tiny fraction, less than 1 per cent., of our total education expenditure. I go hand in hand with the leadership of the National Union of Teachers in thinking that this sum is far too small; yet an undue proportion of the cuts is likely to fall on this already lamentably small sum.

In an important letter to the Daily Telegraph recently Mr. Peter Mother-sole, the director of the Educational Publishers Council, said By far the greater part of local education authority spending is so committed (for example, teachers' salaries) as to be impossible to cut, or only susceptible to long-term pruning. The result is that savings have to be made in the 15 per cent. or so of the educa- tion budget which is 'discretionary.' Books and materials are a part of this small and vulnerable portion. What does that mean in the classroom? In the Greater London Borough of Bromley we are faced with the problem of recruiting teachers. I say here parenthetically that I salute the teachers for having settled within phase 3. In return I hope that the Government, in the not-too-distant future, will be able to take a more flexible attitude about the London allowance. We have a recruiting problem and we are under-spending on teachers' salaries. My education committee decided, therefore, that it would be sensible to spend £24,000 of this saving on extra books for secondary schools. This proposal was approved by the finance committee. But now that the cuts have come the council has had to look again at this matter. I hope that we shall be able to go ahead with this extra spending on books, but the present situation is uncertain.

What of next year? Our procurement budget will have to be cut back. If I were to make an informed guess about what the estimates will contain, it would be that in my borough there will have to be a cut-back on education equipment, on paper and on school books of rather more than £1 per child in school. I suspect that the way in which that cut will be made is by holding the present level of capitation allowance to what it is this year. This means that the full weight of inflation in publishing costs will fall on the capitation allowance and that will mean a cut in the standard of the provision of books. I suspect also that book prices will escalate fairly sharply during the next year.

I happen to be a member of the council of the Consumers Associations, which publishes the magazine Which? I have been looking at our paper bill for the next year. We do not get our paper in Britain. It comes largely from Sweden. Comparing March 1973 costs with March 1974 costs, the increase is about 87 per cent. That is not uncommon in publishing circles. I have no doubt that the increase in book costs during the next year will be very substantial. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will be able to find some way of approaching local education authorities and taking whatever action she can to see that the increase in expenditure does not fall unduly on the provision of text books.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made a rather grudging reference in passing to student grants. This is also an issue of considerable interest in my constituency, for in relation to the population as a whole, Bromley has the fifth highest proportion of students in higher education in Britain. I fully appreciate that if one were fully to meet student demands concerning grants, this would be not only a blow to phase 3 but also a blow to common sense. However, undoubtedly the present level of grant causes hardship to some students, and to some parents. Given our present economic difficulties, I hope that the Secretary of State will ask her Department to look very closely indeed at the Norwegian system of a mixed grant and loan. I spent some time last summer looking at that system. It seems to operate in a way that does not cause upsets to students, their parents, taxpayers or the Government. I believe that the only way in which we can resolve this pressing problem is eventually to introduce in this country a system of mixed grants and loans.

There is a lot for my right hon. Friend to do. However, we should acknowledge this afternoon that she has already achieved a very great deal. To censure her would be ridiculous.

4.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

I should like to remind the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State that during the last education debate the Government accepted the Opposition's motion. We on the Opposition side of the House had hoped that that would be the beginning of great inter-party co-operation. Indeed, I was particularly hopeful because the right hon. Lady, visiting my constituency and making a speech which was clearly totally unconnected with the fact that it was believed there would be a General Election, was reported in that excellent newspaper—which is, unfortunately, not readily available in the House—the Wisbech Standard, as having said that One thing that would not be touched would be the teaching profession. I feel very strongly that that is a long way from the truth. While I am pre- pared to believe that the right hon. Lady was not proposing to hang or to execute any teachers, I believe that any cut-back in education will directly touch the teaching profession. The ratio between students and teachers touches the teaching profession. The fact that no extra buildings are being erected will touch the teaching profession. To say that teachers were the one thing which would not be touched was totally untrue.

I was also distressed to note the pleasure that the right hon. Lady had in announcing that fewer young people were taking up university education than she had expected. This is sad and shameful. She must know, as do we, that the reason for this is that fewer young people are able to go to university in view of the inadequacy of student grants which are now given to them.

Ninety per cent. of the annual educational budget in local education authorities is already committed in advance of the year of grant. Therefore, it follows that any cut in expediture is concentrated on the uncommitted 10 per cent. where the LEA has the choice and the potential to enrich its own service. I welcome the right hon. Lady's assertion that she believes in the individuality of LEAs, but I seriously question their ability to practise individuality on the educational cuts which are now proposed.

In my constituency, at the village school at Sutton there are two temporary buildings built in the playground which are currently being used as classrooms. The village of Sutton is expanding and even those two temporary classrooms will not be big enough. How, with the cuts in education, can they do anything but encroach further on the school playground?

A realistic and desirable educational policy should further the individual needs of the community and assess its development to promote a local identity. The Government promote belief in a free society where people have choice. This will not be easy on the proposed cuts. Nothing is as important as educational freedom, and yet the Government's measures will have the effect of dramatically reducing the freedom of our educational services. Let it be remembered that the educational requirements of East Anglia are not the same as those of East London. The trouble about the cut-back is that it severely affects so much. It affects the supply of books, which has increased by about 20 per cent. in the last year. In many of the larger towns and cities there is real illiteracy, and this will increase unless more books can be made available.

The shortage of money will now prohibit the improvement of the student-staff ratio, and this is particularly serious as there are 16-year-olds staying on, in many cases involuntarily, and teachers believe sincerely that, unless the ratio of staff to pupil is improved, the cases of violence and indiscipline will escalate and such good as might have come with the raising of the age limit will be actually reversed.

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) brought up the question of defence. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) asked: where will the money come from? From defence £178 million is taken. Our defence needs are not linked with our national prosperity. How is it that we can do without £178 million worth of defence just because of a payments crisis? If this saving does not harm our security it should have been made anyway and the benefits redistributed where they could better be used.

4.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

Earlier an hon. Member opposite—I did not notice who it was—called out, "Ask the National Union of Teachers what it thinks." I can only assume that it was not one of the many members of the NUT on the benches opposite. The implication of the cry was that there was total opposition to my right hon. Friend from the NUT. That is not so. It is not the case at national executive level. It is certainly not the case in staff rooms throughout the United Kingdom.

Members of the NUT recognise the value and approve of so many of the things that my right hon. Friend has done. For instance, they greatly approve of the raising of the school leaving age. They approve of the tremendous drive in primary school building. Those in the staff rooms approve, too, of the tremendous battle my right hon. Friend has put up for improvements in teachers' super- annuation rights. We should not for one moment accept the comment that was hurled from the other side.

I heard the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) ask—he can easily check this, because he read his notes very carefully—" How can teachers continue doing their job when there will be no extra building? This will affect the teaching profession." Does the hon. Gentleman believe that as a result of the proposals and cuts there will be no extra building? Does he think that no extra building is going on? Does he not recognise that the building for basic purposes will continue? Does he not recognise that the nursery project will continue? If I am wrong in the quotation I have made, the hon. Gentleman can check his words so easily.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

To save the hon. Gentleman from remaining in suspense for too long, I will tell him now. He is absolutely wrong.

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

The term "cuts in education expenditure" tends to conjure up the image of reduced standards. This is a travesty of the truth. It really means that the expansion programme cannot go on as one hoped that it would, that new developments cannot go on at the rate that we hoped that they would, that improvements that were based and financed on an expanding economy, have to be postponed.

Hon. Members opposite would do well to recognise some of the reasons why these cuts have been made in our programmes. Anyone who does not recognise that this is related to the energy crisis and that there is no growth in the economy in 1974 and the reasons for it is not facing reality.

If right hon. and hon. Members opposite are as passionately concerned with the education of children as they pretend, they might well use some of their influence with the National Union of Mineworkers so that we can create the energy necessary to get on with the production that will finance the school programmes and, what is more, finance all the social programmes that we all hold to be so desirable.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member is my Member of Parliament. Will he spell it out a little more clearly? Is he blaming the miners for the cuts in the education service?

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

Only my most distinguished constituent could have asked a question quite of that nature. Clearly it is not my intention to blame the miners for anything in this respect. What I was saying and what I will say again was that, if we could improve the energy situation, we could improve our production and that would restore more quickly than anything else the cuts that the Government have had to make. Surely that is a matter of agreement between both sides. I should like to make—

Miss Joan Lester:

I do not want to misunderstand the hon. Gentleman, but I think he said that if hon. Members on this side would use their influence to get the miners to look at things differently, these cuts would not be necessary. Now he is saying that he is not blaming the miners. Is he saying that the energy crisis has nothing to do with the miners?

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

I am suggesting that it would be good if all of us, including hon. Members opposite, persuaded the miners of the need to go back to work.

I wish to refer to the pre-1903 schools, which are those in the replacement programme. The pre-1903 schools were, of course, antiques when the Labour Party were in office. The Socialists did not do much to improve that position. My right hon. Friend should look again at her priorities in this respect. In rural areas particularly there is a greater need for replacing pre-1903 schools than perhaps in some urban areas because in many cities, such as the one I represent, the pre-1903 schools—many of them primary schools—were built in the latter part of the nineteenth century and are substantial buildings. Those built in the rural areas are often much more tumbledown. In some rural areas perhaps we should emphasise the replacement of primary schools rather than the introduction of nursery education. We should obviously like to do both, but if there is to be a cut, this might be a better priority.

If one accepts—I think one has to accept it—that in the present economic circumstances some cuts are essential, my right hon. Friend should look at the possibility of making a virtue of necessity. She has been rightly credited with the great reform of raising the school leaving age. This is something for which many teachers, and educationists have worked for many years. I myself took part in committees which prepared for ROSLA, preparing curricula suitable for that reform. But we should be ignoring reality if we did not recognise that some teachers are now saying that perhaps too many children aged 15 to 16 are staying on in schools and that some of them are a problem too great even for the skilled teaching profession to handle. Therefore I ask my right hon. Friend to consider two points.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

Would the hon. Member not agree that if there is a problem it is largely because professional teachers lack the necessary resources? These cuts will make it even more difficult for dedicated teachers to do the job which they are anxious to do and will do if given the necessary resources?

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

That is an interesting point of view. Much of what the hon. Member says is true. But what I am saying reflects the views of many teachers, and, what is more, professional skilled teachers—people perfectly capable of doing the job. Yet these people, well equipped and well trained, with all the resources, are in difficulties with a small minority of pupils. Anyone who does not recognise the problem is ignoring the reality of the staff room and the classroom.

Having provided for children to stay on until 16, we could allow them to leave school at 15 if they had a good job to go to and the prospect of day release to continue their education. If both teacher and parent agreed that a child would not benefit from staying on at school there might under those circumstances be a case for allowing him to leave. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] It is no good hon. Members saying, "Disgraceful". I am talking from experience of secondary education. I have taught most of my life in Cardiff secondary schools.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

How many hon. Members would allow their children to leave school at 15?

