Perhaps there is some connection there In any event, these are the sorts of speeches that the hon. Gentleman is used to making, almost in his sleep. Indeed, some of us remember finding opportunities to sleep when he was making them. Nevertheless, I have taken his remarks seriously, and I shall try to answer some of his questions.
The hon. Gentleman began by referring to the cost implications of the proposed funding agency for schools. The Government intend it to be a very lean and light-touch body, with minimal costs involved. The precise costs will depend on a number of factors—most importantly, the growth in and the number of grant-maintained schools. The body's main functions will relate to the payments of grant to those schools, and the running costs will be offset by savings in the LEAs' and the Department's administrative budgets.
In the last year for which figures are available, local education authorities' administrative costs totalled about £900 million. The costs associated with the assumption by the funding agency of planning responsibilities will be minimal, as will any start-up costs. The FAS will be, as I say, a light-touch body, not a bloated bureaucracy. It will attract people from commerce and industry, who will bring to its management financial skills that will ensure that it operates cost-effectively.
The costs incurred under clause 14 should be equally modest, if not minimal. The various statements of information required are an extension of the general requirements on LEAs to provide information to the Secretary of State under the 1944 Act. There is nothing new or dramatic about that. The costs should be more than offset by the savings resulting from the removal of surplus places, thanks, inter alia, to the provision of that information.