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Coalition Government

Volume 584: debated on Tuesday 8 July 2014

People said that the coalition would collapse within days, but we have proved them all wrong. As a Government, we have cut the deficit by a third and returned the economy to growth, cut tax for more than 26 million people, overseen more people in work than ever before, created 1.7 million apprenticeships, introduced a pupil premium to help the most disadvantaged schoolchildren—the list goes on. Bearing in mind the record of the previous Government, perhaps the question should instead be about how a single party could govern more effectively.

Actually, I tabled the question out of genuine curiosity. As the right hon. Gentleman is the Minister responsible for the functioning of the coalition, I want to know how it is possible for a policy such as allowing unqualified teachers, which was not in the coalition agreement—he fundamentally and profoundly disagrees with it, as does his party—can become Government policy.

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that the Liberal Democrats in the coalition feel that all teachers—in whatever classroom, and whatever the nature of the school or the nameplate of the school—should be qualified or seeking qualification, which is what most parents expect. The Department for Education took a decision that, in its executive capacity, it was entitled to take, but in my view it will not stand the test of time, because most parents want to know that their children—their sons and daughters—are taught by properly qualified teachers.

In a spirit of fraternity with my right hon. Friend, would not the best way of improving our electoral chances, and indeed of improving the functioning of Government, be to end the coalition now and to let the Conservatives govern on our own?

The hon. Gentleman’s party did not win a majority last time; let us see whether it succeeds this time. I think that coalition Governments are likely to recur in future, just because of the volatility of British politics, and I remain enormously proud of what we have achieved in this Government.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who do not particularly favour the coalition Government are taking industrial action on Thursday, including a large number of people on low wages who have been forced into acute hardship? Do I take it that the Deputy Prime Minister will condemn those people exercising their democratic rights, as his Tory colleagues will?

I point out to the hon. Gentleman, who is, as ever, livid in the delivery of his question, that the reason we have to make savings is the disastrous mismanagement of the economy by the Labour party. There is nothing fair or progressive about simply shrugging your shoulders, saying that no difficult decisions need to be taken on public sector pay and handing on this generation’s debts to the next generation. Government Members remain united, if not on all issues, on clearing up the unholy mess bequeathed to us by the people on the Labour Benches.

Local growth deals undoubtedly improve the functioning of the coalition Government. Would the Deputy Prime Minister care to explain why that is?

The local growth deals, which we announced yesterday—I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister who has been leading on this in Government—are one of the most significant transfers of money, decision-making authority and policy powers from Whitehall to localities around the country. I am delighted that, among the Government’s many other achievements, we have overseen the greatest wave of decentralisation for a generation.