PFI Projects

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th March 2005.

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Photo of Ben Chapman Ben Chapman PPS (Rt Hon Richard Caborn, Minister of State), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 11:30 am, 24th March 2005

What assessment she has made of her Department's private finance initiative projects in Wirral, South.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

Whether private finance initiative deals for new schools agreed by her Department but as yet unsigned could be cancelled by an incoming Government.

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Skills and Vocational Education)

I understand that services have commenced in all seven Wirral secondary schools and that its primary school will be operational by September. Support for local authority PFI projects is provisional until the contract is signed, and an incoming Government could cancel any planned investment that had not been finally committed. However, the Government are committed to long-term investment in schools, including through PFI, as shown by the Chancellor's recent Budget statement.

Photo of Ben Chapman Ben Chapman PPS (Rt Hon Richard Caborn, Minister of State), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Is my hon. Friend aware that three schools in my constituency have recently been freed from the shambles that was Jarvis project management? Notwithstanding that shambles and the considerable hardship, delay, inconvenience, financial implications and other issues, all the schools have variously managed to increase their standards, maintain their charter mark, add another speciality to a college specialism and generally keep going through difficult times. Will my hon. Friend join me in the hope that the new arrangements through Wirral school services will mean better times ahead, and that the new contractors, having taken stock of what needs to be done, in two schools in particular, especially taking into account health and safety issues, will make due progress and make full use of the immediate school holidays and those to come to reach as satisfactory and speedy a conclusion as possible?

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Skills and Vocational Education)

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, and congratulate him and his colleague, my hon. Friend Stephen Hesford, on securing that record level of capital investment in Wirral schools. The PFI programme will bring about the replacement of two schools and the extension and refurbishment of seven schools in Wirral. I am glad that the contractual problems have been resolved, and am delighted to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the real-terms increase in per pupil funding for Wirral is £1,050, a 37 per cent. increase since 1997–98, and that the amount for capital in 2004–05 was £13.3 million, compared with £3.3 million in 1996–97. That is a very good reason for the people of Wirral to vote Labour at the next election.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

For the first time ever, Bassetlaw is top of the class for schools money, with the PFI money for new schools, the plans for 10 new children's centres and the eagerly anticipated rebuilding of many primary schools following the Budget. Can my hon. Friend foresee any circumstances in which the hopes and aspirations of my constituents, who have waited 70 years for that investment, could be dashed by the Government?

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Skills and Vocational Education)

I can foresee such circumstances: if the people of Bassetlaw and elsewhere do not vote Labour at the next general election.