Photo of Mr Michael Roberts Mr Michael Roberts , Cardiff North

I do not know because it is an absurd question to ask. If my own child were not benefiting from school, but were becoming a complete delinquent and a thorough nuisance, and someone offered to take him on in a good job and allow him to go on day release, I should be happy to agree. But that is totally irrelevant.

I have some statistics to illustrate my argument. Before the raising of the leaving age, perhaps 40 to 50 per cent. of children stayed on to 16. If we now drop the numbers staying on from the 100 per cent. which is statutorily required, about 90 per cent. would still stay on, which would be a great improvement. The present truancy figures mean that the drop would in fact be only about 2 per cent.—and 10 per cent. of the age group would be in employment and doing day release. Thus, in an 11-to-16 school of 1,200 pupils, there would be an actual reduction, bearing in mind the truancy figures, of 24 pupils. That would be one class and would make a significant saving; it might indeed improve the whole nature of the school concerned. None of us is keen on cuts and all of us would like to expand education at a great rate. My right hon. Friend should give further consideration to this suggestion.

4.58 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I am speaking from the back benches because I wanted to speak mainly about my own authority of Berkshire. I would not want anyone to think that I had joined some others in leaving the Front Bench. I totally agree with all my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said about the divided nation in education.

Before I make my main points about my area I wish to make a couple of general points on what the Secretary of State said in opening the debate. I fail to see the significance of talking about guidelines for local authorities when local authorities have already stated their intentions. I fail also to understand the situation about nursery education. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) said in reading out the answer by the Under-Secretary of State, there will be no cuts in the capital expenditure of nursery schools for 1974–75. However, local authorities, including the Berkshire authority, are postponing the development of nursery classes —in the case of Berkshire to the extent of £15,000.

It has been in every national newspaper that Berkshire is postponing the addition of further nursery classes. I accept for the moment, for the sake of argument, that it is not an abolition but a postponement; but what will happen to the £15,000? Will it be added to money spent on future expansion of nursery classes in our area, or will it be lost for ever? Will inflation be taken into account in a few months' time? On our reckoning, £15,000 will be worth a great deal less in three months or six months.

The Under-Secretary, in answering a question on nursery education, has said that there will be no cuts in capital expenditure on nursery education. People took him to mean that the nursery programme would continue. Now we are told that part of it will be postponed. I should like to know the exact nature of the postponement and whether inflation will be taken into account.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Could the hon. Gentleman—the hon. Lady help me by saying whether the postponement is on the capital or the recurrent side?

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I do not know the answer, but I understand from what I have been told today that it is on the capital side. The hon. Gentleman indicates that it is not. If it is on the recurrent side, the argument is exactly the same, because nursery schooling—that is. nursery classes and places—will be postponed. The nursery school programme is being at least deferred to the tune of £15.000; irrespective of whether the capital programme will be affected, places are being affected to the tune of a great deal of money. It is no good saying that the programme will not be affected when it is being affected, whether or not it is part of the capital programme.

In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook rightly made the point that the cuts were more divisive in terms of education than anything so far under the Secretary of State's administration. We had a debate last week about "one nation", when everyone talked about the need for equality, for people to regard each other not in terms of class or status but as individuals.

Berkshire is a new authority, comprising the old Berkshire and Slough and Reading. The cuts it proposes, which are being approved, are cuts in areas where the children are in the greatest need. It is diabolical that it is not proposing to cut grants to the independent and private sector of education, but to increase them. The suggestion that it should not increase them by £20,000 but should reduce them was turned down in favour of cutting the nursery class programme by £15,000 and cutting expenditure on teachers in colleges of further education by £27,500. Expenditure on special education—mainly of maladjusted children—will be cut by £2,000 and playgroups by £5,000. A £7,500 increase in expenditure on school meals in ESN schools will not be allowed, and expenditure on the teaching staff of such schools is to be cut by £10,000.

The right hon. Lady and her colleagues talk about not encroaching upon improving standards. They—the Secretary of State for Social Services in particular—have talked a great deal about deprivation. They have also talked about doing things for the under-privileged. I do not understand how they can sustain that argument and allow local authorities to do what they are doing, particularly in relation to the private, independent and direct grant sector, at the same time as they are cutting expenditure on the education of ESN and maladjusted children, on playgroups and nursery schools, and on all the other things which in the main benefit those in the greatest need. It is one of the biggest indictments of the Government that they have throughout talked with a false tongue. They have said one thing and done another.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Can the hon. Lady tell me how the authority is increasing grants to the direct grant schools? The report I have seen in The Guardian is confusing.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

The grants are to be increased by £20,000 to level them up in the whole of the authority's area to the grant given particularly by Reading and, I regret to say, Slough, when it related to Buckinghamshire. The overall grant is now £195,000. It was suggested that the increase should not be made, but that the money should be used for the benefit of nursery education and to avoid the various other cuts I have mentioned. However, the authority agreed to make the increase. After the debate on direct grant schools it seemed to the local authority and those who supported the increase that they had the full backing of the Government. They said that many hon. Members on the Government side had argued that that was the right way in which to allocate funds.

We should bear in mind that the grant to that sector will mean that parents with an income of £4,000 a year will receive the equivalent of £235 in grant to the direct grant and other schools affected. Even parents whose income is about £7,000 a year benefit to the extent of the equivalent of £50. I do not see how a Government who argue that they are trying to deal with deprivation and inequality can allow that sort of thing. We shall take what action we can by way of demonstrations and protests to the authority.

I remember the arguments in the House about direct grant schools a few months ago, when Conservative Members argued that parents should be given the right to pay for their children's education if they wished. I agree with that—as a short-term argument. My long-term aim is different. If that is the argument, let the parents have that right. But why should the local authority, in times of stress and strain on resources, be allowed to compensate and assist parents who are paying? If they want freedom, I would give them all the freedom they want to pay their fees. I would abolish the grant and allow those parents to pay what it costs for their children's education. Then the fat would be in the fire. I would rather do that than cut essential services, which is detrimental to the interests of those in the greatest need.

Berkshire was told that it had to cut expenditure from £15 million to £3·8 million. It cannot do that without affecting the essential services; nor can any other local authority, I suspect. Berkshire has estimated that where it spent £½ million last year it now has to spend £2½ million merely because of inflation. When we take that figure into account, we can see that Berkshire and others, with the full support of the Government, have their priorities wrong. Both the circular and the Under-Secretary in a Written Answer on 21st January have stated that there would be some cuts in the youth service. I hope the right hon. Lady will think twice about that. Young people need this service to be expanded and on Friday last many of us supported a Bill designed to make a greater contribution to the youth service. It is disgusting and socially divisive to support cuts in this service.

I fail to understand the point which was made about cuts in teacher training. Why is it that Essex and Lincoln have already reduced their proposals for teacher training? Many of us feel angry at these cuts.

I do not deny that we on this side of the House deferred the raising of the school leaving age. That was a very great pity, and I was opposed to it. What shocks me is that nobody on the Government side of the House has yet said that these cuts are disgraceful. When my own party was in Government there were enough hon. Members opposite who said "We do not support it; we believe it is socially undesirable." Where is the opposition from hon. Members opposite to these cuts? I hope that we shall hear some opposition from them. This is, indeed, a case of closing ranks and not allowing an individual expression of opinion.

In Berkshire and in many other local authority areas this appears to be a wilful exacerbation of conspicuous inequalities. We shall be worse off in terms of educational inequality as a result of these cuts than we have ever been in the last 10 years. It is most regrettable, and I hope that parents and teachers will rise up and protest as we in Berkshire will protest on 25th February.

5.12 p.m.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I am pleased to be able to intervene in this debate because I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about any cuts which are made in education. But if cuts have to be made—and I believe that everyone will agree that in the present grave economic crisis, all services must face cuts—education, like other social and welfare services, will have to take its share. I side almost entirely with my right hon. Friend. I believe that her priorities are in the main correct, if cuts have got to take place. I therefore want to deal individually with the various sectors of education.

First, I wish to deal with higher education. I think there will be very few, if any, in this House, who do not agree that higher educataion should and must take the brunt of any cuts in education expenditure, because here is a sector of education which costs a great deal of money, a sector in which since the war vast sums of money have been spent—I believe, in the opinion of many, to the detriment of other sectors of education, and naturally I refer to nursery and primary education specifically. Therefore, I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the major brunt in cuts must be accepted by higher education. In higher education there is the maximum room for flexibility. I hope that those who take an active interest in education will agree—indeed, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said this at the Dispatch Box—that in the sphere of higher education there exists the maximum flexibility, where one can cut and do the minimum of damage to the education service.

I want to make specific mention of student grants in higher education. Here is a matter which requires serious attention. I am fully aware that this matter is being deal with by my right hon. Friend and her Department, and that the National Union of Students is considering how best the student grant can be increased to meet the very serious situation which many students face at present. There is no doubt that students are finding it increasingly difficult on the present statutory grants to find suitable places at which to stay during their period of higher education. We should not forget also that the cost of education equipment and materials is increasing dramatically.

I turn to the raising of the school leaving age, which featured prominently in the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor). I had some reservation about the raising of the school leaving age. I felt that my right hon. Friend might well have delayed some of the expenditure which is being directed to the raising of the school leaving age, because in so many local educational authority areas children are able to stay on at school after their fifteenth birthday, and, indeed, many already stay until they are 18 and over. This is done on the recommendation of their class teachers, supported, of course, by the headmaster or headmistress of the school. I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) that this does not necessarily happen in every area. I agree that there are areas where secondary places are in great demand and are limited as a result of which schools are keen to get rid of pupils at the age of 15. I should like those schools to change their policy so that it is not necessary to direct so much money into a blanket raising of the school leaving age.

I came from a county which is very progressive in secondary education. We encouraged our children to stay on at school. I refer to the County of Warwick, not to the county in which my present constituency is situated. In that county a very high percentage of pupils were staying on in the ordinary secondary high schools and secondary modern schools. We should have done a lot more than has been done to arrange link courses with colleges of further education. I believe that the expensive facilities which exist in colleges of further education could have been put to much greater use by pupils in secondary schools.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that all education authorities will take advantage of the colleges in their area so that, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts), where a child obviously does not have an academic leaning the facilities which exist in colleges of further education can be made available to him or her. In those colleges of further education the facilities and the experience of teachers and lecturers can be very useful to these young people.

May I now mention secondary education. As to secondary education, I hope that some of the more haphazard and chaotic schemes put forward for reorganisation will now be shelved by the cuts which my right hon. Friend has been forced to make. If a little more time were spent in some areas and by some education authorities in considering the effects of certain schemes of reorganisa- tion which have been put forward, in the long term the educational advantages of pausing and waiting until a proper system could be devised in an area would be clearly seen, rather than hurrying into a scheme, as has happened in some areas, out of political dogma.

