To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what capital allowances were made available to Devon county council in each of the last three years for replacing old school buildings with new ones.
Devon received capital allocations of £8·434 million in 1988–89, £14·177 million in 1989–90 and an annual capital guideline of £12·984 million in 1990–91. It is up to Devon to decide how much to spend on replacing old school buildings out of all the capital resources available to it, of which the education annual capital guideline is only a part.
Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that there is little point in funding half a dozen or so new buildings a year when 536 existing schools are not properly maintained under the Government's guidelines for the community charge? Would not it be better to allow Devon the discretion to decide whether to build half a dozen new buildings or to maintain some of the 536 buildings that are deteriorating rapidly?
Devon has done relatively well, not just in the current year's allocation but in the allocation for the previous two years. The annual capital guideline for this year amounts to 45 per cent. of Devon's submitted plans, whereas the national average is only 35 per cent. It is for Devon to rank its priorities under our criteria and for my right hon. and learned Friend and me then to allocate the available sums. However, I shall reflect on my hon. Friend's point.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the large number of Victorian and other primary schools that were built in the last century in Devon? When the bids come in from Devon county council, will he bear in mind that very large number and give the bids his sympathetic consideration?
My hon. Friend puts his case well at almost exactly the right time of year.