Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:25 am on 19th July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett , Leeds Central 10:25 am, 19th July 1991

Conservative Members who rely on Conservative party research department briefs should look at the date on those briefs. We launched the education standards commission document in June this year. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the press cuttings, he will see what Mr. de Gruchy and Mr. McAvoy said. June 1991, rather than any earlier date, will be useful to the hon. Gentleman. The Government are undermining the consensus in our education system and therefore taking away the commitment to improve standards.

There is another key point—standards will never be improved if there is no investment in the education system. That is true of the Government's record. Parents say that too many of our children are educated in crumbling schools. The Government's inspectorate talks about a backlog of repairs costing £3 billion to £4 billion. That means that many of our children will be in schools with leaking roofs or in primary classrooms that do not have running water or the facilities that make it possible to teach aspects of the primary national curriculum.

How does one improve education standards when there is such a poor record in terms of crumbling schools? When the Conservative Government leave office in a few months time, they will be remembered as the Government of crumbling schools, because they have brought schools in many parts of the country to a low standard. This is the only Government in western Europe in the 1980s who have been prepared to cut education expenditure as a percentage of national wealth. In 1979, when Labour left office, 5·5 per cent. of the national wealth was devoted to education. Ten years later, in 1989, the figure was 4·6 per cent., which shows the decline in priority.