I do not intend to mention the subject of direct grant schools. I agree entirely with the steps which have been taken by my right hon. Friend. The costs being faced by parents and by these schools are the same as the costs which are faced by any other parent and by any other school.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

The primary and secondary schools are asked to cut their fuel, light and heat, they are having to go without repairs and do without books—they are subject to a 10 per cent. cut in all these things—yet the direct grant schools, having had an 11 per cent. increase in their grant from the Government—some of them have, in fact, put up their fees—are exempted from these cuts. Is that fair? That is all I am asking.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I do not think that that question is asked in the correct terms. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind all the costs over the years which have been assimilated or met by the direct grant schools. The additional money which my right hon. Friend has made available to them is no more than they deserve.

I come now to the primary and junior sector of education. I very much regret the cuts which are proposed for the replacement programme for pre-1903 schools. The real inequality over many years has been in the primary sector. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give serious consideration to every proposal for a new primary school put forward by a local education authority. It is acknowledged by many educationists that the true foundation of educational progress for any child is set in the primary sector.

I regret the cuts which have to be made, and I only hope that these cuts will strike home with education authorities with large rural areas which have over the past few years, wrongly in my view, followed a programme for the closure of rural schools. This has been a sad mistake. It has robbed many a small community of its central pillar. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will look carefully at proposals to close rural schools and, perhaps, will indicate that plans for closure already submitted by local education authorities should now be shelved. The shelving of such plans would be greatly to the advantage of children in rural areas.

On a good many occasions I have had to write to my right hon. Friend about rural schools, and in one or two instances, I am pleased to say, she has seen the point of view which I expressed on behalf of the many villagers in rural communities. She has been good enough to refuse an application by the county to close such schools. These schools provide a fine education. They may not have all the facilities, the chromium plate and the rest, which can be found in some modern schools, but they have first-class teachers, they have first-class morals and first-class discipline, and the results they achieve are first-class. Some of the finest teachers in the country work in rural schools, and I hope that they will be allowed to continue to teach in these schools.

The hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough was right to say that nursery education is another important sector. I have young children, and as a parent I fully appreciate the need for pre-school and nursery education. I hope that the cuts here will be of the mildest sort, and that the money which my right hon. Friend had hoped to direct to nursery education will be reallocated to that sector in the very near future.

To return for a moment to secondary education, I have a constituency matter to raise. The Cheshire education authority has submitted to the Department a proposal for the building of a grammar school in the Macclesfield area. There is dire need for further secondary places in this area, where a lot of residential building has taken place in recent years. Last year, under the selective system for secondary places, many boys could not be accommodated in the traditional and customary school—I refer to the King's School for boys at Macclesfield—and had to be sent many miles away to Wilmslow, which is not only inconvenient for the children and their parents but extremely costly in transport. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic consideration to Cheshire's proposal for the first phase of a new mixed grammar school in Macclesfield.

I ask my right hon. Friend to give more than a cursory look, especially in primary, pre-school and nursery education, at all proposals for new schools which are submitted by education authorities. These are difficult times, but I know that in Cabinet meetings and elsewhere my right hon. Friend has fought hard for education. At the end of this Parliament she will be remembered as a Secretary of State who fought very hard for her service. Above all, the breakthrough which she has made in nursery education will long be remembered in the history of education. But, as I say, we live in serious times, and in the circumstances the cuts which my right hon. Friend has had to make are understandable. The House should accept the amendment.

5.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) spent about 15 minutes telling us how worried he is about all the cuts and explaining his anxiety about a number of matters which he wants his right hon. Friend to consider sympathetically, and then, right at the end, he said that in the circumstances the cuts are desirable. We have heard that sort of argument from Government back benchers time and again on other issues.

We have reached a stage now in the House when any item of Great Britain's business which we have to debate is considered in an atmosphere of crisis. Everything is crisis. Under a Conservative Government we have crisis after crisis, and, what is worse, not a solution in sight—at least, not from the Government side.

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that marvellous dictum of Sir Stafford Cripps about a previous Labour Government—"We staggered from crisis to crisis"?

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

That intervention makes my point. The hon. Gentleman racked his brains to think of an answer to what I was saying—which he knows to be true—and he has to go back to a time just after the greatest war in history. Nothing shows more clearly the condemnation of the entire Tory Party better than the fact that the hon. Gentleman, a respected and able back bencher, has to make such a poverty-stricken intervention.

Photo of Mr Jeffrey Archer Mr Jeffrey Archer , Louth Borough

What is the hon. Gentleman's solution?

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I am coming to that. The first essential is to get rid of the present incumbents on the Treasury Bench. This has been made clear by all the speeches in the debate so far. I am glad that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has returned to his place because I listened carefully to his speech and agreed with a good deal of what he said. I echo the anxiety which he expressed on behalf of his constituency. But he, too, divided his speech in the way we have come to expect from Conservative back benchers. In the first 10 seconds he congratulated his right hon. Friend, in the last 10 seconds he hoped that she would do the right thing, and in the intervening 15 minutes he told her how appalling the situation is, he criticised some of her proposals, and he appealed to her to do this, that and the other.

I have referred already to the atmosphere in which our debates are conducted nowadays. It has been developing over the past two years. Under the present Government everything is discussed in an atmosphere of emergency or of crisis—and, in the present situation, in an atmosphere of both.

It is sad to have to acknowledge the tremendous work done by members of both major parties on local authorities, the unsung councillors and aldermen who do so much and yet often have to pay the penalty for some of the decisions we make in this House. Often many of our sins are visited on them, and that happens irrespective of which Government are in power. Even so the penalties inflicted on them have never been as savage as they are now. They were encouraged by the Labour Government and, for a time, by the present Government to go ahead with all sorts of schemes. This they did.

The London borough of Ealing, for example, is in the middle of a massive change in the principle of education given there, a policy they were elected to carry out, and to which, in principle, there is no violent opposition from the Conservatives. Indeed, it is possible that the Secretary of State will be visited by a delegation led by the Socialist leader of the council and supported by the Conservative leader of the opposition. That is an indication of what both parties think of the Secretary of State and her policies—at least in the London borough of Ealing—and there is some justification for it.

They are enraged at major as well as trivial matters. They are also frustrated with some of the policies that emanate from the Department of Education. They sometimes need the Shorter Oxford Dictionary beside them when translating what some of the circulars mean.

Confusion exists elsewhere, and I shall give the Secretary of State an example of it in the hope that she and her colleagues will look at it carefully. It concerns the provision of school meals by the education committee in Ealing. The borough must find an additional £600,000 for 1974–75 merely to maintain the status quo and irrespective of any cuts in expenditure. But this is a difficult matter for the local authorities. [Interruption.] Conservative Members should remember that they were elected on the basis of the Prime Minister's bogus promises, one of which was that he would cut prices at a stroke. I do not know whether the House will allow me to call that a lie or a fib or simply cheating, so I had better saying nothing about it except that it was grossly misleading and an abominable trick.

The people now see the way the price of food has gone up as a result of Britain entering the EEC. The Prime Minister's promises are forgotten, the price of food continues to rise and the local education authorities have to try to decide what food will cost them in 1974–75. In Ealing it will mean at least another £600,000 a year. [Interruption.] The Conservatives would do well to drop the silly idea that whatever the problem—even if it is only a matter of deciding why a particular horse did not win the Grand National—it is all the fault of the miners. That is a crass absurdity.

The local authorities have been asked to cut their use of fuel by 10 per cent. because of the increase in the cost. In Ealing we have had to abandon the transport of children to the various: municipal baths for their swimming lessons because the borough runs its own transport. However, if a local authority employs private buses to carry the children they may continue unaffected. What on earth is the difference between fuel for the private bus and fuel for the local authority bus? Perhaps some of the geniuses at the Department will answer that question.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Perhaps the hon. Member's borough is one of the few authorities to be faced with this problem. For years many county authorities outside London have hired private buses to take the children on outings or to the swimming pool, and they still do it. Is the hon. Member suggesting that these authorities are not affected, but that authorities in London are?

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I regret that the Government's policies have led to these crises and the restrictions. They have led to this silly and unfair position.

The same situation applies in connection with the building programmes. I am sure that many local authorities must be affected although I wish to deal with the problem as it afflicts the London borough of Ealing. It is connected with the hire-purchase restrictions, and I hope that the Minister will do something about it. The increase in the number of children attending school has made it necessary to hire mobile classrooms and other school buildings.

Ealing has estimated the increase or decrease in the number of children who will attend school for the first time or who are moving from primary school to secondary school. It faces a big increase. It knows that it will be impossible to build new schools. At the same time, it ought to make some endeavour to cope with the growing number of children coming into the schools, particularly at secondary level. To meet this bulge, Ealing decided to add classrooms to existing school premises. Under the new restrictions, however, it will have to discontinue even that. It will not be allowed to put up these moveable hutted classrooms, although they would have helped enormously. Admittedly, since Ealing could not build new schools, this would have been the second best course, but now it cannot even go ahead with relocatable classrooms and is back to square one. It is, therefore, in a serious dilemma.

If the Department refuses to make an exception and to help local authorities in this way, Ealing will have no alternative but more or less to go it alone. But that means creating a problem for the local people in years to come. The financing of revenue this year from next year's finance will go on and on. Ealing will be confronted by an almost Sisyphean task in overcoming the problem. But it will not succeed in overcoming it completely, and it will go on and on.

Instead of putting blanket restrictions on England and Wales, the right hon. Lady should consider whether she would not be justified in lifting certain of the restrictions. The same thing also applies to the major school building programme. At the moment, this is costing Ealing an excessively high interest rate. It has to find large sums of money for the loan repayment element. This is bound to mean, perhaps in the not too distant future, increasing the local rates, which will cause an outcry.

People will have to pay more rates as well as increased food prices, rents and the rest and will want more income. Thus, those things which now seem remote from the industrial scene ultimately will have an influence on it when men put in wage claims to meet increased expenditure, not only in rents and food prices but in rates.

I have asked the right hon. Lady a number of questions and it would be unfair to expect her to reply at the end of this debate. But I hope that she will consider some of the things I have said, because it is essentiali to get away from the present awful rigidity, the iron clamps of phase 3, for example. Instead of laying down hard, irrevocable rules, she should leave herself elbow room, because that is the sort of attitude which would help local authorities, not only in education services but in other activities.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how much elbow room he would like? The Leader of the Opposition seems unprepared to tell the country. He was asked a direct question on television and would not, or was unable to, tell the country the answer. Does the hon. Gentleman consider 16½ per cent. fairly generous, or is he out to achieve the sort of inflation experienced recently in Chile and South America?

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Here we are back at the miners again. The hon. Gentleman is tempting me into other arguments—for example, whether equipment used in our pits provided by the firm of August Thyssen brings in wages of £60 a week—

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

Order. I realise that the hon. Gentleman was to some extent provoked, but I suggest that he should keep more strictly to the subject under discussion.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Macclesfield spoke of the difficulties in rural schools, which can be quite different in many ways from the difficulties experienced in urban areas. Surely, therefore, instead of having blanket restrictions, the right hon. Lady should take elbow room to ensure, for example, that the cuts are not so savage in some aspects of rural education, although they might have to be applied in urban areas. The same principle should apply in easing certain urban problems which may not apply so harshly in rural education.

