§ 2. Mr. Macdonald
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on capital investment in higher education.
Tile Supply Estimates provide for allocations totalling £272 million in 1989–90 for capital purposes in higher education. This provision reflects the Government's commitment to a high-quality, cost-effective higher education system.
§ Mr. Macdonald
Can the Minister confirm that according to the Government's own figures capital expenditure on universities in 1988 was 16 per cent. less than in 1979, and that capital spending on polytechnics was 14 per cent. less? Is that not a deplorable record? What possible excuse has the Minister for such a decline in capital spending on something of such importance to the nation's economic future?
I must point out that, of the £272 million that we have allocated for capital purposes, £84 million is for polytechnics. We estimate that sum to he roughly 3 double what would otherwise have been provided by the local education authorities. As for overall spending, I have said before and will say again that we in Britain spend a higher proportion of our gross national product on higher education than any other western European country except the Netherlands.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
When contemplating capital expenditure, does my hon. Friend take into consideration what we already have? Is so, will he bear in mind that the dental college at Dundee has superb accommodation, and that there is no need to spend vast sums on accommodational equipment there?
I had the great pleasure of visiting Dundee and its dental school with my hon. Friend, and I was very impressed by what I found. That was reflected in subsequent decisions.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
Why has the Department so far failed to respond to the request and recommendation by the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the other place that £25 million extra capital spend be provided this year for medical research equipment throughout our higher education sector?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, public expenditure requirements for higher education are reviewed every year in the public expenditure survey, and that is the appropriate occasion on which to consider the suggestion to which the hon. Gentleman refers.
§ Mr. Thurnham
Does my hon. Friend agree with Dr. Terence Kealey that the universities could do much more to attract capital from outside sources, and that the universities are far too wedded to collective bargaining, jobs for life and dependence on the state?
I agree with some of what my hon. Friend has said. Capital expenditure and investment in new plant, equipment and buildings is a prime area for which to raise funds from outside sources, which are often more prepared to give money for those purposes than others.