MP's fears over funding pledge

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
THE GOVERNMENT'S manifesto commitment to increase the proportion of the nation's wealth spent on education will not be sufficient to fund its pledges on education, MPs learned this week.

Members of the cross-party Education and Employment Committee received very short change from Michael Bichard, the Permanent Secretary and his colleagues during scrutiny of the department's expenditure.

The most common answer from the senior civil servants was that it all depended on the result of the comprehensive spending review. The other favourite response was: "We'll get back to you on that one."

Margaret Hodge, the committee's chair, attempted - without success - to elicit how much the Education Secretary would need from the Chancellor to fulfil his education programme. But she did discover that the Government's pre-election pledge - to increase education spending as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product by the end of its term of office - will not take it beyond the level under the Tories.

Ministers are using the 1996-97 figure of 4.7 per cent of GDP as a baseline. In 1994, the share was 5.2 per cent. This means the Government could achieve its pre-election pledge by spending Pounds 2.6 billion extra.

Mrs Hodge later said: "The manifesto pledge on GDP alone will not make an impact on education to match the Prime Minister's promise to make it this Government's priority. Iam concerned that we should not get enough of an increase in education spending to really make the kind of impact we have pledged. We have established, however, that the manifesto pledge on its own will not accomplish that because of the low level of spending under the Tories."

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