Until we get a change of attitude on these restrictions, the Government can rightly be charged with perhaps one of the most heinous crimes that any Government can be charged with—the savage restriction of British education, which amounts to no less than eating the seed corn—and in that respect, the right hon. Lady is making her contribution to damaging the future status of Great Britain.

5.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

I begin on a note of congratulation to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on the moderation of his speech and his honest attempt to make it factual. I think he made a sincere attempt to set the tone of the debate on a low key. He succeeded. We have deviated once or twice in the debate from that low key on both sides of the House, but I hope that I can proceed in a calm, sincere and honest way.

I suspect also that the hon. Gentleman, as with others, recognised that most of us have been here before, the difference being, of course, that our positions in the House were reversed, when we sat on the Opposition benches and right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in Government. The same stories have been told from either side of the House on different occasions in similar circumstances of crisis. That is why I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), when I referred to the famous cuts made by Sir Stafford Cripps, because they illustrate the vagaries of successive Governments in post-war years. We have all been here before.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

There is a difference between what happened under the last Government and what is happening now. In those days, the opposition to cuts, whether in secondary school milk or in secondary school building or anything else, always came from the then Opposition. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, was notorious for saying that the cuts were not enough.

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making part of my speech for me and emphasising that the last Labour Government made cuts. He has no right to upbraid me for not opposing my own Government in making cuts in education or anything else, but tonight I am going to be fair to both sides. I was pointing out that we have all been here before and that today we hear repetitions of the arguments of previous years. I am trying to put the debate into proper perspective.

I wish to put the debate in historical perspective. I can remember when education was the Cinderella of the Ministries. I remember taking part in education debates when the Minister responsible for education was not a member of the Cabinet. A significant change has been made in that respect. Education is no longer the Cinderella of the Ministries or of the social services. The increase in expenditure on education illustrates that. When Sir David Eccles, now Lord Eccles, was Minister, we prided ourselves on the fact that the proportion of the gross national product spent on education had risen from 2½ per cent. to 3½ per cent. Now the figure is 7 per cent. From being the Cinderella of the Ministries, education is now a service whose expenditure exceeds even the expenditure on defence. Education has gone right up the league table. It is against that historical background that we are debating the cuts in education. But we are also debating them against an economic background. I agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, North that this debate is taking place against a background of serious economic crisis, and no one can blink that fact. Long before the present controversy with the miners loomed on the horizon—I do not propose to link the subject of this debate with that controversy—we were, not for the first time in post-war years, under successive Governments, in an economic dilemma.

Education has always been subject to the effects of economic crises. Every time we as teachers—I declare an interest as a former headmaster and class teacher—put in for a salary increase it was inevitably against a background of economic crisis. I can remember the voluntary 5 per cent. cuts of 1931. The executive of the National Union of Teachers is worthy of commendation in recommending that the teachers should recognise the economic background to their salary application. The teachers have reserved their demand for a 25 per cent. increase for another time.

It is against that background of economic crisis that we must consider the cut of £190 million in an expenditure of £3,500 million on education, which is 7 per cent. of the gross national product.

I congratulated in his absence the hon. Member for Sparkbrook on the moderation and factual presentation of his speech and on setting so well the tone of the debate. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State because during her sojourn at the Department she has, to my knowledge, without my being privy to Government secrets—I could not expect that, could I?—put up a terrific fight from time to time on behalf of the education service against the Treasury. Time after time she has succeeded in mitigating the effects of Treasury policy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Until today, when we are debating substantial cuts, right hon. and hon. Members opposite have never had cause to complain about what my right hon. Friend has or has not done in respect of expenditure on education. The cuts are serious. Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State nor any of my hon. Friends disputes that. But, in my opinion, they are inevitable in present circumstances. As my right hon. Friend said, they are not catastrophic.

Just as education was, years ago, the Cinderella of Ministries, so primary schools have been the Cinderella of the education service. Even now my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should attempt to mitigate the effects of the cuts on the primary system. I know that she has done tremendous work in primary school rebuilding, but the primary schools, with the infant schools—and I include infants when I refer to the primary schools; it is a generic term—are the base of the education system. That is where the least damage should be done.

I therefore exhort my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider carefully the effects of the cuts on the primary system. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on the secondary schools in post-war years—the expenditure has been almost to excess—to the detriment of primary schools. It is time that that ceased and the primary system felt the benefit of the impetus which my right hon. Friend has given in recent years.

There is another matter about which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and local authorities will have to be careful. I am fond of mentioning Cinderella. I have mentioned her twice, and I propose to mention her for a third time. Textbooks and stationery are the Cinderellas of most education authorities when ordering school equipment. They are the tools of the teaching trade, but they are given the lowest priority. I hope that local authorities when considering cuts will see that these items do not suffer too much.

I should like to suggest some ways in which money might be saved, or at least ways in which cuts can be accommodated to incur the least damage. First, let us from now on drop these large and expensive reorganisation schemes—indeed, let us declare a moratorium in this area of expenditure in this time of crisis. Labour Members will know exactly what I mean. Large, expensive, comprehensive schemes should be halted and the tendency to build massive schools of 2,000 pupils should be avoided. Those schools are too big. This is a way in which a good deal of money could be saved.

We could also save money, and at the same time cash in on an educational asset, by stopping the closure of village schools. In school building the attitude of size merely for the sake of size is what seems to matter. I do not know whether we realise the contribution made by village schools in the educational fabric of our country.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

That will not help Ealing.

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

There are many other towns and villages in the country than Ealing. I am talking about country areas where the village schools have a great rôle to play in our education system. They have a right to exist. My plea for the village schools ties up with other problems. We must always bear in mind the difficulties of transporting five-year-old children six or seven miles in a bus on a cold, dark winter morning and of having to bring them back again on a dark winter's night.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I do not disagree with what the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) said about rural schools, but my view is that it would be impossible to implement that sort of policy in a great metropolis such as London or in many of the London boroughs. It could not be done in London, though I agree that it possibly could be done in some of the rural areas.

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

The hon. Member for Ealing, North must not think I am daft. When I talk about villages I am not talking of London. I know that there are "villages" in London, such as Greenwich and Shepherd Market, which is a village in the West End, but I am not referring to those. I am talking of enlarged county areas.

I deplore the passing of the village school. I was headmaster of a village school, and we kept discipline in our villages without interference by the law. That sort of influence does not exist any more. This is one area in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science could take action, and it would save money and perhaps assist in other directions. I conclude by saying that I have pleasure in supporting my right hon. Friend's amendment.

[The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS took the Chair as DEPUTY SPEAKER]

6.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

I join with the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on his speech this afternoon. I was impressed by my hon. Friend's attiutde that we should not approach this debate from the point of view of being concerned only with figures and statistics. I agree with him that it is not merely a question of bearing in mind the cut in capital expenditure of £175 million in the Education Capital Expenditure Estimates, or the cut of £53 million in educational procurement and recurrent expenditure. We must not be wholly preoccupied with percentage figures, but must approach this debate in a practical way. In other words, we must look at the situation in human terms. I agree with my hon. Friend that we must not simply look at the cuts and compare them with what happened in 1921, 1931 or 1951, but should look behind the cuts to see what effect these economies will have on the education of our children.

I listened with interest to the speech made by the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I was somewhat surprised that she expressed only disappointment at these cuts and economies. I believe that these economies or cuts—call them what one will—are, in human terms, paltry, petty and parsimonious.

Understandably, most contributors to this debate have tended to talk against a background of concern for the interests of their constituents. This probably reinforces the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, and underlines the fact that we are not embarking on a statistical exercise. We must look at the practical implications of the proposed economies. I want to follow this line of argument because I think it will be most illuminating.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Hatton) for the information which he made available to me in his capacity as Chairman of the Manchester local education authority. I shall use some of those figures in examining the context of the proposed economies which local education authorities are now being encouraged to make by the Secretary of State. Let us look at the request by the Secretary of State that local authorities should economise by 10 per cent. on recurrent expenditure in respect of services, such as meals, maintenance and other vital areas of local education expenditure.

In Manchester this percentage economy is being requested against a background in which school heating expenditure has already been estimated to increase by 50 per cent. next year. In Manchester, 200 schools are heated by means of oil fuel. Even if they get 90 per cent. of the oil which they need to keep school heating going, the increase in price of that 90 per cent. of oil will be 50 per cent. In other words, the Secretary of State is encouraging the Manchester local education authority to economise by 10 per cent. in school heating, but how on earth is it to bring about that economy of 10 per cent. against an increase in price of 50 per cent.?

Similar arguments apply to school meals. The estimated increase in Manchester's expenditure on school meals is 42 per cent. Where is the requested economy of 10 per cent. to come from in that area, when not only Manchester but every LEA in the country has increased estimates for school meals? Is it proposed to restrict even further the number of children who will be able to afford to participate in the taking of school meals?

The position is the same with essential maintenance and repairs to school buildings. It is estimated by local authorities that generally the increase will be 15 per cent. If local authorities are invited to economise by 10 per cent. and at the same time keep their spending stable against a background of increasing estimates of 15 per cent., they will be obliged to make a reduction of 25 per cent.

These are the real practical difficulties, and they underline the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook when he asked what these figures meant and said that we had to look behind the statistics and the gross figures on education presented to the nation by the Secretary of State. The position is even more startling when one considers the proposed economy of £157 million on capital expenditure. This represents a cut of 20 per cent. on school building. Let me give one illustration from my constituency. As a result of this proposal to cut capital expenditure by 20 per cent. the Manchester LEA proposes to defer seven schools, involving an expenditure of £1 million. One of them is the Ravensbury Street Infants School in the Clayton area of Manchester. It was built at the turn of the century. At present there are about 160 children on the roll. It is in need of replacement because it suffers from raining-in. Not only does it affect the fabric and structure; on two occasions ceilings have fallen in two classrooms. The situation has been highlighted in Press reports in the Manchester newspapers. It has caused concern and anguish among parents of the children attending the school and the concern of a dedicated headmistress and staff.

When the Manchester LEA put forward the replacement of the school as a special case to the Department of Education and Science in London, everyone was delighted, and it was included in the replacement programme for 1973–74. We were looking forward to the start of the rebuilding of the school in March 1974. However, the economies which the right hon. Lady has called for mean that the rebuilding of the school is now deferred.

I was talking to the headmistress only this morning. I asked her what would be the effect of this economy and the deferring of the rebuilding of the replacement school for Ravensbury Street. I wanted to know what would be the effect of the deferment. She told me, "The reality is this. We have had ceilings repaired when they have fallen in, and we have had the roof repaired. But already new dampness is manifesting itself on ceilings in other classrooms. Who knows what will happen now that the new school is deferred yet again?"

