We have made it clear that we should like to see the level of spending per pupil on new books and equipment increase. To this end we made an extra allowance for increased expenditure on books and equipment in each of the last two rate support grant settlements. But it is for local authorities to determine how the total resources available to them should be deployed, in the light of local circumstances and other claims on them.
Does the Minister recognise that increasing numbers of pupils in schools are forced to manage without textbooks, unless their parents can afford to buy them, which puts them at a serious disadvantage, particularly when they are tackling homework? Is it not madness to accept that state of affairs while printing and publishing firms are making people redundant, who will then have to be supported at the public expense for producing nothing?
In the past two years £20 million extra has been spent on books by the Government. That is £5 per pupil— two books at £2.50 each. When I and many other hon. Members were at school, we did not have two new books per pupil per year.
Is it not significant that Conservative Members are not complaining about the lack of textbooks, because they buy them privately? Her Majesty's inspectors, in their annual report, complain bitterly about the lack of textbooks in schools, as does the Educational Publishers Association. Is it not obvious that the public education system is losing out and that education is going backwards under this wretched Government?
We all enjoy listening to the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Perhaps I am in a minority on that. However, I like and accept the tribute that the hon. Gentleman paid to the literacy of book-buying Conservatives.
Primary schools are spending 10 per cent. more in real terms on books than in 1974–75. If some local authorities continue to employ more teachers to achieve lower pupil-teacher ratios, they will not have money for other things.