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Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood): It would be churlish not to welcome extra money to be spent on education, and I am pleased to welcome the Chancellor's announcement of extra spending on schools--

Mr. Blunkett: But.

Mr. Dorrell: There is indeed a but. As the Chancellor went to considerable trouble on Tuesday to obscure precisely how much extra he intended should be spent on schools, can the Secretary of State confirm that the total of new money to be spent on schools in England that he has announced today is a £90 million capital programme, to be spent on the no doubt desirable objectives--certainly, they are desirable--of ending outside lavatories, modernising heating and building extra classroomsto accommodate the expansion required by the Government's class size pledge? Can the Secretary of State confirm that, when the Chancellor announced on

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Tuesday £250 million for education, he was misleading the House and that the Secretary of State has set out this afternoon the reality--

Madam Speaker: Order. Did I hear the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) accuse another right hon. Gentleman of misleading the House? I am sure that he will apologise.

Mr. Dorrell: Inadvertently misleading the House, Madam Speaker. Has not the Secretary of State made clear this afternoon that the quantum of the Government's commitment, following the Budget, is £90 million in new money for schools? That is my first question.

Secondly, will the Secretary of State clarify exactly the status of the new deal for schools? He said in his statement that the capital plans are in addition to the £250 million from the new deal for schools allocated for 1998-99. However, the Red Book from last year's July Budget says that, in 1998-99, the new deal for schools should be £300 million. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the new deal for schools in 1998-99 is £300 million, as announced last July, or £250 million, as set out in his statement this afternoon?

Thirdly, will the Secretary of State confirm to the House that he is now acknowledging that the Government were always wrong in saying that they could meet the cost of their class size pledge from the savings arising from the abolition of the assisted places scheme? Nobody except Ministers believed that that was possible. The Secretary of State announced this afternoon that the cost of meeting the class size pledge next year will be £22 million--as the Minister for School Standards announced to the Standing Committee on the School Standards and Framework Bill earlier this year. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State confirmed that the Government now recognise that they cannot meet their class size pledge using the savings from the assisted places scheme.

Fourthly, I should like to ask the Secretary of State about education action zones. The Conservatives have, broadly speaking, welcomed those ideas as they have been discussed in Committee. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the purpose is to provide opportunities for private sector firms to offer an alternative to local education authority-managed schools? That is certainly what the Secretary of State's adviser, Professor Barber, announced to the north of England education conference earlier this year--indeed, he said that it made it possible for Procter and Gamble to run schools. Is that the Secretary of State's policy, or was it a bit of private enterprise on the part of Professor Barber? I shall be interested to hear the Secretary of State's response.

Finally, will the Secretary of State confirm that the £90 million in new money that he has set out to the House this afternoon represents roughly half a per cent. of school spending? Will he confirm that it makes no difference at all to the pressures being experienced in schools up and down the country? Reports are coming in, day by day, from Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Suffolk and many other counties about schools that are facing severe resource constraints.

Is it not the case that the Government will enter their second year in office with many schools facing cuts and many teachers worried about their jobs? Is not the substance of what the Secretary of State hails as a new

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Labour Budget that the Government's priorities are not, as the Prime Minister likes to claim, education, education, education but in fact presentation, presentation, presentation?

Mr. Blunkett: The right hon. Gentleman has confirmed more vividly than I could the importance of the extra £835 million allocation to our schools as a result of the July announcement. He confirmed how crucial it is that education in England will receive £250 million more in the coming year through the new deal and that we shall manage to provide 1,500 more teachers from this September in order to fulfil our class size pledge. Those measures are in addition to the miserable £182 million that the previous Government allocated for education in the coming year.

I shall certainly answer the right hon. Gentleman's questions. There is £250 million for education in skills, which is what I said in my statement to the House this afternoon. A proportion of that goes to England, Scotland and Wales, which answers the right hon. Gentleman's second question. Wales, Scotland and Ireland get a proportion of the £300 million for the new deal. I am making a statement, as is the usual convention in the House, about England, because that is where I have responsibility for education.

Let me spell it out. There will be £250 million for the new deal for the coming year, and an extra £250 million across the UK for education in skills in the coming year, £90 million of which I have announced today.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the class size pledge. We made it clear that the phasing out of the assisted places scheme would slow down implementation of the class size pledge. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has helpfully allocated an extra £40 million in the coming year to accelerate the implementation of the class size pledge--for preparing, planning and ensuring that the design of extra facilities, the expansion of a classroom or the alteration of a building can take place in the months ahead, so that we can do even better in 1999 than we originally envisaged.

I was not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was welcoming or criticising the measure. Is he in favour of the class size pledge or against it? Does he want smaller classes, or is he against them? Is it just sheer disappointment that has provoked him this afternoon to make what sounded like a griping, critical statement about £40 million more for schools throughout the country? If one was generous, that could be described only as extremely churlish, and the right hon. Gentleman was very churlish.

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's fourth question, schools manage schools and will continue to do so, LEAs will continue to give their support and others will give their enterprise and initiative where it is appropriate as part of a partnership. I hope that Conservatives will welcome, encourage and support the development of education action zones, which will bring new initiatives in areas that need them most.

There will not be an authority from inner London, Essex or Derbyshire, or from the south-west of England, which will not today rejoice that they will at last be able to do what they have yearned to do for years, and what parents and children have wanted, which is, after18 years of Conservative government, to eliminate the

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600 remaining outside toilets in Britain's schools, so that we can have a civilised nation in the build-up to a new century--the end of the 19th century as we move to the 21st century.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud): I roundly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. It may be too early to put out the flags for the schools with outside toilets, but if he would like to come to my constituency and cut the ribbons when they have all gone inside, I am sure that the heads will be only too delighted to welcome him.

Mr. Blunkett: I should be delighted to come to Stroud to celebrate, and even to use the new facilities; to declare new Britain, new loos.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): We are disappointed that the Secretary of State's statement was widely leaked to the media well before we heard it today. After the debacle of the Secretary of State for Health yesterday, we were assured that that would never occur again. Yet when we did the media rounds at lunchtime today, every media outlet had the full statement.

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East): Flush out the leakers.

Mr. Willis: We must flush out the leakers. That is a most appropriate comment.

Liberal Democrats welcome any new spending on education and, although £90 million is not as much as we would have liked, it is still extremely welcome. The £35 million to eliminate outside toilets is particularly welcome because, in this day and age, outside toilets raise the important issue of child safety. However, we are surprised at the speed at which the right hon. Gentleman has been able to move, because on 3 March my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was told that the Secretary of State did not know how many schools had outside toilets. We also welcome the £15 million to be spent on heating. It is important that our children and our teachers have quality facilities in which to work. However, we are disappointed that, again, there is a bidding system for both those sums. It does not seem appropriate that we have a new, trusting arrangement with local education authorities only to bypass them and go into the schools the first time that money is available.

We welcome the extension of education action zones--we have always supported that proposal--but ask the Secretary of State to ensure that there are a number of rural action zones, and that the preponderance of education action zones is not concentrated on the inner cities.

We are hugely disappointed that the whole area of lifelong learning is neglected and that there are no additional resources to meet the pledge that the Secretary of State made in "The Learning Age", or the pledges that have been made in response to the Dearing and Kennedy reports. Sixty per cent. of further education colleges face deficits, and more will be technically insolvent this year. When will this Cinderella sector be given the resources that it needs, to tackle the bridgehead between schools and universities?


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