It is not only a problem for that school, because one of the facets of reorganisation in Manchester is that the St. Cross's Church of England Infants School is to be closed down. The infants from that school are to be transferred to the Ravensbury Street school, which has already suffered the collapse of two ceilings because of raining-in.

This is typical of the problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook referred. It is fair to say that youngsters in my constituency in the north-east of Manchester have already sufficient problems with which to live. They have environmental problems. The school which I have sought to highlight stands alongside a chemical works, an electricity power station and a railway. It is not the ideal environment for a school. The schools in the locality also suffer from a recurring problem of teacher staffing. Not many teachers choose to live in Clayton, in Openshaw, and generally in the north-east of Manchester. Therefore, schools in the area have an almost constant problem in attracting adequate teaching staff.

I appeal to the Secretary of State to have regard to these problems and situations when she approaches any consideration of capital expenditure on school buildings. I am mindful of the battles over the Education Estimates that she has fought with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and her Cabinet colleagues. But there is a human problem which affects children who are entitled to better than they have had so far in providing for their education needs.

6.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flintshire East

I am glad to be called immediately after my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) not only because he is an effective advocate but because my previous employment persuades me that the situation which he describes in Manchester is the correct one.

I have found this a depressing debate, not because we all know the serious consequences and implications of the cuts but because everyone in education feels demoralised. My own union—the National Union of Teachers—regards the effects of these cuts as savage, and a disaster for the education service. In effect, from the Government we have had pinpricks at the property speculators and developers and swingeing blows at our schools. As one prominent educationist said, These cuts make Florence Horsbrugh's axe look like a nail file. We are debating some of the most injurious cuts in education expenditure for many decades, and there is no ordinary household in Britain which can escape them. The cuts are a defeat for the country as well as for the education service, and the biggest defeat is the loss of the pre-1903 school rebuilding programme. Working class constituencies and their teachers are doomed to more years of schooling in unsuitable and antiquated schools. It is the same deprivation whether in decaying city centres or remote rural areas. In this instance the Government should reconsider what they are doing in this sphere. This programme should not be abandoned. The Government should think again, if only because, as they should realise, a child is young only once. Many communities in Britain, and certainly in Wales, have waited too long for these ancient schools to be replaced. The collapse of the Government's intent on this issue is, to put it mildly, deeply disappointing.

We all know that our constituencies will be hit hard by the cuts. I shall instance only one example from my constituency. The village of Bangor-on-Dee, near Wrexham, has been transformed by the erection of 200 new houses. The pressure on the pre-1903 village school and its staff is now enormous. The school is already suffering from overcrowding and is using a temporary classroom. We had hoped to start to replace the school in 1975–76. I should like to know whether the Government are able to give any assurances on this project.

I conclude by referring to a letter that I have received from the Flint County Council's director of education regarding the Bangor-on-Dee school. He says: The position at Bangor-on-Dee is that the present V.P. school is scheduled for replacement under the pre-1903 programme during 1975–76 starts year. This would appear to be the subject of review following the latest Government announcement for all pre-1903 schools to be suspended. Until the Authority receive clarification on this matter it is difficult for me to confirm whether or not this school will still be programmed. I suppose that this, in essence, is the problem we are to face now. I hope that in this instance the Government will give some indication of what might happen.

Photo of Mr David Gibson-Watt Mr David Gibson-Watt , Hereford

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by saying that rather than intervene in the debate and give him the figures I should be happy to write to him about this school.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flintshire East

I am pleased to have that helpful intervention. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to the dilemma facing the community of Bangor-on-Dee. I suggest that on the pre-1930 programme the Government should think again.

6.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

Most hon. Members who have spoken in the debate are concerned about education and must therefore regret tremendously the cuts that are being made. Our argument is not that the priorities for cuts within education are a problem but that education and the social services are suffering heavily at a time when there could have been cuts in private sector expenditure.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about regret, does he find it remarkable that there are so few backbenchers on the Government side in this important debate? In fact, I do not see one.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

It is regrettable that the House is not full.

Sir William Alexander has referred to these cuts as far and away the worst in his professional lifetime, which must have included the period of the Labour Government and of the non-Cabinet member of the Conservative Government, Florence Horsbrugh.

Village schools have been mentioned. I should tell hon. Members on the Government side, if they were here, that the reason why village schools have declined so much is that the people who have gone to live in villages are not, strictly speaking, part of those villages. They are, in the main, well off and they send their children not to the village schools but to Sunningdale and other private schools.

I support the Secretary of State on one matter, which apparently her own side does not—namely, maintaining the raising of the school leaving age. I regret that any economy is used as a basis for attacking that policy. The problem where it exists among difficult children applies not only to the fifth forms of secondary schools but throughout. It is a social problem which should be tackled.

From the facts that we are given it is extremely difficult to discover exactly what is happening about the building cuts in this year, next year and the year after. The cuts apply over three years' building programmes—1973–74, 1974–75 and 1975–76. I suspect that the cuts will be considerably more than 20 per cent.

On 16th January the Under-Secretary of State said: Thus, despite the pressing need for economy, the Government have preserved a building programme for each sector of the education service. Out of programmes for the remainder of 1973–74 and for 1974–75 totalling some £570 million well over £300 million has been preserved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16 January, 1974; Vol. 867, c. 608.] That is not a 20 per cent. cut; it is more like an 85 per cent. cut. It is a difficult matter, and there may be an explanation.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

Before the right hon. Lady intervenes, I suggest that it would help if she would tell us what the programme was last year, is this year and will be next year and the year after.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science

I agree that this is an extremely difficult matter. The figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman are in starts terms—the costs of projects that have been deferred. The expenditure cuts are in actual expenditure terms during the year.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. I shall examine that reply later.

Local authorities will have great difficulty in making a 10 per cent. overall cut in current items with the advice that they have been getting from the Government. The £48 million saving is to be made in libraries, museums and galleries. That is difficult to maintain. They may not buy anything this year. On the whole, it is difficult to make a cut there.

The areas of expenditure that the Government have in mind are in repairs and maintenance of buildings and grounds. Many local authorities, especially in city areas, will find that extremely difficult. Schools which were to be demolished this year and next year because new schools were to be built in their places will have to continue in being for another two, three or possibly four years. It will be impossible for the authorities concerned to cut their expenditure in that direction.

The Department of Energy has stated that schools are exempted from all heating and lighting restrictions and that heat and light should be maintained in them, yet we are asked to make heating and lighting economies in those schools. The efficient authorities which have always tried to do that will suffer most.

Another area of saving on cuts concerned books and equipment.

The Under-Secretary, in his speech on 16th January, in effect, looked both ways and said, "You should cut books, equipment, and so on, but I hope you will not." The area is so narrow that, like Sir William Alexander, I believe that the cuts here will be not 10 per cent., but 20 per cent. or 30 per cent.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

My hon. Friend is clearly putting questions that will not be answered. He will be aware that there is in existence a sub-committee of the Public Expenditure Committee that can demand answers in great depth from the Minister. Does he agree that that sub-committee should have as its first priority the hauling before it of the Secretary of State to demand the answers that neither he nor anyone else will get in this debate? Does he further agree that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office ought also to be hauled before that subcommittee, so that we can have the matter fully exposed to the public?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

I agree that a Select Committee can demand papers and interrogate the Minister, as we did when we had a Select Committee on Education and Science. We interrogated the Secretary of State and gave him a rough time. But the Conservative Government abolished that Select Committee as soon as they came into power.

The Government's amendment ends with the words to reduce during 1974–75 the demands on resources for the education programme, whilst substantially preserving the Government's essential educational priorities". What are those priorities? The direct grant schools issue has been raised and the Under-Secretary of State replied to me in an intervention but did not give any reasons for the Government's proposals on this issue. If the cuts are to take place, all schools should bear some portion. It would be reasonable for the recurrent and building expenditure on direct grant schools to be cut to the same extent as that on other schools. That would not make a substantial difference to the problems of local authorities, but, in justice, it ought to be shown to be done.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Hatton Mr Frank Hatton , Manchester Exchange

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the way in which I view the national situation regarding cuts in educational expenditure. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) referred to my remarks about the situation in our city, but I wish to deal with the widespread dismay now filling town halls and county halls.

Local education authorities, which will now have to deal with problems facing them because of the cuts in expenditure, have been doing their sums with increasing apprehension in the past 12 months. Estimates which they presented to the Government on the assumption that they would require certain sums to carry out their work as education authorities were reduced by order of the Government.

There was, for instance, the £14 million cut in the rate support grant. Even then the agreed forecast of expenditure was cut by £25 million, so the total was £39 million less than local education authorities regarded as being necessary to carry out their work. In addition, there was a £10 million cut in the rate support grant sum. Assuming that about £6 million of this related to education services, there is about £45 million less than the amount that local authorities said they needed in order to carry out their work in the ensuing 12 months. Much of the expenditure has been committed. It has been not only approved by the Government but urged by them upon local authorities.

There has been debate about how much money is involved in the 20 per cent. cut in capital expenditure on the 1974–75 building programme. It has been suggested that for starts in that year a cut as high as 60 per cent. is likely. The only capital money now available is for roofs over heads. It is a tremendous disappointment to many local education authorities that at a time when improvements are vital, only roofs over heads will count.

Cost limits have been abandoned for the next six months and authorities will be submitting schemes on the basis of their tenders. We know the financial situation with building costs. I understand that the Treasury has an overall cash limit. That means that some of the roofs-over-heads schemes will not be met. Previous cost limits were scarcely enough for minimum standards.

No cuts are proposed in wages, salaries, rents or rates, so the cuts are 10 per cent. on all items. That has been estimated at more than £50 million in cuts nationally, which will amount to about 2½ per cent. of total expenditure. Miss Florence Horsbrugh asked for cuts of 5 per cent., but after local authorities did everything within their power, they achieved cuts of only 2 per cent. There-force, cuts of 2½ per cent. will be very severe.

It is expected that authorities will employ 20,000 more teachers this year in addition to replacements. But the problems of employing teachers will be difficult in the light of the cuts. What is the purpose of providing teachers if we are unable to provide the equipment they need? That is the real problem which will face local authorities in the next 12 months. We are told that there will be no cuts in ancillary helpers in schools, but rates of pay will increase and so the problem of employing the same number of ancillary helpers will be increased.

In Manchester there are nine direct grant schools, four of them non-denominational, but the cuts will be felt only in those schools for which the education committee is responsible. That is highly offensive, and I shall have great pleasure in supporting my hon. Friends in voting for the motion.

