As the figures supplied to me by the Welsh counties show that two of the three for which I requested figures will spend less on books per primary school pupil this year than last year, and as two of the Welsh counties are at the bottom of the spending league in this respect out of all 47 non-metropolitan counties, will the Minister set a level of expenditure on books so that education standards can be guaranteed for the children of Wales in the future? Will the Minister give that undertaking today rather than the usual pat answer that it is for the local authority to decide, thus making scapegoats of the Welsh counties yet again?
The hon. Gentleman has indeed answered his own question, because, as he well knows, with his considerable experience in education, expenditure on school books is determined by the local education authorities. However, when allowance has been made for the effects of pay and price increases, the local authorities' current expenditure on education has remained at a virtually constant level for a number of years, while the number of pupils in schools has declined markedly. Those facts are not consistent with allegations of heavy cuts.
Does my hon. Friend agree that while books are an important element in the education of children, the standard and quality of teaching is even more important? In the three Glamorgan authorities, have not standards of teaching been irrepairably damaged by the notorious system of appointments and promotions in which a teacher's qualities are far less important than his relationship to the local Labour party?
I should like to reinforce the point that the number of pupils—[Interruption.] I am answering my hon. Friend's question, which relates to expenditure by LEAs, including expenditure on books. The number of pupils has dropped by nearly 12 per cent., but the number of teachers by only about 3 per cent. That being so, it is for the local education authorities to re-examine carefully their management and expenditure policies.