City Technology Colleges

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19 July 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00, 19 July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a further statement about the financing of city technology colleges.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

Total planned expenditure on the city technology colleges programme over the years 1987–88 to 1990–91 is £90 million, which includes both capital and recurrent costs. To date more than £25 million has been pledged by sponsors towards the capital costs of establishing CTCs. That is a quite unprecedented response to an education initiative.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

If I were a Minister I would wait until I had the money in my hands—[HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Gentleman is not."] I shall be one day.

What has happened to the pledge that the right hon. Gentleman made at the Tory party conference in 1986 to set up 20 city technology colleges? Only two have been announced, mostly paid for by the taxpayer, not by business men. Why does the Secretary of State not come to the Dispatch Box and tell the truth for once? The CTCs are a fraud and a failure and owe far more to the ideology of the Conservative party than to the educational needs of our students.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Gentleman starts with the improbability of ever being a Minister and moves to the implausibility of not knowing the facts of the case. Seven CTCs have already been announced. I understand that proposals might come forward for one in Docklands. The trouble with the hon. Gentleman is that so much of his career has been dedicated to failure and decline that he cannot be associated with anything like CTCs, which will succeed and expand.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will not CTCs add greatly to the diversity of provision in our educational system? Has not such diversity of provision always been the strength of our education? Will my right hon. Friend seek to diversify provision within CTCs, and will he confirm that it is difficult to get them established in poor areas, where poor children would benefit from them, because Labour local authorities are so obstructive?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I agree with my hon. Friend. There will be a network of at least 20 CTCs—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Details of several more will be published later this year. I assure the House that they will be there. I have already said that over £25 million has been committed by private sponsors. One of the greatest problems is, as my hon. Friend said, the reluctance of Labour authorities, for political and dogmatic reasons, to provide sites.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

As the Secretary of State has now announced a £4 million increase in the amont that is to be spent, to £90 million over three years, has he no sense of shame at the scale of the taxpayer-funded bail out for his lame duck CTC policy? What moral or political principle justifies his spending more next year on a few CTCs for a few hundred children than on the introduction of a national curriculum for 7 million of our children in the state sector?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

That is an absurd statement, and the hon. Gentleman knows it. One has to add to the cost of the national curriculum not only the £65 million in the Education Reform Bill, but the ESG money of £75 million, the local training grants for teachers of £60 million or £70 million and also, on the basis that he uses, the cost of running primary and secondary schools. The trouble with the hon. Gentleman is that he is worried and scared that this will be a highly popular and successful programme.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Is this not good news, coupled with the recent news on the curriculum of the CTCs, positive compared to the continual whining and whingeing of the Opposition about these matters? We want more encouragement for CTCs, not only from the Government, but from industry, because this is an idea that all of us who believe in variety in education thoroughly support and want to see succeed.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I agree with my hon. Friend, and later today the House will be asked to approve a Lords amendment to the Education Reform Bill to extend the concept of CTCs to involve technology and the arts. That is a popular move. The Opposition do not like CTCs because they will end the monopoly of public free education, which the Labour party is pledged to support.