6.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

At the opening of the debate, my right hon. Friend painted the picture as a whole and explained the way in which we had responded to the serious challenge facing us. I believe that our response has been entirely correct. I quote in evidence a comment from an editorial in the Architect's Journal, dated 9th January. Part of the editorial states: the Department of Education has produced a carefully organised retrenchment programme designed to ensure that available resources are channelled to projects for those in greatest need and to a continuous flow of work for everyone concerned with the design and production of buildings. That reinforces our contention that in facing up to the challenge we have acted in a rational way. My task is to take up a series of points made by hon. Members in the debate and I hope that the House will feel that what I have to say shows that we have thought carefully about this difficult situation.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), reasonably enough, raised a number of particular points. He referred to a phrase of mine in last week's Consolidated Fund debate about scrutiny of major projects. We have to be sure that these projects meet basic needs. The suspension of the improvement programme means that the occasional blurring of need and improvement, which has been the case, has to be looked at. On the other hand—and this is in answer to a point raised in our last debate—we are considering especially carefully the difficulty of projects which embody both needs and improvements.

The hon. Gentleman raised, as did a number of other hon. Members, the subject of direct grant schools. If I recall correctly, the hon. Gentleman said that direct grant schools got more when other schools got less. I should like to make the position clear. My Department does not make capital grants to direct grant schools, but only capitation grants in respect of each pupil and an additional grant in respect of each sixth former, which have in recent years been adjusted so that they continue to represent about one third of the schools' total income. The increases in expenditure which led to increases in the grant in 1971, 1972 and 1973 were due mainly to national determined salary increases for teachers—in other words to cover staff costs which we do not want to see affected. The bulk of these increases has in fact been absorbed by increases in fees. The expenditure of each school is rigorously scrutinised by the Department, and in considering proposals for grant and fee increases the Department takes no account of any expenditure that is not strictly necessary.

The direct grant schools will be expected to make economies comparable with those now being required of the maintained schools, and the levels of grants and fees will reflect that. The economies thus effected in themselves will benefit not only parents but the local education authorities, which pay the fees of nearly 60 per cent. of pupils, and the Department, which bears the cost of fee remissions to parents of modest means. I hope I have made it clear that if and when the direct grant schools put in their applications for increases in the permitted levels of fees, we shall apply to them the standards that we apply to schools in the maintained sector.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

That does not begin to make it clear. Will the hon. Gentleman answer a much more simple question than the brief he has just read? Our last education debate concerned the Government's decision to increase the capitation grant to direct grant schools. When the cuts were announced on 17th December, the direct grant schools said that they felt that they would escape and would go on with their increased fees. How does the hon. Gentleman justify that?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

We do not propose to tell the direct grant schools that their fees are now to be reduced. I have made it clear that if and when they submit further applications we shall apply to them the yardsticks that we apply to maintained schools.

The hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) mentioned Honeywell Road School. I have had inquiries made, but it is a complicated matter and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I undertake to write further to him rather than reply to him now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and a number of other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), mentioned expenditure on school books. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook claimed that I had given a muddling or misleading answer in our last debate. In fact, what I said was perfectly clear and I can do no more than repeat it.

I have made it clear that books are included in the £480 million worth of procurement expenditure on which the 10 per cent. cuts are calculated, but within their rate support grants local education authorities are able to make a choice of how they spend their money. I simply reiterate my hope that local education authorities will do all they can not to cut back on this form of spending. Again, I do not dispute that they have a difficult job, but under our system they have a considerable measure of discretion, and I feel that I am right in asking them to treat books as generously as they possibly can.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), who, I believe, is the spokesman on education for the Liberal Party, made one or two comments to which I find it a little hard to respond, because they did not seem to be altogether clear. He said that apparently no extra building was going on, but that is not the case.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

Mr. Freud indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I apologise if I have misquoted the hon. Gentleman, but that was certainly what I understood him to say. As my right hon. Friend has made clear, there will still be a substantial building programme—for needs, for special schools and for nursery schools.

The hon. Gentleman also made the assertion, which I have heard elsewhere, that fewer young people were going to universities because of the level of student grants. As the House knows, this matter is under consideration at the moment, but I would simply say that if the hon. Gentleman has evidence that this is so, we should be interested in seeing it. I myself have seen no form of evidence to back that assertion. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) for stressing that in the world of teaching there are many people, including members of the National Union of Teachers—his own union—who have shown clear approval of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and her actions and who have also shown a rather more mature appreciation of the present energy situation as it affects education than have some Opposition Members. Of course it is a fact that the radical alteration in the energy situation in the course of the past few months is bound to have a considerable effect on public expenditure. It is also entirely reasonable, in our view, that we should lay the emphasis in our response on the particular forms of education expenditure that impose a burden on our energy resources. This is a fundamental point and I am glad that my hon. Friend was able to make it.

My hon. Friend also mentioned, as did a number of other hon. Members, the subject of the pre-1903 primary schools. It must be obvious to anybody that my right hon. Friend, who has implemented one of the most important developments in education that we have seen in postwar years, cannot be happy that for the time being we have to forgo the primary school improvement programme. The programme was necessary; it had been delayed for too long; it was a problem that the Labour Government never faced. I remind the House that, although we have to curtail or postpone it, we have already achieved a great deal with it, and that is something of which we can be proud.

I must point out that this is in the realm of deferment, and to suggest that this programme has been killed for all time is misleading. We have had to defer it, we cannot say for how long, and we regret the fact, but I have no doubt that it will come again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North said specifically that we should look at this problem as it affected the rural areas, where, he argued—and this may be contentious—the schools are rather more tumbledown that they are elsewhere. One may find tumbledown schools in any part of the country. However, his essential argument was that the programme should be put ahead of nursery projects, or that there should exist that possibility, so that the allocations made to authorities for the expansion of nursery education, in rural areas at least, might instead be used for the replacement of some old primary schools.

I must make it clear that the Government deliberately decided that the December reductions in expenditure should not affect the nursery programme. This decision reflected our view that, desirable as it is to replace the oldest primary schools as soon as we can, the expansion of nursery education has a higher priority. I can therefore do no more than note my hon. Friend's views.

My hon. Friend also asked about the raising of the school leaving age and the possibility that we might have a further look at the present situation. He put the view, as have others, that it might be possible to devise some way in which children would be allowed to leave school earlier, in other words, before they reached 16, if it became apparent to their teachers and parents that they were not benefiting from their schooling. I am aware that this argument has been made on many sides, but I must frankly say—and here I hope that I shall have the support of the hon. Member for Gorton—that we have no plans at present to change the law.

What we are doing, and I hope that the House will consider this to be reasonable, is, in response to the request of the teaching profession, to consider the possibility of plumping for a fixed date in the summer term—it would follow shortly after the conclusion of examinations—which might help to meet part of the problem. However, I repeat that we believe that it was right to raise the school leaving age and we stand by that decision.

The hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor)—I apologise for a slip of the tongue, in calling her the hon. Gentleman, for no one can be more feminine than she is—referred to a report that appeared in The Guardian and possibly other newspapers—I am not sure—about what was said to have been happening in Berkshire, particularly the saving of £15,000 on nursery schools. As I read the report, it is a reference to current expenditure rather than capital expenditure. All the other items listed in the paragraph are recurrent expenditure and so it seems clear that that item was, too. However, if the hon. Lady writes to me and proves me wrong, I shall acknowledge that. This report was not about nursery classes, or the building of such schools, but about the local authority's overall provision.

The hon. Lady also referred again to the question of the direct grant schools. If I understood her correctly, she said that the local authority was intending to increase grants to independent and direct grant schools. Again, local authorities pay in full the fees for places which they take up in direct grant schools. Therefore, I do not see how there can be a case of increasing the grant or the fees, as they pay the full fee already on the places that they have. I am not clear about the point which the hon. Lady was making. It seems that the only possibility here is that the option which local authorities had could have been not to take up further places in direct grant schools. But that was not what was implied in the quotation.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

The hon. Gentleman said that he was confused by a Press report. I did not refer to a Press report because I do not always accept what Press reports say. Did the hon. Gentleman check any of that report with the Berkshire authority?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

No, I have not had the time. But if the hon. Lady wants to take up the specific question relating to the county to which she is, happily or unhappily, about to be removed under local government reorganisation, I undertake to look into the points raised.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Yes, but a little reluctantly.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

How does the hon. Gentleman manage to read the Architects Journal so carefully but misconstrue so much that has been said on the Opposition side of the House?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

It is the lot of gentlemen occupying my position to have to read all sorts of things. In doing so I am aided by the very helpful advisers with whom I am provided.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough raised another important point about the youth service. It is for local education authorities to decide whether their work in the youth field will have to be restricted as the result of the cuts in recurrent expenditure. I am sure that they will do their best to see that it suffers as little as possible. The reduction in the resources available to the Department for capital grant to voluntary youth service projects will, however, result in reduced allocations to local education authorities in 1974–75, but we snail try to ensure that the amount that we have available for allocation is distributed as fairly and as equitably as possible. The proposals made by authorities before the cuts were announced considerably exceeded what we shall be able to allocate. Notwithstanding the effect of the cuts on the locally determined sector, I hope that the authorities' contributions to these projects will be sufficient for the allocations to be fully used.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), like other hon. Members, referred to the raising of the school leaving age. I hope that I have answered him on that point—though possibly not to his entire satisfaction. He also asked for linked courses with colleges of further education. When looking at the way in which secondary organisation takes place in any area, it is absolutely right to bear in mind the links between the secondary organisation and colleges of further education. On my hon. Friend's further point that he hoped that we would shelve haphazard schemes of secondary reorganisation, regardless of expenditure cuts or anything else, I can tell him that my right hon. Friend keeps a very beady eye on any scheme of this sort which may be termed "haphazard". I can also bring a little gladness to my hon. Friend's heart on the question of rural primary schools. I have today written to him to inform him that my right hon. Friend has rejected a proposal to merge the Kettleshume School in which he has shown much interest.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) raised a number of points, and then considerately said that he hoped that they would be answered in correspondence rather than off the cuff. That we shall do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) is, perhaps, the Nestor of our education debates and brings a great deal of wisdom to them. We have to a great extent "been here before" in many of the problems that we are facing. The hon. Member asked us to try to mitigate the effect of the cuts on primary schools. Nothing would please us more than to be able to find ways of doing so. We shall still be building primary schools. My hon. Friend also asked us to save money on expensive reorganisation schemes. Again, we shall take his comments to heart.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) mentioned the effect of increased oil prices on school heating. It is important to make clear that this point will fall to be considered under the normal rate support grant provision for taking into account increases in costs and prices. I should like to add something about which the hon. Member was not quite sure—that school meals, staff and food costs are not part of procurement expenditure, on which the 10 per cent. cut is falling.

The hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) made an eloquent plea regarding the pre-1903 schools. As I have already said, I sympathise with that point. We shall look at the hon. Gentleman's specific difficulties. But I remind him that what we are talking about is deferment rather than abandonment.

I would not expect to be able to satisfy the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)—goodness knows who could do that—but I hope that the House will recognise that I have tried to deal with the many important points that have been raised.

I do not believe that the Opposition come out of the debate with very much credit. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), according to last Saturday's edition of The Times, said that the motto for an incoming Labour Government would be austerity and that

"many of our expectations will be rudely disappointed".

