In a sense, it would not matter tuppence if it were not for the fact that the guidelines are being used to penalise local authorities that have exceeded them. The guidelines are now so nonsensical that the local authorities have no faith in them at all.
The Secretary of State, who claimed that there had not been any real reduction in services in Scotland over the past few years, did not let us have any insight into the type of reductions he is asking local authorities to make in 1983–84 in accordance with the guidelines. The Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities has sensibly provided us with some of the details. I am referring again to reductions in real terms on current year's budgets. There is allowance for inflation but no allowance for anything else.
The total education budget, which is of course the biggest budget, would have to be slashed in 1983–84, by 7·7 per cent. The figure is about £98 million. That is the Secretary of State's own figure. In the case of teachers, he is asking the local authorities to reduce expenditure by £55 million. When the local authorities say that that will mean sacking 6,000 teachers, the Secretary of State gives no answer. What is more, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), who is not present, goes about proclaiming the beautiful pupil-teacher ratios in Scotland. We only have beautiful pupil-teacher ratios because the local authorities in Scotland are not mad enough to sack the 6,000 teachers who would have to be sacked if the education figure for teachers for 1983–84 was to meet the guideline. The Secretary of State is disputing that point. I shall give way to let him answer now.