§ 9. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con)
When he next expects to meet representatives of local education authorities from Norfolk and Suffolk to discuss school budgets for the next financial year. 
§ The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets representatives from Norfolk on a regular basis. This year's package of funding includes a targeted transitional grant made available to local authorities, which would otherwise have the smallest increases in support for education over this year and next. Norfolk is eligible for £5.3 million and Suffolk for £3.1 million.
§ Mr. Bellingham
Has the Minister had a chance to see the recent article by Steve Downes, the education correspondent of the Eastern Daily Press, who flagged up the possibility of £400 million being necessary to repair and upgrade Norfolk schools, given that one in nine classrooms in the county is below the accepted standard? He will also be aware that I am very concerned about the reorganisation in the Hunstanton area, which will require an upgrade. We are very grateful that Norfolk will benefit from a substantial private finance initiative project, but what is our share of "Building schools for the future" likely to be?
§ Mr. Miliband
I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman asked that question. I follow Steve Downes's articles in the Eastern Daily Press carefully—especially when the hon. Gentleman shows them to me just before Question Time. I am glad that he referred to the increased capital funding for Norfolk. The "Building schools for the future" programme is designed to enable every local education authority in the country to modernise the secondary school estate over the next 10 to 15 years. The funds will be distributed on the basis of need, the power of the educational vision to deliver on improved standards, and the capacity of the LEA to deliver the programme. We are waiting for the bids to come in, and the moneys will be allocated on that basis.
§ Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab)
May I ask my hon. Friend not to listen to what the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) said about 954 school buildings in his county? I taught in Norfolk for 10 years before entering the House in 1997. I can tell my hon. Friend that many of the schools then were rotten and had leaking roofs; that many of the children were taught in sheds called "mobile classrooms", except they never moved; that the Tory county council was proud of how little it spent on education under a Tory Government; and that there has been huge extra investment since 1997 in Norfolk and Suffolk. The hon. Gentleman's point was completely wrong, and the remaining defective buildings are remnants from the dark days of the Tory era.
§ Mr. Miliband
I am glad that my non-aggression pact with the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) can now be abandoned and that I can make it absolutely clear that capital funding, which was a mere £4.9 million for the whole of Norfolk in 1996–97, is now £39.7 million. That puts right the dark days that were left to us.
§ Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con)
Is the Minister confident that the transitional target money to which he referred in his answer will help all the schools that set either a deficit budget or used reserves or money for capital projects to balance the books this year, or will we hear more from schools in East Anglia about teachers being laid off and staff being cut?
§ Mr. Miliband
What we will hear more of is the Conservative lead spokesman on education in Norfolk county council, who says that the money to which the hon. Gentleman referred will replace the funding that was missing last year. In fact, he went on:We have been working hard to persuade the Government that Norfolk needs a better overall settlement, and that is what we appear to have achieved.