But what is the Opposition's contribution to this debate on educational expenditure? What serious contribution have they made? They have recently come up with a party policy which is devoted to a number of forms of expansion—extending nursery provision, improving secondary schools, imposing universal comprehensives, and so on. These are all very expensive proposals, leaving entirely on one side the famous proposal of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook of the abolition of the independent sector.

The Opposition know perfectly well that if by any appalling mischance they found themselves again in the seat of Government, they would have to face up to a very difficult economic situation, produced by an energy crisis in which the oil and coal situations played a dominating part. Therefore, the response of the Opposition has been fundamentally of a frivolous nature. I do not mean that Labour Members do not in many cases care desperately about the education service in their areas, just as my hon. Friends care about it, but unless Labour Members are capable of approaching this situation in a serious way rather than simply condemning every attempt to look again at the situation they will be completely incapable of commanding the credibility and respect of this country.

I say once more that there is no question at all but that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has applied to what we all admit is a difficult situation a rational set of proposals which have the fundamental, essential and desirable characteristic that whatever incidentals we have to cut back we preserve the fundamentals of our education service. It is for that reason that I have every confidence in asking the House to support the Government's amendment and reject the Opposition's motion.

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 299, Noes 269.

Division No. 39.]AYES[7.0 p.m.
Adley, RobertBaker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Benyon, W.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Berry, Hn. Anthony
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Balniel, Rt. Hn. LordBiffen, John
Amery, Rt. Hn. JulianBarber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyBiggs-Davison, John
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)Batsford, BrianBlaker, Peter
Astor, JohnBeamish, Col. Sir TuftonBoardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)
Atkins, HumphreyBell, RonaldBody, Richard
Awdry, DanielBennett. Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Boscawen, Hn. Robert
Bossom, Sir CliveHall-Davis, A. G. F.More, Jasper
Bowden, AndrewHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Bray, RonaldHannam, John (Exeter)Morrison, Charles
Brewis, JohnHarrison, Brian (Maldon)Mudd, David
Brinton, Sir TattonHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Neave, Airey
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Harvie Anderson, MissNicholls, Sir Harmar
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Haselhurst, AlanNoble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Bryan, Sir PaulHastings, StephenNott, John
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Havers, Sir MichaelOnslow, Cranley
Buck, AntonyHay, JohnOppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Bullus, Sir EricHayhoe, BarneyOrr, Capt. L. P. S.
Burden, F. A.Heath, Rt. Hn. EdwardOsborn, John
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Hicks, RobertOwen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Naire)Higgins, Terence L.Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Carlisle, MarkHiley, JosephPage, John (Harrow, W.)
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertHill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)Parkinson, Cecil
Carr. Sir RobertHill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test)Peel, Sir John
Channon, PaulHolland, PhilipPercival, Ian
Chapman, SydneyHolt, Miss MaryPeyton, Rt. Hn. John
Chataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherHordern, PeterPike, Miss Mervyn
Chichester-Clark, R.Hornby, RichardPink, R. Bonner
Churchill, W. S.Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame PatriciaPounder, Rafton
Clark, William (Surrey, E.)Howell, David (Guildford)Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cockeram, EricHunt, JohnPrior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Coombs, DerekHutchison, Michael ClarkProudfoot, Wilfred
Cooper, A. E.Iremonger, T. L.Quennell, Miss J. M.
Cordle, JohnIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Raison, Timothy
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir FrederickJames, DavidRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Cormack, PatrickJenkln, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford)Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Costain, A. P.Jennings, J. C. (Burton)Redmond, Robert
Critchley, JulianJessel, TobyReed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Crouch, DavidJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Rees, Peter (Dover)
Crowder, F. P.Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)Jopling, MichaelRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. JackKaberry, Sir DonaldRidley, Hn. Nicholas
Dean, PaulKellett-Bowman, Mrs. ElaineRidsdale, Julian
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Kershaw, AnthonyRippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Digby, Simon WingfieldKimball, MarcusRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Dixon, PiersKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Drayson, G. B.Kinsey, J. R.Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardKirk, PeterRost, Peter
Dykes, HughKitson, TimothyRoyle, Anthony
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnKnight, Mrs. JillRussell, Sir Ronald
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Knox, DavidSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Lamont, NormanSainsbury, Timothy
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne. N.)Lane, DavidSandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Emery, PeterLangford-Holt, Sir JohnScott, Nicholas
Eyre, ReginaldLe Marchant, SpencerScott-Hopkins, James
Farr, JohnLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fell, AnthonyLloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field)Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fenner, Mrs. PeggyLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Shersby, Michael
Fidler, MichaelLongden, sir GilbertSimeons, charles
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Loveridge, JohnSinclair, Sir George
Fisher, Sir Nigel (Surbiton)Skeet, T. H. H.
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh, N.)Luce, R. N.Smith, Dudley (W' wick & L'mington)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcAdden, Sir StephenSoref, Harold
Fookes, Miss JanetMacArthur, IanSpeed, Keith
Fortescue, TimMcCrindle, R. A.Spence John
Foster, Sir JohnMcLaren, MartinSporat, lain
Fowler, NormanMaclean, Sir FitzroyStainton, Keith
Fox, MarcusMacmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)Stanbrook, Ivor
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)McNair-Wilson, MichaelStewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Fry, PeterMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Stokes, John
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.Madel, DavidStuttaford, Dr. Tom
Gardner, EdwardMaginnis, John E.Sutcliffe, John
Gibson-Watt, DavidMarples, Rt. Hn. ErnestTapsell Peter
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Marten, NeilTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Mather, CarolTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Glyn, Dr. AlanMaude, AngusTebbit, Norman
Goodhart, PhilipMaudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldTemple, John M.
Goodhew, VictorMawby, RayThatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Gorst, JohnMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Gower, Sir RaymondMeyer, Sir AnthonyThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)Mills, Peter (Torrington)Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Gray, HamishMiscampbell, NormanTrew Peter
Green, AlanMichell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)Tugendhat, Christopher
Grieve, PercyMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Moate, Rogervan Straubenzee, W. R.
Grylls, MichaelMolyneaux, JamesVaughan, Dr. Gerard
Gummer, J. SelwynMoney, ErnleVickers, Dame Joan
Gurden, HaroldMonks, Mrs. ConnieWaddington, David
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)Monro, HectorWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Hall, Sir John (Wycombe)Montgomery, FergusWalker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir DerekWiggin, JerryWorsley, Sir Marcus
Walters, DennisWilkinson, JohnWylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Ward, Dame IreneWinterton, NicholasYounger, Hn. George
Warren, KennethWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Weatherill. BernardWood, Rt. Hn. RichardTELLERS FOR THE AYES
Wells, John (Maidstone)Woodhouse, Hn. ChristopherMr. Walter Clegg and
White, Roger (Gravesend)Woodnutt, MarkMr. Paul Hawkins.
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
NOES
Abse, LeoEllis, TomLipton, Marcus
Albu, AustenEnglish, MichaelLoughlin, Charles
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Evans, FredLyon, Alexander W. (York)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)Faulds, AndrewLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Armstrong, ErnestFernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.McBride, Neil
Ashley, JackFisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)McCartney, Hugh
Ashton, JoeFitch, Alan (Wigan)McElhone, Frank
Atkinson, NormanFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)McGuire, Michael
Bagier, Gordon, A. T.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Machin, George
Barnes, MichaelFoot, MichaelMackenzie, Gregor
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Ford, BenMackie, John
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)Forrester, JohnMaclennan, Robert
Baxter, WilliamFraser, John (Norwood)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Beaney, AlanFreeson, ReginaldMcNamara, J, Kevin
Beith, A. J.Freud, ClementMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodGalpern, Sir MyerMarks, Kenneth
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Garrett, W. E.Marquand, David
Bidwell, SydneyGilbert, Dr. JohnMarsden, F.
Bishop, E. S.Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Blenkinsop, ArthurGolding, JohnMason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.Mayhew, Christopher
Booth, AlbertGourlay, HarryMeacher, Michael
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGrant, George (Morpeth)Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurGrant John D. (Islington, E.)Mendelson, John
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Mikardo, Ian
Bradley, TomHamilton, James (Brightside)Millan, Bruce
Broughton, Sir AlfredHamilton, William (Fife, W.)Miller, Dr. M. S.
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)Hamling, WilliamMilne, Edward
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)Molloy, William
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)Hardy PeterMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Buchan, NormanHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithMorris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesHattersley, RoyMulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Campbell. I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)Hatton, F.Murray Ronald King
Cant, R. B.Healey, Rt. Hn. DenisOakes, Gordon
Carmichael, NeilHeffer, Eric S.O'Halloran Michael
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)Hooson, EmlynO' Halloran, Michael
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)Horam, JohnO' Malley, Brian
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraHoughton, Rt. Hn. DouglasOram, Bert
Clark, David (Colne Valley)Huckfield, LeslieOrbach, Maurice
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Orme, Stanley
Cohen, StanleyHughes, Mark (Durham)Oswald, Thomas
Coleman, DonaldHughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth Sutton)
Concannon, J. D.Hughes, Roy (Newport)Padley, Walter
Conlan, BernardHunter, AdamPalmer, Arthur
Corbet, Mrs. FredaIrvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)Janner, GrevillePardoe John
Cronin, JohnJeger, Mrs. LenaParker, John (Dagenham)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Pavitt, Laurie
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardJenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)John, BrynmorPendry, Tom
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Perry, Ernest G.
Dalyell, TamJohnson, Walter (Derby, S.)Prescott, John
Darling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeJones, Barry (Flint, E.)Price William (Rugby)
Davidson, ArthurJones, Dan (Burnley)Price, william (Rugby)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)Jones. Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Probert Arthur
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Radice Giles
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)Kaufman, GeraldRees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Deakins, EricKelley, RichardRhodes, Geoffrey
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyKerr, RussellRichard, Ivor
Delargy, HughKinnock, NeilRobert, Albert (Normanton)
Dell, Rt. Hn. EdmundLambie, DavidRoberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dempsey, JamesLamborn, HarryRobertson, John (Paisley)
Doig, PeterLamond, JamesRoderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc n&R dnor)
Rodgers, William E. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Dormand, J. D.Latham, ArthurRoper, John
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)Lawson, GeorgeRoss Rt. Hn. William (Kifmarnock)
Douglas-Mann, BruceLeadbitter, TedRowlands, Ted
Driberg, TomLee, Rt. Hn. FrederickSandelson, Neville
Duffy, A. E. P.Leonard, DickSheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Dunnett, JackLestor, Miss JoanShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Eadie, AlexLever, Rt. Hn. HaroldShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)
Edelman, MauriceLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Edwards, William (Merioneth)Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Sillars, JamesThorpe, Rt. Hn. JeremyWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Silverman, JuliusTinn, JamesWhitehead, Phillip
Skinner, DennisTomney, FrankWhitlock, William
Small, WilliamTope, GrahamWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)Torney, TomWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Spriggs, LeslieTuck, RaphaelWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Stallard, A. W.Urwin, T. W.Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)Varley, Eric G.Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Stoddart, David (Swindon)Wainwright, EdwinWilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. JohnWalden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Stott, RogerWalker, Harold (Doncaster)Woof, Robert
Strang, GavinWallace, George
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.Watkins, DavidTELLERS FOR THE NOES
Summerskill, Hn. Dr. ShirleyWeitzman, DavidMr. James A. Dunn and
Swain, ThomasWellbeloved, JamesMr. Joseph Harper.
Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being after Seven o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, ursuant to the Order this day, to put the Question necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the Motion.

