Free schools are helping to raise academic standards and tackle disadvantage, ensuring social justice is at the heart of our education reform programme. Over 250 free schools have opened since 2010, and our manifesto commits us to at least 500 more during this Parliament. By 2020, free schools will have created over 400,000 new school places.
The only restriction that applies to the establishment of new free schools is that there must be demand and need for those free school places. That is our policy. I would be interested to know the policy of the UK Independence party, and indeed Labour, on free schools.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. We need local authorities to be co-operative and to work with us to identify sites for free schools. This is an important way of improving the quality of schools and the number of school places, and we expect local authorities to work with us to identify suitable sites.
Does the Minister share my concern about the standards in these free schools? Is he concerned that they might not actually provide the improvement in the quality of education that the Government claim, and can he point to any evidence that free schools have improved the standard of education in any areas where they have opened?