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Secondary Schools (Expenditure)

Volume 82: debated on Monday 8 July 1985

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in secondary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and how this compares with the figure for 1978–79, at constant prices.

At 1983–84 prices, spending per secondary school pupil in Wales was £905 in 1978–79 and £1,006 in 1983–84. That is an increase of 11 per cent.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show satisfactory improvements since 1978–79? Do the Government intend to make more resources available for Welsh language education?

The figures are satisfactory, yes, but I am never satisfied. The charge of complacency levelled against us on any issue is a parrot cry. The figures are a refutation of the parrot cry about cuts. There has been no cut. There has been an 11 per cent. increase. In reply to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I have been giving careful consideration to calls for the establishment of a Welsh language education development body. When I met a deputation of six different Welsh language groups on that issue on 25 June—

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has a genius for interruption, but makes little constructive contribution. At that meeting I made it clear that I would not hold out any false hopes, because I must consider resources for Welsh language education alongside all other competing calls, and reconcile my final decision within the overriding public expenditure constraints, which are essential if we are to maintain the economy on the right lines.

Will the hon. Gentleman give similar figures in relation to school books and school library expenditure? I do not know whether he has children attending Welsh secondary schools. We have, and we notice the dog-eared books that they are bringing home, the lack of books and the shared books. Will we return to the slate and the chalk under this Government?

Capitation and the management of their resources is entirely a matter for the local authorities and not for central Government.

Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the other changes in secondary schools in Wales since 1979, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, has been the sharp fall in the number of pupils, and that resources for pupils might be better employed were some authorities to consider school amalgamations.

Yes, of course, Mr. Speaker. I accept that local education authorities have a difficult task to perform against a background of falling rolls. I have asked them to come to see me so that we may discuss that matter constructively to see how best it can be resolved.

Does the Minister appreciate that the rosy picture that he is trying to paint is not borne out by the facts? For example, the teachers' dispute drags on, and without a contented labour force to take charge of the schools our children will be at a disadvantage. When will the Government provide the means to bring about a just settlement for the teachers?

As the House will be aware, the Government's position has been made clear all along. There is no question of more money to fund an excessive public sector wages settlement. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that responsibility for the teachers' pay negotiations does not rest with me.