Main Question, as amended, put:

The House divided: Ayes 299, Noes 270

Division No. 40.]AYES[7.13 p.m.
Adley, RobertCostain, A. P.Gurden, Harold
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Critchley, JulianHall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Crouch, DavidHall, Sir John (Wycombe)
Amery, Rt. Hn. JulianCrowder, F. P.Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Astor, Johnd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHannam, John (Exeter)
Atkins, Humphreyd Avigdor-Goldsmid. Maj.-Gen. JackHarrison, Brian (Maldon)
Awdry, DanielDean, PaulHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Harvie Anderson, Miss
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Digby, Simon WingfieldHaselhurst, Alan
Balniel, Rt. Hn. LordDixon, PiersHastings, Stephen
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecHavers, Sir Michael
Batsford, BrianDrayson, G. B.Hay, John
Beamish, Col. Sir Tuftondu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHayhoe, Barney
Bell, RonaldDykes, HughHeath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnHicks, Robert
Benyon, W.Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Higglns, Terence L.
Berry, Hn. AnthonyElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hiley, Joseph
Biffen, JohnElliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Biggs-Davison, JohnEmery, PeterHill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test)
Blaker, PeterEyre, ReginaldHolland, Philip
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Farr, JohnHolt, Miss Mary
Body, RichardFell, AnthonyHordern, Peter
Boscawen, Hn. RobertFenner, Mrs. PeggyHornby, Richard
Bossom, Sir CliveFidler, MichaelHornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia
Bowden, AndrewFinsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Howell, David (Guildford)
Bray, RonaldFisher, Nigel (Surbiton)Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Brewis, JohnFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh, N.)Hunt, John
Brinton, Sir TattonFletcher-Cooke, CharlesHutchison, Michael Clark
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Fookes, Miss JanetIremonger, T. L.
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Fortescue, TimIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bryan, Sir PaulFoster, Sir JohnJames, David
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Fowler, NormanJenkin, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford)
Buck, AntonyFox, MarcusJennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bullus, Sir EricFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford&Stone)Jessel, Toby
Burden, F. A.Fry, PeterJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Galbraith, Hn. T. G. DJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)Jopling, Michael
Carlisle, MarkGardner, EdwardJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGibson-Watt, DavidKaberry, Sir Donald
Cary, Sir RobertGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Channon, PaulGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Kershaw, Anthony
Chapman, SydneyGlyn, Dr. AlanKimball, Marcus
Chataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherGoodhart, PhilipKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Chichester-Clark, R.Goodhew, VictorKing, Tom (Bridgwater)
Churchill, W. S.Gorst, JohnKinsey, J. R,
Clark, William (Surrey, E.)Gower, RaymondKirk, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Grant, Anthony (Harrow. C.)Kitson, Timothy
Cockeram, EricGray, HamishKnight, Mrs. Jill
Coombs, DerekGreen, AlanKnox, David
Cooper, A. E.Grieve, PercyLamont, Norman
Cordle, JohnGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Lane, David
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir FrederickGrylls, MichaelLangford-Holt, Sir John
Cormack, PatrickGummer, J. SelwynLe Marchant, Spencer
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)Sproat, lain
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'fleld)Page, John (Harrow, W.)Stainton, Keith
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Parkinson, CecilStanbrook, Ivor
Longden, Sir GilbertPeel, Sir JohnStewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Loveridge, JohnPercival, IanStokes, John
Luce, R. N.Peyton, Rt. Hn. JohnStuttaford, Dr. Tom
McAdden, Sir StephenPike, Miss MervynSutcliffe, John
MacArthur, IanPink, R. BonnerTapsell, Peter
McCrindle, R. A.Pounder, RaftonTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
McLaren, MartinPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPrice, David (Eastleigh)Tebbit, Norman
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurlce (Farnham)Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.Temple, John M.
McNair-Wilson, MichaelProudfoot, WilfredThatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Quennell. Miss J. M.Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Madel, DavidRaison, TimothyThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Maginnis, John E.Ramsden, Rt. Hn. JamesTrafford, Dr. Anthony
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterTrew, Peter
Marten, NeilRedmond, RobertTugendhat, Christopher
Mather, CarolReed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Maude, AngusRees, Peter (Dover)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldRees-Davies, W. R.Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Mawby, RayRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidVickers, Dame Joan
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWaddington, David
Ridley, Hn. NicholasWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRidsdale, JulianWalker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Rippon, Rt. Hn. GeoffreyWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Miscampbell, NormanRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)Walters, Dennis
Michell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Ward, Dame Irene
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Warren, Kenneth
Moate, RogerRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Weatherill, Bernard
Molyneaux, JamesRost, PeterWells, John (Maidstone)
Money, ErnleRoyle, AnthonyWhite, Roger (Gravesend)
Monks, Mrs. ConnieRussell, Sir RonaldWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Monro, HectorSt. John-Stevas, NormanWiggin, Jerry
Montgomery, FergusSainsbury, TimothyWilkinson, John
More, JasperSandys, Rt. Hn. D.Winterton, Nicholas
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.Scott, NicholasWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Morrison, CharlesScott-Hopkins, JamesWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Mudd, DavidShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)Woodhouse. Hn. Christopher
Neave, AireyShelton, William (Clapham)Woodnutt, Mark
Nicholls, Sir HarmarShersby, MichaelWorsley, Marcus
Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelSimeons, CharlesWylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Nott, JohnSinclair, Sir GeorgeYounger, Hn. George
Onslow, CranleySkeet, T. H. H.
Oppenheim, Mrs. SallySmith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Soref, HaroldMr. Walter Clegg and
Osborn, JohnSpeed, KeithMr. Paul Hawkins
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)Spence, John
NOES
Abse LeoCant, R. B.Dunnett, Jack
Albu, AustenCarmichael, NeilEadie, Alex
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Carter, Ray (Birmingh'n, Northfield)Edelman, Maurice
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Armstrong, ErnestCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraEllis, Tom
Ashley, JackClark, David (Colne Valley)English, Michael
Ashton, JoeCocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Evans, Fred
Atkinson, NormanCohen, StanleyFaulds, Andrew
Bagier, Gordon, A. T.Coleman, DonaldFernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.
Barnes, MichaelConcannon, J. D.Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Conlan, BernardFilch, Alan (Wigan)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)Corbet, Mrs. FredaFletcher, Raymond (likeston)
Baxter, WilliamCox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Beaney, AlanCronin, JohnFoot, Michael
Beith, A. J.Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyFord, Ben
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodCrossman, Rt. Hn. RichardForrester, John
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)Fraser, John (Norwood)
Bidwell, SydneyCunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)Freeson, Reginald
Bishop, E. S.Dalyell, TarnFreud, Clement
Blenkinsop, ArthurDarling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeGalpern, Sir Myer
Boardman. H. (Leigh)Davidson, ArthurGarrptt, W. F.
Booth, AlbertDavies, Denzil (Llanelly)Gilbert Dr. John
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDavles, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDavis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)Golding, John
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C
Bradley. TomDeakins, EricGourlay, Harry
Broughton, Sir Alfredde Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyGrant, George (Morpeth)
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne. W.)Delargy, HughGrant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Dell, Rt. Hn. EdmundGriffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Brown, Ronald (Shoredltch S F'bury)Dempsey, JamesHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Buchan, NormanDoig, PeterHamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'Surn)Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire. E.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Douglas-Mann, BruceHamling, William
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesDriberg. TomHannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire. W)Duffy, A. E. PHardy, Peter
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)McNamara, J, KevinRowlands, Ted
Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfleld, E.)Sandelson, Neville
Hattersley, RoyMarks, KennethSheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Halton, F.Marquand, DavidShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Healey, Rt. Hn. DenisMarsden, F.Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Heffer, Eric S.Marshall, Dr. EdmundShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Hooson, EmlynMason, Rt. Hn. RoySilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Horam, JohnMayhew, ChristopherSilkln, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMeacher, MichaelSillars, James
Huckfield, LeslieMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertSilverman, Julius
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Mendelson, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Mikardo, IanSmall, William
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)Millan, BruceSmith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Miller, Dr. M. S.Spriggs, Leslie
Hunter, AdamMilne, EdwardStallard, A. W.
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Molloy, WilliamStewart, Donald (Western Isies)
Janner, GrevilleMorgan, Elyslan (Cardiganshire)Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Jeger, Mrs. LenaMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Stott, Roger
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)Strang, Gavin
John, BrynmorMulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Murray, Ronald KingSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)Oakes, GordonSwain, Thomas
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)O'Halloran, MichaelThomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)O'Malley, BrianThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Jones. Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Oram, BertThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Orbach, MauriceTinn, James
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)Orme, StanleyTomney, Frank
Kaufman, GeraldOswald, ThomasTope, Graham
Kelley, RichardOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)Torney, Tom
Kerr, RussellPadley, WalterTuck, Raphael
Kinnock, NeilPalmer, ArthurUrwin, T. W.
Lambie, DavidPannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesVarley, Eric G.
Lamborn, HarryPardoe, JohnWainwright, Edwin
Lamond, JamesParker, John (Dagenham)Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Latham, ArthurPavitt, LaurieWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lawson, GeorgePeart, Rt. Hn. FredWallace, George
Leadbitter, TedPendry, TomWatkins, David
Lee, Rt. Hn. FrederickPerry, Ernest G.Weitzman, David
Leonard, DickPrentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.Wellbeloved, James
Lestor, Miss JoanPrescott, JohnWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lever, Rt. Hn. HaroldPrice, William (Rugby)White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Probert, ArthurWhitehead, Phillip
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Radice, GilesWhitlock, William
Lipton, MarcusReed, D. (Sedgefield)Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Loughlin, CharlesRees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Rhodes, GeoffreyWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Lyons. Edward (Bradford, E.)Richard, IvorWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
McBride, NellRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
McCartney, HughRoberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McElhone, FrankRobertson, John (Paisley)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
McGuire, MichaelRoderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)Woof, Robert
Machin, GeorgeRodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Mackenzie, GregorRoper, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES
Mackie, JohnRose, Paul B.Mr. James A. Dunn and
Maclennan, RobertRoss, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)Mr. Joseph Harper.
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House endorses the Government's decision for the reasons given in the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17th December to reduce during 1974–75 the demands on resources for the education programme, whilst substantially preserving the Government's essential educational priorities.